Archive for the 'Award Winners' Category



Elephant Run by Roland Smith

 

Genre:  Historical fiction

# of pages:  318 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

Nick Freestone is living with his mother in London during 1941.  When the blitz begins she sends him to live with his dad in Burma, only life isn’t much better there as the Japanese invade his father’s plantation.  Nick is held captive and forced to work as a slave and his father is sent to a prison camp.  Mya, a native girl whose family has always worked the plantation, is trapped as a slave with Nick because her brother has been sent to a prison camp as well.  When life begins to get worse for them on the plantation they decide to make a clever, but risky escape attempt in order to save Nick’s father and Mya’s brother.

Roland Smith always does a nice job of telling unique stories from different cultural places and times.  Elephant Run is no exception as Smith delves into WWII from an angle many adults and students do not usually hear about.  The invasion of Burma by the Japanese will be interesting to young readers studying this time or who just like adventure books.  The cultural aspects of life in Burma are described well and the characters are well developed.  A very unique adventure story that will keep Roland Smith fans coming back to find out what he will write about next.   

Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  290

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Addison and her mother have just moved into a trailer because her mother divorced Addie’s stepdad and he got custody of her two little sisters.  Dwight, her stepdad, promises to check up on her and bring the girls to visit, but Addie is not convinced that this will happen.  She misses them so much because she knows that life with her mother is unpredictable and hard.  As time goes on, Addie befriends the two people who work in the mini-mart across the parking lot.  Her mother disapproves, but Addie enjoys hanging out with them and knows she can always count on them.  Addie’s mom starts spending more and more time away from the trailer working on a new “business” and Addie begins to wonders when she’ll ever have a normal life and a normal family.  She begins to think she should stop thinking about it in case it never happens. 

Addie’s story is very believable as there are many young people out there who live in unstable homes with unreliable parental figures.  Due to the fact that Addie is very responsible, her mother takes advantage of her and treats her like another adult instead of like a child.  The characters are compelling and interesting.  Addie’s problems continue to get worse and it’s easy to see how she might begin to feel hopeless, but there is always a glimmer of hope and the story has a satisfying ending that will leave young readers happy.   Highly recommended for late elementary and junior high readers.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell

 

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  163 p.

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Twelve-year-old Jamie is excited when she hears her older brother, T.J., has enlisted in the Army.  Their father is a Colonel and they have lived all of their lives on army bases.  She would love to go fight for her country too if they would let her.  She is surprised when their father does not want T.J. to go to Vietnam.  He does everything he can to convince her brother to back out of his enlistment agreement, but T.J. persists and is sent to Vietnam almost immediately after basic training.  He sends generic letters home to his parents, but he sends rolls of film to Jamie.  She learns how to develop film by herself so that she is the first one to see the prints and she is surprised by the content of the film.  First of all, the war does not look at all as glamorous as she thought it would.  Secondly, there are many pictures of the moon, which make her wonder what her brother is trying to show her with the pictures.  Jamie soon decides she is not so thrilled about her big brother fighting in the war anymore. 

This Vietnam tale is a great way to introduce the Vietnam War to students this age.  Jamie’s perspective of the young child who sees war as glamour and heroes quickly changes when she starts seeing what is going on over there.  Her father is a well-written character as he is the one who describes some of the errors in the strategy used in the war.  The emotions and feelings of soldiers and families help the reader to truly get into the story and feel what it would be like to be in their position.  A very well-written book on a very difficult topic.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  375

RAC:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

Josh and Sophie are fifteen-year-old twins who are thrust into a crazy adventure when they see some golems or “mud men” attack Josh’s bosses, Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle.  Nicholas and Perenelle have been hiding out for hundreds of years because they have possession of the Codex, which is a famous book that contains many spells including one for immortal life.  Dr. John Dee created golems to help him steal the Codex from Nicholas and ends up getting all but two pages of it and kidnaps Perenelle because she is very familiar with magical spells.  Nicholas is positive it is not a coincidence that Josh and Sophie were present at the time of the attack because twins are prophesied in the Codex.  He believes they have strong magical powers and do not even realize it.  Can he help them awaken and learn their powers in time to save the world from imminent disaster?

