Book reviews...from picture books to adult books, as well as books-to-movie info, and other stuff I think is interesting. Note: Not all books reviewed or recommended are appropriate for all ages.
AUGUST 27, 2009
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
Both Teresa and I would highly recommend The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine. Set during segregation in Moundsville, Alabama, this novel gives a great sense of that time period.
Harry Sims, who goes by "Dit," is excited to meet the new postmaster in his town, especially to see if there are any kids he can hang around with. He, and the whole town, are surprised when the new postmaster is black, and Dit is even more surprised that the kid his age is a girl named Emma. Originally less than enthusiastic about each other, the two become great friends and Dit introduces Emma to his world of baseball and fishing. Emma shares her world of reading with Dit. When a racially charged tragedy befalls the town barber, they come up with a plan to make things right again.
This story is as much about strong friendships between boys and girls, as it is about racial discrimination and bigotry. This book would be a great read aloud, and I think that adults and teens would enjoy it as much as elementary aged kids. It reminded me, in different ways, of two other great novels with boy/girl friendship: The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going and The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.
After so many people, adults and students, recommended this title, I finally read Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. The story of angry and violent Cole, the book begins right after he has beaten a fellow student unconscious, leaving his victim hospitalized with permanent damage. As an alternative to jail time, Cole's probation officer proposes "Circle Justice," which results in Cole's banishment to a remote Alaskan island.
This story is a suspenseful survival tale that fans of Hatchet would enjoy. While the portrayal of Peter, the victim, was a little two-dimensional, this book held my attention, as well as contained valuable messages about the cycle of violence, the power of forgivemess, and the meaning of justice.
For those who have already read this book, a fairly new sequel is available, Ghost of Spirit Bear. And thanks to the students in the 2008-09 reading class of Leah Mattox at Lenihan who chose a book to collect donation money for, the library has an extra copy of this title.
I recommend the novel, The Nine Lives of Travis Keating by Jill MacLean. Summary from our online catalog: "After his mother's death, Travis Keating and his father move to Ratchet, Newfoundland, to start a new life. Things are tough for Travis (Hud, the school bully, being the toughest) until, putting aside his own problems, he starts to care for a colony of feral (wild) cats."
This book reminded me of Because of Winn Dixie, since Travis' involvement with the cats serves as a catalyst to his friendships with grumpy old guy, Abe Murphy, and classmate, Prinny, who has a difficult homelife.
This is a great story about friendship, dealing with loss, as well as a good read for animal lovers. I could really put myself in Travis' place in the bond he feels with the cats, and the passion he feels in protecting them.
Recommend Eleven: a Mystery by Patricia Reilly Giff
I just finished listening to the CD version of the newest book by Patricia Reilly Giff, the author of several books, including one of my favorite books ever, Pictures of Hollis Woods.
Eleven tells the story of Sam, a boy who lives with his grandfather, "Mac." Sam's reading struggles have never been such a big problem as they day when he discovers a newspaper clipping in the attic with his childhood photo and the words "Missing." Unable to read the rest of the article, Sam enlists the help of the new girl at school, Caroline. Together they work to solve the mystery.
As they find out more information and Sam has flashes of early memories, he worries that he doesn't really belong with "Mac." The suspense grows, as does the friendship between Sam and Caroline. I highly recommend this well-written novel, which keeps you reading to discover the truth about Sam's past, as well as for the likable and memorable characters.