Friday, September 30, 2011

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

This book is a classic on our Battle of the Books list, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Kino, a pearl diver, and his wife, Juana, fear for the life of their infant son after he is stung by a scorpion. The greedy, mean doctor will not help them, because they have no money. Kino and Juana return to their boat, and Kino hopes for good luck as he dives into the water looking for pearls. He ends up finding the largest pearl anyone in the village has ever seen! He dreams of receiving a huge sum of money for the pearl, so his infant son can leave this life and go to school when he grows up. However, the pearl makes Kino's family a target for all of the evil in the village. Juana wants to destroy the pearl or throw it back into the sea, but Kino doesn't want to give up the dream for his son. How can this lone man defeat the greed and evil that is trying to destroy him?

I must admit that the beginning did not have a very good hook; it didn't grab me. My interest perked up when the infant became ill and other characters entered the picture. I kept asking myself, "What would I do if I was in Kino's situation?" The book might not be a page-turner full of action, but it's an excellent book to discuss with others.

Lexile level from 1010

Friday, September 9, 2011

Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen

This book is a very quick read, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Henry has an idea to think of daring experiences to help his friends and himself become men of interest. His first thought is to set the world record for the highest bike flip. He convinces his friend, Reed, to ride his bike off the neighbor's roof, onto a diving board, and then spring high up into the air. His second idea is survive in the wild like their forefathers for two days. After drinking from a river (they forgot that Connor Howes had once peed in it) the boys encounter a huge tiger and a gray "anaconda". Is this really a Cleveland suburb? How about spending the night in a dumpster to do an environmental study, solving a one-hundred-year-old mystery, or riding a bull and catching a humongous catfish? Why do most of the experiences involve doody (poop), and why is Reed the one stuck with the dirty jobs?

The plot was pretty simple, as the boys thought of strange and new things to do. The story contained a lot of humor, and it was funny how Henry had the ideas, but Reed always got stuck doing them. Reed complained quite often about the poop smell that was stuck to him after the various adventures. Don't take the book seriously, but it was kind of fun!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

This book was recommended by my neighboring teacher, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The story is told from a dog's point of view, and he describes almost anything you can imagine might go through a dog's mind. The plot is broken up into four parts as the dog dies and is reincarnated as another puppy. The first part describes the dog's life as a mutt in the wild until he is taken in by a woman who saves lost dogs. Later, he is reincarnated as a Golden Retriever and is adopted by a family. He finally gets a name, Bailey, and becomes Ethan's pet. They play all of the time and are inseparable until Ethan has a terrible accident and later leaves to go to college. The dog dies and comes back as a female German Shepherd. Her handler is a police officer and the dog, now named Ellie, becomes a search and find dog. She is called in to find missing children and adults; some are found alive and some are dead. When her handler is shot for the second time, Ellie gets assigned to a new police officer. Ellie has a serious accident when she's searching for people in El Salvador after an earthquake. She retires but has one last feat of heroism before she dies. Finally, the dog is reincarnated as a black lab and spends his time trying to figure out his purpose in life. The plot ends up coming full circle.

The book started off a bit slow for me, but it picked up once he was adopted by Ethan's family. The second half of the book was very engaging, and the last two parts were emotional and hard to put down. The first reincarnation was a little hard to understand, but I was prepared for the next two. It was interesting how the dog remembered his previous lives and was able to use that to help him in later lives. He struggled to figure out his purpose as a dog and thought the search dog was it, but he later discovered it was more than that. A great book for dog lovers!

Lexile level from 970