This fantasy story contains a lot of background knowledge and characters that actually existed.  The author provides a lot of information at the end about which facts are true and which are fabricated, which is fun for readers to learn after finishing the story.  The adventure moves quickly as Nicholas and the twins are attacked by many different mythical creatures.  The ending is very exciting, unique, and will leave readers wanting more.  Readers who like The Lightning Thief or Alfred Kropp will want to pick up this title.

Football Genius by Tim Green

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Genre:  Sports Fiction

# of Pages:  244

RAC: No

Troy believes he can predict football plays if he watches games closely and understands the pattern of the plays.  When his mom gets a job with the Atlanta Falcons he tries to tell the defensive coach his gift so that his favorite team can win a game, but instead he is escorted off the field by security.  In the process of trying to help his team, he gets himself and his mother into a lot of trouble.  His only hope is to somehow contact the linebacker, Seth Halloway, and get him to believe in his unusual skill so that he can help the Falcons win.  Meanwhile, Troy is having trouble with his own football team because the class bully’s dad is the coach and refuses to let Troy play, despite the fact he is the best quarterback they have.  Can Troy ever get anyone to recognize his talent and passion for football?

This fun football story will engage even the most reluctant male readers.  There is excitement, drama, family turmoil, strong friendsip, and of course a lot of football action.  The age level is a big too low for my school, but the story is fun and the characters are engaging.  Sports fans will enjoy this quick read.

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  174 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

This WWII story is based on true accounts of a boy named Helmuth who lived in Germany when Hitler took office and was forced to join the Hitler Youth.  As he got older he began listening to an illegal radio and was shocked to find out how much the German media was keeping from the people.  He decided to create some pamphlets informing citizens of the actual losses Germans were suffering in the war.  He was caught for his crimes and faced trial and a possible death sentence for what he had done.  Helmuth had to come to terms with the fact that he may die at a young age and wondered if he felt it was worth it for standing up for what he believed in.

This chilling story based on true facts moves quickly and provides a different view of WWII.  Bartoletti helps young readers to see what it was like to be a German during this time, how they were lied to, how afraid they were, and the kind of torture the Nazis were capable of doing even to their own citizens.  Fans of books from this era will enjoy this and want to know more about this person.  The only criticism would be that fans will want to know more about Helmuth than is provided in the story.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Genre:  Science Fiction

# of Pages:  265

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa High School Award Winner 2010

Jenna Fox was in a horrible car accident and wakes up a year later in a different part of the country with no memory of the previous year.  She lives with her mom and grandma and her dad is back home.  No one will tell her why they moved or why she has no memories of her life.  They assure her it will take time to recover and remember who she was.  In this book, it is possible to replace organs or create clones, but it is illegal to do so.  As Jenna starts piecing together bits of information that do not make sense she starts to wonder what her parents were willing to do in order to save her.  How far would a parent go to save a dying child?

Students who like Jodi Picoult books will enjoy this one, because it moves quickly and has several twists and turns in the plot.  There are also many moral issues discussed as the society struggles with the previous overuse of antibiotics that have annihilated several species of plants and animals on earth.  What scientific measures are appropriate if the intentions are good?  When does it go too far?  An interesting futuristic story that will leave the reader thinking about the possibilities the future could hold if we do not monitor some of our ways today.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  400

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa High School Book Award

Jena and her four sisters use a secret portal to sneak into the woods to dance with the magical creatures every full moon.  When Jena’s father gets ill and is sent away to recover, she is left in charge and her cousin Cezar begins to take over.  Cezar believes that women are frail and need to be looked after by men.  As Jena struggles to take care of her sisters, their home, and her father’s business she always has her best friend, Gogu, by her side.  Gogu is a talking frog that only she can hear.  As Cezar becomes frantic trying to control the five sisters, Jena starts to worry that all is not well in the wildwoods either.  Can she protect her sisters and everyone else she cares about from a power hungry dictator?

