Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

I gave this book a rating of four out of five. Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder, and most of the plot deals with the courtroom testimony. Steve is accused of being the lookout during a drugstore robbery in which the owner was shot and killed. Witnesses testify that Steve's co-defendant was the actual shooter, and Steve appears guilty due to his association with him. Many of the witnesses are receiving deals from the prosecution for their testimonies, so the defense says the deals give them incentives to lie. They testify that Steve gave the signal that the store was clear to be robbed, but he firmly states that he was not there. I think the reader is still left wondering about Steve's guilt or innocence even after the verdict is read.

This book is unique, because it's written as a movie script. Steve is taking a high school course on film-making, and he feels his story will make an interesting movie. This style helps the plot move quickly, and it allows the reader to see the trial from Steve's point of view. The street slang of the witnesses and inmates makes their characters more real and believable. The fact that most of the plot is written as a script may bother some readers, but I feel it added an interesting twist to the novel.

Lexile level from lexile.com 670

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

I gave this book a rating of four out of five. The main character, Holling Hoodhood, is in the seventh grade and seems to have a conflict with his teacher. Every Wednesday afternoon in this school the Jewish students travel to the synagogue and the Catholic students travel to their church. Holling is Presbyterian, so he is forced to spend every Wednesday afternoon with Mrs. Baker, his language arts teacher. She makes Holling do all kinds of chores and extra work, but she finally makes him start reading Shakespeare. Holling feels this is a real punishment, but he's an avid reader and gives it a shot. He ends up enjoying Shakespeare and has many conversations with Mrs. Baker about the meanings within the stories. He's able to offer modern insights into the stories, with Mrs. Baker's help, and is able to make connections to his own life.

The main conflict in the novel is Holling's battle to discover himself and his place in the world. Sounds pretty serious, but the author does a nice job of balancing that with some humor and interesting situations. How about the on-going idea of the two classroom rats being on the loose above the ceiling tiles? You know something will happen with them eventually. To be honest, the beginning of the book wasn't grabbing me, but it became much more interesting once I gave it a chance. I enjoyed the characters and all of the issues addressed from the late 1960's. The Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, communism and the Cold War, flower children, and the New York Yankees are just a few of the topics that arise in the plot. In addition, Holling must deal with typical middle school issues such as dealing with teachers, a possible girlfriend, wacky classmates, hazing by eighth graders, and an overly-demanding father. His father may be the biggest obstacle in his life. The references to Shakespeare may not appeal to some readers, but the author spaces them throughout the plot so they don't become overwhelming.

Lexile level from lexile.com 990

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Peak by Roland Smith

I gave this book a rating of four out of five. Peak is an adventurous teenage boy who enjoys climbing man-made structures and painting graffiti on them as his signature. However, Peak gets caught and arrested. His famous, mountain-climbing father shows up to take Peak to Nepal where he wants his son to become the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest. This adventure is deadly dangerous and is complicated by presence of the Chinese army. Has Sherpa named Zopa helps Peak and his father, but he's not telling them the whole truth; he's up to something.

The conflict of the book begins between Peak and his father, but the focus changes to the dangers of climbing Mt. Everest as the book progresses. I'm a life-long learner, so I enjoyed finding out about the skills and strategy needed to climb a mountain. The book becomes more exciting as the climbing party nears the top of the mountain and the dangers become more extreme. Readers who are not willing to learn a little about the sport of mountain climbing probably won't enjoy the book, but I found it very entertaining. It's more than a mountain climbing book, but that is the central action.

Lexile level from lexile.com 760

Monday, December 6, 2010

Maus by Art Spiegelman

This book is a graphic novel about the Holocaust, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. I don't typically like graphic novels, but this one was very interesting. The plot centers on the author's retelling of his father's experiences during World War II. The father is a crotchety old Jewish man with vivid memories of his struggles to stay free of the Nazis. He is enlisted into the army and ends up being captured by the Germans. Much of his personal conflict is created by others trying to survive the Holocaust themselves. "Friends" become informants and safe havens become death traps as other Jews make deals with the enemy in order to stay alive. I never knew if the father's family was actually safe or if the Nazis were waiting outside to arrest them. They were captured several times and narrowly missed being sent to Auschwitz, the prison where millions of Jews were slaughtered.

