Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood From Sports Legends by David Stabler

Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports LegendsI read very few non-fiction books. However, I love sports, and this book shares interesting stories about sports superstars when they were kids. Peyton Manning says the most pressure he's ever felt was dancing the tango on stage in front of his family and friends. I had to look up the video on YouTube after reading his story! I never knew Jackie Robinson was the leader of a street gang or that Babe Ruth was sent to a reform school at age seven. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and 7' 6" Yao Ming were victims of bullies as they grew up. Babe Zaharias and Billie Jean King were discriminated against from competing in sports, because they were girls. Lionel Messi, one of the greatest soccer players in the world, needed to get growth hormone injections, because people thought he was too small to play.

The short stories are easy to read and tell the childhood challenges of male and female superstar athletes. Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, and Danica Patrick are just a few of the other athletes shared in the book. Their stories should inspire all young readers to keep trying to reach  their dreams. I liked how the book covered sports ranging from gymnastics to boxing, football to sumo wrestling, and baseball to soccer. There are stories of athletes from long ago, and stories of athletes still competing today. The short story format should appeal to young readers, since they don't need to remember the plot and all of the characters, like in a fictional novel. It's saying something when a non-fiction book can entertain and inform as well as this book. All sports fans will love it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

One of Us by Jeannie Waudby

One of UsK has no family, survives a bombing by the Brotherhood, and agrees to secretly gather information about the group for a man named Oskar. She's given the new identity of Verity and finds it hard to believe that any of the students might be capable of causing explosions and killing people. She sneaks into the leader's office to get a list of names, but she's not sure if she'll give it to Oskar. Verity doesn't know what his group will do with the names, and she's stunned to discover Oskar has given K's identity to a dead body. With a major Reconciliation Agreement looming, she doesn't know who can be trusted or who she can turn to.

The main characters were around fifteen years old., so this book is for more mature visitors to my blog. Nothing inappropriate happened, but the issues were more serious. The book made me think about how society treats organizations with different ideas. I wasn't exactly sure how to compare the groups to the real world. Oskar's people were never clearly identified until the resolution, so I wasn't sure if he was a true policeman. I wasn't sure if members of the Brotherhood were simply peaceful and misunderstood or if they were terrorists. It was hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but that added to the mystery. It was easy to root for K/Verity, since seemed to be used by everyone. I had my suspicions about the other characters, and the plot came to an exciting climax. It's not the kind of book I typically read, but I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

As if Being 12 3/4 isn't Enough, My Mother is Running for President by Donna Gephart

As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!Vanessa Rothrock is a typical seventh grader, except that her mother is governor of Florida and is running for president. Vanessa makes it to the regional spelling bee, and she's very upset when her mother doesn't show up. It seems like her mother is more concerned with becoming president than she is about caring for her daughter. Vanessa feels a little bit of sunshine when she starts receiving sweet notes from a secret admirer, but then something frightening happens. She starts getting notes threatening to kill her mother and her! The notes warn her not to tell anyone, but they also say July is a good month to die. July is when the Democratic National Convention will be held, and her mother will officially be chosen as the Democratic candidate for president. It's also the month Vanessa lost her father, and she doesn't want to lose her mother too.

This book probably has more appeal for girl readers. Vanessa deals with issues experienced by all middle grade girls. She's embarrassed by her slow physical development, except for her over-sized feet, and she's wants the cutest boy in class to like her, except that he's a jerk. She also has less common problems, such as having a bodyguard follow her everywhere and having to worry about being on the national news. The early part of the plot deals with Vanessa's obsession with spelling and boys, but it becomes much more serious once the threats appear. After that, the plot becomes more of a mystery as readers anticipate an attack on her mother.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Classroom #4: When Nature Calls, Hang Up by Robin Mellom

The Classroom When Nature Calls, Hang Up!It's the last week of the school year, and all of the students at Westside Middle School are heading into the woods for a camping trip. Trevor is very nervous about the trip and does all he can to get out of it. After he finally decides to give it a chance, he's paired with the class bully who's been tormenting him for a year. The bully has plans for some epic pranks that all have Trevor as their target. Also, Trevor's best friend, a fanatically organized girl, is in charge of the last day's social event, and her lack of ideas has her very anxious. To top things off, Molly, a girl Trevor likes, will be moving away after the school year ends, and she can't find a good time to tell him.

