Tuesday, September 27, 2011


by Peter Dickinson

Eva used to be a normal 13 year old girl.  The key words being 'used to.'  After a car accident leaves her close to dead, a groundbreaking surgery is preformed, transferring the essence of what is 'Eva,' into the body of a 5 year old chimpanzee named Kelly.  As Eva learns to use and understand her new body, to meld being a chimpanzee in body but a girl in mind, she grapples with issues far beyond what anyone expected when the surgery was suggested.  In a world where there are few animals left in their natural habitats, Eva becomes a figurehead for a conservationist movement.  And becomes the biggest hope for the future of her species, both human and chimpanzee. 

Eva is a powerful book about the potential consequences of human actions, especially when we think science and modernization can cure all evils.  The book provokes some intense discussion and thoughts on what a life is really worth, and whether a human life is really worth more than an animals.  It issues a warning about overpopulation and the effects it can and may have on the earth and all it's other inhabitants.  Above all though, it is a book about how one girl was ultimately stronger than anyone else and was able to protect her new species from eventual destruction.  The book can be a bit unsettling, but is ultimately worth the read as it presents its concepts and storyline incredibly well.

Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Grade Level: 7th Grade

City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Imagine living in a world of darkness.  Where the only light comes from your electrical lights, but beyond your city, beyond it's streetlights, is a vast place of nothingness but the darkness.  This is Ember.  While the lights have worked since it became a city over 200 years ago, they are starting to flicker.  And blackouts have started, blackouts no one can stop.  And when the only light in a city is gone, what happens to that city and all the people in it?  Lina and Doon might not be the only 2 people in the city worried about what happens when the lights turn off forever, but they might be the only ones with the courage to do something about it. 

City of Ember is an interesting book about a place built to ensure the survival of the human race, a place built to survive when the rest of the world collapses upon itself.  The characters themselves are well developed and relatable.  Tweens might particularly enjoy the parts of the book where Lina and Doon have to figure out what simple words like 'boat'' or 'match' mean and how they relate to the world outside them.  A world they are hoping to discover. 

Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Grade Level: 5th Grade
Series Information: Book 1 of a 4 part series (City of Ember, People of Sparks, Prophet of Yonwood, The Diamond of Darkhold.\)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the struggle for equal rights

  by Russell Freedman

Marian Anderson was one of the great singers of the mid-20th century.  She performed all over the country and across Europe, and was heralded for her beautiful voice and singing style.  She was also African American.  Marian didn’t want her race to become a factor in her singing, but when she was barred from performing in the biggest concert hall in DC because of it, it became one.  This book tells about her struggle to share the gift of her voice with any who wanted to hear it.  It tells how she broke many boundaries and was the result many segregation rules changed in DC, and other places in the country. 

Marian Anderson was above all else a performer.  She wasn’t political in nature, but later in life became so.  This book tells her story and about how above all else she wanted to sing.  It is not a book strictly on the civil rights movement, but discusses how one woman who was fairly removed from it due to her growing up in the Northern states and living in non-segregated areas became a fairly prominent example of someone who had risen above a racial stereotype.  It’s a well written book which will interest tweens who are interested in civil rights of personal achievement. 

Good Brother, Bad Brother: the story of Edwin Wilkes Booth and John Wilkes Booth

by James Cross Giblin

What if you were born into a family of actors?  What if you were able to travel around the country performing with your famous father?  What if you, along with your brothers, were famous all over the country for your stage performances? What if one of those brothers was John Wilkes Booth?  What happens when your brother becomes the most hated man in America for assassinating President Lincoln? This is the story not of John Wilkes Booth, but of his older brother, Edwin Booth.  This is the story of how one family lived before John committed that terrible act, and how Edwin fought to keep his family together and safe after. 

This presents an interesting look at the life of the family of one of America’s greatest villains.  I think that it is especially interesting as a lot of times one tends to assume that just because one person has committed a terrible act, those around him are guilty too.  This book focuses mainly on Edwin’s life, both before and after the assassination, as well as at the events going on in America and how they affected the family and John.  Overall a really excellent book which gives a different look at such a notorious figure.

Fight On! Mary Churchill Terrell's battle for immigration

by Dennis Brindell Fradin & Judith Bloom Fradin

Mary Church Terrell had a privileged upbringing.  Not only did she graduate high school, but she was one of very few women who went to and graduated college.  And she wasn’t just at college to find a husband, she was there to learn!  What makes Mary’s accomplishment in this even more extraordinary, was the fact that she was African American. Mary didn’t stop her accomplishments with graduating college, she led the fight to stop segregation in Washington DC restaurants through picketing and lawsuits.  She believed that just because her skin as a different color she should not be banned from eating in certain restaurants.  She knew that it was only ignorance that led people follow segregation laws, and she was determined to show people they were wrong.