The novel is very graphic, and not just due to the pictures. The subject of the Holocaust is treated head-on, and the actions of the Germans are described without trying to decrease the horror of the killings and violence. There is some mild profanity. The pictures are interesting partners to the plot, as the Jews are depicted as mice and the Germans are cats. The mice wear masks to reflect when they are secretly walking the streets, afraid to be recognized as Jews. I learned some new things about the Holocaust, and this book reinforced the tragedy of this event in our world's history.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Heaven by Angela Johnson

This book was hard for me to rate, but I gave it a rating of three out of five. Marley lives in the small town of Heaven, Ohio, and she enjoys the peace and simple life she finds there. She meets a girl named Shoogy who becomes her best friend. Marley also babysits for a man named Bobby, and she loves looking after his daughter. Marley receives letters from her Uncle Jack throughout the book, and she's puzzled about why her family sends him money on a regular basis and what he's doing with himself. The problem arises when Marley receives a letter from Alabama and discovers that her parents have been keeping a big secret from her. The truth is tearing Marley apart, and she's not sure what will become of her life.

This book won the Coretta Scott King Award and has a wonderful message. The main reason for my rating of the book is that it focuses on characterization and not so much on the plot. Most of my students prefer books with more action, entertainment, or suspense, so I'm not sure how they might respond to this book. Their preferences are not good or bad, but they're something I consider when I rate the books on my blog. Marley's conflict is one that connects with many young people, although perhaps not in the exact same way. Adolescents are interested in knowing who they are and how they fit into the world. This book deals with those issues.

Lexile level from lexile.com 790

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

This book is non-fiction, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. It may not appeal to some readers, since it doesn't have the descriptive plot and character developments. However, it has conflict. Greg Mortensen was coming back down K2, the second highest mountain in the world, when he got separated and lost from his party. He came upon a village in Pakistan and recovered. He decided that he would come back some day and build a school for the children there; they were scratching their multiplication facts into the dirt with sticks! This plan may seem simple, but there were political and cultural obstacles along the way. He was even kidnapped by rebels at one point and was help captive for days. Greg made it his life's work to build more schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite the dangers. He felt knowledge and hope would help bring peace to these countries.

I was a bit leery at the beginning of the book, but it was very interesting. I didn't expect Greg to have so many problems getting a school built, but the citizens of Pakistan were so desperate that the different towns were competing with each other for Greg's help. I guess the terrorist danger was foreseeable if I'd thought about it ahead of time. The end of the book is an interview with Greg's daughter, and students may find these pages interesting an revealing. It was hard for her to share her father with the rest of the world.

Lexile level from lexile.com 910

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shakespeare's Scribe by Gary Blackwood

This book is the second in a series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. It's a great historical fiction novel that centers around William Shakespeare's acting company, but you need to read The Shakespeare Stealer before this one. In this book, the group is forced to travel the company due to the plague. Many cities are not allowing the cast to perform due to the fear of the disease being spread among the spectators. Shakespeare also breaks his arm, so Widge is asked to use his unique writing skills to scribe for him. Another arrogant, young actor joins the cast, and he starts to take away some of the parts that once belonged to Widge. Along the way, Widge meets a man who may, or may not, be his father. Widge becomes attached to the man due to the fact that he knows nothing of his own childhood, but the man may be a thief who is stealing from the company's money chest.

I enjoy Widge's naive, fragile, but determined, character. He's reluctant to cause any conflict with the acting group, because he's afraid they may cast him out. It's the first "family" he's ever had, and he's afraid to lose them. However, he has a sense of right and wrong and does his best to make good decisions, even though they may create new problems. The author offers some interesting conflicts in an uncommon time of the world's history. I like relearning information about Europe's history around the year 1600. The facts aren't forced upon the reader, but they're worked into the conflict and plot.

Lexile level from lexile.com 870

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maggie Bean Stays Afloat by Tricia Rayburn

This book is the second in the Maggie Bean series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. You should read the first book, The Melting of Maggie Bean, before reading this one. Maggie's confidence is pretty high, and she decides to tell Peter that she wants to be more than friends. He nicely tells her that he doesn't feel the same way, but Maggie is devastated. She distracts herself by working with Arnie to start a support group for overweight children and by getting a job as a swim teacher at a summer camp. In addition, her parents are looking to buy a house, possibly in a new school district, and she's losing touch with her best friend, Aimee. Maggie has sworn off boys after the Peter episode, but a cute camp counselor named Ben seems to take on interest in her. Her whole world gets turned around and may drive her back to overeating.

