Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 234
Tod is a bully who has been caught sneaking into school property after hours. His punishment is to go to his counselor’s office each night after school for detention to write in his journal. At first he hates this, but eventually he comes to find it cathartic. His counselor begins to see a whole new side of Tod and finds some answers as to why he acts the way he does at school. He is very honest and smart in his journal and the readers learn a lot about his home and school life. Can Tod find a way to change his ways and survive school without resorting to bullying?
The idea of bullying is a tough issue in any school. This book does not in any way condone bullying, but does offer the suggestion that there may be some underlying causes that vary from student to student. Tod probably opens up a little easier than most students would, but it is still interesting to see how his perspective on the journal changes with each entry. This could be a great class read because it would open up a great discussion of treatment in school by all students as well as the many forms of bullying available, which now definitely includes technological bullying. Recommended for boys and reluctant readers.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 248
RAC Book: Yes
Willa hasn’t seen her dad in so long that she does not even remember what he looks like. Her and her mom moved away long ago and her mother remarried. Willa loves her stepdad, but he did come with two kids of his own and since their mother is wealthy they tend to get some perks in life that she simply does not get. Their lives are completely shaken when Willa comes home one day to find frantic messages from a friend of her mother’s back home. She doesn’t understand any of them so she tried to contact her mother and becomes panicked when she is unable to. She calls her stepdad and he assures her that everything will be fine. When they finally locate her mother she learns that her estranged father was missing with one of his daughters and his other two daughters and new wife were all found stabbed to death. The police believe he might be on his way to find her so they are all moved into police protection. Will this news tear her family apart or force truths to come out that they have all been avoiding? Can she ever shake the reputation of being the girl whose father killed his family in a violent rage?
This story moves quickly as Willa tries to uncover the truth behind her father’s actions as well as what he was like. She meets the half brother she never knew she had and mourns the loss of her half sisters. The idea of family becomes a big issue as she is not quite sure which is stronger: blood or situation. She has always been told her mom’s new husband was her family, but as she examines the situation she is not so sure she has really been treated as family. There is also some growing resentment toward her mother for keeping so much about her father’s life a secret. As horrific as the situation with her father is, it also forces her to really examine her life and reevaluate how she wants to continue from here. Teenage readers will enjoy the story and even reluctant readers will struggle to put it down.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 14 and up
# of Pages: 277 p.
RAC Book: yes
Iowa Teen Award 2008
In the year 1185, when the book begins, in England there are two brothers and a little girl who all live together in a castle. The two brothers, Will and Gavin, quarrel a lot as Gavin always tries to belittle Will in front of others. Ellie lost her parents at a young age and came to live with them until she is old enough to marry. She and Will get along really well, even though it is understood that someday she will marry Gavin. When Will gets old enough he is sent to go pick out a big war horse, but he finds a red horse that he falls in love with. Even though everyone makes fun of him he works tirelessly to groom and train the red horse, Hosanna, until everyone becomes enchanted with him.
When Will and Gavin are summonsed with their father to go to the king in order to fight in the Crusades, they leave Ellie and a few others in charge of the castle. The war is much more difficult than either of the boys could have imagined and the tension between them is often fierce. Both begin to wonder if they will ever return home. Hosanna manages to keep Will hopeful in times of great sadness. Meanwhile, Ellie is having problems of her own back home.
The first in this trilogy moves at a leisurely pace despite the many things that happen in it. The brothers change and grow a lot on their journey and become very different men than they had previously planned on becoming. The war is also told from the eyes of the Muslims, which provides an interesting way to humanize the other side. The author makes it very clear what the motives for both sides are and why it is near impossible for either side to give up. Hosanna is the tie between everyone in the story. The red horse seems to inspire great things and loyalty where there previously was no hope. A good story for those who like reading about war and life during this time period.