Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

“Most of all, the Titanic and the questions it raises reminds us that history isn’t about learning names, events, and dates.  Knowing that the Titanic sank at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, doesn’t begin to convey what happened that night and why more than a century later, we’re still drawn to this event.”

I’ve read many books and articles about the sinking of the Titanic.  What I really liked about Deborah Hopkinson’s book was the way in which she explained the voyage from survivor accounts.
This technique made the story very accessible to me.  The freezing temperatures, the inadequate number of lifeboats, and the total lack of safety drills were all factors which contributed to the tragedy that took so many lives.

If you are interested in the story of the Titanic’s voyage, this is a title you are certain to appreciate.  The archival photos and attention to eye-witness accounts add to the power of this nonfiction piece.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

“Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.”  So begins the novel Three Times Lucky.

Mo LoBeau and her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, find themselves in the middle of a mystery unlike anything they’ve ever experienced in their small town Tupelo.  Joe Starr, detective from Winston=Salem, enters their town in an attempt to solve a mystery.  When local loner, a cantankerous old man named Jesse Tatum, is murdered, the plot thickens.  Everyone in this small town becomes under suspicion by Joe Starr.
Mo and Dale form the Desperado Detectives.  Will Mo ever find her “Upstream Mother”--the one who tied her to a flowing raft when she was an infant in the hopes of saving her life during a hurricane?  Will Mo’s step-parents--the colonel and Miss Lana escape suspicions?  Read Three Times Lucky to find out!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Unstoppable by Tim Green

Harrison Johnson’s life has been pure torture since his latest foster assignment has placed him at the Constable’s farm where he is being verbally, emotionally and physically abused. Just when Harrison thinks it couldn’t get much worse, he finds out that the Constables have officially adopted him. How will he ever escape this cruel fate?

Harrison’s life changes in a weird quirk of fate. Coach and his wife come into his life. Harrison discovers the game of football. Not only he is good at it, he excels for the first time in his life! Except for two bullies at his new school, Leo Howard and Adam Varnett, Harrison’s life begins to look up for the first time.

Will his football career change the fate of the season? Will Harrison’s luck continue? Are there more bumps in the road? Will he have the emotional strength to overcome the obstacles that come his way?  Is he unstoppable?
Read this  sports fiction title to find out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Almost Home by Joan Bauer

This is a very dear story about a strong girl who loves her new puppy as much as she loves writing poetry.
“I need a real house and a normal family,” says  Sugar Mae Cole. She has had a tough life.  Her mother Reba and she are living in Missouri in the house her mother and her grandfather owned.  “King Cole” her grandfather has passed on.

Sugar’s mother falls behind in her bills.  She can’t pay their mortgage.  Before they know it, they’re put out on the street.  Homeless!

Sugar’s father, Mr. Leeland, is a constant drain on Reba.  He promises her the world and delivers on absolutely nothing.  He is a gambler, totally untrustworthy.  Yet he continues to be able to hoodwink Sugar’s mother.
When a promised job in Chicago falls through and Reba and Sugar have nowhere to go, Reba suffers a mental breakdown.

At age twelve, Sugar finds herself in the lead role of her family.
How will they survive in the homeless shelter?  Will the help Reba receives in the hospital be able to bring her back from the brink of losing her mind?  Will the puppy, named Shush, be allowed in the foster home?  How will Sugar Mae find her way back home? Read this touching book to find out!

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Chains is historical fiction at its best!

Thirteen-year-old Isabel and her much younger sister Ruthie have been slaves of an elderly woman in Rhode Island. Upon her death, the will states that both girls will be freed. Unfortunately for the two girls, her only living relative shows up and refuses to honor his deceased aunt’s commitment to free them. They are sold by the nephew to Elihu Lockton and his vicious wife Anne.

The Locktons are loyal to England. They are called loyalists or Tories while the people sympathetic to the revolution which is about to happen are referred to as rebels. Mr. Lockton is conspiring along with other Tories to kill General Washington.
The Locktons are both cruel to the girls. Isabel does all she can to protect five-year-old Ruthie from being whipped or mistreated.  She is desperate to make sure that they will always be together.

As the war begins to take shape, hundreds of British ships begin to line the harbor of New York. Before long everyone is fleeing the city to escape the inevitable bloodshed that will follow.

How can Isabel protect Ruthie from the Locktons’ inhumane treatment? Which side should the girls align themselves with for this conflict? Who can Isabel trust to help them? Will it be a Tory or will the rebel slave Curzon be the right choice?


Monday, January 14, 2013

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Warning: Mature readers only due to the subject matter of this fictional account of one eleven year old boy under the sadistic rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975.
Patricia McCormick has written a compelling account of what it took to survive under the brutal upheaval in Cambodia by a group who called themselves the Khmer Rouge. Not knowing the true nature of this radical revolutionary communist group, Arn’s town obeys orders to evacuate to the country for three days. No one understands they will never see their homes again. Families will be destroyed.  Children will be separated from their parents. Men will be separated from the women. All will be forced to work in the Killing Fields.