This book is probably more appealing to female readers. Maggie's main internal conflicts are with boys and her social life. Her new friends are nice enough, but Maggie seems to be so focused on her own issues that she forgets how her own life affects others. Something is wrong in Aimee's life, but Maggie doesn't seem to notice. Becoming part of the "popular" crowd creates its own problems, and Maggie needs to understand she already has true friends before it's too late.

I enjoy Maggie's sense of humor in the series, and Arnie is a memorable character. Most middle school students will be able to appreciate the social and emotional issues the characters face, and they'll be able to easily identify with them. The family problems are typical too. Readers will realize that their adolescent problems are not unusual, and true friends make life easier to handle and easier to enjoy.

Lexile level from lexile.com 970

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Melting of Maggie Bean by Tricia Rayburn

I read this book for a second time, and I again gave it a rating of five out of five. Maggie's big conflict? She's in middle school and is very overweight. Her father is also out of work, and the family is suffering the effects of that. Her parents are making her join a group for overweight people, and her best friend, Aimee, wants the two of them to try out for the school's synchronized swimming team. Maggie can swim like a fish, but wearing the bathing suit presents a problem. One of the cutest boys in school, Peter Applewood, uses the locker next to hers, so that creates some anxiety. Maggie is a great student and uses a notebook to organize her life. She keeps a list of things to do, and the first two tasks are:

#1: Win over Peter Applewood with charm, intellect, and wit.

#2: Lose weight (in case charm, intellect, and wit backfire)

Maggie fights daily against the urge to eat; the opening pages of the book find Maggie in a store, debating the benefits of buying a week's supply of Twizzlers, Gummi Bears, Skittles, Butterfinger, Milky Way, or Nestle Crunch. You'll be amazed when you discover what Maggie has hidden under her bed. She decides to secretly improve herself, but the climax to the story may not be what you expect.

Even though I have nothing in common with Maggie, I can understand her struggles. Everyone in middle school has struggles, so most readers should be able to make connections in some way. I appreciate the author's ability to help me understand Maggie's internal conflicts and the way she mixes that with humor. Humor can be a great way to deal with stress, but it sometimes just postpones facing the real problems. The only thing about the book that I found strange was the middle school synchronized swimming team. How unusual is that? However, it didn't make the book any less enjoyable, and I think most middle school girls will be able to identify, in some way, with Maggie.

Lexile level from lexile.com 1010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Son of the Mob by Gordan Korman

I gave this book a rating of four out of five. Vince's father is the head of a "vending business", but it's actually the mob. Vince doesn't want to become part of his father's business but finds it hard to separate it from his own. He becomes associated with a couple of people who are in trouble with his father's organization. He wants to stay out of the mob business, but he doesn't want to see these men get hurt. To complicate Vince's life even further, he falls for a girl at school who happens to be the daughter of the FBI agent trying to put his father in prison. Vince and Kendra become a modern day Romeo and Juliet.

This was an entertaining plot, and I enjoyed Vince's internal conflict between a nice guy and staying out of his father's business. He can't say he wants to stay out of it and then turn around and get involved. I also liked Vince and Kendra's relationship. Vince does everything he can to avoid her parents, but this makes Kendra suspicious of him. He tries to date Kendra like a normal couple, but he needs to avoid attention. He's very concerned about what might happen if either set of parents find out what's going on. Vince also discovers secrets about his mother and another man he respects. His mother's secret was very surprising.

Lexile level from lexile.com 690

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

I found this book on the shelf of recommended reading at my local library, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Ambrose is a twelve-year-old boy, with an over-protective mother, who doesn't seem to get along with anyone. He has trouble with his appearance and social interactions, so he's always a target for the school's three bullies. Ambrose starts taking correspondence classes from home and meets the son of the landlords. Cosmo has just been released from jail, but he shares an interest in Scrabble with Ambrose. Cosmo sneaks Ambrose off to weekly meetings of a Scrabble club, and this results in changes for both of them. There's also an element of danger looming in the background.