The book is told from the points of view of several students and staff members, and it's written like a documentary. Different characters are able to share their thoughts and feelings about the events in their own chapters, while the plot is told in the other chapters. The feelings and insecurities are typical for middle school students, and the author is able to share them in amusing ways. Several of the bully's pranks backfire, and one of the characters smuggles her finicky pet cat into the camp. This book is the fourth in the series. I feel like I've read one of the earlier books, but it didn't seem necessary to enjoy this one.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

Catch You Later, TraitorThe setting is in the 1950's, and the fear of Communism is spreading across the country. Pete is living a normal life in Brooklyn, until the day after open house. The teacher announces to the class that Pete's dad is a Communist, so everyone starts to ignore Pete or treats him like an enemy. His best friend, Kat, is being spied on by another student, so her father can make sure they aren't talking anymore. The FBI is even investigating Pete's dad, and he could be put in prison if the government thinks he's Communist. His crime? He told the teacher that schools should teach more about the history of black people and the common man. However, Pete thinks there's more to it. Is his father a Communist? Did his father or grandfather do something that could get the family in trouble? How could an innocent young boy's life go so wrong, so quickly?

I hope young readers give this book a chance. Although, the fear of Communism isn't as rampant today, an analogy can be made to way some Muslims were treated after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Pete's character battles huge internal and external conflicts. The teacher's verbal attacks and being shunned by kids who were his best buddies the day before present challenges. Pete is confused by things his father said, and he's not sure what to do about an FBI agent. Kat is challenged by the whole situation too, because she doesn't want to abandon her best friend. Pete treats the whole situation like it's a mystery, and he's the detective who will solve it. Sections of the book are written in italics to mimic the tone of old, old mystery novels and movies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

The Face on the Milk Carton (Janie Johnson, #1)This book is the first in the series; I actually read the third book first! Janie is a typical sophomore in high school and sits down to have lunch with her friends. She picks up her friend's carton of milk carton and notices the face of a three-year-old girl on the side. She freezes and thinks, "I remember that dress." Is it possible that she could have been kidnapped? Janie becomes obsessed with finding out about this little girl, and memories start to pop back into her head. Smiling faces, ice cream, twin brothers, and a sister. Janie has two loving parents, but they couldn't have stolen her from another family, could they? With the help of her new boyfriend, Janie sets out to discover the truth. A missing birth certificate, a sister her parents won't talk about, and all of those memories. What IS the truth?

You really need to read the books in order, because the next one picks up where the previous book leaves off. The conflict is pretty huge, as Janie is forced to question her whole life. She loves her parents, but has it all been a lie? She doesn't want to believe she actually belongs to another family, but what if it's true? Don't they deserve to know their long-lost daughter is alive and well? As I mentioned, the series will read like one long book, so be prepared to get hooked on the adventure!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Watch the SkyJory's family lives just outside of town, and they're a little strange. His stepfather holds frequent drills in the middle of the night, so the family will be ready for some unknown emergency. His little "sister", Kit showed up in the backyard one day and hasn't said a word in three years. The stepfather says a meteor shower is the sign he's been waiting for, so he has the family start digging a shelter into the base of the canyon. He won't tell the family what the danger might be, but he says the family needs to trust him. No one can find out what they're doing, and no one can find out about Kit. Jory makes some friends when he returns to public school, but that only makes it harder to keep secrets. Jory wonders if his stepfather is wrong; what if there is no danger coming? But what if he's right.

The plot is a bit unusual. The stepfather is certain that something is going to happen, and he's sure he sees signs of the impending disaster. He looks to the skies when he talks about it, but he won't the danger is aliens. Jory's character is put in a tough spot. He wants to be a faithful son, so he helps prepare the shelter as best he can. However, he likes going to the public school and making friends. Kit is a mysterious character, and Jory discovers a secret about her. I wish there had been more of a resolution to the book, because I'm left with many questions about the family's survival.