Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2012

gale

Gale Virtual Reference Library
Accessed through the San Diego Public Library’s eColletion
Accesible only with a valid San Diego Public Library account number.

Annotation:
Gale Virtual Reference Library provides users with a wealth of information through their eBook collection.

Summary:
With a large selection of subjects, the Gale Virtual Reference Library is a key provider for researchers. Accessible through a library account, the site offers a through search engine of its collection, providing for citation and bibliographies.

Critical Evaluation:
The overall site is very organized, providing popular book resources as examples for the various subjects offered. Within the selection of the material, users have a choice of downloading an audio version of the information or a pdf format to an eReader. The site proves citation tools and the ability to translate articles into twelve languages. Articles can be printed or emailed as well.

The site is only accessible through a library account. A search engine allows users to find different subjects in a very, well organized manner. A search for the subject of coffee provided for definitions and a history of the coffee industry. Within those results, exact pages of the chosen books were provided as well as page numbers for citation. The results also provided a bibliography and links to related articles.

The company’s goal of providing organized information for its users is fulfilled. Teens searching for in-depth research on the Internet will find success in this informative site.

Information about the Company:
Gale, part of Cengage Learning, works with libraries in regards to online research and educational publishing. Macmillan Reference USA is an example of one of Gale’s imprints. The company strives to provide educators and libraries with quality information in a global setting.

Genre:
Non-Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:
n/a

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The site provides assistance to any level of researcher.

Challenging Issues:
n/a

Why did I include this database in the title selections?
I was impressed with the site’s layout and the wealth of information provided in the search engine.

Reference:
Gale. (n.d.). About Us. Gale Cengage Learning. Retrieved from http://www.gale.cengage.com/about/

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

proquest_logoProQuest Homework Central
Accessed through the San Diego Public Library’s Kids and Teens: Homework Help Center

Annotation:
Homework Central serves to assist the needs of students and educators.

Summary:
With access to over 9,000 different worldwide publishers, Proquest Homework Central is a handy resource for online learning. The Proquest Homework Central archive is separated by grade level to provide easier access to materials.

Critical Evaluation:
The site’s homework page is quite organized. The site is broken done into different subject categories as well as guides to better assist in study behaviors.

The various subjects are first organized by their larger subject heading, followed by the more specific subject. The wealth of information provided within each area is outstanding and will provide a curious student with a wealth of knowledge.

Information about the Company:
From their home page, ProQuest is a specialized information resource company that works to assist in research and to provide quality information. Originally founded by Eugene Power in 1938, the company continues to be a source of information for newspapers and periodicals.

Genre:
Non-Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:
n/a

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The site provides assistance to any student between elementary school up to high school.

Challenging Issues:
n/a

Why did I include this database in the title selections?
The San Diego Public Library has a great list of different resources for kids and teens. When I accessed this site, I felt the information presented was well-organized and easy to access, something a teen needs when doing homework in a hurry.

Reference:
ProQuest. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from http://www.proquestk12.com/about/default.shtml

Read Full Post »

Stoner and Spaz
By Ron Koertge
ISBN: 9780763657574
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date of Publication: 2002

Reader’s Annotation:
Ben Bancroft’s self-imposed sheltered life was cracked when Colleen Minou pushed her way and changed his life forever.

Plot Summary:
Ben Bancroft has cerebral palsy, a disability that renders his left hand useless and forces him to walk with an exaggerated limp. Ben’s used to being on the sidelines, expecting outsiders to ignore him due to his “disability”. It is primarily this reason why he prefers the darkness of the Rialto Theatre, his favorite place to watch films.

One night, during a screening of Bride of Frankenstein, Colleen Minou barges into Ben’s life, demanding his attention and refusing to shy away from Ben’s taboo subject of his disability. Colleen has her own problems though; addicted to drugs and in an unhealthy relationship with a man far too old for Colleen’s teenage year. Colleen has a “devil may care” attitude that pushes Ben out of his comfort zone.

Yet, before he knows it, Ben begins to have feelings for Colleen. Colleen in turn begins to wonder if the straight and narrow path isn’t as bad as she once thought it was. As each deals with their personal demons, dreams and desires, Ben and Colleen must come to grips with who they are and what it means to be different together.