Ambrose is a very interesting character who doesn't have a filter for his thoughts. He says what he thinks, which may result in humor, or it may create problems. He's learning how to grow up despite his mom's efforts to shield him from the world. I appreciated the change in Cosmo's character too. I enjoy stories where characters start as antagonists but become friends in the end.

Lexile level from lexile.com 800

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

This is a historical, multicultural novel, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Tali and Octavia are taking a cross-country trip with their grandmother, Mare. Mare likes to drive fast and live her life any way she likes. During the trip, Mare shares her life story with her granddaughters, and they learn that there's more to her than the brash exterior. Mare ran away from her drunken mother and her abusive boyfriends to join the WAC during WW II. The kids learn about her struggles to survive basic training, the prejudice she experienced, and her time in Europe near the end of the war. The kids make a new connection with their grandmother when they learn about her colorful past.

The chapters of this novel are alternately written during the car ride and through flashbacks to Mare's life in the 1940's. The majority of the plot revolves around Mare's time as a WAC. The car ride has the girls reflecting on Mare's story along with their interesting interactions Mare. For example, Tali and Mare strike up an agreement regarding Mare's smoking and Tali's music that is challenged throughout the trip. Some funny scenes describe Octavia learning to drive, and Tali's texts, phone calls, and letters as she tries to maintain her social life back home. Very "dramatic". Even though I'm a middle-aged man and most of the characters in this novel are black females, I still enjoyed the story. I also appreciated the historical references to segregation and important events during the war.

Lexile level from lexile.com 830

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Take Me With You by Carolyn Marsden

This is a historical, multicultural novel, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The plot revolves around the lives of Susanna and Pina, two girls without families who are being raised by nuns. They live in an Italian institution during one of the world wars; I'm assuming World War II. The greatest dream for all of the girls is to be adopted. Susanna discovers that she has a father, and he ends up visiting with her on several occasions. She has a conflict between the comfort of her "normal" life and the possibility that she might be taken to America by this stranger. Pina learns that she has a mother living nearby, but her situation is more complicated than Susanna's
This is not a novel everyone will enjoy. It's not full of action, and it centers around the thoughts and feelings of two young, Italian girls. I found it interesting, because the topic is not a common one. There are many books written about kids trying to find families, but few books deal with the orphans of war. Nina is especially desperate, even obsessed, to become adopted and will do almost anything to make it happen. I don't recall reading any other historical books with settings in Italy, so I learned a bit about that culture. There's a glossary in the back for Italian words used throughout the book.

Lexile level from lexile.com 640

Monday, June 14, 2010

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

This is a multicultural novel, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Abby, a sixth-grader, discovers in February that she will not be passing to seventh grade with her classmates unless she makes some drastic changes to her study habits. She creates a contract with her teachers to complete all of her homework and earn grades of at least B on all of her remaining quizzes and tests. However, the big change is an extra-credit pen pal assignment. She writes to a girl named Amira, from Afghanistan, but Amira's brother, Sadeed, must translate the letters and write the replies. Sadeed secretly writes his own replies to Abby, since the village elders think it's inappropriate for a boy to write to a girl. Abby and Sadeed exchange a number of letters with interesting ideas about their cultures, but Sadeed encounters trouble when a member of an anti-American group, not the Taliban, stops him at gun-point on the way home from school.

This was an easy novel to read, and it had a great deal of interesting information about the contrasting cultures. One of the first differences shared was in regards to the viewpoints of the characters about their landscapes. Abby, from the flat state of Iowa, loved the idea of being around mountains, but Sadeed explained how his mountains were dangerous due to the cold, rock slides, and storms. The Taliban lurked in them too, although Sadeed said that it had been six months since there had been any shooting or bombs in his village. He told Abby about a time when the house across the street from his own home was blown up, and this made quite an impression on Abby and her classmates.

Readers who are reluctant learners can probably identify with Abby's character, since she doesn't like to do any work. She could be a good student; she just want to put the required effort into learning. Readers who enjoy learning about other cultures will also appreciate this book.

Lexile level from lexile.com 830

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

This is the first book in a series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Widge is an orphan who has been purchased by Simon Bass for his ability to write in charactery, a form of short-hand. Widge is sent to London to copy the script of one of Shakespeare's plays. Bass sends Falconer, a threatening, hooded man, to make sure Widge completes his mission. However, Widge fails twice for different reasons and decides to join Shakespeare's group. He is now stuck with the problem or whether to steal from his new friends or face the wrath of Falconer. A couple of surprises pop up along the way, but you may not be as surprised if you're able to notice the foreshadowing.

