Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

I loved the dedication in the front of this book: "For the third and fourth graders at Bethany Community School, who inspired me to write, and whose everyday mysteries and spontaneity gave me a story to tell." I liked it because I didn’t realize that the author had taught in Bethany, CT before moving to North Adams, MA.

Mr. Terupt , a new fifth grade teacher, makes quite an impression at Snow Hill School in Connecticut. At first Peter, the class prankster and troublemaker, thinks Mr. Terupt will be a pushover. He’s new after all! He figures it will be easy to rile him.

Alexia has been bullying other students and just being plain mean for the past several years. It has always worked to intimidate kids or lie to turn her enemies against each other. Will this strategy work for her this year?

Jessica is new to the school having moved from California. She is bright, sensitive, and perceptive. How will she make friends in this new school?
Luke is the brain in the class and rises to the challenge of the first math project “Dollar Words” that Mr. Terupt assigns. Danielle is very shy. She doesn’t know how to stand up for herself. Jeffrey hates school. He doesn’t reveal much about himself to anyone. Anna’s mother’s mistake early in her life has carried into Anna’s life. She is perceived as an outcast.

Each of these unique students enters a journal entry for each month of the school year with their perceptions and reflections on how their new teacher conducts himself. Despite their very different personalities and needs, Mr. Terupt seems to effectively deal with all of them.
This is a dear story! I absolutely loved it! I look forward to reading the sequel Mr. Terupt Falls.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

At fourteen Sage is a bold thief! His latest prize--a roast that will feed all the kids in the orphanage!  When a man trips him, the roast goes flying while Sage falls at the feet of a nobleman named Conner.
Conner has quite an evil intent.Conner already has three boys he has kidnapped or purchased.  Sage becomes the fourth.  Conner’s plan is to take the boys to his expansive lands and manor house complete with a dungeon.
The boys are terrorized to see the boy named Lattamer killed by one of Conner’s men when he is told he can go free. Conner’s master plan is to train the boys so he can pass the one most worthy off as the lost Prince Jaron.
Connor has a strict schedule of “lessons” the boys must accomplish.  Based on their success and his ability to control them, he will decide who he will pass off as the false prince whom he will control on the throne.
Sage is different from the other two boys –Tobias and Roden.  He is defiant, hard to manage, cunning and surprisingly manipulative.
Will Conner be able to mold any of these orphans into a prince who can convince the country he should rule?
What will happen to the boys who are not chosen? Will Conner’s men kill them as he did Lattamer?
Read The False Prince to find out!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Under Siege! Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg by Andrea Warren

The Civil War raged from 1861-1865. One of the most important battles was fought at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
General Pemberton commanded the confederate (Rebel) forces while Ulysses Grant commanded the Union (Yankees).

A defeat of the confederacy at Vicksburg, due to its strategic position on the Mississippi River, could turn the tide of the war in the North’s favor.
What is unique about this book is that three children, two from the South and one from the North, actually wrote memoirs of their experiences during the siege of Vicksburg.

Lucy McRae and Willie Lord were both children during the battle.  Lucy would watch the battle from her second floor porch or from Sky Parlor Hill.  Willie Lord’s father was an Episcopalian priest in Vicksburg. Residents of Vicksburg, including Lucy and Willie, spent days and nights in hastily dug caves.  Lucy was partially buried when a cave roof fell on her as she slept.
Frederick Grant was only twelve when he accompanied his famous father, Ulysses S. Grant.  Fred was present at every battle and witnessed the surrender after the 47 day siege to starve the southern army out of Vicksburg.  He was shot in the leg, suffered a horrific infection- almost losing his leg. Dysentery and typhoid fever further weakened Fred.

Andrea Warren’s book draws from primary source document research.  With abundant archival photos and paintings from 1863, this book is easily accessible to young people.


The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Leon Leyson’s memories of his life as a child in Poland prior to and during World War II comprise this very memorable memoir.

Born Leib Lejzon in the rural village in northeastern Poland, Leib was the youngest of five children.  His ancestors had lived in the small town for many generations for more than two hundred years.  His parents were hardworking.  His father worked in a bottle making factory.  His mother tended to the five children and the household.

Leon’s memories of his relatively carefree life before World War II reveal a very poor family with only a two room house- one living area and one bedroom where all seven family members slept- the parents and their five children.  There was no indoor plumbing in this village.  Electricity was unheard of in their town until Leon was ten when they had one light bulb which illuminated their living area.
Leon’s father moves to Krakow, Poland when the bottle factory relocates there.  He works for years to save money to move his family there.  Rumors circulate about Adolf Hitler, but no one believes he will invade Poland.  In 1939, Poland’s army capitulates after just one week.