Unshelved book reivew
Critical Evaluation:
Ron Koertege has a simple writing style in that his stories are short and to the point. This style is never more apparent with the snappy dialogue between Ben and Colleen. There’s almost a screenplay-like quality to the dialogue in which the reader could easily see the character’s conversations played out in a visual medium.

The shortness of the story does not diminish its impact though. It’s clear from the beginning that Ben is out of his element in his interactions with Colleen. Readers who feel detected when speaking with the opposite sex, or with someone they wish to have affection with, will relate to Ben’s confusion and his desire to take a chance and make an intimate connection. Young readers will understand Ben’s reluctance due to his cerebral palsy as while the condition is real, it could be used as a symbolization of a feeling out of place from “normality”.

Colleen’s use of drugs doesn’t dilute the story or turn it into a tale of woe. The facts behind Ben’s condition and Colleen’s addiction are treated with respect. There’s never a feeling that Ben or Colleen are individuals that should entice pity. It’s because of these conditions that the characters are who they are and, for better or for worse, it’s what makes them unique.

Koertge’s story is a fun, quick read that Young Adult readers will enjoy, even more so with the honest, harsh realities of the characters’ life and situations.

Information about the Author:

From Ron Koertge’s Webpage, Koertge began to write young adult literature when his beginning writing career began to flounder. Koertge is in his early seventies and continues to write books and poetry for teens, specifically for young male readers. Koertge’s misspent youth serves as a reminder of the teen mentality, providing a solid foundation for believable characters.

Koertge has written over a dozen young adult novels. Koertge is also a poet, whose poems have been published since the early 1970s.

Ron Koertge on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Cerebral Palsy, Addiction

Booktalking Ideas:
What are some methods you cope when you are stressed?
Do you have a safe place you turn to when you need comfort?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Koertge has mentioned in interviews that this book should be read by an older audience.

Challenging Issues:
Stoner and Spaz has been challenged and banned due to drug use, language concerns, and sexuality. In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Koertge expected to be banned because of the material. He doesn’t expect that his troubled characters are role models but characters in which life lessons can be obtained. What’s interesting about the interview is Koertge’s experience with challenges has not changed what he feels is the constant reality of the situation.

“Years ago I agreed to sit on panels on censorship. After all, even in my fifties I was still the Bad Boy of Young Adult fiction. And here’s what I noticed: at the end of the evening nobody had changed his or her mind. In fact, most of the debaters were more firmly convinced of their rightness than before. It was a phenomenon I’ve learned to call Hardening the Collective. Nobody had a good time, nobody laughed, nobody went out afterward with the opposition and had a drink” (LARB, 2011).

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
After reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I noticed the blurb that Koertge wrote on the back of the book. The blurb listed Koertge as the author of Stoner and Spaz. I was curious about the wording of the title and decided to pick up the book at my library. Though it was a quick read, I liked the story and felt it would be worth sharing to teens.

Reference:
Koertge, R. (n.d.). A word from Ron Koertge. Retrieved from ronkoertge.com

Koertge, R. (2011).  Hazardous Material. Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved from http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/post/24379220832/getting-banned-writers-on-the-worlds-oldest-solution

Bonus Features!

Mini Sequel Review!

(more…)

Read Full Post »

I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip
By John Donovan
ISBN: 9780738721347
Publisher: Harper & Row (Flux for the reprint edition)
Date of Publication: 1969

Reader’s Annotation:
After the death of his grandmother, Davy adjusts to his new life with his mother in New York City.

Plot Summary:
Davy’s grandmother has just died, leaving Davy and his dachshund Fred, without a home. Eventually his mother takes Davy and Fred back to New York City, enrolling him in a private school. Davy is unsure about his future and the path of his new life. Davy’s mother is happier at a party with a cocktail in hand. Davy’s father has a new girlfriend who connects better with Davy than his own mother.

When Davy enters his new school, he meets Douglas Altschuler, a competitive jock who slowly becomes Davy’s friend. As the boys grow closer, a question begins to form in Davy’s mind: Why do I care so much about this boy? Breaking through the taboo topic of homosexuality, John Donovan’s landmark novel is the story of what it means to grow up and to become an adult in a already confusing world.

