Category Archives: Scholastic

Review: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years (3-7th grade)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: GRAPHIX (August 26, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780545540605
  • Source: Publisher

Raina wanted nothing more in the world than to have a little sister. When her wish is finally granted and her sister Amara is born, life isn’t exactly what she thought it would be. Amara makes it pretty obvious that she prefers to spend time alone. Raina straps on her headphones, plugs in her Walkman, and disappears in her own world. As the years pass and a baby brother joins the family, Raina and Amara are no closer than before. Yet, when the family goes on a road trip from California to Colorado and things take quite a few unexpected turns, Raina and Amara decide to see past their differences and forge an allied front against the unexpected future before them.

As soon as I heard about this graphic novel I knew I had to read it. Having two sisters myself, I  wholeheartedly understand the the challenges Raina faced with the introduction of her younger siblings.  Telgemeier alternates between scenes of seriousness and laugh-out-loud humor to share her real-life relationship with her little sister. A sequel to her previous graphic novel Smile, Sisters continues Raina’s autobiographical journey in graphic novel format.

Sisters1Sisters 2

Although a bit lighter in tone than her other graphic novels, this heartwarming tale about family and sisterhood is sure to be a hit for fans of Telgemeier’s work, new and old alike.   Telgemeier shares the struggle between siblings in a fun and comical manner, using tone and language appropriate to the intended age group.  While it’s likely that readers will devour this in one sitting, Sisters is truly a book readers will pick up again and again.

 

After I read it this book, I encouraged my boys to do the same. While they are obviously brothers (and not sisters), it was my belief that the message would carry over. Here are their thoughts:

Justin (9): I liked it! Even though I’m a boy and have a brother and not a sister, I kind of knew what Raina and Amara were going through. Wait, am I Amara? I guess so, since I am the little brother. I mean, I understand wanting to do my own thing. I like to draw and do art projects and John likes to play video games and watch TV. I like my time to myself so I could kind of get both Amara and Raina’s side of this story.  I think it’s a fun book that all kids should read!

John (nearly 15): So I’m not the only one with an annoying sibling? Kidding! This was a fun and fast read. It kind of made me remember what I felt like when Justin was born. I had my parents to myself for six years before he came along! Thankfully we never had to share a room because that just wouldn’t work at all. I like that it was fun but had a message, too. Basically, you’ll always have fights with your siblings, but when life gets hard they are the one person you can turn to to hold you up. I think it’s cool how she’s reliving her childhood through graphic novels. I loved Smile and I really liked this one too.

There you have it! Three perspectives that, for once, agree on something: We highly recommend Sisters!

 

Review: iBoy by Kevin Brooks

  • Reading level: Ages 14 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Chicken House (November 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0545317681
  • Source: Publisher

Tom was an pretty unremarkable teen, just another individual to blend into the crowd. Growing up in the Crows, a gang-infested South London housing project, one did what they could just to survive, to remain anonymous, not to be noticed. Then one day, that all changed.  As he was walking to meet his long-time friend (and crush) Lucy, someone calls his name from the top of a towering building. Then, the only thing he feels is pain.

He wakes up in the hospital, learning that an iPhone cracked his skull, bits of the phone are still lodged in his brain. These pieces lodged in his brain start to communicate with his brain; Tom becomes a humanoid iPhone, his brain capable of searching the internet, overhearing phone conversations, reading text messages. 

It is using this knowledge that he learns that Lucy was viciously attacked and raped.  In the Crows, no one talks to the police. The police are unable to apprehend those who attacked her, so Tom takes it upon himself to do so.  In addition to his other new skills, his body has created an electrified defense mechanism of sorts. At will, his body illuminates, capable of shooting out streams of electrical charges to anyone who threatens him.  Tom, in his new identity of iBoy, begins hunting down those people who injured Lucy, desperate to get to the source of the terror that hangs over the Crows and eliminate it…forever.