Arn-Chorn Pond survived. It is his story which Patricia McCormick has recreated in Never Fall Down. Arn’s ability to make himself “invisible” at times to adjust to the many different leaders, to figure a way to be invaluable whether it be as a messenger or a player of the movement’s military music are some of the ways he gets by. His story is filled with angst. This historical fiction piece is recommended for mature student readers only.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

Doug Swieteck is the youngest son in a family of three boys. His older brother Lucas is serving in Vietnam. Chris is two years older than Doug and is merciless in his torment of Doug. Doug’s father is verbally and emotionally abusive- a very selfish, emotionally needy father. Luckily, Doug’s mother is loving and supportive.
When Doug’s family is forced to move out of New York City to a small town, Marysville, when Doug’s dad loses his job, Doug detests everything about his new circumstances. Everybody knows everyone else’s business in Marysville!

Doug meets Lil Spicer. Her dad owns the local grocery and is in need of a delivery boy on Saturday mornings.
Will Doug be able to adjust to his new school? Can he survive the treatment by his physical education teacher recently back from Vietnam? Will Doug find other adults who can help him navigate school and life in Marysville?

Despite the treatment of Doug by his father, this is a heartwarming story which both girls and boys should enjoy.

I Funny by James Patterson

Jamie Grimm is a comedian. He’s also a middle school student who has been adopted by relatives who are without the least bit of humor. Jamie’s arch nemesis is none other than his new step brother--Stevie Kosgrov.  Jamie jokingly refers to his new parents as the Smiley’s.

Jamie is in a wheelchair.  His dad’s brother, his Uncle Frankie, encourages Jamie to enter a comedy contest at the Ronkonkoma Comedy Club in Long Island.
Will Jamie be able to overcome his fear of choking up on stage? Will Stevie and his two thug friends really throw Jamie out of his wheelchair and dare to steal it? Will Jamie ever reveal what happened to him and his real family?

Read this very humorous account of a boy who bravely learns to face his fears.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Jack isn’t like most eleven-year olds.  His mom has “spinning” episodes when her mind spins out of control because she fails to take her medication properly.  She has one of these “episodes” when Jack and she are on vacation at Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.  Jack wakes up in his small Hubba tent to find his mother has left him alone at the campsite.  When he gets his wits about him, he phones her cell phone and leaves a message, “Where are you?”  His mom never responds to his call.
Jack fends for himself--desperate to keep this abandonment from an authority figure.  He fears his mom will be arrested and he will be permanently removed from her care.  He has no one else who can take him in as his mom has told Jack his grandmother can’t be trusted.
But how does an 11 year-old without any money survive by himself so far from home?  Will he resort to stealing food?  Lying?  Will anyone help him?  And just where has his mother spun away to this time?

Small as an Elephant is a truly delightful, dear story of a young boy struggling to protect his mother yet fending for himself.

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

Laurel has a beautiful name. It means “stays green forever.”  The plant laurel will be green even in the middle of winter- -giving hope for the spring.

Laurel’s family in Pass Christian, Mississippi suffered a tremendous loss when her mother and her grandmother died in a hurricane.

Now it is just Laurel, her dedicated father and her much younger brother Jesse Jr. When Laurel and her family move to Galilee, Laurel meets Kaylee and T-Boom.  Laurel and Kaylee are both cheerleaders--full of life as 15 year olds.  T-Boom is the captain of the basketball team.  When he introduces Laurel to “Moon” (Meth), she is instantly transported to a state of mind where she doesn’t’ have to deal with her family’s losses.  Her drug use spirals out of control.

Will her father’s efforts to save her, keep Laure off Moon? Will his prayers and the church’s efforts reach her in time to save her life?
Read this sensitive portrayal of drug addiction--Beneath a Meth Moon-- gone awry to find out.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Georges (pronounced as if the “s” is silent at the end of his name) has had to move with his mom and dad from a house to an apartment in Brooklyn.  His dad has lost his job and decided to start his own company.  Georges’ mom is a nurse.

At the apartment building he meets a rather strange family.  Candy (aged 10), Safer (Georges’ age) and Pigeon--an older boy and their much laid back “bohemian” parents who have home schooled the kids.
Safer befriends Georges.  He has a “spy club.”  He teaches Georges about making observations of people, the tracking of people’s daily habits, etc. to scope out potential problem people in their building. Georges stops playing along with Safer’s ideas when he suggests breaking into and entering the mysterious Mr. X’s apartment when he is away.

Georges has problems at school. Two relentless bullies, Dallas and Carter,  are making his life at school miserable. His standard response to them is to not respond; he just takes it. This is not the best way to deal with bullies.

Will Georges’ new friend Safer succeed in finding out about the mysterious Mr. X?  Will Georges’ parents have to intervene to end the incessant bullying at school?

Read Liar and Spy to find out.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein

Code Name Verity tells the story of two best friends in England during WWII. Maddie is a feisty, mechanically inclined, talented girl with her heart set on being a pilot. Queenie is the multi-lingual, very smart spy.
Their lives become entwined in many ways before the mission that eventually sends them to France.  When their tail wing is damaged by anti-aircraft fire, Maddie makes Queenie parachute.  Neither knows whether the other survives. 
Does Queenie land safely?  Does Maddie succeed in bringing the Lysander aircraft down safely without the tail wing?  Will either of them be able to survive in the French countryside where the Gestapo is firmly entrenched?
Read this historical fiction piece to find out what it takes to survive in war torn hostile France. This title is recommended for mature readers who can follow a complicated plot.