Critical Evaluation:
John Donavon’s tale of friendship and maturity is a quick but interesting read. At times the story seems too simple in that Davy’s voice is more childlike instead of a young teen’s voice. As the novel progresses, the first-person voice improves, highlighting Davy’s entrance into maturity.

In regards to the sexuality of the book, the homosexuality act between Davy and Douglas is conducted off the page. From a 21st Century perspective, this seems too tame. Yet, to even suggest such an act, especially in Young Adult fiction, would have been an incredible risk in the late 1960s. Donavon almost treats it like an afterthought. The parental reactions are a true reflection of their characters and it would have been surprising if the parents had acted differently.

Donovan’s themes of childhood maturity doesn’t just stem from sexual identity but from family situations. Davy acknowledges that his life was better because of his grandmother and that his parents will never achieve that inspirational status. One might question why Davy was placed in the care of his grandmother but it becomes apparent with Davy’s interactions with his parents that his brief encounter with his grandmother was a blessing. Towards the end of the novel, it’s clear that Davy was actually better off without either of them, which is why Davy’s maturity will be stronger than he could imagine.

While the book is not primarily focused on LGBT issues, it’s still a great book to suggest to a young LGBT audience. Audiences might feel a connection with Davy’s confusion and gain an understanding of the history of LGBT issues.

Information about the Author:
From his Obituary in the New York Times, John Donovan was a graduate of  the College of William and Mary. He gained his law degree from the Univeristy of Virginia and worked with the Library of Congress in their Copyright Office.

He served as the executive director of the Children’s Book Council. He was the author of four books and two short plays. He died in 1992 at the age of 63.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Sexual Identity

Booktalking Ideas:
Who do you turn to when you need to talk to someone?
Is there a place you like to escape to when everything becomes overwhelming?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include homosexuality, substance abuse, and poor family relationships.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
This was the first book that addressed homosexuality in a neutral fashion. This would be a great addition to any teen seeking advice about their sexuality identity.

Reference:
New York Times. (1992). Obituaries: John Dovovan, 63; Wrote, Books and Plays. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/01/obituaries/john-donovan-63-wrote-books-and-plays.html

Read Full Post »

Drama
Written and Drawn by Raina Telgemeier
ISBN: 9780545326995
Publisher: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic
Date of Publication: 2012

Reader’s Annotation:
During her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, Callie finds that the drama of the stage can follows her off stage.

Plot Summary:
Ever since her parents took her to a performance of Les Miserables, Callie has loved the theatre. While she might not be gifted in the area of musical talent, she maintains her love of performance art by working behind the stages. As the set designer for her middle school’s annual play, Callie has been assigned to transform a blank stage into a Civil War setting.

With the help of her fellow stage crew members, Callie is set to take the drama world by storm. Yet, admits this backstage adventure, the drama of the front of the house begins to merge with the back, creating tensions amongst all the players. New friendships are forged, love is lost and won and all the players learn that in theatre the show must go on.

Critical Evaluation:
Using elements from her own middle school and high school drama classes, author and artist Rania Telgemeier has created a believable story of what it’s like to be on and off the stage.

Telgemeier’s characters are drawn in a way that there’s no confusion about who is who, which could have been an issue with a large core of characters presented. The romantic storyline is an interesting part of the book in that the romance does not primarily focus on Callie. The dynamics between Callie and the twin brothers, Justin and Jesse, highlights that sexuality in theatre is not always black and white. Telgemeier handles the questions and concerns of sexual identity with care, never making judgements or assumptions about one’s worth in a potential relationship or in sexuality. As the entire idea is treated in a positive, affirming manner, the story would be a great recommendation for any LGBT teen looking for relatable material to read.

Overall, Telgemeier’s tale of stage hijinks is a fun read. While the setting is in middle school, high school audiences will still be able to connect with Telgemeier’s themes and situations.

Information about the Author:
From Raina Telgemeier’s Webpage, a current resident of New York City, specifically Queens, Telgemeier is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. Telgemeierhas adapted and illustrated the first four Baby-Sitters Club books in graphic novels. She has worked on art for X-Men.

Telgemeier grew up in San Francisco. Her previous work include an autobiographical graphic novel called Smile.