It is appropriate to mention the famous quote from Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Tom’s character is not unlike Spiderman, the two are actually compared in the book. Both Tom and Peter Parker are nobodies, wimps really, until something happens to them that changes their life forever.  Both characters, first thrilled with their newly-gained powers,  soon realizes they have to face the repercussions their actions. They become awfully close to becoming just as bad and evil as the criminals they are trying to stop. Brooks does an outstanding job of portraying this inner turmoil that Tom must face.

Another thing that captured me was the overall grittiness of the book: the setting is dark and depressing, the helplessness that Lucy feels after she is attacked. All of this is so genuine, so real, so pervasive. Brooks really gets inside his characters, allowing his readers to do the same as well.

Due to the violence, I would definitely NOT recommend this to anyone under 14-16 years of age. While the details of the crime are not discussed, it is evident in the retelling. I don’t believe it’s one of those things a young reader could (or should) overlook in their reading of this book.

I have to admit, when I was pitched the book I was sort of skeptical; a boy with an iPhone embedded in his head? Really? Truly, however, this book has really impressed me.  Not only the characters, but the inner battles Tom must face to embrace his new powers and the consequences of his actions.  Highly recommended.

I have one copy of the book for giveaway. To enter, please fill out the form below. The winner will be contacted via email on Wednesday, November 30th. Open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!

Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0545290147
  • Source: Big Honcho Media

Some time in the past, the United States went to war with China and its allies, using militarized weapons like nuclear bombs.  China responded with P11H3, a strengthened version of the flu.  It was referred to as the Eleventh Plague, spreading through the nation like wildfire. The last aired reports indicated that the death tolls were in the hundreds of millions in the United States alone.

The Collapse took place shortly after P11 hit.  Everything shut down, including the government, factories, hospitals. The lights on the United States were literally turned off, citizens burned out of major cities to prevent spread of the virus.

It’s now years later. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his small family, consisting of his father and grandfather, are now scavengers.  They travel back and forth along the East Coast, searching for items they can then sell for the items they need to survive: clothing, food & ammunition.  They aren’t the only ones roaming the wreckage of our former country, slavers also roam the roads, looking for individuals to enslave.

It’s not long before Stephen’s world is upended: his grandfather dies & his father is severely injured within twenty-four hours of one another.  Stephen is able to get his father to a encampment referred to as Settler’s Landing, a town created by a wealthy family, now existing almost as if nothing had changed.  They still celebrate Thanksgiving, say the Pledge of Allegiance, the children attend school.  To them, Stephen is an outsider, the bottom of the totem pole.

Stephen soon realizes that life after the war isn’t much different than it was before: the wealthy hold power, have control of which individuals are allowed to reside in their encampment. When the actions of Stephen and a rebellious girl cause the citizens of Settler’s Landing to take action against a neighboring encampment, Stephen questions his position in life, is he really a scavenger? Or should he stay put and make a difference in the future of his world? His mind, his memories, battle with the feelings he has now.  Is there a future worth fighting for or, is the world really over?

The Eleventh Plague is a pretty thought-provoking book about how the actions of our nation, our culture, can impact the future.  Aptly suited for the middle-school age group, I think had the author developed the characters and the back story a little more, this would be a compelling reader for teens as well. That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable read, it certainly is an engaging story.  However, as an adult reading this, I felt I only new the characters at face value, I wanted to learn more about Stephen and Jenny, the young Chinese girl, uncertain about her identity in the “new” world.

I read this with my twelve-year-old son, John.  The discussion this book generated was the biggest benefit gained from reading this book. We talked about a whole host of issues, including war, relations with other countries, perceived feelings about members of other cultures, and more.  As mentioned above, I think this book is correct in it’s age level for twelve and above. There is no foul language but there is a considerable amount of violence, not shocking for a book about a post-war nation.  Young fans of the Hunger Games trilogy as well as John Marsden’s Tomorrow series would appreciate the similar storylines: young characters forced to find a means to survive in a war-ridden world. Recommended.

I have one copy of The Eleventh Plague to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, please fill out the form below. Open to US & Canadian residents only, please. The winner will be contacted via email on Monday, November 28th. Good luck!