Freedoms for Jews are taken away little by little.  Because Leon’s father has a work permit, his family is spared deportation many times.

Oscar Schindler purchases the factory.  A member of the Nazi party himself, the workers don’t know what will become of themselves under his ownership. 

Will Leon’s family’s work permits be honored? What kind of perseverance will be required of them to survive?  How does the title The Boy on the Wooden Box apply to Leon?
Read this excellent memoir to find out.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

"I register every emotion, every relationship, and every subtext. If someone is angry or sad or disappointed, I see it like a neon sign. There's no way to explain how; I just do. For a long time I thought everyone did." (Twelve-year-old Mila describing her special ability to sense and "read" nuances that others miss.)
 It's been 8 years since Mila's father Gil has seen his best friend Matthew in America. When Gil receives a phone call before their planned trip to America from Matthew's wife Suzanne that Matthew has suddenly disappeared--just left the house as if he were going to work but never shows up there--Gil decides he and Mila should continue with their plans to fly from London to upper state New York to try to help Suzanne solve her husband's disappearance.
Mila senses immediately the unhappiness in their home:
"As we walk through the house, I collect images like a camera clicking away. I can barely remember what Matthew looks like and there are no pictures of him to remind me. No picture of him and Suzanne or their wedding day, or him with Gabriel. . .First impressions? This is not a happy house."
Where has Matthew gone? Why has he left his beautiful baby Gabriel? Why didn't he take Honey, his beloved dog with him? Is he dead? Did he commit some horrible crime? Has he messed up his life so badly that he can't face living?

Partials: Book 1 in the Partial Sequence by Dan Wells

“Newborn #485GA18M died on June 30, 2076, at 6:07 in the morning. She was three days old. The average lifespan of a human child, in the time since the Break, was fifty-six hours.” (Page 1)

It has been eleven years since 2065 when The Break occurred. Few people remain. The RM virus was released by the Partials- a group of engineered beings which resemble humans. Only those humans immune to the virus are alive.
Kira is 16 years old. She has been in training as a medic on the maternity ward in the hospital. Every baby being born since The Break has died from the virus within days of its birth. At this rate Kira realizes the human race will be extinct if a cure isn’t found.
The group of people living on what was Long Island includes Kira, her boyfriend, Marcus, friends Jayden and his sister Madison as well as others. The Senate of the East Meadow community where they live has declared the Hope Act. This act is about to lower the mandatory age at which one must become pregnant to hopefully increase the likelihood of having a baby who might survive.
An opposing faction known as The Voice is rising up to fight the current government order. 
Kira hatches a plan to venture into what was Manhattan to capture one of the engineered beings known as Partials to see if something in their DNA might provide a cure for the RM virus. Her plan is filled with danger but seems like the only possible way to possibly save humanity.
Will she and her friends succeed? Read Partials to find out.

In Too Deep by Coert Voorhees

Very suspenseful!

 In Too Deep is cleverly written! It is filled with suspense. Some chapters end leaving readers on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what might happen to Annie.
Annie is a freshman in high school.  She is gifted in many ways. Her mom owns a dive shop.  Annie is a master diver. She gives lessons to people wanting to learn scuba diving.  Additionally, Annie is intrigued by diving for sunken treasures.

When a junior boy named Josh Restock comes into the shop, she is thrilled as she has been very attracted to him at school. Josh wants to learn how to scuba dive.  His cavalier attitude towards learning the seriousness of how dangerous this is for the novice diver has Annie worried.  Sure enough, her instincts are correct.  She ends up rescuing him on his first attempt.  She has to call 911 when he isn’t breathing.  Thankfully Josh survives his first attempt.
Annie, Josh, another girl from school named Katy and her brother Nate decide to go on a humanitarian trip to Mexico for Borders Unlimited which is being sponsored by one of their teachers at school, Mr. Alvarez. The trip to Cozumel off the coast of Mexico is arranged to “supposedly” help a school.

Once there, the students realize they have been tricked. The school only needs repainting. Alvarez has been less than truthful.  He wants Annie to complete a dangerous dive- 135 feet down- to attempt to find a hidden object which will be the key to finding a very precious lost treasure- the Golden Jaguar.  However, the man Alvarez trusts- Wayo- is actually using Alvarez and Annie.  Devil’s Throat, the narrow coral cave, can only be entered by someone as slender and thin as Annie.

Will Annie survive the daring dive to Devil’s Throat? Will Wayo follow the group back to California? Will Alvarez be fired? Will anyone find the Golden Jaguar?