This book is an interesting read about a woman who broke a lot of barriers in her day.  The fact that she had such a privileged upbringing and was so dedicated to making life better for others is very moving.  She was well educated, which gave her arguments against segregation a lot more sway than they might have had otherwise.  She is a very strong woman, which makes a book about her a great motivational tool for tweens of both genders.  In addition, the book looks at segregation policies very frankly. It’s a great book about someone who isn’t as well known for her work during the civil rights movement, but should be. 

Andy Warhol Prince of Pop

by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Sure, you may have seen his famous Campbell’s soup can painting.  Or perhaps the one he did of Marilyn Monroe.  But how much do you really know about the famous pop culture artist Andy Warhol?  Andy was born into life an artist, though he struggled to find his niche in the field.  He struggled with personal problems and his own sexuality throughout his life.  He revolutionized the pop art scene with his paintings of everyday objects.  Andy Warhol was more than just a man who took a soup can and made a career from it, he was an artistic genius who wanted to make his mark on the world.

Andy Warhol is an artist who revolutionized the art scene.  While his paintings receive mixed reviews as to their ingenuity to this day, he remains one of the great American artists of the 20th century.  In this biography, written to older tweens and teens, his life is revealed.  From early childhood to his older years, Andy is revealed to be a conflicted man who struggles with successes and failures.  This book details some of the problems he had in his life, but discusses them in a more PG fashion than biographies on the artist written for an older set.  Overall a great read about the artist, and one that even non-artists will appreciate as overall it’s the story of one man’s life and struggle for fame and success.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I, Jack

by Jack the Dog

A humorous tale of Jack the dog and his misadventures.  The book is told through Jack's eyes, and the reader will laugh along with his descriptions of his human owners and his plight to train them to listen to him!

Toys go out

By Emily Jenkins

A series of short stories about the adventures of 3 toys.  This is the first book of 2 in the series. 


by James Howe

A great series about a bunny who sucks the life out of carrots!!!  Funny with some halloweenish humor, its a great read for a 1st-2nd grader!

Madeline L'Engle

While everyone reads 'A Wrinkle in Time' not as many readers discover some of Madeline L'Engle's other works.  My favorite series involves the Austin family, and in particular their eldest daughter Vicky.  This series is a classic coming of age book, where a young girl faces events that change and shape her life.  She falls in love, learns the difference between loving and liking someone, faces the loss of a grandfather and the challenges of growing up. 

The books are:
Meet the Austins
A Ring of Endless Light
Troubling a Star

Historical Fiction Picks

Some of my favorites for Teen and Tween Historical Fiction:

Ann Rinaldi- Quilt series, A Ride into mornng
James Lincoln Collier- My Brother Sam is Dead
Paulson- Woods Runner
Nancy Springer- Outlaw, Rowen Hood
Carolyn Meyer- Doomed Queen Anne, Mary Bloody Mary
Celia Rees- Witch Child
Avi- True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle
Bette Greene- Summre of my German Soldier
Genifer Choldenko- Al Capone does my Shirts

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal

by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Janie struggles like any new freshman to fit in, but she has to do it smelling like the goats she milks every morning.  Which she can't really complain about, since moving to the farm was her idea in the first place.  As Janie figures out her place in the ranks of the school, she learns that sometimes being a bit different isn't so bad after al.

A good read about fitting in and the challenges of accepting yourself, and your crazy family.  The book has an overall feel good theme abou embracing yourself and that as a result others will too. 


By Alex Flinn

A novel which combines several lesser told fairy tales with modern life.  The novel tells the story of Johnny, a shoemaker in South Florida, who takes on a quest from Princess Victoriana to find her brother who has been turned into a frog.  If he finds him he gets to marry the princess.  Along the way he discovers that maybe marrying a princess isn't what he wants, but the girl he has always known might be. 

The book is a great read for teens who like modern romance with a hint of fantasy to it.  The writing is simple but the story is well developed.  It's also fun to see how Flinn weaves in a variety of fairy tales into one story. 

good teen fiction

Sharon Draper's novels for teens deal with traumatic events and how teens cope with the aftermath- car accidents, rape, alcoholism etc.