Review: Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover:368 pages
  • Publisher:Arthur A. Levine Books (August 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0545221307
  • Source: Publisher

Cleopatra VIII Selene, Princess of Egypt, is the only daughter of Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius. She’s grown up in luxury in the regal city of Alexandria.  However, when Egypt goes to war with Rome, her entire world and everything it has ever stood for is pulled out from underneath her. Her family is shattered, all at the hands of the emperor of Rome, Octavianus.

Cleopatra Selene and her two brothers are forced to move to Rome, an existence much different than the life they had in Alexandria. Forced to live in the home of their enemy, they are constantly bombarded with threats of death and torture each time they walk outside the walls of the compound.

Like her mother before here, Cleopatra Selene must gather all the strength and power she has to regain claim over Egypt once again.  She’s forced to chose between two men, and two very different destinies.

While technically a young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon is most definitely a novel that would appeal to readers of all ages.  We have all read about the powerful Celopatra and Marcus Antonius, but not much has been written about their daughter.

This novel is full of rich and detailed characters. Cleopatra Selene herself starts out as a young and naive princess, but is forced to evolve into quite the strong woman. She is not passive in her feelings about their “imprisonment,” she risks her life on several occasions to protect her siblings and their family name. Additionally, one can’t help but love Cleopatra Selene’s youngest brother, “Ptolly.” Barely out of the toddler stages when he loses his parents, he’s too young and naive to really understand what has happened.

Potentially the most compelling part of this novel is the rich description of the settings of both Egypt and Rome.  It was interesting to see how differently woman were treated in each of these settings.  In Egypt, with Cleopatra as the queen, women were powerful and regal figures. In Rome, on the otherhand, they were mostly confined to the castle, not free to roam and explore. In Egypt, the women of royalty had individual and unique names while in Rome the women generally shared the same name. A part of history I admit to not being very familiar with, I believe in reading this book I gained a much stronger understanding of this important time in history.

The character list in the beginning of the book was essential; with so many characters with similar names it was hard to keep the characters straight at first. Additionally, the “Facts Within the Fiction” section at the end broke down which aspects of the book were based on fact and which were fictionalized in the writing of the novel.

My only complaint would be the ending.  Throughout the novel, Selene’s character was built up as a strong and powerful one. She chose power rather than love, but in the end, this seemed to be forgotten.  That said, this is just a minor issue I have, not really taking away from my overall opinion of the book.

Fans of historical fiction can’t afford to miss out on this book! Highly recommended.

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: The Adventures of Ook and Gluk by Dav Pilkey

Ook & Gluk are two cavemen who live in a town called Caveland, OH. It is the year 500,0001 BC.  They are normal boys who get in trouble, especially with Big Chief Goppernopper.  One day, an evil corporation lead by J.P. Goppernopper (the Chief’s relative from the future) is discovered trying to steal Caveland’s important resources.  J.P. Goppernopper comes from the year 2222.  All of the natural resources including trees, oil & water are either used up or polluted. Goppernopper Enterprises is going back to the past to steal all the trees & water & oil from the cavemen. The two Goppernopper’s join forces, turning the citizens of Caveland into slaves for their evil mission.

Ook & Gluk are transported into the future through a portal and race to escape from the two Goppernoppers. Master Wong, owner of a Kung-Fu school, lets the two cave boys hide in his school. He agrees to train them to help them defeat the evil Goppernoppers.  He won’t give the boys their black belts, though, until they can tell him who the greatest man is.  It takes the boys seven years to pass this test and finally they are able to battle the evil Goppernopper Enterprises & save their cave town.

But when they return to Caveland, it no longer looks like it did before.  The people are still slaves and all of the beautiful trees are gone. Eventually Ook & Gluk remember what Master Wong taught them and Caveland is returned to normal.

John’s Review: I liked this book because it has a lot of great action, it’s very funny & because of the kung fu!  I’m a black belt so this really interests me!  I also liked it because it talked about how important our natural resources are and how we should protect & preserve them. The drawings were great & pretty hilarious!

