Chains

July 8, 2009

chainsIn this 2008 historical fiction novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Isabel and her younger sister Ruth are supposed to be freed when their mistress dies.  Unfortunately, they are instead sold and bought by a Loyalist couple living in Patriot-occupied New York in 1776.  Isabel and Ruth’s parents have died, so Isabel takes good care of her sister.  However, she knows that now they are slaves again, Isabel will not be able to protect Ruth fully, so she desperately tries to find a way to freedom.  Isabel meets a boy owned by a Patriot soldier who tells her that if she spies on her master and mistress for the Patriots, she could earn freedom for herself and Ruth.  Isabel knows it’s a terrible risk.  Should she do it?  What will happen if she does?  What will happen if she doesn’t?

I really enjoyed Chains and am looking forward to the second book in the predicted trilogy due to come out next year.  Chains is particularly good at showing readers what it was like to live during the American Revolution.  Small details like the book’s font and historic quotes at the beginning of every chapter help pull readers into the story.  Isabel has a difficult time readjusting to being a slave after she believed she’d be free.  This also helps bridge the gap between 21st century readers and the 18th century setting as readers’ inability to understand is voiced by Isabel.  Chains would also be an excellent book for students learning about the American Revolution and/or slavery because it shows all sides.  Readers are exposed to Patriots and their views but are also reminded that Loyalists lived in the colonies and sometimes pretended to fight the king.  They also see slavery from the slaves’ perspective and meet masters who are cruel or kind.  Chains is a must-read for anyone interested in history AND for those who aren’t.

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48 Hour Book Contest

June 8, 2009

48hbcOver the weekend I participated in the 48 Hour Book Contest hosted by MotherReader.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is to read as much as you can or want to over a consecutive 48 hour period.  Time you blog about your process or the books you’ve read also counts toward your time.  This year socializing – time you spent reading other participating blogs, commenting, or twittering – was also allowed to add into your time.  My friends and I decided to participate together at NerdGirlBlogging, the blog we share, so head over there if you want to see our posts.

I ended up with a grand total of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 1162 pages.  It was a great experience, and I got to read & hear about a lot of great books.  These are the books I read.

specialsSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the Uglies series, published in 2006.  It has quite a bit of action in it, especially toward the end.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had Uglies.  Probably because then the series and concept of the books were still new to me.  I  see Specials as the final act of the UgliesPrettiesSpecials trilogy.  However, there is a fourth book called Extras, but Tally is not the main character.  I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I’ve been told by others that they really enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll pick it up after a little break from the series.  I would definitely recommend Uglies to any YA reader, and you can read my review of that book here.

drums20girlsDrums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is a really great story from 2004 about Steven, a geeky 8th grader trying to deal with school,  a girl who doesn’t know he exists, and an annoying five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, all while finding time to get better on the drums.  Steven’s year quickly goes downhill when he learns that Jeffrey has lukemia.  Written in first person, Drums really gives us a feel for what Steven and his family are going through.  It has a lot of really sweet, sad, funny, angry, and quirky moments, and I cannot recommend it enough.

devilishDevilish by Maureen Johnson

This was my first Maureen Johnson book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turned out to be a fairly quick read with supernatural elements.  Jane attends an all-girl prep school with her best friend Allison, who has somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Allison changes drastically when new girl Lanalee arrives at school, suddenly owning expensive things, dying and cutting her hair, and stealing Jane’s ex-boyfriend.  Jane soon discovers Allison has sold her soul to Lanalee, a devil-in-training who also wants Jane’s soul.  I enjoyed the character of Jane; she’s intelligent, witty, and fiercely loyal and protective of her best friend.  Devilish is a pretty light read, though it does have some slightly graphic descriptions at times, so I would recommend it to older readers who like out-of-the-norm supernatural books.

savvySavvy by Ingrid Law

This 2008 book has won numerous honors, including 2009 Newbery Honor and ALA Notable Book for Children 2009.  Main character Mibs is about to turn 13.  A big deal for anyone, yet in her family, turning 13 means you get your savvy — a special talent.  Mibs’ oldest brother creates electricity and another brother can cause hurricanes.  Two days before her birthday, Mibs’ father is in a bad car accident.  Mibs KNOWS her savvy is to wake him up, so she, her older brother Fish, her younger brother Samson, and the preacher’s kids Will & Bobbi embark on an adventure.  Along her journey, Mibs learns a lot about herself, her family, and growing up.  This was a fantastic story with great characters and an exciting adventure.  Highly recommended!  I’m looking forward to more from Ingrid Law.

lincolnsThe Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

I have only read the first two chapters of this massive book so far, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s a nice book to pick up every now and then to supplement reading typical chapter books.  I love the scrapbook feel, with the pictures and various chunks of text.  It’s such a great way to learn about two important figures in history and what living in their time was like.  I’m looking forward to finishing the book and learning more, but I can already see why it’s so popular and has earned so many praise.  A great book for a variety of ages!

masterpieceMasterpiece by Elise Broach

I’m still working my way through this chapter book too, but so far it’s very enjoyable.  Published in 2008, Masterpiece is the story of Marvin, a beetle who lives in a NYC apartment with a human family, including 10-year-old James.  Of course, the humans don’t know they are there, until one day when Marvin goes into James’ room to leave a birthday present and ends up creating a beautiful ink picture.  When James awakes and sees the picture, he’s amazed and even more surprised when Marvin reveals himself as the artist.  I love that the book is from the perspective of a tiny beetle.  I can’t to find out how Masterpiece ends.


The Wednesday Wars

February 5, 2009

wednesday-warsHave you ever seen that episode of The Cosby Show where Theo is convinced that his math teacher, Mrs. Westlake, is out to get him?  The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt is a little like that, only better!  It’s a Newbery Honor book from 2008.  I loved it, and I highly recommend it!

Holling Hoodhood is a seventh-grader in 1967/1968.  The setting has some effect on the story, but readers won’t be overwhelmed by people and facts.  Reading The Wednesday Wars would be a great way to get introduced to the Vietnam War and the turbulent times of the ’60s.  Holling’s older sister supports Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and their dad (who made me furious most of the time) watches the news every night, which often reports on President Johnson and Vietnam.

Each chapter in the book covers a month of Holling’s year in school, and each month something happens either at school or at home.  The story is very episodic, which reminded me of Huckleberry Finn.  There are a lot of great characters in the book, including Holling and his teacher Mrs. Baker, and they encounter several funny, frightening, and heartbreaking things throughout the book.  Definitely a must-read!