Raina Telgemeier on Twitter

Curriculum Ties:
Art, Theatre

Booktalking Ideas:
Have you ever talked to a crush?
What is your artistic talent?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 10-14. Due to the content of the story, this can still have an impact on older audiences, specifically high schoolers.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues include homosexuality.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I thoroughly enjoyed Telgemeier work on the Baby-Sitters Club adaptations. While this book is set in middle school, the situations can easily be transferred to a high school setting.

References:
Kirkus Reviews. (2012). Drama. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/raina-telgemeier/drama-telgemeier/

Telgemeier, R. (n.d). Info. Retrieved from http://goraina.com/info.html

Read Full Post »

Beastly
By Alex Flinn
ISBN: 9780061998669
Publisher: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Date of Publication: 2009
Reader’s Annotation:
Kyle Kingsbury has two years to break the curse that has made him into a beast. The cure? To fall in love and to be loved in return.

Plot Summary:
Kyle Kingsbury has it all. He’s handsome, smart, rich, and is the most popular boy at Tuttle Private School. His father is a famous news anchor and provides Kyle with anything he needs. One day, Kyle notices a strange girl in his English class. She’s dressed in strange, dark gothic clothing and is vocal in her dislike of Kyle’s selfish behavior. On a whim, Kyle asks this girl, Kendra, to the school’s dance, plotting a way to humiliate Kendra in front of the entire school. Kendra says yes, though she remains wary of Kyle’s intentions.

As planned, Kyle ditches Kendra at the dance, mocking her in front of the attendees. Kendra’s reaction frightens Kyle in that she offers no revenge but a warning. When Kyle arrives back home after the dance, he discovers Kendra is waiting for him. She is actually a witch and curses Kyle to become a disgusting beast; a creature who matches Kyle’s ugly soul. Kyle now has two years to find love and to be loved in return, for that is his only cure for the curse. As time slowly melts away, Kyle finds himself learning what it really means to give your heart to someone, that love is how we protect and care for another, and love is not merely a feeling but an action that changes us forever.

Critical Evaluation:
Alex Flinn’s modern take on the Beauty and the Beast story is a delight. It is a quick read and slightly predictable, but still entertaining. Flinn presents Kyle as a genuinely selfish boy, but we can’t help but sympathize with his character in light of his father’s neglect. It is clear that Kyle’s behavior and opinions stem from his father’s influence. There are glimpses of hope for his behavior, but when Kyle is changed into the beast, the reader can’t help but be glad for this inevitable transformation.

The character of Beauty, Lindy, is portrayed as a strong-willed young woman who has been forced to survive on her own. While fairytale mentality often showcase young women longing for a knight in shinning armor to rescue them, Lindy is neither weak or stupid. Her intelligence is celebrated in the book and is a trait that Kyle uses in order to woo her heart.

The ending of the book, which I will not spoil, is very much on par of the original fairy tale. Lessons are learned and everyone involved become better people. But it’s an important lesson in that in shows that people CAN change and that our preconceived notions of our friends or strangers can be altered with time. While the book is not one based on the premise of bullying, it does highlight how being different should be celebrated. And that it is our differences that make us great and beautiful.

Information about the author:
From Alex (Alexandra) Flinn’s Webpage, Flinn was raised in Miami, Florida, where she lives today. After witnessing the after effects of dating violence during an internship with the State Attorney’s Office, Flinn was inspired to write her first book, Breathing Underwater. From the success of her first book, Flinn continued to write realistic fiction and has found continued success in her fairy tale adaptations.

Alex Flinn’s Webpage is a great resource for reading guide for teens and educators.

Alex Flinn on Facebook

Genre:
Fantasy, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Fairy Tales, Self-Image and Self-Worth

Booktalking Ideas:
How important is a first impression?
Who are we when no one is looking?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews provides an age range of 19-20. Flinn’s prose is geared towards a younger age range and would be ideal for ages 14 and Up.

Challenging Issues:


There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be drug abuse.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When I was looking over my selections for this assignment, I realized that I was lacking the fantasy genre. I found this at my local library branch and decided to take a chance as the story of Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales. Retelling of fairy tales seems to be a trend in popular culture and this version of Beauty and the Beast was nice addition to the myth of that tale.

