Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

This novel is set in Tanzania, Africa in current day.  Habo is thirteen and the narrator of the story.

“Mother and I have always been like the two posts of a door frame, unable to move closer or farther away, and the emptiness that sits between us is the shape of my missing father.”

Habo’s father left the family as soon as he saw his fourth child – a “ghost child”- albino--born in a country where everyone has deep brown skin. Habo’s two other brothers are hostile to him.  Both brothers have to work extra hard in the coffee plantation to earn money for the family’s existence.  Habo’s fair skin and his ultra-sensitive eyes make it difficult for him to do much work outside due to sunburn and the blistering of his fair skin.

When his mother can no longer pay the rent for the farm where they live, the family travels a great distance to seek help from his mother’s sister’s family. In Mwanza where her sister lives, there is little room for extra guests, yet they are allowed to stay there until the mother can make enough money to locate somewhere on their own.

Habo and his family are totally unprepared to learn that it won’t be safe for the family to stay in Mwanza. The problem is quite dire.  Any albino is being hunted down, killed, and the body parts are being sold as good luck pieces. Even albinos who have lived long lives in Mwanza are being butchered in their homes by men much like the poachers of animals who kill endangered animals for their ivory tusks or their horns.

In the small home of his aunt, they arrange a hiding place for Habo behind stacks of corn. Here he spends his days while the rest go out to work or school. Only his youngest nephew is at home with him. When one of the animal poachers finds Habo, Habo knows he must flee or be the next albino killed. His is a hallowing tale of escape and then of the redeeming of his life in a totally new city.

What will Habo’s family do now to survive? How will they protect him? Read Golden Boy to find out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Far Far Away by Tom McNeil

Far Far Away begins thus:

“What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy (Jeremy Johnson Johnson), a girl (Ginger Boultinghouse), and a ghost.  The boy possessed uncommon qualities, the girl was winsome and daring, and the ancient ghost (the teller of this fairy tale) intentions were good.”

The ancient ghost lived once as a mortal man known as Jacob Grimm.  Yes, the very Grimm who along with his brother Wilhelm wrote Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Jacob, it seems, after he died went to Zwischenraum- the space between death and the afterlife.

Jeremy Johnson Johnson can hear the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm.  For that reason, “Jeremy hears strange whisperings” are taunted about him.  In the town of Never Better, Jeremy Johnson Johnson is definitely an outcast.

“There is yet another player in this cast, the Finder Of Occasions, someone who moved freely about the village, someone who watched and waited, someone who watched and waited, someone with tendencies so tortured and malignant that I could scarcely bring myself to them….”

Jeremy’s mother has run away.  His father has shut himself in his bedroom--forgoing of any normal life.  Their bookstore and home are being foreclosed.

If Jeremy Johnson Johnson can possibly win in the TV game, Uncommon Knowledge, there might be a hope for him and his father.

If you like fantasy and fairytales, this will be an enjoyable read.

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

If you are interested in fiction about the Holocaust, this historical fiction novel set in Norway during World War II might interest you.  It surely interested me as I had no knowledge about the Nazi occupation of Norway in 1940.  At one point 400,000 Nazi soldiers occupied Norway!  In fact, the Norwegian people were very worried that even after the war was over in 1945, these forces would still control Norway.

The story revolves around a fourteen year old character named Espen.  He has friends and plays on a competitive soccer team.

When the Nazis invade on April 9, 1940, the Norwegian army is only able to hold them until June 9, when Norway capitulates.  Despite this, nearly all Norwegian citizens conspired against the Nazis and committed resistance against their enemy by spying, by meeting secretly, by hoarding food, and other acts.  Espen decides he will aid the effort by carrying secret messages which will help the allies locate where the Nazis are located.  The work is extremely dangerous yet Espen perseveres for the resistance effort. 

It is interesting to see which of Espen’s soccer buddies decide to actually join the enemy.  They are the very students who would bully others at school or on the team.
Norway’s bitter winters and mountainous terrain are a great setting for the adventures that Espen is involved in.

When you realize that the character of Espen (Erling Storrusten) is based on an actual boy from this period of tumult, you appreciate the book all the more.

Read Shadow on the Mountain to find out more about this period in history.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

It’s not easy being the younger brother of a high achieving older brother who is great looking,  tall, athletic, and smart.

Nate Foster is thirteen while his brother Anthony is sixteen.  Nate doesn’t like sports, is barely five feet four inches tall, and prefers singing and acting to sports.  Nate is constantly under attack from bullies at school. 

Luckily for Nate his best friend Libby appreciates his theatrical abilities and makes life bearable in Jankburg, PA.

When Libby finds out there is going to be an open casting call for E.T. The Musical in New York City, together they hatch a bold plan for Nate to take a Greyhound bus into the Port Authority in NYC so he can get to the casting call while his parents are away celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary.

One stumbling block is Nate’s small size and his young looks.  Not to worry!  Libby has figured out all the details that Nate will need to use to navigate this daring escape from Jankburg, PA to the Big Apple.

What adventures await Nate once he gets to New York City by himself? How do his plans change when his parents end up coming home early due to a serious sports injury for his older brother Anthony?

Read Better Nate than Ever to find out!

Note: Nate’s next adventure is Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Love….love….loved this book!  Why? The main character, Willow Chance, is so endearing, so innocent and so special.

Willow has such a unique perspective.  She is obviously very intelligent, yet she has many obsessive tendencies.  She also has trouble fully understanding social situations.

When her class is given a standardized test, Willow finishes before all others in a very short time.  Her score is perfect! Her teacher believes she has cheated.  Willow is referred to a counselor- Dell Duke. Dell is pretty dysfunctional himself. He does pick up on Willow’s genius, however.

When a life changing event occurs, Willow becomes completely changed.  She can’t speak. She stops counting by 7s.  She can’t function normally at all.

Read this book! Willow’s recovery is endearing!  Her effect on others who respond to her plight is well worth the read.