This fantasy story begins a little slowly as the characters are introduced, but accelerates quickly as the family battles Cezar on a daily basis.  There are some twists and turns along the way, but a few are fairly easy to predict.  The end will leave readers wanting more.  Highly recommended for fantasy lovers.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  170

RAC Book:  No

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

“Alice” recounts the story of how she was abducted by a pedophile named Ray and forced to live with him for several years and follow his rules.  For example, Ray starves her so that she will stay little and seem like a little girl.  She considers herself dead inside and wishes he would just kill her and get it over with.  The only reason she never tries to run or tell someone is that he threatens to kill her family if she does.  When Ray suggests they look for a new little girl to live with them Alice agrees because she desperately wants to leave this situation, even if it means he will kill her.  As she starts helping him on his quest she wonders if it is really in her to subject a new child to the horrors she has been through.

This book is very detailed and graphic.  Alice’s life is beyond unimaginable and her spirit has long been crushed.  Despite the fact that there have been stories like this that end happy with a family reunion, there is a sense of hopelessness in Alice’s case like she has given up.  The content of this book is very serious and will bother many students.

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  235 p.

RAC Book: Yes

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

Garrett is forcibly taken from his home and transported to Lake Harmony, which is a reform school for teens.  His parents basically signed their rights away and give the boot camp the right to use whatever force they feel is necessary in order to steer their child down the “right path.”  Garrett believes that some of the decisions he has made are ones he would make again and that his parents just can’t handle the publicity of having a difficult child.  As he struggles not to succumb to the torture, beatings, and humiliation he comes to the terrible realization that he may never get out unless he bends to their will.  As he looks around he sees those who have thrived in this school and appear brain washed because of it and those who refuse to give in and look beaten down and exhausted.  How can he survive without losing who he is and what he believes in?

Todd Strasser has put the spotlight on these teen bootcamps that are more plentiful in the U.S. than anyone might think.  Parents pay thousands of dollars to have their child straightened out, but often the tactics used by these places are unconstitutional.  These places work by cutting any trust or communication between parents and their children so that no one thinks they have any choices, but to let the school do what it thinks it best.  This is an issue that teens and parents should be aware of and this is a fast paced, exciting story that all teens will love, but especially teen boys.

Airman by Eoin Colfer

Genre: Historical fiction

# of Pages:  412

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2010

Conor Broekhart is born in a hot air balloon at the world’s fair in 1878 and he is obsessed with flying forever after.  He grows up on the Saltee Islands off the coast of Ireland where his father heads the king’s security.  King Nicholas is very forward thinking and supportive of science and flying, so he enlists a friend of his to come and tutor Conor and his daughter, Isabella.  Conor greatly enjoys his time with Victor as they practice fencing, scientific experiments, and air exploration.  All of this changes when the King and Victor are assassinated by an evil member of the king’s advisors.  Conor is blamed for the conspiracy against the king and is sent to work underground in diamond mines, but he fails to give up and plans to one day fly again.

This is a very different story than most readers will be used to from this author, but it is adventurous and engaging from the first page.  Conor’s strength, intelligence, and perseverance take a hopeless situation and find some light.  The plot twists are compelling and detailed to keep the story moving and all of the characters are well developed, even if they are not in the story that much.  Anyone would enjoy this read, but it will be especially interesting to teenage boys.