Reference:
Flinn, A. (n.d.). About Alex. Retrieved from http://www.alexflinn.com/html/bio.html

Kirkus Review. (2010). Beastly by Alex Flinn. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alex-flinn/beastly/

Bonus Features!

Lindy’s Story

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Nylon Magazine

Nylon
Current Editor-in-Chief: Marvin Scott Jarrett
Publisher: Nylon Holding Inc.

Reader’s Annotation:
With a focus on fashion and style, Nylon is the must have magazine for any hip and urban fashionista.

Nylon on the Web

Critical Evaluation:


While Nylon Magazine contains just as many fashion advertisements as any other fashion/style magazine, the products promoted showcase an audiences geared for older teens and early 20-somethings. The fashion featured is more fringe/hipster with an emphasis on urban art and less mainstream popular culture mentality. The October issue focused on the “It” products and thoughts currently in discussion amongst hip fashionistas.

The Nylon webpage is a nice companion piece to the magazine, providing up to the minute fashion information.

Genre:
Fashion, Style

Curriculum Ties:
n/a

Booktalking Ideas:
What are the differences between fashion style between the teen years and your early 20s?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Late Teens and Early 20s

Challenging Issues:
n/a

Read Full Post »

Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants
By A.S. King
ISBN: 9780316129282
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:

After a bully threatens Lucky Linderman, his mother takes him to Arizona, where he begins to learn what it means to stand up for one’s self.

Plot Summary:
Lucky Linderman is considered a “problem” teen with “social problems”. This assessment stems more from an assignment for his social studies class. Lucky was to create a survey and asses the results in a research paper. The question he presented was what landed him in trouble:

“If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?”

Naturally the school’s administration is up in arms. Lucky vows to never smile again.

Six months pass and Lucky does his best to avoid trouble. This changes dramatically when he helps a young girl find her missing bikini top at the bottom of the pool. Lucky was the only one willing to help the girl as the bully in Lucky’s life refused to help and threatened anyone who did. Now Nader McMillian has Lucky in his sights and won’t be satisfied until Lucky suffers. Unsatisfied with her husband’s response to the situation, Lucky’s mother decides to take him to Arizona to visit her brother and his family.

During his time in Arizona, Lucky begins to find strength and confidence, pushing out of the comfort zone he had struggled to maintain. His uncle teaches him about body building and he meets an eccentric girl who is a hair model. While Lucky begins to understand how to stand up for himself, he continues to have dreams where he talks to his grandfather, a Vietnam POW that was missing in action. As the dream conversations continue, Lucky begins to understand the different meanings of strength and that life has a way of healing old wounds, depute age or time.

Critical Evaluation:
Using magical realism and fantasy as a means of exploring Lucky’s reactions and emotions, A.S. King provides readers with a stirring tale of a broken family struggling to heal itself. The pacing of the story was at first confusing as King moves from flashback to dream sequence to reality quite quickly. The rhythm is found soon enough and the reader adapts swiftly enough.

While the story does focus on the bullying aspect between Lucky and Nader, the larger story is how a family becomes broken before it’s even created. King shows readers that family dynamics are created through our experiences and upbringing. What affected a father in his youth, affects his son in the present. Families have generational patterns, for better or worse. It’s up to each member to recognize those patterns and evolve for emotional survival. King’s skill as a writer is highlighted here with this family dynamic. It’s hard to read at time because you want the characters to have larger reactions. Yet, you can’t help but want to read the book because it means the characters have stayed true to themselves.

The dynamics between Lucky and his young grandfather are heartbreaking in that you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Lucky had his grandfather when he was younger. Yet, Lucky does eventually realize that he wouldn’t have become the person he was now. The same could be said with the relationship between Lucky’s father, as the grandfather’s absence plays a large part on how Lucky’s father reacts or, in most cases, doesn’t react.

The book succeeds because of King’s writing talent and her imagination. Between Lucky’s conversations with imaginary ants or watching as a group of militant young high school girls perform The Vagina Monologues, Everybody Sees the Ants will provide readers with both humor and thought-provoking ideas.

