Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trash by Andy Mulligan

How could reading a book about severely impoverished kids whose families pick through trash in order to find articles which can be recycled for money or goods be interesting? I wouldn't have thought this book would hold much appeal to me, but I found myself immediately drawn into the lives of Raphael, Gardo and Rat.
The story is told in bits and pieces of Raphael's discovery of a man's wallet, photos and a key. Gardo, his best friend, brings Rat into the picture to help hide their find from police.
This is a classic story which shows the disparity between the "haves" and the" have nots" in society. There is a mystery the boys must solve before the police do. Raphael is taken in for questioning by the police and barely escapes with his life. None of the boys or the others who live at the dump trust the police.
This is a fast read, almost like an adventure book. If you want to learn how some people who live in a third world country exist, this is a title you will surely enjoy.

I Am Scout

Since one of my all time favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I was very excited to read this biography of Harper Lee designed for young adults.

The reclusive Miss Lee has rarely appeared in public or given interviews. Her landmark novel is the only book she has ever written. So I really wanted to read about her.

I was very interested in her early years as I believe the character of Scout was really autobiographical in nature. When you hear her friends from her childhood describe the fights that she got into to protect others, you can really see what a true tomboy she was. Her relationship with Truman Capote (another author) is clearly the type of friendship she writes about in To Kill a Mockingbird about her friend Dill.

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird will really enjoy this biography!

Matched by Ally Condie

I am a big fan of dystopian fiction. Matched did not let me down!
I didn't feel it rose to the same level as The Hunger Games, but I was intrigued by the plot and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Cassia lives in a "perfect" society. She is looking forward to the Match Banquet where she will find out who her perfect match for a husband is.

Everything in this society is planned including when you will die, what your education and career training will consist of, etc.  Cassia has complete trust in the process and has no reason to doubt what the society determines for her until she is paired with Xander yet just as his face is revealed an aberration in the computer system reveals another face--that of Ky. She knows that Xander is her soul mate. So why does the society change its mind and pair her with Ky?

Cassia is forced to examine whether this "perfect" society really does know what is best for its members.

The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game

I love watching football so I was looking forward to reading this mystery written by John Feinstein, author of The Final Four.
I learned a lot about the traditions and training for each of the service academy teams which held quite a bit of interest for me personally.
I liked how the author created two budding student writers, Stevie Thomas and Susan Anderson to scoop the behind-the-scenes action.
What a didn't care for was the way in which the plot was structured such that the "mystery" wasn't revealed until about page 225.
True football fans probably won't be bothered by this lack of plot development, but I surely was.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Slick is the moniker that Liza gives to the name of her mother's new boyfriend because he works for an oil company.

Liza and her two younger brothers, Sila and Leland, are used to living with their mother now that their parents are divorced and their real father has moved to England.

Liza doesn't take kindly to Slick as she believes her mother is changing in ways she believes go against her principles to suit Slick. Liza is down right rude to Slick at times despite his attempts to please Liza and her brothers.

Liza starts a grassroots organization GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources, Really!) which targets the oil company that Slick works for.

This is a very short read. It is one of the titles in the Orca Currents series and is written by Sara Cassidy. I wasn't overly fond of this title but I am sure that some students might find it enjoyable.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I found the closeup on the cover of this book of one of the main characters, Brewster, to be very intriguing. Can you tell how mysterious he is just by looking at his profile? Can you see how shy and withdrawn he appears? Does he look like his life might be very interesting yet also troubled?
Tennyson and his twin sister Bronte are at odds with each other when Bronte befriends the shy and withdrawn classmate Brewster Rawlins known as "Bruiser". Tennyson is very protective of his sister and becomes very concerned when he spies on Bruiser changing in the locker room after P.E. and notices that his back is covered in scars and welts.
Bronte continues her relationship with Brew, drawing him closer to herself, Tennyson and even her family. What effect will this closeness have on her parents' troubled marriage?
Is he being abused as the scars and welts would indicate or his uncle telling the truth when he swears he has never touched Brewster. What role does Brewster's younger brother Cody play in this very interesting novel. What special powers to heal does Bruiser have?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Out of My Mind