This is a historical fiction, and I enjoyed the information about life in Shakespeare's time, the theater, and the conflicts created by the author. Falconer is always in the back of your mind, and you keep wondering when he'll pop up again. He seems to know his way around London, but he's not comfortable around Shakespeare's Globe Theater. The book is not full of constant action, but it has its moments as Widge tries to adapt to the actors, to find his way through the unsavory parts of London, and to avoid confrontations with Falconer. You kind of expect that Falconer is not going to go away without a fight. The sequels to this novel are very good too.

Lexile level from lexile.com 840

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

I've liked this book for a long time, and I give it a rating of five out of five. Gilly is a foster child, and her only wish is to live with her mother. Because of this attitude, Gilly is a very difficult foster child. She tries her best to be as bad as she can be so that she'll be sent back to her mom. Gilly swears, is prejudiced, steals, fights, and is insulting. She terrorizes her foster brother, W.E., and verbally abuses her "friend" Agnes. She tries to run away, but things really change when she writes a letter to her mom describing the terrible foster home she's been put into. Actually, Gilly's foster mother,Mamie Trotter, is the most loving and kind person that Gilly will ever meet. As the plot unfolds in this book, I'm reminded of the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."

This book has wonderful, descriptive language; and I'm not talking about Gilly's mild profanity. I enjoy the character development and the way Gilly changes throughout the plot. The reader will probably hate her in the beginning but feel sorry for her in the end. It's amusing to be in Gilly's mind as she faces the other characters and deals with situations. Trotter, W.E., Agnes, and Mr. Randolph are excellent supporting characters and help Gilly learn about the meaning of family.

Lexile level from lexile.com 800

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever by Wes Tooke

This is a historical fiction novel, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Louis is a miserable stick-ball player with a mean stepbrother, but he has an awesome baseball card collection. His summer fate changes when he becomes a bat boy for the 1961 New York Yankees, the year Roger Maris breaks Babe Ruth's home run record. Louis is befriended by Maris and Micky Mantle, and he becomes Maris' gook luck charm. In addition to Louis' problems with his step-family and off-beat, seldom-seen mother, he feels responsible for Maris losing his lucky baseball mitt. He teams up with his stepbrother to get the mitt back and help Maris break the home run record.

Although I gave this book a rating of four, I know it will probably appeal to a select audience. I enjoyed it because I enjoy baseball, I know the players mentioned throughout the book, and I once collected baseball cards. People with step-families can probably identify with some of the issues too. The main plot conflicts deal with Louis and his family and the problems encountered by the pro athletes. I liked the locker room stories with the baseball players. Despite chasing the home run record with Mantle, Maris was hated by the New York fans. This book deals with that issue and describes how the players handled reporters and the media. It's a fun, easy-to-read book for baseball fans.

Lexile level from lexile.com 860

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

I gave this book a rating of three out of five. Meli Lleshi and her Muslim family are caught in the middle of the conflict in Kosovo during the Clinton administration. Meli's brother is captured and tortured by the Serbian oppressors. The family is forced from their home and barely ends up surviving as refugees. The family tries stay together and maintain its pride while avoiding the fighting and killing. The family finally is hosted by a church group in the United States, and they are able to move out of Kosovo. However, the move to the U.S. creates cultural conflicts, especially when the World Trade Center is attacked by terrorists.

This novel is historical fiction. I enjoyed the plot, but I think most adolescent readers might want a little more conflict. It seemed like the author was directly trying to make an editorial comment about the Kosovo conflict, and that distracted from the other story elements. I liked the book, but I'm not sure it would grab the interest of middle school kids without teacher assistance.

Lexile level from lexile.com 770

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Taking Sides by Gary Soto

I gave this book a rating of three out of five. The plot revolves around a Mexican-American boy named Lincoln Mendoza who has moved from the poor part of town to attend a mostly-white school. He has trouble adapting to the new school and doesn't want to lose his friendships from the old neighborhood. The problem is magnified. Lincoln is a star basketball player, and his new school is scheduled to play his old team next week. The white coach is riding Lincoln and questioning his commitment to the team, and Lincoln finds out something about the coach's past. Lincoln and his mother discover that they can't escape all of the negative things about society from which they've been running.

