Tag Archives: Reviews

School Tales by Sharon Myrick

Schema: high school, rite of passage, making decisions

Text-to-Self Connections: making hard choices, learning tolerance

Themes: learning to think for one’s self, rites of passage, respect for all people

Point of View: The book is divided into different sections to hear the main characters thoughts. The reader can see the maturing and growth of the students as the novel progresses.

Book Talk: The novel focuses on a group of very mature high school teens who decide they want to learn through deep discussions and project based learning. They convince their parents to allow them leave a private high school for the local college faculty’s kids and transfer to a local public school where the principal and teachers are open to their ideas to change the world. All of the characters are very intelligent. There’s a mystery involving a death, an older girl-younger boy sexual relationship, friendships, parent-child communication struggles, drug dealers, and other topics that would intrigue teen readers.

The author leans to the liberal side in the dialogue about world issues. Throughout the story the students tackle big food companies over farming  food co-ops. They have discussions about how colleges use different types of testing for admission, values about religion versus extremist, political leadership, how people treat and view immigrants, freedom, young love, bi-racial identification, gender identity, bullying, learning to listen and communicate effectively, and “living a life worth living.” 

The seniors decide to snap their fingers instead of clapping when they approve of something the teachers or principal says bringing back the memories of the very beatnik sixties.  The characters in this book are way cool.

Students age 16+ would enjoy the book. This might be the book to turn a nonreader into a reader if they run across this title and start reading it. It’s a good read and captures the interest of the reader quickly.




The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Lucy and Owen, high school teens, find themselves and each other stuck in an elevator during a blackout in NYC.  They spend the night talking, looking at the stars, sharing wishes and melting ice cream, and the night is magical to them.  When the sun comes up the next morning, it’s back to reality.  Owen’s mother’s untimely death, his father’s struggle to find happiness, and Lucy’s family making a move to Europe are distractions to them as they keep in touch by postcards, “wishing you were here.”

Smith revolves the story around particular phrases, common hopes, and settings to keep the reader entwined in Owen’s and Lucy’s lives. Each of them knew something special connected them that one night, and even though their “somewheres” are in different places, the “home” is with each other “because that’s what happened when you were with someone like that: the world shrank to just the right size. It molded itself to fit only the two of you, and nothing more.” p. 110

Each of them have profound thoughts throughout the book as Owen, on his way to the house where he grew up to pack it up for selling sums it up with “everything new arrives on the heels of something old, and every beginning comes a the cost of an ending,” as he thinks on his future.  Sometimes we know when it’s an end, and sometimes we know when it’s the last time for something, and those moments are the most bittersweet as we run to our future knowing we can not hold on to our past.

The theme of stars is used throughout the story as Owen loved them and shared that love with his mother. During the blackout, he and Lucy share the constellations as the east coast is completely dark making the night seem magical.  Lucy longs to stand on the star outside of Notre Dame because it’s the center of  Paris, and Owen plans to study astronomy in college.  As the story ends, Owen and Lucy agree that where they are right then is exactly the place she wished to be while standing on the star in Paris, and  the geography of the two of them couldn’t be more perfect.

Jennifer E. Smith tells the story of Owen and Lucy with such honesty and tenderness while keeping the book completely “G” rated for even a middle school aged reader.

Guan Yu : blood brothers to the end : a Chinese legend by Dan Jolley

Lots of words to read in this graphic novel of three men who vow to be loyal to each other during much fighting and wars in China.

Lots of fighting, but not much violence is illustrated.  The action more involves the trials of being loyal during the war and being separated in different regimes.  This is one that reluctant readers and especially boys will enjoy.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Book talk gold!  The obvious reading strategy used is point of view as each chapter flips from Bryce’s to Julie’s POV.

The plot follows two kids who live across the street from each other  from second grade through eighth.  Up until the eighth, Julie adores Bryce.  Bryce can’t stand her or any other girl.  There’s a lot of family talk that shows readers that Bryce’s dad is a jerk, and Julie’s dad and grandfather are very loving.

Julie has an uncle in a group home because he is mentally delayed.  The cost has kept Julie’s family from being able to buy their house, and it’s a little run down as far as the yard goes.

Julie conducts a science project of  hatching some baby chicks which becomes a money maker for her from selling the eggs.  Julie is pure love and sunshine, and when she’s finally had enough of Bryce and decides to forget him, he sees her for what she really is and wants to do whatever it takes to win back her respect.  This is a timeless story that fifth graders, boys and girls both will love.

The Teacher’s Funeral: a comedy in three parts by Richard Peck

The Teacher's Funeral: a comedy in three partsThis book is quite funny. Two brothers are happy their mean old teacher died of old age until they realize their big sister is going to be the new teacher in a one room school house in the 1920s.

The older brother is telling the story so it’s from his point of view.

One funny part is when the boys are camping out and one of their friends and their big sister, Tansy, play a trick on them and make them think they see the ghost of the old teacher.

The books by Richard Peck have humor and show you what life was like in the early 1900’s. He writes the way a person would talk which make the books very easy to read and a great example of voice.

Boys would like many of Peck’s books.