Just Another Hero- Sharon Draper

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Just Another Hero (Jericho Trilogy, The)

The Review:

The third book in Draper’s Jericho trilogy, Just Another Hero didn’t quite grab me nearly as much as The Battle of Jericho, and November Blues.  The back of the book immediately tells you that there is going to be an incident involving a gun in the story and for the better part of the book I was waiting for that.  On one hand that was good as it built some sense of suspense.  I kept wanting to turn the page to find the action.  However, after the incident occurs I wish Draper had spent more time examining the aftermath.  How did everyone change due to the experience?  It wasn’t a bad book at all, but I just thought it could have gone a little further.  I’d definitely include this  in my classroom with the rest of the trilogy but I would not teach it as a whole class novel.

As with most of Draper’s books this will appeal to girls and guys alike, urban students, and those in likely 7th grade and up.

The Lowdown (Via Scholastic)

 Interest Level : Grades 9 – 12 (I would include 7-8)

Grade Level Equivalent: 4.8

Includes: Scholastic Reading Counts! Quiz , Accelerated Reader Quiz

 

13 Reasons Why- Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

Review:

I had so many people suggest this novel to me that when I saw it on a clearance shelf I had to buy it.  I then decided it would be my gym read… this was probably a poor choice as it took me forever to finish, but I am glad I did.  The story follows a teen boy who has found 13 tapes in the mail.  They were recorded immediately prior to a classmates suicide and explain how many different events affected her.  There is interest and intrigue and you find yourself really invested in finding out what happens.  Why does he have the tapes- how did he contribute to her depression, to her ultimate suicide?  I think this would be a great discussion starter.  Too often our students don’t realize the affect that they can have on others.

This book is definitely a high school level book.  There are discussions of alcohol use, sexual encounters, sexual assault and other serious topics.  However, there are CLEAR consequences to these actions that I think are appropriately handled.  I think it would make a great classroom read.  The main character is a male, but the suicide victim is a female so I see it appealing to both genders.

The Lowdown (Via Scholastic)

Interest Level :Grade 9 (I would include 10-12)

Grade Level Equivalent: 3.2

Includes: Scholastic Reading Counts! Quiz , Accelerated Reader Quiz

CLICK HERE FOR A DISCUSSION GUIDE!

Awards: (List from official website)

New York Times Best Seller Publishers Weekly Best Seller

California Book Award Winner

Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA)

Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers (YALSA)

Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults (YALSA)

Borders Original Voices finalist

Barnes & Noble – Top 10 Best for Teens

International Reading Assoc. – Young Adults’ Choices

Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice

Book Sense Pick – Winter

Chicago Public Library Best Books

Association of Booksellers for Children – Best Books

State Awards – Winner (voted on by students): Florida, Kansas, Kentucky

Also, for further reading about using this book in your classroom, and or other resources for dealing with the topic of bullying, check out the July issue of NCTE’s English Journal…

English Journal, Vol. 101, No. 6, July 2012

Happy Reading!

Rivals- Daisy Whitney

Review:  I received an advance reader’s copy of Rivals by Daisy Whitney at the NCTE Convention this fall.  This is the sequel to The Mockingbirds and continues to look at the darker side of boarding school.  This book is a little less intense focusing on prescription drug abuse rather than date rape but does not ignore that Alex is still coping with the events that transpired the year before.  This was a great read and was much more of a mystery than The Mockingbirds.

Like its predecessor this is definitely a book written for high school students.  I think it would attract more females than males, but males could get into it as well.  This isn’t a book I’d teach, but I would/will have it in my classroom library.

The Lowdown:

RL: My guess is about 4th grade
Interest Level: High School

Look for this book to hit shelves in early February!!!


Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson


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This book is so well known that I feel silly that I didn’t read it till now.  Speak is a great novel that follows its main character, Melinda, through her freshman year of high school.  Melinda faces a lot of issues throughout the book all stemming from an event that occurred the summer before the book starts.  I felt like this book opens up important topics for discussion.  As usual Anderson captures the voice of American teens with great accuracy.

I know there are school districts that have all of their freshmen read this book.  I would not hesitate to use it in my classroom or to recommend it as independent reading to a student.  I think that this book is appropriate for grades 8-12.

Awards:

A 2000 Printz Honor Book
A 1999 National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Winner of the Golden Kite Award
An ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 1999
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
An SLJ Best Book of the year
A Horn Book Fanfare Title
2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award (for this and other novels)

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes- Chris Crutcher


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Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes was a great read.  The story is told from the perspective of a teenage boy who is overweight.  He tells about his friendship with a girl named Sarah Byrnes, whose face is horribly disfigured due to burns suffered when she was three.  Along with issues of appearance and friendship,  the book also touches on religion, abuse, and trust.  There is mystery and action in the story that keeps you interested till the end.  I rooted for the characters the entire time.  I think this book is definitely classroom appropriate for high school.  It is an easy read, but is great for discussing theme and other elements of literature.  I would recommend this book to any student.  It will appeal to both both teen boys and girls.

Awards:

ALA Best Book for YA
SLJ Best Book for YA
American Booksellers Pick of the List
California Young Reader Medalist
1995 Joan Fassler Memorial Book Award
ALA Best of the Best Books for YA
Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
1994 South Dakota YARP Best Books
Nominee 1995-1996 Iowa Teen Award
Nominee 1995-1996 SC YA Book Award
Nominee 1996 Young Reader’s Choice Award
Nominee 1996-1997 ILF Rosie

So Not the Drama- Paula Chase


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So Not the Drama is a light easy read that still talks about some serious issues.  Mina is entering high school along with 3 best friends (1 girl, 2 boys) and is very concerned with becoming one of the “popular” crowd.  Throughout the novel Mina deals with keeping up her friendships, forming new ones, popularity, race issues, and more.  I enjoyed reading about Mina and her friends, and thought that the issues presented were done in a light interesting way.  There are a few swear words but I don’t think that they’re over done or too explicit.  I’d say this book is appropriate for students in grades 8-10.  I do not see this book appealing to teenage boys or being used in a classroom, though there are discussion questions at the end of the book.  This is book 1 of a 5 book series, and I hope to read the rest within the next 2 months.  

The Chocolate War- Robert Cormier


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The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier is a story about a boy at an all boys Catholic high school who decides to rebel against a school tradition.  He also gets involved with a secret high school society.  The book addresses friendship, bullying, and teacher student relationships.  I enjoyed this book, and I think that it would be a good choice for teen boys.  There are several mentions of male arousal and self-pleasure, but they aren’t overly explicit and some students might not pick up on them.  For that reason I might not use it in a classroom, but I think with parent permission it would be fine.  This book is best for early high school in my opinion.  There is another novel, Beyond the Chocolate War which Cormier also wrote that continuing the story of the secret society and students at the school.  I will read and review it sometime in the future.

Awards:

An ALA Best Books for Young Adults
A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Choice
A New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year
Margaret A Edwards Award