This book reminds me of the Matt Christopher series of sports books with a little more plot development. It's still a very easy book to read, and doesn't complicate the plot. It deals with social issues from the Mexican-American's point of view. It was a good story, but I prefer something a little meatier.

Lexile level from lexile.com 750

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Hunted by Skurzynski and Ferguson

I gave this book a rating of four out of five. It's a National Geographic Society book, which made me first think that it would have a bunch of information and a dull story. However, the plot actually was quite interesting and developed several conflicts. The story revolves around a family camping in Montana in a national park. The mother is an expert on grizzly bears and is trying to help the rangers figure out why young cubs are missing from the park. Dad is a photographer, so he's off taking pictures of nature. Meanwhile, the kids discover a young Mexican boy has hidden in their camper and is trying to get to Seattle to live with a woman he knows. The boy was on the national news, and he's been caught twice before. The kids must figure out what to do with this young boy, they then discover what's happening to the bear cubs, and then they finally must try to survive the attack of an angry mother bear. The caption under a picture in the book reads, "No animal on Earth is more dangerous than a mother bear protecting her cubs."

I felt the beginning of the book was a little slow, and there was quite a bit of the brother/sister arguing that goes on during long family vacations. You find out later why the sister is so testy and why she becomes so secretive. The story got more interesting when the kids discovered the Mexican boy, and it became more suspenseful when they found out what was happening to the bear cubs. The climax even had a little surprise that I wasn't expecting. The story was interesting, and I wanted more once I got to the end of the book.

Lexile level from lexile.com 760

Monday, January 25, 2010

Slam Dunk by Robert Hirschfeld (Matt Christopher)

I gave this book a rating of 3 out of 5. It was very easy to read, and I finished it in one sitting. The main character is concerned that his new basketball team will not be as good as his state championship team from the year before. Because of this, he comes to the first few practices with a bad attitude. He doesn't hustle and doesn't try to make friends with his new teammates. This is the main conflict of the story. An injured teammate from the year before ends up giving him the inspriation to change his attitude and make this year's team better.

This is a nice book for people who enjoy basketball. The plot is not hard to follow, so it's easy to read. The author explains some basketball terms (pick and roll, zone defense, etc.) during the practices that readers may, or may not, appreciate. The lesson taught in this book is a valuable one that all readers can appreciate. We need to accept change and give people a chance.

The Fighting Ground by Avi

I gave this book a rating of 3 out of 5. It's a nice historical fiction about the revolutionary war. A thirteen-year-old boy wants to join the army to fight the British and Hessians, but his parents don't want him to. The boy sneaks away and joins a group of people who are going to intercept some enemy soldiers. The group meets the enemy, and the boy learns what it's really like to be in a war. He ends up getting captured and questioning who's really the enemy in this conflict.

The book was fairly short and easy to follow. The plot and characterization weren't very developed which made it easier to understand, but not as entertaining. The book deals with a realistic aspect of war rather than the glorification of killing.

Lexile level from lexile.com 580

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hit the Road by Caroline Cooney

I gave this book a rating of four out of five. Brit's parents are going on a trip to Alaska, so they plan for her to stay with Grandma while they're gone. The plot evolves as Brit's 86-year old grandmother already had plans to run away to a reunion with her friends. Brit ends up driving the car, even though she only has two weeks of practice driving experience with her parents. This lends itself to many humorous moments as Brit tries to control the car, her cell phone, her grandmother and friends, and still follow directions to their destinations. The actual conflict surrounds one of Grandma's friends, whose son is trying to steal all of her money. The police and lawyers get involved, and it appears to them as though Brit may be a kidnapper and a thief. The author manages to keep the reader hanging for the climax to the plot until the last few pages of the book.

I enjoyed the unusual plot to this book, and Brit has problems just any teenager. She's torn about her decision to help her grandmother, and this problem remains an internal conflict throughout most of the book. The major concern some readers may have is that much of the setting is in a rental car. This limits the "action" of the plot, but the story's conflict isn't about action. The plot involves a greedy son's plan to manipulate doctors and lawyers to get his mother committed to a hospital, so he can steal her freedom and the millions of dollars she's saved over her lifetime.

Lexile level from lexile.com 790