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Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper
ISBN-13: 978-0689842092
Simon Pulse, New York, 1999
320 p.

GENRE: General Fiction, Romance

TEASER: Can Romi and Julio avoid ending up like Shakespeare’s tragic couple?

SUMMARY: Romiette (Romi) Cappelle has been having dreams of drowning in water and fire. She meets Julio Montague in a chat room and they instantly hit it off. Julio has just moved to Cincinnati from Corpus Christi, Texas because of gang problems. In these dreams, there is the voice of a young man she does not recognize calling her. The evildoer, a local gang, opposes the relationship between Romi and Julio. They threaten the couple to break it off. Now Romi, Julio, and their friends must find a way for them to not end up like the classic couple in Shakespeare’s tragedy.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in third-person perspective and it is switched off mainly between Romi and Julio. However, there are instances where the story is told from outside the couple’s perspective. Unsurprisingly, the main theme and conflict in this book deals with the problems faced by biracial couples. they face challenges from a local gang and even their parents. Julio’s father doesn’t approve of his son’s relationship with Romiette because his first lover was killed by African-American gang members.

i appreciated that the story was not a mirror image of the original tale. I liked that they were learning about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet while their own story unfolds. I am not a fan of sappy romances so some of the book felt a little too cheesy for me. However, regardless of my personal feelings towards it, I feel it the language wasn’t overly flowery or romantic considering that it is a romance about star-crossed lovers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon M. Draper is an African-American New York Times bestselling author and teacher. She began writing after a student asked her to submit an essay to a magazine contest. She was awarded $5000 and her story One Small Touch was published. She describes herself as a creator, visionary, and poet.

Draper has won numerous awards for her work. She is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scot King Literary Award. She has also been honored as the National Teacher of the Year.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://sharondraper.com/

READING LEVEL: 15+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might object to the gang violence in this novel.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Shakespearian Literature

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel this retelling stands up to the original Shakespearian tragedy?

Do you feel that the ending was the right choice for a modern retelling given the outcome of the original tale?

WHY INCLUDED: I chose this book because I love redone classics. I feel that it is a great way for teachers and librarians to get teens to relate to the literature. I also admire that it is about the problems faced by biracial relationships.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordanby Rick Riordan
ISBN-13: 978-0786838653
Hyperion Books, New York, 2010
400 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Mythology

TEASER: Percy Jackson’s biggest concern used to be trying to not get kicked out of school. Now he had ten days to safe his mother and stop war between the gods that would devastate the earth.

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson can’t seem to stay out of trouble. To make matters worse, he keeps getting attacked by mythical creatures. WHile on the run from various Greek monsters, Percy’s mother is captured by a Minotaur and taken to become a prisoner of Hades. Soon Percy is revealed to be the son of Poseidon. But someone is accusing Percy of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. Percy and his friends only have ten days to find and return Zeus’ lightning bolt and save Percy’s mother from being a permanent resident of the Underworld.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first-person perspective through the eyes of Percy Jackson. The characters are very lovable, even Ares bully daughter, Clarisse. The characters are very relatable and thoughtful. Percy deals with a lot of emotions in this first book, from the loss of his mother, the only parent he’s ever known, to the realization that his father is the infamous Greek sea-god. He goes through the expected feelings of anger and resentment towards his father and the other gods. This is something that a lot of the demigods go through. This resentment is part of the overall conflict of the series.

Riordan adds a modern twist to the drama of the Greek pantheon. He brings mythic creature like the satyr to life in characters like Percy’s best friend Grover. Grover is a young satyr with bad skin, and affinity for eating coke cans, and is determined to get permission to go in search of the great Pan. These books are fun to read for adults and kids alike. They are filled with humor and fun bits of Greek mythology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: He is also author of the adult Tres Navarre series. He has also written The Heroes of Olympus, another series in the percy Jackson Universe, series and the Kane Chronicles. The Kane Chronicles focuses on Egyptian mythology. He also has helped develop many books in The 39 Clue series. His book The Lightning Thief was made into a motion picture in 2007. He lives with his wife and two sons in San Antonio, Texas.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx

READING LEVEL 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: This would be a fun series to read while learning about Greek mythology.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the use of Greek mythology in this book. How do you feel Riordan did at modernizing the Greek pantheon?

WHY INCLUDED: Even though the reading level for this book is rather young, I would recommend this series to older teens and adults. The Percy Jackson series is fun and unique. I think anyone who is a fan of Greek mythology would appreciate this book.

Game Informer Magazine
Published by GameStop Corp.
First Issue: August 1991
Issue: Monthly

GENRE: Gaming News

TEASER: Game Informer is the best place to get the latest news and reviews on video games and gaming.

