Our students have been given a unique opportunity to become book reviewers through the cooperation of Flamingnet and our local county library.  The county library is paying the small fee for our students to join Flamingnet as reviewers.  If their application is accepted the students choose books from a list to review.  Once the book arrives the students reads the book, writes a review, and gets to keep the book.  How much better could it get?  Students are reading and writing about books on a site started by a student and his dad.  We are just getting started with this program, but already there is much interest.  Parents, for your child to participate they must return a signed note explaining the program in detail along with recommendations for how you and your child can choose books best suited for them.

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by Gordon Korman

by Gordon Korman

Capricorn (Cap) is being thrown to the sharks.  Not literally, but almost!  He is going to school for the first time ever as an eighth grader. He does not know what a television is, doesn’t know why he has a locker, and why he can’t legally drive.  Cap has been home schooled by his grandmother who has somehow managed to stay permanently lodged in the sixties.  She has taught him the philosophies of freedom and a hatred of capitalism and government but she neglected to teach him the skills that will help him survive eighth grade; how to detect spitballs, and know when someone is playing him for a fool.

 

 

 

    I enjoyed this book.  I was rooting for Capricorn as he endured the pressures of a new situation.  In fact I was more concerned about the situations than Cap was.  He did not even know enough to worried or upset about the situations.  Most of the characters were believable except the principal.  The principal was more of a fool than any principal I have ever encountered.  What principal gives signed checks to an eight grader even if he has to be out of town?  Another very unbelievable plot problem revolved around everyone being invited to tie dye their clothing with the 8th grade president.  It is a BIG school.  The art room would not hold all the students at one time.  If you have ever been in a real school the glaring “wrongness” of it does not sit right.  Even though I had to gloss over this part of the plot I was impressed with fellow outsider Hugh Winkleman.  At first he appreciated Cap for helping him to move up the ladder of social status.  Finally, he is not the student picked on the most.  Hugh is able to sit through lunch without getting hit by spitballs.  Later, he realizes he likes Cap for who he is and still appreciates that he is not being pestered as much this year.  When Cap becomes a school hero Hugh teams up with the bully but Hugh’s motive is to help Cap. 

            This book is told through each of the main character’s voices.  Each chapter title is a person’s name and the chapter is told through their point of view.  I think middle school students will find it funny and enlightening.  The realities of wedgies and spitballs will resonant with most readers while they are given some general insights into the reasons some students bully others.    

 

Oh my, what can I say about this book?  It is the hardest and easiest book to read.  It is easy to read because the sentences are short and it is told through a young girls words.  It is hard to read because I know there are young girls experiencing this situation even today.  It is the story of a young girl in India who is sold by her stepfather.  She thinks she is going to the city which she has never seen to be a maid.  She accepts this situation with grace and dignity.  But the buyers want more than a cleaning woman.  She is sold into prostitution.  The story is tastefully told with the young girls feelings well expressed.  This book is emotionally very powerful.  Because of the mature content I would not recommend it to students below high school level.  But, parents might feel their junior high students could handle the book.  Discussion of this book might help change the world situation. 

There is so much to admire about the writing in this book.  The joy and happiness of a Lakshmi’s life in India is seen along with the poverty of her village.  The dignity of her mother is contrasted with the stepfather who deserves no admiration.  Lakshmi’s life is simple and  her trip to the city exposes her to things she has never seen or known. (electricy, televisions etc)  Her innocence is sharply contrasted with the adults who traffic in human beings for a living.  The worked she if forced to do is contrasted with the kindness of people caught in the same trap.  In the end Lakshmi’s courage shapes her future. 

National Book Award Finalist

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

For those who like well written scary books, put this one on your list.  Coraline finds a door that leads to another apartment that looks just like hers.  Only in the OTHER apartment there lives an OTHER mother and father with black button eyes and magic ways.  The other mother wants to keep Coraline for herself and never let her see her real parents again.  In fact, the other mother makes Coraline’s parents disappear.  Coraline must find a way to escape, rescue her real parents, and help release more of the captives.

A talking cat contributes much to the adventure.  This conversation captures the personality of both charcters. 

“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”

“Easy,” said the cat.  “Think of somebody walking around the world.  You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.:

“Small world,” said Coraline.

“It’s is big enough for her said the cat.”  “Spiders’ webs only have to be big enough to catch flies.”

Coraline shivered.

To be honest the cover of this book did not attact me.  I looked at it, read the back, looked at the cover again, and put it back on the shelf.  But, I am constantly getting asked for a “scary book” and I was running low on ideas for some students.  That is when I remembered this book and decided to give it a try.  I am so glad I did.  For someone who does “not do” scary books this one had just the right touch.  The illustrations added so much to the story.

 

I wrote this post on Saturday.  Today, (Sunday) I was delighted to open my in-box  and find an interview with Niel Gaiman in the Good Reads newsletter.  They also said a movie is coming soon.