Saturday, April 26, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A classic novel set during the Depression, this is the story of the South, told through the eyes of eight-year-old Scout Finch, which brings to the forefront the issues of racism, class divisions, and the fairness of the judicial systems.

The story opens the summer before Scout starts school when Scout, her brother Jem, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, find all sorts of fun during the hot summer days. Their biggest goal—get a look at Boo Radley, the local bogeyman, who is their neighbor. When their father, Atticus Finch, is called upon to defend Tom Robinson, a young black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, the aging children begin to understand the reality of their lives in a small town, including knowing the truth about Boo.

This is one classic you will not want to miss, the novel is definitely one of the best ever written by an America author.

Montmorency thief liar gentleman? By Eleanor Updale

While serving time in a London cell block, career criminal Montmorency and his severe wounds attract the attention of a brilliant young doctor named Robert Farcett. A series of operations by the doctor convert the thief into more of a living illustration than a man with feelings.

Brought before large groups of people by the doctor to show off his fine work and discovery about the human body, Montmorency overhears many interesting conversations which eventually lead him to the information he will need to survive once he is released from prison, and allows him to hatch his idea for new thievery by using the underground sewer system in London. But in the vein of Jekyll and Hyde, Montmorency quickly realizes he must have two separate and distinct personas if he is to survive. Therefore, Scarper is given to a life of thievery, lies, and scavaging the sewers, and Mr. Montmorency is born to a life of aristocracy, affluence, and the social world of Victorian London.

I read this book aloud to a class of 9th graders, and although they were hooked at the beginning, the story became too slow for them to listen to. Several students finished the book on their own and liked it that way. There are some rather interesting descriptions of what can be found in the London sewers that readers might want to be forewarned about.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

Keturah is a storyteller, and she promises one of magic and love, daring and death, one to comfort the heart and the truest ending of any she has ever told. This story is her own quest to discover true love.

Keturah is drawn into the woods to see the famed hart which has evaded death from skilled hunters. Soon she is lost, and as three days pass, she knows her fate is sealed. But she still has a story to tell and shares one so compelling that Lord Death wants to know more, granting her another day to find true love, before he comes again.

In the style of Shannon Hale (River Secrets) or Mette Harrison (The Princess and the Hound) Leavitt delivers a retold tale with a twist. This novel will engage older adolescents who love stories like Cinderella but want things to work out in a darker way.

Last Shot by John Feinstein

Stevie Thomas is thrilled when he wins a trip to New Orleans and the basketball play-offs to cover the games as a student newspaper reporter. The only problem with the trip is that he has to work with the other contest winner, Susan Carol Anderson. Not only is she a girl, but she also is a fan of Duke University, the arch-rival of Stevie’s own favorite Philadelphia team, St. Joe’s.

Things heat up for the cub reporters when they overhear a conversation between star player Chip Graber and a suspicious-looking man in a charcoal gray suit. Immediately, Stevie and Susan Carol know what the conversation means—Chip Graber is being blackmailed, and the kids know they are the only ones who can help the superstar ballplayer at this stage of the game.

An interesting story, mixed with the knowledge of basketball and the play-offs, kept this book an interesting read. There was one instance of strong language.

Squashed by Joan Bauer

When Ellie sets out to do something, she intends to do it in a big way. And big is exactly what she needs if she intends to win the pumpkin growing contest at the Rock River Pumpkin Weigh-In. Only 200 pounds more to go and she thinks she’ll have it, if she can protect her giant squash from pumpkin thieves.

Of course, growing that pumpkin is not her only challenge. For her life to be perfect, Ellie wants to have a better relationship with both her dad and Wes, the cute new guy at school, while dropping a few pounds of her own.

Be ready to laugh right out loud.