SUMMARY: Game Informer is a monthly magazine featuring news, strategies, and reviews of video games and gaming consoles. This is the most circulated magazine. It has nearly 3 million subscribers. The game reviews in Game Informer as extremely detailed. The game reviews are graded on a scale of 1-10 with quarter intervals, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. There are only a handful of games that have received a 10 score. Game Informer is also known for having very impressive graphics on the cover.

CRITIQUE: I am perhaps slightly biased when it comes to Game Informer because I am myself a subscriber. I feel it offers a large variety whether you are a casual gamer or a professional. I am not a serious gamer but I enjoy learning about them. I get most of my gaming news from Game Informer. There are also sometimes fun facts and quizzes inside. A few months ago there was a “Which Video Game Character Are You?” quiz. It’s now tacked to my wall. I’ll admit that I don’t understand some of the language due to the fact that I am not a serious gamer, but the articles and reviews seem clear and very thorough.

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: GameStop is a corporation geared towards video game and entertainment software retailing. The have 6,500 retail stores in the world. It was founded in 1984 as Babbage’s. They merged with EB Games in 2005. They have stores in Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, France, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Australia, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Aside from selling video games, they sell game accessories, and game strategy guides.

WEBSITE: http://www.gameinformer.com/

READING LEVEL: General Adult

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: N/A

WHY INCLUDED: Video games are very popular with teenagers and adults now a days. I felt this was a great title for them to learn about gaming news.

Down to the Bone by Myra Lazara Dole
ISBN-13: 978-0060843106
HarperTeen, New York, 2008
384 p.

GENRE: LGBT Fiction

TEASER: When Lara gets kicked out of her Catholic school and gets kicked out of her home for loving a girl, she tries to deny her sexuality. But because Lara is free spirited and has wonderful, supportive friends, she just might find happiness and love.

SUMMARY: When Lara gets kicked out of her Catholic school because she’s dating a girl, the last thing she needs is for her strict Cuban mother to kick her out of her home unless she reveals who her girlfriend is. To make matters worse, Lara’s girlfriend is shipped off to Cuba and forced to marry a man. Fortunately, Lara has a great best friend who gives her a place to stay. Through love, friendship, and heartbreak Lara learns who her true family is and how to be herself.

CRITIQUE: The book is told in a first-person point of view through Lara. The language is very casual. Because this book is set in Miami’s Cuban community, there is a lot of broken English used in the novel. This adds to the authenticity of the setting. There is a translation section at the back of the book. I understood most of the spanish; however, if you do not know any Spanish, it might get a bit confusing. This might have been prevented by putting the translation section at the front. This is a problem I have seen with a few books I have read, both adult and young adult. This is a minor complaint, if that, and does not affect the overall quality of the book.

I really enjoyed the books positive spirit. The author gives a very positive light to this story. Even when Lara is kicked out of her home and forbidden from seeing her brother, the mood and language of the book still feel cheerful and upbeat. I also appreciated seeing an LGBT character who has so much love and support. Her mother is of course not supportive and refuses to understand her daughter. However, I was very moved by Soli and Viva’s characters. They opened up their hearts and their home to her without question. You see very early on that they are her true family.

You certainly see development from Lara’s character. Lara is in denial that she is a lesbian in the beginning. She can admit that she is in love with another girl but she doesn’t think that makes her gay. Once she realizes that she is only attracted to girls, she still tries to deny that she is a lesbian for fear that it will mean she never gets to see her little brother again. She dates a guy in order to convince her mother that she is not a lesbian. The pressure to be someone she is not becomes too much, and she must tell her mother that she will have to learn to accept her as she is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Myra Lazara Dole is a Cuban American author who was born in Havana and grew up in Miami. Like her character Lara, she was kicked out of her school when she was thirteen for a confiscated note written by her girlfriend.

Aside from being an author, she has been a hairdresser, a dancer, a landscape designer, and library assistant. She has also been a Lambda Literary judge. Down to the Bone has made the ALA Best Books for YA 2009. It is also on Booklist’s Top Ten Novels, ALA Rainbow List, and CCBC Top Choices.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://mayraldole.wordpress.com/

READING LEVEL: 15+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some might object to the portrayal of a homosexual relationship or transsexuality.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: LGBT Studies

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Parts of this novel were adapted from Dole’s real life. Do you think that made the writing more honest and touching?

WHY INCLUDED: I found this book while looking for LGBT novels with non-Caucasian characters. Dole’s novels is one of the few LGBT books with Latin-American characters.

