Monday, January 21, 2013

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

UngiftedI was attracted to this book when I saw some of my students reading it, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Donovan Curtis is always getting in trouble; he doesn't think about consequences before he does things. If he did, he wouldn't have whacked the statue of Atlas and sent a huge ball crashing through the gym doors. The superintendent catches him, but Donovan is mistakenly placed into the building for gifted students before he can be punished. Donovan is definitely not gifted, but he finds the new school is a great place to hide out. His classmates and teachers know he doesn't belong, but they never consider that the district might have made a mistake. Donovan is able to help his classmates in ways they'd never expect, and he is the best controller for Tin Man, the school's entry into the robotics competition. Donovan has mixed emotions about the geeky kids at his new school, and he's getting razzed by his best buddies from the old school. Will the good he brings to the gifted school outweigh the problems he creates? How long will it take before the superintendent finds him again or he's discovered to be ungifted?

The plot of this book provides humor as Donovan does his wacky antics. His classmates sense that he's not gifted, but he makes them feel kind of normal. Noah is a great character. He has an IQ over 200, but does his best to fail. He almost becomes obsessed when Donovan introduces his to Youtube. The night of the school dance, he shows up dressed like a WWE wrestler. The author presents the story from different points of view (Donovan, Noah, the superintendent, teachers, etc.), and it works. I liked how all of the personalities came together for a surprising conclusion to the plot.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

ChompThis book was written by the same author as Hoot, Flush, and Scat, and I gave it a rating five out of five. Wahoo Cray's father owns a farm full of exotic pets: alligators, snakes, raccoons, and other critters. His father received a concussion from an iguana that fell from a tree after a rare freezing spell in Florida. The family needs money after that, so Wahoo accepts an offer to allow a reality, survival television show to film at their farm. The host of the show is a self-centered fraud, so this creates a conflict with Wahoo's father. Things don't go smoothly during the filming, but the producers of the show still want help from Wahoo's father to do some filming in the actual Everglades. To complicate matters, one of Wahoo's classmates runs away from her abusive father and goes along with them. Things get real bad, real quick, when her gun-carrying, alcoholic father finds them.

The plot has a mixture of adventure, humor, and suspense. Life in the Florida backwoods provides the adventure, the misadventures of the obnoxious television host provides the humor, and the crazy, abusive father provides the suspense. I really enjoyed how Wahoo's father always got the best of the host, although the host always came back for more. The addition of Wahoo's classmate increased the excitement, and the plot quickly shifted its attention to her dangerous father.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Does My Head Look Big In This?I found this book on the list of recommended books at my local library, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Amal is an eleventh-grade, Muslim girl, born in Australia, and she decides to wear her hajib, the Muslim head scarf, full time. She gets some of the negative attention and comments that she expects, but she's almost overwhelmed by the curiosity of her classmates. She isn't sure how to deal with Adam, a cute boy at school, since she isn't allowed to date. The mother of her friend, Leila, is trying to get her daughter married, and another friend has taken up smoking to lose weight. Then, Amal signs up for the debate team, and she's afraid of how other people will react to her. Her elderly neighbor doesn't seem to like her no matter what she does. And what will people do after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and in Bali? Amal does her best to stay true to her faith, but she feels her hajib makes it harder.

This book is probably written more for a female audience. The girls discuss boys, fashion, their mothers, and gossip. The plot teaches a lot about the Muslim faith, although Amal actually went to a Catholic school when she was younger. I enjoyed her talks with her neighbor as they both learned about each other's cultures. I wasn't sure where the plot was headed throughout much of the book, but all of the different conflicts were resolved in the end.