Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai & Patricia McCormick

Malala dedicates this book as follows: “To those children all over the world who have no access to education, to those teachers who bravely continue teaching, and to anyone who has fought for their basic human rights and education.”

I was very fortunate to be the first one to read this powerful story of the youngest girl to win the Nobel Peace Prize. There are two versions of Malala’s autobiography. We own the Young Reader’s Edition.

Until October 2012 Malala and her family lived in the Swat Valley of Pakistan in a city called Mingora. Hers is a close-knit family. Malala is the oldest of three children with two younger brothers, Khushal and Atal. Her father is well respected in the community as he is a teacher and the founder of three schools. Malala’s mother is friendly with all the women in their community. Although she doesn’t read herself, she highly values education. From these strong family ties, Malala has an insatiable desire to learn.

Malala’s father founded a school for girls in Mingora where she attended and excelled to first in her class. Malala describes her life before the Taliban took control of her region as similar to most teens—friends at school, books and movies she adored, fights with her brothers, wanting to sleep in late in the mornings, etc. Tourists would travel to the Swat Valley due to its beauty—tall mountains, lush green hills, and crystal-clear waters. She loved living there and attending school.

All that changed when the earthquake (7.6 on the Richter scale) of 8 October 2005  devastated the mountain villages. The government of Pakistan was slow to arrive to help the victims, but rescue workers from a conservative religious group called Tehrik-e-nifaz-e-Sharia-eMohammadi (TNSM) or the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law lead by Sufi Mohammad and his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah did. Mullahs from this group preached that the earthquake was a warning from God. If the people of Swat Valley did not change their ways it could happen again.

This is how terrorism arrived in Mingora. The group first endeared themselves to the people and then threatened them with severe punishment if they did not abide by sharia law. Women must never leave their houses unless accompanied by a male relative. All women must be fully covered with a burqa. People must stop listening to music, stop going to movies, stop dancing. “Radio Mullah” would broadcast this type of strict adherence to sharia law daily. Finally, “Radio Mullah” (Maulana Fazlullah) denounced schools for girls. All schools must be closed. This step was just too much for Malala and for her father. She bravely started speaking out.

On October 9, 2012, the Taliban made good on their threat to finally silence Malala. A gunman fired on her as she sat on her school bus (a truck with bench seats in it.

Everyone needs to read this autobiography to understand the courage of Malala’s family and the price they paid. Also, people need to be educated as to how terrorism takes hold in a community.

I highly recommend this book!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Fourteen year-old Tom Raines has led a rather unconventional life. His father Neil is a gambler who drifts from casino to casino in the hopes of winning enough to quit this life-style. Tom knows better. His mother has already deserted them. His dad’s drinking is clearly interfering with his judgment. The only one making any money is Tom- an ace at virtual reality gaming.

When Tom meets Heather in his virtual school- Rosewood Reformatory Sim- he can’t believe his good fortune. Heather invites Tom to a video chat the next day. She coyly says, “What network address will you be at tomorrow, Tom?” Little does Tom realize that Heather will share the network address with General Terry Marsh who has been trying to track down Tom to become part of the military.

World War III is being waged. Combatants control drones remotely. As General Marsh explains to Tom, “But the Russo-Chinese military went a step further and gave human beings active control over their combat machines. Strategists. Unconventional thinkers. Risk takers. Mavericks. Young ones because teenagers have certain attributes critical to this type of warfare. So now we too have young people on the front lines, young people playing a critical role in the war effort.”

Neil grudgingly signed the papers that allow Tom to travel with General Marsh to the Pentagonal Spire. But the general hasn’t been completely forthcoming. Neural processors are installed in all plebs (young military recruits). If Tom goes along with General Marsh’s plans, will he ever be the same? The chance is too great to take.

Tom begins to back away when suddenly Heather appears wearing the insignia of the intrasolar fighters.

What will Tom decide to do?  Will this be the biggest gamble of his life?

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

This is a dear story. Animal lovers will especially like it. The animals in the story can talk to each other!

Ivan is a silverback gorilla living in the Big Top Mall off of Exit 18. Since he has been living there since he was a baby gorilla, he is used to captivity.

Stella, an aging elephant, also lives at the Big Top Mall. Her memory- being an elephant- is much better than Ivan’s. One of her feet is infected causing her a great deal of discomfort. She remembers life before cages.

Mack owns the animals as well as the mall. Times are hard. Money is scarce. The animals’ care is not the best as a result.

Mack discovers Ivan’s ability to “draw” objects. A money making idea occurs to him. Frame Ivan’s creations and sell them at the gift shop.

When Ruby- a baby elephant- is purchased by Mack to create more interest thus increasing profits, Stella knows how dire the situation is for Ruby. Her life will never be the same.

George, the custodian for the mall, and his daughter Julia prove to be “good” humans as the animals soon find out.

Read this dear novel if you enjoy animal stories.

Broken by C.J. Lyons

Scarlet wants to be a normal high school student. Her health problems have prevented anything but a normal life. Finally, her dad and stepmother have given her a chance to attend a week of high school at Smithfield High School where her mother works as the nurse- Nurse Killiam.

Each chapter in this book records her struggle for each day of that week.

Scarlet is suffering from a terminal disease called Long QT which affects her ability to breathe and makes her heart race. “I am very aware that I ‘m taking my life in my hands by coming to school. Being normal might just kill me.”

Scarlet clearly has led such a sheltered life that she is unprepared for the taunting and bullying which immediately becomes apparent.

Scarlet doesn’t know whom to trust, but when Jordan, Celina and Nessa rise to her defense in the cafeteria, raising the ire of the jocks, Scarlet feels this might not have been the best idea.

Scarlet’s biology teacher, Ms. Blakely, assigns a project to track a medical family history and identify any possible genetic traits and then analyze them. A classmate, Anthony Carrera, asks to be Scarlet’s partner.

Anthony’s (Tony’s) interest in Scarlet’s disease might just save her life!

This story was compelling! The author C.J. Lyons is a former pediatric emergency room doctor so the medical explanations are spot on. As a reader, you are routing for Scarlet- hoping against hope that she can finally feel like a normal girl.