Information about the Author:
From A.S. King’s Webpage, Amy Sarig King was born in Pennyslvania, where she currently lives with her husband and children. While she has always desired to be a writer, King has a degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Philadephia. King has written four books with a fifth to be published in the Fall of 2013. King is a public speaker for libraries and schools and has worked in writing workshops to assist other writers with their skills.

King’s Webpage provides resources for educators and teens in regards to her books.

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Death and Dying, Family Relationships

Booktalking Ideas:
What types of conversations do we have when we are alone?
How important is communication? With friends? With family?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews recommends a reading age of 14-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be bullying and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been impressed with A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz, I was excited to see she had written more titles. Everybody Sees the Ants was an engrossing read and timely as well. As the issue of bullying continues to gain recognition, I thought this would be a great book to recommend for those who have suffered bullying in the past.

Reference:
King, A.S. (n.d.). Author. as-king.com Retrieved from http://www.as-king.com/html/author.php

Kirkus Review. (2010). Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/as-king/please-ignore-vera-dietz/

Read Full Post »

The Girl is Murder
By Kathryn Miller Haines
ISBN: 9781250006394
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
While attempting to secretly asset her father in one of his cases, Iris Anderson finds she’s over her head.

Plot Summary:
The year is 1942 and America is at war. Iris Anderson, fifteen, is abut to start a new school n New York’s Lower East Side. Still reeling from her mother’s suicide, Iris is trying to make the best of her new situation. Her former school was an all-girls private school in New York’s richer Upper East Side. The differences are striking on Iris’s first day at PS 110 and she feels lucky to even have even survived.

At home, life is different as well. Iris’s father is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, though he lost his leg due to the conflict. He has set up a private detective agency in the home that have rented from a lovely Polish woman, Mrs. Mrozenski whose own son is serving in the Marines. Iris is only just beginning to have a relationship with her father as he was away in the Navy. He retired after the attack and took Iris away from her Aunt and Uncle to live on their own. Iris’s father is a proud man and is trying to make a success of the business though it’s hard with his fake leg.

One afternoon, Iris overhears a client complaining to her father about the lack of results for a case. Iris decides to secretly help out as her little family needs the money. As Iris begins her life as a girl detective she starts to realize how much hard work can go into a case. And that every mystery is filled with a little danger.

Critical Evaluation:
Drawing on her love of the 1940s, Haines attempts to create a girl detective series falls a bit short. The story is still engaging and the characters are fun, but sometimes Haines relies too much on the language of the times. The characters speak in cliches and catchphrases.

Beyond the issues with the character’s language, Haines presents a story that truly does reflect the period. While it is not a main theme of the book, Iris’s background might raise a few eyebrows. Issues such as anti-semitism and racism fit into the story nicely, and at times help move the story along.

Haines also succeeds in discussing social classes, a subject that continues to be relevant in today’s ever changing economy. As Iris adjusts to life in the Lower East Side, her perspective shifts and she sees how the two world she now knows conflict with each other.

Overall, Haines does provide for an entertaining read, despite my earlier concerns of cliches. The mystery is an interesting one and has an unexpected ending. As this is the first in a potential series of books, one hopes that Haines is merely setting the foundation for what could be a very engaging series.

Audio Evaluation:
Rachel Botchan is the narrator of this book. The manner in which she narrates the book is striking in that she has a higher pitched tone that matches the cliches of the era. Her voice fluctuates from high class to street trash with each different characterizations. While the material does have its problems, Botchan’s attempts in keeping with the spirit of the material should be applauded. It enhances the story and allows the listening an opportunity to go back into time and experience the 40s.

Information about the Author:
From Kathryn Miller Haines’s Webpage, Haines is a graduate of Trinity University where she double majored in English and Theatre. She possess a MFA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Haines first dipped her foot into the mystery genre with the publication of the Rosie Winter Mysteries, which highlights her love of the World War II time period.

Her most recent mystery series has been geared towards a young adult audience. Haines has recently published a sequel to The Girl is Murder called The Girl is Trouble. She lives in the Pennsylvania area with her family.

Kathryn Miller Haines on Twitter

Kathryn Miller Haines Blog

Genre:
Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
World War II History, Racial Inequality, Noir Mystery

Booktalking Ideas:
What does a detective really do?
How often are we perceived to be “different” because of the way we dress?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age rage of 12-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been a fan of the Veronica Mars television show, I was excited to hear about a book that used the same idea but set in World War II. Despite some of the problems that I had with the story, I still found it engaging. It’s not on par with Veronica Mars but still worth suggesting.