Imagine being trapped inside your body which doesn't let you speak, walk, or control your movements in any meaningful way. Now continue to imagine that there is nothing wrong with your brain even though the physical part of your body doesn't function the way most people's bodies work. Now imagine that your brain actually has a photographic memory and that you are really, really smart, but to the rest of the world, you are perceived as a "retard".
In Sharon Draper's latest novel entitled Out of My Mind, that is the exact position that eleven-year-old Melody finds herself.
I really liked this book as I could begin to imagine the extreme frustration that Melody experiences. All of the normal adolescent issues of trying to fit in, trying to befriend someone you can trust, trying to communicate are so heightened. Even with the advancement of technology which allows severely disabled students to have a "computer voice", life is just so difficult. The cover image is a great one for this novel. Melody can't call her mom when her goldfish launches itself outside its bowl. The metaphor of a fish out of water fits Melody's whole existence.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Lost Survivors Trilogy by Susan Pfeffer

I remember reading Life As We Knew It (Book One) three years ago on a bitter cold January weekend. I was surprised how rapidly I was drawn into the life of a typical teen named Miranda and her self-absorbed life in a small Pennsylvania town. Miranda's priorities undergo a radical change, however, when an asteriod hits the moon, throwing it out of its orbit and too close to the Earth. There is wild spread devastion such as violent earthquakes, massive tsunamis, millions of deaths due to crop failures and non delivery of goods.

Lucky for Miranda and her family, her mom is extremely resourceful. They are able to heat their home and make do while others are frantic for their survival.

What really stuck with me from this novel was the incredibly dire weather conditions caused by this event--the extreme bitter cold.

The Dead and The Gone (Book Two)was written by Pfeffer to try to answer the question of what it would have been like to have experienced the same devastation from Life As We Knew It, but to have the main character living in a completely different setting--Manhattan.
Seventeen-year-old Alex Morales, his 14-year-old sister Briana, and his 12-year-old sister Julie are home alone in their apartment when the crisis hits. Their mother is working at a hospital in Queens and their father is out of the country on a trip.
The responsibility for survival falls squarely on Alex's shoulders. How will they secure food? How can he protect his sisters from the bands of people who roam the streets looking for food or money. Who will remove the bodies of the dead lining the streets? Will they ever see either of their parents again?

I was surprised to see This World We Live In (Book Three). Told from the perspective of Miranda, the teen protagonists from Books One and Two are brought together when Miranda Evan's father and stepmother arrive with their new baby and a trio of strangers, including Alex Morales! 
Survival is still paramount on everyone's mind despite it being a year now that the asteriod hit the moon causing the devastation that they have all come to see as "this world we live in now."
The ending of Book Three has left wondering if Pfeffer will produce another book in this series.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mao's Last Dancer

Can you imagine life as a young person under Chairman Mao in China? By reading Li Cunxin's autobiography entitled Mao's Last Dancer, the reader can begin to understand what life under Chairman Mao was like.
Li Cunxin was born and grew up in a loving but extremely poor family in a rural village in China's Shandong Province.  He was one of seven children. His parents toiled endlessly to feed their sons.
Li"s life changed forever at the age of eleven when his rural classroom received a visit from Madame Mao's representatives from Beijing. They were there to select talented students to study ballet in Beijing.
Despite fighting homesickness and adjusting to the Academy's rigorous demands, Li realizes that he can never return home. Seven years of punishing training taught Li discipline, determination and perseverance.
Learn about history, especially about living under the Communist philosophies of Chairman Mao and his "Little Read Book."
Watch the trailer for the movie that was made from this book:

The Big Field

Baseball fans will enjoy this title!