Jenn’s (Mom’s) review: I, too, liked the lesson learned about preserving one’s natural resources and the book overall.  However, one think that I didn’t particularly enjoy were the intentional misspellings in the book. Granted, the book is about two cave boys who speak what the book calls “Cavemonics.” However, I think this could have been relayed without the misspellings, like “surfice” instead of “surface” and “dedicashen” instead of “dedication.”

I think misspellings like this are detrimental to young readers. John, in particular, has difficulty with spelling.  When he started reading this book, he was thrown off a bit by the errors in spelling.  We had a long talk about why the words were spelled incorrectly and that he should still picture the word correctly spelled in his head.   We even made an activity of it; going through the book and correcting all the misspellings.

That said, John did enjoy the book and it got him excited about reading.  He read this book in no time because the story was interesting to him. Therefore, I would recommend this book, but would highly encourage parents to discuss the grammar & misspellings with their child at some point in the reading of the book.

Thanks to Scholastic, I have a pretty phenomenal giveaway package!

Give the gift of reading to your child this holiday season! Scholastic books make the perfect stocking stuffer for any child on your list.  I have a HUGE prize pack filled with the most popular children’s books in the marketplace to offer one lucky reader! Titles include CAPTAIN SKY BLUE, IT’S CHRISTMAS DAVID, OOK and GLUK as well as TONY BALONEY, ODIOUS OGRE and I SPY CHRISTMAS A CHRISTMAS TREE!

Pretty exciting, right? To enter, please fill out the form below.  Open to US mailing addresses only. Winner will announced on Friday, November 26th.  Good luck to all who enter!

Review: Guardians of Ga’hoole: The Capture by Kathryn Lasky

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (August 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0545253063
  • Source: Big Honcho Media
  • Soren is a young barn owl who lives with his family in the kingdom of Tyto experiencing the typical barn owl life.  He learns about the legends of mighty owls called the Guardians of Ga’Hoole through stories his parents tell him and his siblings.

    Soren falls (so he thinks) from his nest and is snatched up by chick-snatching owls and taken to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.  He is told that his parents are dead, thereby making him an orphan.  He befriends a young owl named  Gylfie, and the two discover that the Academy is brainwashing the young owls, forcing them to forget their names, their entire past.  Soren & Gylfie are forced to come up with a means to escape St. Aegolius. One of the many things preventing them from escaping is their ability to fly.  This skill is typically taught to a young owl by his/her parents, but these two young owls must learn on their own. During their journey home, they discover the owl world is in horrible danger and they must rush to do what they can to protect it.

    My oldest son, John, and I read this book together. We both found it quite engaging.  John was interested in it because he learned a great deal about owls and their behavior (and their droppings!) We also learned a great deal about owl culture, and Lasky used it to detail social structure. While this is clearly a fiction book, some of the text “feels” nonfiction, which I feel increased my son’s interest in reading it. 

    THE CAPTURE It is a perfect book for reluctant reader because it is so engaging, fast-paced and full of action.  The length is perfect for a young reader as well, just under 230 pages. This book is geared toward 9-12 year old children. I agree, however the younger part of that age range may need assistance with pronunciation of some of the words. John is turning 11 and had a small difficulty with some of the complex terms used.

    John & I definitely plan on continuing with this series! Now that we’ve read THE CAPTURE we plan on rushing out to see the movie when it hits the theaters on September 24th.

    Be sure to come back later this afternoon! Two lucky winners will receive:

    • A copy of Guardians of Ga’hoole: The Capture by Kathryn Lasky
    • A copy the first book in Kathryn Lasky’s new series — Wolves of the Beyond: Lone Wolf 

    About the Author:
    Kathryn Lasky is the Newbery Honor author of over one hundred fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults. She lives with her husband in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can visit her online at www.kathrynlasky.com

    Be sure to check out the official web site for the book series (http://www.scholastic.com/gahoole) and learn some more owl facts, download some owl printables, and play some great games!

    Finally, to get you more excited about the movie, check out the trailer:

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