Archive for May, 2008

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 12 and up

# of Pages: 208 p.

RAC Book: Yes

2008 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Brady loves living so close to the Chesapeake Bay. His father is a crab and oyster fisherman and he has two best friends, Digger and J.T. One day Brady sees the neighbor’s red kayak out before the boys go to school. He debates whether to yell and tell them it’s too dangerous to be out, but his friends convince him they will be fine. Brady is pulled out of school by his father later that morning because the kayak never returned and it contained the neighbor and her son. Brady had babysat for Ben and wanted to help find him.

As the search and rescue teams start heading off down the river Brady learns that the woman was found but was in shock. By chance he finds Ben and tries to resuscitate him while driving the boat back to the ambulance. By the time he gets there they have a pulse and Brady is hailed as a hero for the rest of the day. Things begin to go terribly wrong, however, when he starts to suspect that the kayak sinking was no accident and wonders how he should proceed.

This book was captivating in the way the story was revealed and in how it was explained. Brady faces one difficult decision after another and must decide who he should protect and who he should hurt. His father helps him decide that finding the right decision is easy, it’s just hard to act on it. This book will be a hit with teen boys due to its short and to the point nature, as well as for its interesting content. It would be good for classroom discussions on responsibility and making choices that will affect the rest of your life and many other people’s lives as well.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 375

RAC Book: Yes

2008 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Percy Jackson has had lots of trouble in his life due to circumstances that seem to be out of his control. After getting kicked out of yet another school, Percy goes home expecting to upset his mom and unfortunate stepfather “smelly Gabe.” Instead, his mom surprises him with a camping trip. On the way she tells him he will probably have to go to a special summer camp where he can be protected. Percy doesn’t understand why he needs protection, but then remembers the numerous occasions in which strange creatures have tried to harm him.

At camp Half Blood Percy learns that his father was a god, but no one knows which. He is believed to have stolen something very valuable from Mt. Olympus and several people are trying to get it back. Percy’s life is in danger and he must go on a quest to save not only himself but the whole planet because if his quest fails the gods will declare war on each other and the entire world will be in jeopardy.

The mythology characters and elements woven through this story made it a fun read. If students do not know a lot about different gods and mythology characters they may not pick up on details as fast as others, but each character and his or her role in the mythology stories are explained well and integrated into this modern story. There is a lot of action and adventure as Percy tries to complete his quest which makes the story move quickly. This was a very successful modern day hero quest. Students who like super hero type stories or stories like Alfred Kropp will enjoy this well-written adventure.

Firestorm by David Klass

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 289 p.

RAC Book: Yes

2008 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Jack lives with his parents in a normal town, where he excels in football and other sports as well as academics. For Jack life comes pretty easy, which is why he can never understand why his parents never want him to shine like he knows he can. They are always encouraging him to let others win and try to blend in more. One night after a particularly great football performance, he notices a strange man following him. When he tells his parents his dad immediately takes him as far away as he can while explaining that they are not his real parents. He does not tell him why they have lied to him all these years or who his real parents are before they are ambushed and Jack is forced to flee for his life.

As Jack tries to figure out why he is special and what his task is, he comes across many different types of characters. Some are more helpful than others at helping him find his destiny. He soon learns that he was sent back from the future in order to stop the world from making terrible environmental mistakes that humans will pay for dearly in the future. Those who come to help him tell him he must find the firestorm in order to preserve the earth from the evils of humans, but he has no idea what firestorm is and no matter how hard he tries there is always someone trying to hurt him.

The idea of a young man being chosen for something great without him knowing it has been used many times in young adult books, but the idea of Jack having to save the world from humans destroying it through different types of pollution is a new twist. Obviously, it’s hard to understand how he can possibly save the world from all humans, but it is obvious that this is one of a trilogy so he will have many battles to fight in order to save the earth. There is a lot of action and fighting sequences that fans of action movies will enjoy. Most of the story is well-described, but the ending happens pretty fast so readers will have to read very closely in order to find out how everything is resolved for the time being. The ending is a little unsatisfying, but part of that is probably due to the fact that there are two more in the series.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 12 and up

# of Pages: 422 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Iowa High School Award Winner 2008

Max is one of many human experiments from a place called the School. Her and five others escaped four years ago and have been living alone ever since. There was a “white coat” named Jeb who helped them to escape, but has been missing for two years and they all think he is dead. The six kids are 98% human and 2% bird. In other words, they can fly which makes it difficult to blend into regular society. At the beginning of this story, the youngest, Angel, is kidnapped by men who have been genetically altered to be part-wolf. The remaining five kids must decide how to go back to the place that abused them and still gives them nightmares in order to save one of their own.

James Patterson is a very good storyteller. Although, this book is not what his fans usually expect it is well-written with a lot of action and exciting twists in the story. The journey Max has to take to protect the other five kids is difficult and exciting at the same time. They all have a chance to see things they could never have imagined in the past, but at the same time they are chased everywhere they go. Young fantasy readers will love the unique characteristics of the mutant characters as well as trying to figure out why the School suddenly wants them back after four years. A good fantasy read.

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 548 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Iowa High School 2008 Award Winner

Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are living in the year 1895 struggling with their families, boarding school, and of course the magical realms they discovered in A Great and Terrible Beauty. Gemma is responsible for the magic she released at that time and must find a way to bind it all together so that not just anyone can abuse the magic. Gemma knows she will need help along the way, but it is unclear who she can trust. Miss McCleethy, their new art teacher, seems very interested in Gemma and her secrets, but Gemma is not sure if she can trust her. Miss Moore, the teacher Gemma got fired in the last book, surfaces again and Gemma wonders if she is the one who is supposed to guide her into the realms. Finally, Pippa, the girls’ former friend and schoolmate is now trapped in the realms and seems to be the same, but Gemma is not so sure she has not been corrupted.

In addition to all of their worrying about the magical realms, there are other issues at hand as well including Gemma’s father’s addiction to opium, a prospective suitor, and Ann’s lack of family during the holidays. Bray does a nice job of balancing life in the late 19th century with the fantasy world they often visit. The problems of both worlds seem equally alarming and disastrous. Bray moves the story into a much more exciting path than the previous book as Gemma, Felicity, and Ann try to control the magic they set free in that book. The characters, both secondary and primary, develop a lot more in this book so that the reader can understand more about their backgrounds and motivations throughout the story. A page turner for fantasy readers, much more compelling than the first book.

Flying Boats and Spies: a Nick Grant Adventure by Jamie Dodson

 

Early Review

Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 240

RAC Book: Yes

Nick Grant is living in 1935 during a very difficult time in U.S. history. His father’s business has been so drastically hurt by the depression that he has had to leave town to look for work. Nick is sixteen and desperate to help his mother pay the mortgage. When he hears about a boat hiring men to help build Pan American Airways, a series of places across the Pacific for planes to use in order to cross the Pacific, he jumps at the chance and leaves without telling his mother. Of course, Nick doesn’t tell them his real age or they would never have hired him.

During his travels he experiences espionage, storms, and even a chance to fly with Pan Am pilots. He works harder than he could have ever imagined he could and enjoys every minute. The entire time he is running from an unknown enemy who seems to anticipate his every move. He fears telling anyone about the man following him for fear that he is being paranoid.

This adventure story is fun and packed with drama, suspense, and even historical knowledge. Real people and places make appearances in the book to help set the scene in a way that young readers will be able to see what it was like in the Pacific in 1935. Any adventure readers will enjoy the retro writing style, but boys especially will enjoy the adventure and will be able to identify with Nick Grant as he struggles through adolescence.

Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant

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.