Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

I usually love any book which is historical fiction because I enjoy learning about periods in history by reading fictional pieces.

Alchemy and Megg Swann seemed as though it would be a good match for our 8th grade social studies curriculm which does cover the end of the Medieval period and the Renaissance. I was initially unable to get involved with the story. This made me wonder whether students would also find getting into this title was going to be difficult for them.

Meggie suffers from bilateral (both sides) hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of both hip joints at birth in which the ball at the top of each thighbone is not stable in the socket. Although she lived with her mother who ran a tavern, Meggy's gran really raised her and provided her with "sticks" (a handmade type of crutch) so she could move around. When her beloved gran dies, Meggy's mother sends her to live with a father whom she has never met.

Initially her father turns her away as he thinks she is a beggar at his door. With no friends, a father who doesn't even want to know her name, Meggy must find how to survive in Elizabethan England in London.

The vivid descriptions of the smells, the filth, and the poverty are worth the read.


I loved the protagonist of this easy to read novel--Owen Birnbaum. Despite being the fattest kid in his school, Owen is probably the brightest! His desire to capture images from a security camera that was in the deli his parents owned the night it was robbed and they both were murdered fuels his creative genius. By scavenging electronic parts from demolition sites around the city, Owen and his younger sister Caitlin have all kinds of parts and motors with which to tinker to hopefully create Nemesis.

With any luck, Nemesis will allow Owen to capture who the killer of his parents was on that fateful night two years ago.

But life isn't always easy for tweleve-year-old Owen. His adopted mom has him on a diet--only three Oreo cookies in his lunch each day. Someone is stealing his Oreos! Owen suspects that it is Mason Ragg--a quite disturbed boy who always has an aide with him in school.

Being the genius Owen is, he creates The Thief Catcher which will nab the thief in the act of stealing his cookies. When his cookies still are stolen, despite this new device, he has to resort to other tactics. When his sister suddenly insists on being called by a boy's name--Jeremy--Owen's life becomes even more twisted.

Will this boy genius be able to finally catch the Oreo thief? Will Mason Ragg be the culprit? Will Owen's Nemesis work? Will he and his sister finally learn who murdered their wonderful parents? Read Slob to find out.


Tommy Winterson has had a rough journey through his first eleven years. He was born with cystic fibrosis--a lung disorder which makes his breathing labored and causes his body to be stunted in growth. People who suffer from cystic fibrosis have a shortened life expectancy.

Tommy, his fifteen-year-old siter Beatrice (Bee for short), and his mother are flyng from their home in Warren, N.H. to California on a trip funded by a wish foundation called Blue Moon. Tommy's wish is to swim in a shark cage off the coast of San Francisco hoping to see a great white shark in the wild. Tommy knows everything about sharks.

When the weather and sea conditions are a washout for Tommy's dream, his sister Bee has another idea--to look up Ty Barry, the guy who has survived a shark attack which bumped him five feet into the air while he watched the seventeen-foot shark swirl beneath him.

Will Bee be able to find Ty? Will Ty be willing to pay attention to Tommy who clearly idolizes him?

This is a great book which should appeal to both boys and girls due to the strong character of Bee, Tommy's sister.

How to Survive Middle School

Warning! This book is very funny!!!!! If you want a fun book to read, this is a perfect choice!

David Greenberg definitely has talent for a boy about to enter middle school. Dave and his best friend Elliot have created a "Jon Stewart-type Daily Show" for middle school kids entitled Talk Time.

Hammy--Dave's hamster--always has a starring role in each of the Talk Time shows. Dave's top 6 1/2 thing about many different topics are part of the show's lineup. Dave's older sister Lindsay is also featured in the videos, however, without her permission. She "stars" as the zit-weather report--a very unflattering role for a girl about to enter high school!

Dave's uncle scares him with horror stories about middle school.

As the first day of school approaches, Elliott, Dave’s best friend, decides to join forces with Tommy Murphy, an arch enemy and totally mean-spirited kid. This leaves Dave to fend for himself in the cafeteria and hallways on the first day. Disaster lucks as Elliott, with inspiration from Tommy, sets Dave up for a very terrible first day.

This book is a riot to read! Boys will especially enjoy it and rejoice when Dave's Talk Time goes viral on YouTube much to the dismay of Tommy and Elliott.

Close to Famous

Foster McFee has an incredible dream. She's enthralled with Food Network's chef Sonny Kroll. She'd like to have her own show on Food Network entitled "Cooking with Foster." Already an accomplished baker, Foster has managed to sell her famous cupcakes and muffins by first offering them for free to potential customers.

There are problems in Foster's life, however. Her mom's boyfriend Huck is a self-serving, Elvis impersonator who has turned abusive. Fleeing Memphis and Huck in the middle of the night with all their possessions stuffed into trash bags, Foster and her mom make it to a small town in West Virginia called Culpepper.

Culpepper has its own cast of characters as each small town does. Perhaps the most intriguing one is a former actress named Miss Charleena Hendley.

Will Foster be able to make friends in Culpepper? Will she find a suitable venue to sell her delicious baked good? Will Hank, the abusiver boyfriend of her mother's, find them? Will Foster be able to realize her dream of having her own Food Network show? Read Joan Bauer's new novel entitled Close to Famous to find out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Dead Boys

Richland is located in the desert. When twelve-year-old Teddy Mathews moves to Richland with his mother, his main concerns besides finding and making new friends are his fear of scorpians, black widow spiders, and rattlesnakes. Little does Teddy realize that he will need to muster the courage to face these last three fears as well as something much more sinister.

There is something unnatural happening in Richland. A twelve-year-old boy has mysteriously disappeared once each decade for the past 60 years! Teddy fears that he may be the next victim since it has been 10 years since the last boy disappeared.

What could be causing these strange occurrences? Teddy is about to find out!

This book will appeal mainly to books and especially to reluctant readers.