Fourteen-year-old Keith "Hutch" Hutchinson is a shortstop at heart. Too bad that there is another player, Darryl Williams, who gets the coveted spot as shortstop. Hutch is assigned to second base.

Hutch finds it hard to adjust to this position and his "second-best" player status.

Hutch's relationship with his father is also strained.

How will the team fare in the South Florida regionals and at the state championship on the big field in Roger Dean Stadium?

Since it is baseball season, why not enjoy this sports fiction title by Mike Lupica?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Grimm Legacy

How cool would it be to work in a type of museum called a repository where articles of historic value could be circulated? In The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, the main character, Elizabeth Rew, gets the chance to become a page for the New York Circulating Material Respository after her social studies teacher, Mr. Mauskopf, recommends her for the position of student page.
There is much for Elizabeth to learn. Many of the items are of great historic value; some have magical powers and require the patron circulating the item to give up something--such as his/her sense of direction--if they want to take the item out.
What Elizabeth and two of the male pages find most fascinating is the floor in the basement where items from the original Grimm's Fairy Tales are housed.
Imagine being able to circulate the sinister mirror from Snow White or magical boots that let the wearer fly through time and space!
Items from the respository have started to disappear and there is fear that they could end up in the wrong hands who would use the magic in evil ways.
This highly engaging fantasy will have you dreaming about magical items in your sleep! I imagine that there might be a sequel or perhaps an entire series developed from this book.

Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me

I loved this book! It has romance! It's set in one of our National Parks--Yellowstone. Its conflict centers around understanding how nature and humans often come into conflict, especially when a species is reintroduced to an area where there has been a problem. It's well written and sure to be popular with both boys and girls.

K.J. Carson is 16. Her father owns a hunting store and arranges hunting trips. K.J. works in the store and also accompanies her dad on some of the hunting trips he arranges.

Virgil Whitman is new in town. His mother is there to study the wolves that have been reintroduced to the area.

K.J. accompanies Virgil and his mom to check on the status of the wolves. K.J. becomes fascinated with the wolves and decides to write a newspaper  column called "Wolf Notes" to try to inform townspeople and ranchers so that they will be less fearful of the wolves. This column only stirs up people and alienates both sides.

Why is virgil shot at in the Christmas parade? Who sets fire to K.J.'s dad's store? What do both of these incidents have to do with the wolves and the ranchers?

Crazy Beautiful

Lauren Baratz-Logsted's book entitled Crazy Beautiful is a modern day Beauty and the Beast tale. Told in alternating chapters by Lucius and Aurora the story unfolds.
Lucius has lost both hands in a self-made explosion. He has heavy scarring on his chest and two steel hooks in place of hands. He's changing schools for a new start.
Aurora has also changed schools. Her father has recently been widowed.
The two could not be more different from each other.
Yet, they meet on the bus on the first day of school.
Lucius seems arrogant and standoffish while Aurora is beautiful and always smiling. Beauty and the Beast with an updated feel!

Tropical Seasons

I was very excited to see this new title: Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarite Engle. I was lucky enough to meet this author when she gave a book talk on another book she wrote called The Surrender Tree in 2009 at New Haven Public Library.

It is unlike other historical fiction novels because it is written in free verse, but also because of its subject matter. Until I read this title, I was totally unfamiliar with the role that Cuba played in the acceptance of Jewish immigrants before and during World War II.

The story centers around a young Jewish boy named Daniel. Daniel's parents realize the growing threat and although Daniel is just barely bar-miztvahed, in 1939 they purchase a ticket (using all their money) for  Daniel's passage on a ship with other refugees destined for New York.The ship is turned away due to immigration quotas already having been met in the United States. Canada also turns the ship away. Finally, Daniel lands in Cuba. There he befriends a local girl of the same age, Paloma and an older Jewish man. Since Daniel is alone in a new place unlike any where he has ever lived, he needs all the help he can get from these two friends. Will his family ever find him?