08 January 2010

Neat Author Video!

Earlier, I reviewed the book Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.  Today I found a neat video of the author herself reading a brief passage from the book.  Check-out the link below, and it may help you decide whether or not this book is for you!

Esperanza Rising Video

07 January 2010

Hate That Cat by Shannon Creech

Jack is a dog kind of person.  He wants nothing to do with the creepy black cat that is sometimes waiting at his bus stop.  Once he gets to school his teacher, Mrs. Stretchberry, is going to spend the whole year on poetry.  I know that some of you may be smiling now, but many of you may be saying "Ugh!  That poor, poor boy."  Writing may not be Jack's favorite activity, but this year he has to write letters to his Language Arts teacher about what they are learning.  This book is made up entirely of Jack's letters.  Don't worry - you don't have to read the teacher's letters at all!  In the book, Jack explains that he doesn't like writing long lines, just short ones, so that's what he does.  Some times lines have just
As Jack's random thoughts enter his letters you learn a lot about him.  He loves dogs.  His mother is deaf.  He hates cats.  Even thought his letters are written to a teacher, they are funny and sound like you are listening to one of your friends.  You will like this book if you like poetry, but you will also really like this book if you are afraid of poetry.  This would be an easy book to read over a weekend, or maybe in just one night!  I hope that you give it a shot.

(c)  2008           Publisher:  HarperCollins            Number of Pages:  160

06 January 2010

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I must admit that I did not have high hopes for this book, but I can now understand why many people enjoy it.  It has action and adventure, but it is not all action and adventure.  Multiple mysteries build suspense and carry the reader along.  In the book, Eragon discovers an odd stone in the mountains near his home.  This discovery soon proves to be a dragon egg, and Eragon becomes the first in a new generation of a group called the "Dragon Riders."  In the past, the Dragon Riders had kept the kingdom safe and created peace throughout.  They have been gone for a long time, though, and the kingdom is in desperate need of a hero.  Eragon learns how to be just such a hero from Brom, his town's storyteller, who is wiser than anyone knows.  Together, Brom, Eragon, and Eragon's dragon, Saphira, set off on a journey that will change the kingdom forever.  At first, I was a little disappointed in the character of Eragon because he only seemed to want revenge for the men who hurt his family.  However, through his long and dangerous journey, Eragon soon learns that he needs to use his gifts to free and help all of his fellow countrymen from the king out to control them all.  I liked how at times Eragon and Saphira's relationship almost had the same feel as one of those "a boy and his dog books."  I also really enjoyed the character of Brom who was like a father to Eragon and the kind of mentor I think we would all like to have.  This is not the type of book I would normally choose for myself, but I am glad that I did.  I think you would like this book if you like adventure or fantasy.  Girls should not be turned off by this book just because it has action.  This story is very much about the journey more than the destination.  You would also like this book if you like to challenge yourself; it uses strong vocabulary and even some made-up words.  It is impressive that the author was only seventeen when he wrote it!  Take a look through the pages and see what you think.  You might be surprised!

(c) 2002            Published by:  Knopf             Number of pages:  497

03 January 2010

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Many of us have read and enjoyed "rags to riches" stories.  These are those tales where characters have it pretty tough to begin with, but end up with the wealth they deserve.  It could be a story like "Cinderella," who starts as a maid and ends up a princess, or it could be like "Spiderman,"  who begins as a teenager frequently picked on and ends up a superhero.  Esperanza, from Munoz' Esperanza Rising, is unlikely to be found in any such story, though.  Instead, she begins by living a rich and privileged life on her families plantation and vineyard in Mexico and, through unfortunate circumstances, ends up living in a compound for Migrant workers in California on the cusp of the Great Depression.  

Now wait a minute before you write this book off.  I know that at this point you may be thinking, "Why would I want to read such a sad story?"  This is why:  Esperanza learns that fortune, riches, and beauty cannot be counted as you hold them in your hand or reside in the land beneath your feet.  Fortunes, riches, and beauty must travel with you and in you.

In addition to having a back-wards fairy tale like story, there is also a good dose of action as Esperanza uses the lessons she has learned to save the lives of her family members and friends.

Though at times you want to feel sorry for Esperanza, I certainly think that she will leave you smiling in the end.

(c) 2000    Published by: Scholastic    Number of Pages: 262    Awards: Pura Belpre Award

01 January 2010

The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who liked The Giver by Lois Lowry. Although it has a female protagonist, I feel that it would still be enjoyed by boys as well. Lina and Doon are two twelve year old citizens of what could be considered a "lost" city. However, the City of Ember is all they have known and all they really know to exist. Things in the city are corrupt and crumbling. They can only hope that there is a world outside of their own and that they can find a way to it. I think that this book shows a great example of kids doing something big and important even if the world thinks they can't. For those of you who are worried it might be too much science-fiction, don't worry; it doesn't really fit that genre at all.  It is equally parts mystery, adventure, friendship, and family. Overall, nicely done.  If you end up liking this book, you are in luck!  It is the first in a series of books.  The next one is called The People of Sparks, and I hope to read it soon.

(c)2004     Published by: Yearling     Pages: 270     Awards:  An ALA Notable Book