Monday, June 26, 2006


Fish by L.S. Matthews is the story of Tiger and his parents who were humanitarian workers in a war-torn land. They were forced to flee the land for their own safety. Tiger has found a fish in a mud puddle (it will surely suffocate), and he wants to take the fish with them so it will be saved too. Tiger’s parents and the Guide who takes them to safety across the border help him save this small fish. The fish is carried first in a pot, then a bottle, and finally in Tiger’s mouth.

The novel is simple, but it conveys messages of love and compassion and hope. This is important even if it matters to only one being.

Code Orange

A few years ago, Caroline Cooney’s Face on the Milkcarton series was very popular. This new novel is just as thrilling as those. Mitty Blake doesn’t worry about getting homework done, but he does really like Olivia who is most concerned about being a student. To stay in advanced biology he must complete a report. Mitty thinks it is great luck when finds some smallpox scabs from a long time ago in an envelope in an old medical book. As he continues to research, he worries that he may unleash a new smallpox epidemic on the world. His concern leads him to seek help from “people” on the Internet. Maybe this is not such a good idea; he is kidnapped by terrorists who want to use the variola virus as a weapon.

This is a very good mystery and adventure story.

Read an excerpt.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Crossing the Wire

Will Hobbs takes the readers south into Mexico.

Hard times force Victor Flores to try to make it to el norte. He is not really eager to cross from Mexico into the United States, but he feels responsible for keeping his family since his father died in a construction accident in the United States. Victor won’t be coming to the United States legally. He feels he must enter the United States so that he can get a job to earn money to send to his family and save them from starvation.

Victor faces heat, cold, hunger, danger from both the Mexicans and the people from the United States. He walks many miles and over rough terrain to reach the Arizona. He is not successful on his first attempts, but he keeps trying.

This novel discusses an issue that is very relevant to current political movements. There are many illegal immigrants in the United States. There is much controversy about this issue.

The author takes the readers on an adventure different from Far North, Jason's Gold, and some of his other works.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Shadow Life

The full title of this book by Barry Denenberg is Shadow Life: A Portrait of Anne Frank and Her Family.

This book is considered nonfiction and historical fiction. Part I gives the reader a history of the Frank family. I found this part very interesting and did indeed learn some things that I had not realized. Part III is also more nonfiction than fiction. However, Part II is where the author has taken the genre of historical fiction as he creates a diary of Margot Frank, Anne’s older sister.

I think to get the most from this book, it is best to also read the Diary of Anne Framk. In combination, I believe you will get a picture of the Franks and the drama of their life from 1933 to 1945. It will take you from seeing a middle class family in Frankfurt, Germany to the murders of Anne and Margot at Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp.

Read an excerpt.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Where do dreams come from? What stealthy nighttime messengers are the guardians of our most deeply hidden hopes and our half-forgotten fears? Lois Lowry answers these questions in this new novel. I think that Lowry’s imagination provides her readers with new worlds to visit.

Reading this book made me want to have more. The Giver also gave me this feeling when I read it. In this book, tiny, delicate beings bring good dreams to people by gathering fragments from the people’s lives. These dreams restore people and give them strength to deal with life. The fragments are of love, courage, happiness, and more. Littlest One and Thin Elderly are working in a home where there is a lonely woman and a foster child who has been abused. They bestow the fragments on the sleeping people to help them and to counter the Sinisteeds who inflict nightmares.

Lowry shows us the importance of memories and dreams even if some are sad.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks: a Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy is a first novel by Jeanne Birdsall. It is also a National Book Award winner. This award was established in 1950 to recognize outstanding literature written by American authors. They are given in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young peoples’ literature. Other recent winners in the area of young peoples’ literature were The Godless, The Canning Season, House of the Scorpion, True Believer, Homeless Bird, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.

I don’t know why, but this book brought to mind the feelings I had when I read the Bobsey Twins series when I was young. The Penderwicks are a close-knit family of four girls and their father; their mother died when Batty was just an infant. Father seems to be a rather absent minded professor of botany who frequently speaks in Latin phrases to his children. The story finds them unable to go to their usual summer cottage, but Father finds Arundel. It turns out to be a cottage on a beautiful estate.

Rosiland is the oldest, 12, and she has always mothered the others since her mother’s death. On this trip she meets Cagney, the teenaged gardener on the estate, and he steals her heart. Cagney is also the owner of Yaz and Carla, the two rabbits. Skye, 11, looks different than the other girls – she has blue eyes. She is thrilled because she not only does not have to share a room, but she even has two beds! Jane, 10, and hopes to be a writer – she is working on novels with the heroine being Sabrina Star. Batty, 4, is the baby who never talks to strangers and wears butterfly wings. Her best friend is the family dog, Hound. Jeffery is the very interesting boy – the owner's son, a talented musician, and becomes a good friend to the girls.

The adventure ends when the Penderwicks must go home to Camden from their vacation. The ending leaves you hoping that the adventures of the Penderwicks will continue in other novels.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Monkey Town: the Summer of the Scopes Trial

Ronald Kidd has written a novel that tells the story of the Scopes Trial through the voice of a teenaged girl who has a crush on Johnny Scopes, her teacher and the accused.

Did you realize that John Scopes really never taught evolution? He was a substitute for the biology teacher and he assigned the students to read the chapter on evolution. The trial had its origins as a conspiracy at Robinson’s drug store to put Dayton, Tennessee on the map by challenging the state’s anti-evolution law. So, the plot is probably based on fact, but one must always remember that this is a novel. As you read, you may see that some of the characters may be proponent of the new theory of “intelligent design.”

Good historical fiction, and it caused me to do some research about the 1925 Scopes Trial and about the man John Scopes. (I had not realized that he had graduated from high school in Salem, Illinois.)