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
ISBN-13: 978-0786838608
Hyperion Books, New York, 2009
304 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: Leela is a twelve-year-old widow. As a widow she is an outcast. But changes is looming in early 1900s India. Will Leela be able to make a life for herself after all?

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Leela has been doted on by her family all her life. She pays little attention to her country’s growing unrest. There is no point for her to. Her future has been mapped out for her since her engagement to Ramanlal at the age of two. They have been married since she was nine and soon she will move into his house and start her new life as his wife. But all of that changes when Ramanlal is bitten by a snake and Leela is made a widow. As a widow she is an outcast and is not allowed to leave the house. She must only wear a black sari and shave her head. Leela goes from being the prize of her family to the seat of their shame. But the activist Ghandhi is trying to take back their country and change the rigid social system that has been in place for centuries. maybe Leela will have a chance to fight for her rights and her future after all.

CRITIQUE: This story is told through the eyes of Leela in first-person perspective. Leela’s character develops quite a bit in this novel. She starts off as a naive girl who only cares about pretty bangles and sari. She is in one of the higher castes and pays little attention the inequalities in her country. When her husband dies, she is forced to see what it is like at the bottom of the social structure. She learns how to open her eyes to the ill-treatment of widows and the rising tensions between the British and her countrymen. She is able to take control of her future and ask her father to let her take the exams that will allow her to be educated.

Sheth’s prose are rich with Indian culture. There are however a good deal of Hindi words used. There is a translation section in the back of the book. I mentioned similar problems with Down to the Bone. I feel if might have helped to be at the front of the book. This is probably just a personal preference. I do feel that the language adds a richness and sets the atmosphere for the novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen to attend college at Iowa State University. She majored in microbiology. After college she worked as a microbiologist at Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Some of her other titles include: Blue Jasmine, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Monsoon Afternoon, and My Dadima Wears a Sari. The story of Keeping Corner is based on Kashmira’s aunt’s life.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/my_weblog/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Women’s Studies, Indian Culture

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the changes Leela goes through as she is forced to take a look at the social structure when she finds herself at the bottom.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included another cultural perspective in this database and I came across this book in my local library.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
ISBN-10: 0061450545
HarperCollins, New York, 2008
416 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Werewolves, Witches, Necromancy

TEASER: Chloe’s seeing dead people, so her family has her sent to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens. But something sinister is going on at Lyle House.

SUMMARY: Chloe Saunders is a pretty typical high school student. That is until she states seeing ghosts. Her family sends her away to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teenagers. Here she meets and interesting group of teenagers who are all there for different reasons. When Chloe’s roommate mysteriously disappears the staff tell her that she went home. But Chloe know this is a lie because she sees ghosts, and her roommate is now one of them.

CRITIQUE: The story is written through the eyes of Chloe Saunders in first-person perspective. This is book one in the Darkest Powers Trilogy. It does end on a cliff-hanger. I actually ran out and bout the next book the minute I finished this one. I would have bought the third installment had it been available at the time. It is a highly addictive series that will keep you reading well into the night. It is a fast-paced story with lots of plot twists.

The characters are nicely developed. Armstrong gives dimention to all of her characters, even the bully Tori. Chloe’s character is slowly gaining confidence and courage throughout the series. She is very shy and stammers when she’s nervous. She is very uncomfortable with her gift and would give anything to have her life back. At the end of this book she is slowly starting to understand her powers and trying to not be afraid of them. She is also betrayed by someone she trusts and is left very confused at the end of this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelley Armstrong is a New York Times bestselling Canadian author. She says she grew up in a typical middle-class family in Ontario and is the oldest of four siblings. She is the author of the popular adult Otherworld Series. She has been writing horror and fantasy stories since she was a child. Although she primarily writes fantasy books, she has written two crime novels.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/

READING LEVEL: 13+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: People main want to challenge this book because it contains witchcraft, wizardry, and necromancy.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss how Kelley Armstrong’s world is different from other books in the genre.

WHY INCLUDED: This is one of my favorite young adult fantasy series. I originally picked up the first novel because I was intrigued by the fact that the main character is a necromancer. I haven’t seen many characters of this sort in the young adult genre.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

GENRE: Encyclopedia

TEASER: The Encyclopedia Britannica is a world of information at your fingertips. Their headquarters is in Chicago, IL. A wide variety of topics are written on, such as: mathematics, science, art, health, history, music, literature, etc.

SUMMARY: Encyclopedia Britannica Online has more than 120,000 articles that are updated regularly. The print Encyclopedia Britannica is the oldest English language encyclopedia that is still in print.

