Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature - Robin Brande

Wow, would I NOT like to be Mena. She's a high school freshman who is shunned by many of her peers, people who USED to be her best friends. Mena has done something, clearly, but there are only veiled hints as to what it is for the first probably half of the book. Whatever it was, it surely made some people VERY angry. Angry enough that while they profess to be Christian, they call her some very unkind names.

Luckily, Mena finds a new friend, Casey, but there's one big problem. Casey's a boy. Mena's already in big trouble at home for whatever it is she already did, and now she wants to go to the house of a BOY?!? He is her only friend, and it is for science class, well, at least at first, but still. She knows her parents would never go for it, and so she begins to lie. And when was the last time you ever read a novel (or saw a real life situation for that matter) where the lying worked out? Mmmmm-hmmmm.

And then there's this whole other part of the story which is about Mena's science class where her teacher is teaching about evolution. But one of the town's pastors is very against this, and wants Intelligent Design included in the curriculum. Ms. Shepherd, the teacher, is having no part of it. Mena is a thoughtful Christian girl. She has trouble understanding the great rift between evolution and Christianity. In fact, she even finds some places in the Bible where she sees evidence of evolution.

As she tries to makes sense of all this - the behavior of her pastor, her so-called friends, her parents - for herself and for others (The Bible Grrrl says), she learns a lot of important lessons about leadership and doing the right thing even when it's hard. She learns a few things about puppies, Lord of the Rings and first love as well.

I'd highly recommend this to 8th graders and up who like science and a novel that makes you think a little. I think some of the science concepts might bog down younger readers.

Thwonk - Joan Bauer

I read this directly after reading Squashed, and it's the Joan Bauer novel I've like least of all her books that I've read. It has a sort of cute premise. The protagonist, AJ, finds a cupid who can grant her one "area of improvement." She, of course, picks love over grades or talent, and it turns into quite a fiasco when the boy who suddenly is in love with her goes WAAAAAY over the top and actually ends up making her kind of nuts.

Unfortunately, I thought it was a little overdone and while it was funny in parts, I didn't think it was of the same caliber as her other novels. An OK read, but just that.

Squashed - Joan Bauer

I REALLY liked this story!

Ellie is trying to grow a champion super-sized pumpkin for the town fair, and so far it's been a very good year. but growing a champion is NOT easy stuff. Did you know you had to inject those babies with a super secret potion through a slit in the stem? Or did you know that sometimes at night you had to cover them with a heating pad? Or did you know that if the hail's a comin', you'd better get out there with 10 layers of blankets and maybe even a trap tent or a lean-to? Well as someone who had trouble growing even zucchini this summer (must amend soil!), I was pretty fascinated by all the effort it takes to grow a pumpkin!

And then there are all the other issues:
* the problem of pumpkin stealers!
* the problems of the parents (or of only having one parent in this case, and not a
farmer one at that)
* the problem of the cute boy
* the problem of the extra 20 pounds and the pants that are seriously going to burst
at the seams...ever worn a pair like that?

I thought this story was a lot of fun. Joan Bauer tends to be a funny author, and this story, like many of her others had quite a lot of humor in it. I also cried in some parts when Ellie's desperately missing her mother. It had great suspense, and readers will find themselves cheering Ellie on right up until the end. A lovely fall read! Highly recommended for all levels of middle school.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen

I thought this would be a sleuth/spy novel sort of like I'd Tell You I Love you But Then I'd Have to Kill You or Maisie Dobbs, but it was more grown up than those. It wasn't super complicated in its plot or anything, but the main character, a young woman 34th in line for the throne of England, is a little older and I don't think this story would be very interesting for middle schoolers. I liked it ok as an adult, but it didn't really move along quite fast enough for me.

The Princess and the Pauper - Kate Brian

This is a typical trade lives book, but even though I sort of knew what was going to happen, I didn't know all the details, and I thought it was a fun little read.

Princess Carina, on a trip to America, is dying to get away from her bodyguards so she can go to a concert and meet the rock star she's been e-mailing with. This is proving quite difficult. But then they meet Julia; she's practically Carina's TWIN! With some work on Julia, they're pretty sure they can pull it off. But Julia doesn't really want to participate...until they offer her $10,000 which she and her mother, who are about to be evicted from their apartment for not paying their rent on time, REALLY need.

They manage the switch-off, and it seems to be working, at least at first it's working. Needless to say, things quickly unravel, and before she knows it, Carina is stranded in the desert and Julia is on a plane across the ocean.

It's a story with some sweet moments and some funny ones. This is definitely a more girl oriented book than boy oriented, but if you're a girl and you like princess stories, I'd recommend it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Accidental Love - Gary Soto

This book wasn't as good as I was hoping it was going to be, but it was still good. The premise is that a girl gets in a fight, like a real fist fight, and in the course of that two of the people involved drop their identical cell phones. Of course, they pick up the opposite person's phone without realizing it.

14 year old Maria is the protagonist in this story. And she's a pretty tough young woman. Rene (a boy) is the owner of the other phone. He is an absolute NERD. Marisa surprises herself by becoming attracted to this little nerd, despite his high-water pants and his white socks. His personality wins her over. And Marisa begins to see that he has opportunities that she definitely does/ will not at the school she's currently attending. She figures out a way to transfer, and things are really looking up for her academically. Rene's mother, however, is NOT keen on Marisa, and she does everything she can to keep them apart.

There are a lot of struggles in this book which many teens will relate to in some way. Hispanic teens will particularly appreciate the smattering of Spanish phrases thrown in, and they will be easily understood by all readers. A not-so typical teen romance novel.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Do the Math - Secrets Lies and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman

If you like math, this is a GREAT fiction book for you. If you don't like math, but you like stories about middle schoolers and the things they're thinking about, this is a book for you. If you like both, it's your lucky day.

This book is about an 8th grade girl who's really good at math, and she figures out how math is really related to everything else. She can apply it to people's personalities, to situations, to relationships, everything. I like math ok, but I'm not really a math person, so it was interesting to me to see math applied in these kind of not usually math kinds of situations.

The plot isn't too complicated or earth shattering, but it's very like what's going on in middle school, and for this reason, I think many students will enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Snow Baby - K. Kirkpatrick

The full title of this book is The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter. This is an award winning, non-fiction book about the childhood of Marie Ahnighito Peary, and it is fascinating. There are TONS of photographs in this book, and they're all very interesting. Marie's father, Admiral Peary was trying to reach the North Pole. The story is full of fascinating tales of Marie's experiences and those of her father's explorations. Sometimes Marie went on the explorations with her father, but other times she did not. Often they were separated on different continents. There were many, many struggles for her father and for the whole family.

It's a super good book, and it's not that long, so it doesn't require a huge investment of time. I'd highly recommend this book, and we have it in the WOMS library.