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 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 760