Reference:
Haines, K.M. (n.d.). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.kathrynmillerhaines.com/author.htm

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). The Girl is Murder. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathryn-miller-haines/girl-murder/

Deanna Durbin

Read Full Post »

Life as We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
ISBN: 9781595141712
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date of Publication: 2006

Reader’s Annotation:
After an asteroid destroys a portion of the moon, humanity must struggle to survive against the Earth’s changing catastrophic conditions.

Plot Summary:
Miranda Evans has a simple, normal life. She still has the complexities of having divorced parents, a new sibling on the way, and regularly scheduled homework. But maybe compared to some kids, Miranda’s life is a happy one.

One night an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it out of its orbit, leaving the moon only two-thirds whole. In that moment, the Eastern Seaboard has been flooded and there are worldwide reports of massive tsunamis destroying ocean communities, even countries. Slowly, Miranda’s life begins to change for the worse. There’s gas rationing, electricity is scarce, and food has become the most valuable commodity in the world.

As the days go by, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. Friends leave or die and family members are lost or missing. It’s now every man for themselves. For Miranda and her family, it’s a fight to survive another day.

Critical Evaluation:
Susan Beth Pfeffer  initially drew inspiration for the story from a B-movie called Meteor, which starred Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. After watching the film, and dismissing it’s horrible premise, Pfeffer began to question what would happen if a teen was faced with an apocalyptic scenario. The resulting answer was Life as We Know It.

The book is a dark piece of fiction as with each day that is presented in Miranda’s diary any lingering hope of survival continues to diminish. Pfeffer is honest in the grim portrayal and presents a realistic idea of what the damage to the moon could cost the inhabitants of the Earth.

The characters of the story are portrayed as realistic in that there is a desire for the past to return as life would be easier. But handling a catastrophic transition isn’t easy for anyone and such changes don’t happen over night. Miranda’s mother is portrayed as practical, looking at the means of helping her children survive instead of just her own well-being. The young adult reactions are a mixture of selfish desire and with scared realization. Again, there is honesty in the characterizations which makes the novel hard to read at times since you know everything will not be rosy.

It is not a happy tale and those looking for a joyful ending would be better served looking else where for their entertainment. Pfeffer succeeds in this endeavor in that she writes well, which is reflected in Miranda’s observations.

Information about the author:
From Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Blog, Pfeffer is the writer of over 70 books. Her focus has been towards Young Adult and Children’s fiction starting with the publication of her book Rainbows and Fireworks in 1973. Pfeffer lives in New York with her cat and continues to write fiction, with titles outside of The Last Survivors series.

Susan Beth Pfeffer on Twitter

Genre:
Fantasy/Science Fiction, Horror/Thriller

Curriculum Ties:
Astronomy, Survival Skills

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you first do if the world was about to end?
What supplies would you need if you hope to survive a catastrophe?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 19-20. The book features a sixteen protagonist was written for a young adult audience. I would suggest an age range of 16 and up.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be nightmares caused by anxiety of the characters’ conditions.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When I first picked up this book, I couldn’t finish it. The story became too depressing and it felt too tangible. When I picked up the book a few months later, I found that the story was still engaging but I could handle the apocalyptic storyline better. There are a great number of dystopian books for Young Adults on the market today. Susan Beth Pfeffer’s tale of Earthly doom gives a realistic perspective of what would happen in this type of disaster. And for that reason alone, I think it’s a great book to give to teens. It’s a great alternative to mainstream dystopia.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Books by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Beth-Pfeffer/e/B001H6QEWY/ref=la_B001H6QEWY_pg_6?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_82%3AB001H6QEWY&page=6&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854426
Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Life as we knew it. Retrieved from Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/susan-beth-pfeffer/life-as-we-knew-it/

Pfeffer, S.B. (2010). The big idea: Susan Beth Pfeffer. Whatever.Scalzi.Com. Retrieved from http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/04/06/the-big-idea-susan-beth-pfeffer/

Bonus Features!

Mini Review!

The Last Survivors Series

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »