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The Great Wide Sea

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Book: The Great Wide SeaAuthor: M.H. HerlongCharacters: Ben, Dylan and GerrySetting: Florida Keys, family boatTheme: Family dynamics in the face of grief and adventure. Genre: Realistic Fiction Adventure Audience: ages 12 and up Curriculum: Good for learning an English literature course or recommendation during star reading. Summary: Three young boys suffer the loss of their mother and watch as their father works through the grief as they figure out how to deal as well. On a whim their father decides that they are going to go on a year long boat trip in the Florida Keys but they encounter more than just the adventure of a trip to sea. They can’t find their father and they must survive the stormy weather of the Florida Keys on their own. Personal Response: I think this is a great book for someone who has to deal with the death of someone close and also having to watch others manage grief. The boys have to manage their own way of grieving for their mother’s sudden passing but also must watch as their father deals with the sorrow in a way that seems to overwhelm him but appears selfish because eventually his boys are left alone to deal with their own devices at sea. They learn to survive and depend solely on each other through storms, sickness and specifically Ben has to manage his grief. Ben becomes the one to lead his brothers and take care of them. But we see that he holds anger and resentment towards his father for not being around because he can’t grieve. He has to stay strong for his brothers and survive. But then we see him grow through that resentment and find release past the grief and he and his brothers continue their lives with their Dad.
The Hunger Games

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Book: Hunger GamesAuthor: Suzanne CollinsCharacters: Katniss, Peeta, Hymitch, Gale and a few othersSetting: Capital, US after a civil war in a futuristic time periodTheme: Heroine’s journey, coming of age and government Genre: Realistic Sci-FiAudience: ages 12 + Curriculum: Great to use in an English class, discuss science fiction and also maybe relevance of politics. Summary: Story of a young girl named Katniss who volunteers to be “tribute” for the Hunger Games at the Capital. The Hunger Games are like the gladiator events that took place in Ancient Greece and now takes place in a futurist society where industry and technology now run the arena. Does she survive?Personal Response: Great book about government role in society and how it effects the the daily living of its citizens. Katniss’ character is a great character for young readers and role model for young female readers. Love how the author gives great detail for imagery and how those play a role in the story as the reader progresses through the book.
The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War

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Book: The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War Author: Bernard Cornwell, narrated by Robin Bowerman Characters: John Moore and Paul RevereSetting: 1770’s Colonial America Theme: War heros Genre: Children’s historical fictionAudience: ages 15 and up Curriculum: American History class Summary: Narrator talks about the historical events that take place that began the American Revolution. There is a great emphasis on the travel of the war and it’s effects on American people. It also emphasizes on John Moore and Paul Revere as the heros. Personal Response: This was a book I found in under the children’s genre,but I found it to be more appropriate for high school or older. This is a story intended for those who enjoy and love history especially the Revolutionary War. I also enjoyed the telling of how the roles of John Moore and Paul Revere as heros, almost like Greek Mythology but with an American twist.
The Daring Book for Girls

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Book: The Daring Book for GirlsAuthor: Miriam PeskowitzCharacters: NoneSetting: Not applicableTheme: Adventures/ imagination and buildingGenre: How to. . . Audience: ages 8 +Curriculum: A teacher can use some of these activities for students to get them excited and actively learning something new so long as they can find the activity relevant to the lesson plan. For example, there's a section on traveling to Africa and there's a map with small captions about each country. Summary: Book is intended to use to have activities and fun using imagination, creating their own adventure and having in the process of learning. Personal Response: This is a really cute book with lots of stuff to do and with illustrations that also seem to add to the context. Some images help more than others but they break up the blocks of text to help keep the attention of the reader.
Stolen

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Book: StolenAuthor: Lucy ChristopherCharacters: Gemma and TySetting: Australia, secluded houseTheme: Survival, the line when love becomes obsession Genre: Young adult realistic fiction, thriller Audience: ages 16 and up Curriculum: I’m not sure if this would be good in a curriculum, but definitely a good read for any young adult that likes thrillersSummary: Ty, abductor, plans to steal a girl he’s been watching, Gemma. She’s stolen at an airport and he takes her to Australia to his house he build for the two of them. But that’s where this story all begins and we see the interaction between an abductee and abductor develop, creating a creepy and uncomfortable encounter for the reader. Personal Response: Good thriller, despite the uncomfortable feelings L. Christopher evokes about Ty, the abductor. There is a strange connection that develops between the two characters which I can only guess is the connection that happens psychologically between an abuser and the abused. It makes for an uneasy read but you can’t help but read more to find out what happens.
The Heart of a Samurai

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Book: Heart of a Samuri Author: Margi PreusCharacters: ManjiroSetting: Pacific ocean, America and Japan Theme: Returning Home, Assimilation Genre: Historical/ Multicultural Audience: Ages 9 + Curriculum: I can definitely see this used in language arts or English class for multicultural literature and maybe even some history class in reference to other countries and the relationships they had with the US. Summary: Young boy and his friends are shipwrecked and faced with few options, they can struggle to survive where they were deserted or make the most of the “barbarians” that sale by because Japan, their home country, will not accept them back. Their boarders are closed to all outsiders and returning residence. Manjiro takes the risk and tries to learn all he can from the “barbarians. Becoming familiar with American customs and traveling the world with hopes of one day returning home and one day become a Samuri. Personal Response: Very interesting book that takes on the role of when someone who does assimilate how they return to their culture and other like them are treated. This is a social issue that often occurs in many minorities but is seldomly discussed. I did notice that the main character seems to remain constant in his maturity, which leaves to question how much growing did the reader see? But all in all, it is a book that takes into account the aother aspect of immigration and assimilation.
The Girl Is Murder

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Book: The Girl is MurderAuthor: Kathryn Miller HainesCharacters: Iris and her father Setting: 1940’s New York, WWIITheme: Detective thriller, coming of age Genre: Historical Fiction Audience: ages 15 and up Curriculum: English and World History classes Summary: Haines creates a vary curious character to seems to have seen a lot, which may be a play on her name, Iris as well. She had endured many tragedies as a child of the 1940’s which seem to make her grow up fast. As a result, she takes it upon her self to help her father, a WWII vet with one leg, to solve crimes. One in particular there one of her own classmates is involved. Personal Response: I really enjoyed reading this character. Although she acts like a normal teenage girl thinking about boys and other typical teen things, she is plagued by the reality of her circumstances. There’s a lot of vivid imagery that allows the reader embrace the character and you hope that she doesn’t get too close to solving the case to where she might get in trouble herself.
American Born Chinese

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Book: American Born Chinese Author: Yang, Gene LuenCharacters: Chin-Kee/ Monkey King, Danny/ Jin Wang, Wei-Chen SunSetting: America/ Ancient Chinese (Jungle?) Theme: Assimilation/ Immigration Genre: Multicultural FictionAudience: ages 12 + Curriculum: Could be used when discussing topics of immigration in history or language arts courses, or could be a good Hi/Low book recommendation for STAR reading.Summary: A King Monkey, attempts to become a God for al who would worship him. Parallel to this story is a a young Chinese boy who goes to school and desperate wants to transition to be accepted in American Culture, especially once he develops a crush on an all American girl. He also befriends a boy who is from Taiwan as they both learn to transition while in school Later we see the connection between the King Monkey and the boys in America. Personal Response: This is a cute, fun and fast reading book. The characters are enjoyable and relatable. The reader gets to see how the two boys connect as friends and why they are important to each other in this growing process.
Marcelo in the Real World

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Book: Marcelo In The Real World Author: Francisco X. Stork Characters: Marcelo, Jasmine, Arturo, Wendell and others Setting: Boston, MA (present day), Vermont Theme: Coming of age, doing what’s right Genre: Young Adult Realistic Audience: ages 15 and up Curriculum: Taught in English, Health Science, Nursing, Special Education courses introducing people to the various levels of autism and AS conditionsSummary: Marcelo, our main character is posed with mission by his father, Arturo: He has asked Marcelo to change his summer plans to work with the ponies and work with him instead at the law office in the mail room. Marcelo is upset and dislikes the call for change but they make the agreement that if Marcelo is able to successfully complete all the tasks he is given at the Mail Room law office, he can choose to either go to the public school with other “normal” children or Paterson where he’s been sheltered and comfortable with other children who have similar conditions. He takes the new job reluctantly where he will work with Jasmine and others learning how to interact with normal people is not easy for Marcelo but soon the reader will discover with Marcelo he’s more capable of connecting with people than he thought. Personal Response: This has been one of my favorite books so far. I love the storyline and how the author progressed the story. There is an underlying theme of music and emotions that any reader to connect with characters. It also brings about new insight on the various levels of Autism. Stork does a great job of helping the reader disect language with Marcelo to understand how confusing the English language is and the idioms that often cause so much confusion even to those who are “normal”. Some times literal terms are the best way to go. Great book that will make you think, laugh, cry and remember the changes that occur in life are often hard but can be set free if we tell the truth.
Forever . . .

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Book: ForeverAuthor: Judy BlumeCharacters: Michael and Katherine Setting: Westfield, 1970’sTheme: First Love, romance, relationships and coming of ageGenre: Young Adult RomanceAudience: Young adults Curriculum: Great for a health class or family studies class or recommendation for STAR readingSummary: Two young teens meet and have a connection. They get close and are a couple. But what happens at this age when you are so close and have sexual attraction? Do you act on those feelings? How do you prepare? It’s a great tale from a young woman’s perspective on her first sexual encounter. Personal Response: I hadn’t heard of this book until recently and I had to read it! I am so glad I did. Judy Blume, I understand why you are so famous and why your books are so widely enjoyed. The characters are relatable, tangible and real. The situations are not always ideal but they survive and enduring the struggles and coming out of those challenges learning more about themselves. The reason why we love great books is because the characters grow just as readers do. Love is a universal topic that many want and the tales of first loves the most enticing and this story is no different. I also loved the underlying topic for a woman’s choice to be sexually active and the best line on the cover of the book, “- is there a difference between first love and true love?”
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