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 447

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

RAC Book:  Yes

Shay Bourne is a man on death row for murdering a cop and an eight year old girl.  The girl’s mother, June, was 8 months pregnant at the time of the murders and has since given birth to a baby girl, whom she has named Claire.  Claire is now 11 years old and the execution date for Shay has finally been determined, but it takes a dramatic turn when he sees on the news that Claire needs a heart transplant.  Shay quickly offers his own heart, but this raises many difficult questions.  Can June let her daughter take the heart of the man who killed her husband and daughter?  Will taking the heart of a murderer change her daughter’s personality?  Can she bear to pass on it and lose yet another daughter?

Picoult is a master of finding difficult moral issues and displaying all sides of the issue.  Much like her other stories nothing is ever as it seems, so readers need to read to the end to find out what surprises Picoult has in store.  Fans of Picoult or Diane Chamberlain will enjoy this title because the story and the characters are engaging.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Genre:  Fantasy

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  358 p.

Award Winner:  Iowa Teen Award 2009-2010

This retelling of Alice in Wonderland follows a girl named Alyss, whose mother was queen of Wonderland until her evil sister, Redd, overthrew her on Alyss’s seventh birthday.  In order to protect Alyss, her mother threw her and her personal bodyguard into a looking glass so that they could escape until Alyss could grow up and assume her rightful position as queen.  Alyss ends up escaping into Victorian London where she is forced to grow up with people who do not believe any of her stories of Wonderland.  She comes to wonder if she did make it all up or if it is as real as she thinks it is.  Meanwhile, Wonderland is in squalor due to Redd’s tyrannical rule.  Can Alyss revive Wonderland and take what is rightfully hers?

Fantasy readers will not want to miss this story.  It is creative, imaginative, and full of adventure and suspense.  It is the first in this series so there will be more and anyone who reads this story will be eager to read the next in the series.  The characters are unique and memorable.   Even people who didn’t necessarily enjoy the original Alice in Wonderland will be able to appreciate this story for the fun adventure that it is.  Highly recommended.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  289

RAC Book:  Yes

Award Winner:  Iowa Teen Award 2009-2010

Jeremy Fink still mourns the loss of his father five years ago, which is why he is so happy when his father sends him a wooden box for his thirteenth birthday.  A lawyer had been holding it for him all this years.  The box claims to have the meaning of life in it, but requires four keys to open and unfortunately, they are lost.  As Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy try to find the keys they end up meeting a lot of interesting people and Jeremy becomes very interested in their views of the meaning of life and what everyone’s purpose is on earth.  As the journey goes on Jeremy wonders if he is meant to open the box or if he is supposed to learn the meaning of life for himself.

Jeremy Fink’s story seems rather simple at first, but as the story evolves the reader sees that there are in fact many layers to this story as Jeremy learns about himself and all of the people he has developed relationships with.  The characters are interesting in a way that they are easily remembered and the reader cares what they have to say to Jeremy and Lizzy as they go on their quest.  The ending was very satisfying and leaves the reader thinking about Jeremy’s quest and his final conclusions.  Highly recommended for anyone from junior high to adulthood.

A Small White Scar by K.A. Nuzum

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:   180 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Award Winner:  Iowa Teen Award 2009-2010

Set in the 1940’s, Will lives on a ranch with his dad and twin brother, Denny.  Will struggles with the fact that his twin has some mental development problems and when their mother died their father put Will in charge of Denny.  Now that they are teenagers Will wants to participate in rodeos and get hired at a ranch that will let him do more than just look after his brother.  He gets the idea to run away to a rodeo and get hired at a ranch afterward, but his brother follows him.  Will struggles with the fact that he wants to leave his brother behind because he does love him, but he also wants to reach for his goals and that is not possible if Denny is around.  As Denny surprises him by persistently following him to the rodeo he must decide if he really wants to run away from his home.

Will’s story is a story that anyone could identify with who has ever struggled with personal wishes and obligations to another person.  Will does a lot of thinking about his situation and often feels torn as to what he should do.  In the end, his actions to run away help him, his father, and Denny learn to look toward the future and not stay in the past.  This might be a difficult story for students to get into, but once they start they will be able to identify with one of the characters in some way.


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