CRITIQUE: There are a lot of maps and pictures to cut through some of the text. you have the option of using the search engine or browsing by category. You also have the option of narrowing your search by keywords or type of article, i.e. magazine. I preformed a test search on Leonardo da Vinci and received four pages of results. All in all I felt that Encyclopedia Britannica Online was efficient and serves the purpose quite nicely.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Encyclopedia Britannica has over 4,000 contributors for the articles found in print and online. Currently editorial staff of the Encyclopedia Britannica includes five senior editors and nine associate Editors. They are supervised by Dale Hoiberg and four others.

WEBSITE: http://www.britannica.com

GRADE LEVEL All

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Math, science, history, music, art, etc.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: N/A

WHY INCLUDED: I feel that Encyclopedia Britannica is a useful school resource for teenagers.

Tutor.com
Founded in 1998 by George Cigale

GENRE: Education and Study aides

TEASER: Get help with your homework online 24/7.

SUMMARY: Tutor.com is an online educational service used for homework assistance and career services. Students can use this site for help with studying, test preparation, essay writing, proofreading, homework problems, and various school projects. No need for an appointment. It is also available 24/7. There is also a mobile version for the iPhone and iPad.

CRITIQUE: This site seems very easy to use and convenient. I really like that people are available around the clock to help students. I also love the that the instructors can write out problems using tables. This makes it much easier for students with math problems. I wish I had known about this when I was in high school. I might have done better in Calculus.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: N/A

WEBSITE: http://www.tutor.com/

GRADE LEVEL K-12

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Mathamatics: Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus, Geometry and Statistics, English: Essay Writing, Grammar, and Literature, Science: Earth Science, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, Test Prep: State Standardized Tests, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, PST, SAT, ACT, and IB

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: N/A

WHY INCLUDED: Students cannot always get help at school. This site provides the necessary support they need in order to do well in school.

Easy A

Easy A Directed by Will Gluck
Written by Bert V. Royal
ASIN: B0036TGSIK
Released: 2010
Runtime: 92 minutes
Rated; PG-13

GENRE: Teen Comedy

TEASER: Olive lies about losing her virginity and suddenly she’s the school harlot. What does she do? Brands herself with a scarlet A and plays it up.

Summary: It all starts when Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) lies to her best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) to get out of a camping trip. He tells her she is dating a college boy. When Rhannon keeps pressuring her for information, she ends up lying about losing her virginity. Marianne (Amanda Bynes), a popular girl in charge of a religious abstinence group, overhears and her lie is suddenly going around the entire school. Suddenly she has social outcasts coming to her asking if she will lie about having sex with them. So she sews scarlet letters on all of her clothes to make a social statement and plays up the rumor. But eventually Olive wonders if anyone is ever going to treat her with respect. She’s losing friend, making enemies, and guys are treating her like garbage. It’s time for Olive to tell the truth.

CRITIQUE: The writing is witty and funny. The main character is quirky and comfortable with who she is. The main theme of the movie is female sexuality and the labels that are placed on girls who are sexually active. Olive acts out against this stereotype by perpetuating the image. If people are going to call her a slut, she’s going to take it and run with it. She’s not afraid of what people are saying about her at first. However, when all of the guys and some of her teachers start treating her badly Olive wonders if any of this was ever worth it.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR: Will Gluck is a film and television director, screenwriter, and producer. Other movies he has worked on are Fired Up and Friends with Benefits. The television series he has worked on are The John Larroquette Show, Grosse Pointe, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Luis, and The Loop. He says his favorite film is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Before Bert V. Royal wrote Easy A, he working in casting for Chappelle’s Show and Third Watch. He claims to have written the entire screenplay, except for the last ten pages, for Easy A in five days.

WEBSITE: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/easya/

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some might object the to sexual situations in this film.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: It could be shown in conjunction with reading The Scarlet Letter.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: What would you do if everyone at school treated you like you were promiscuous because of something someone else said?

WHY INCLUDED: This is one of my favorite teen films because the main character is sassy and confident with herself.

Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennet
ISBN-13: 978-0385740067
Ember, New York, 2011
272 p.

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

TEASER: Lara has the perfect life: popularity, beauty, and the perfect boyfriend and family. THen she gained weight and everything changed.

SUMMARY: Lara Ardeche’s life was perfect. She was popular, she had great friends, the perfect family, a wonderful boyfriend, was made homecoming queen, and she was thin. When a mysterious rash appears, Lara starts taking medication in order to control the intense itching. But the medication causes her to gain weight. She tries everything to loss weight, even taking laxatives and starving herself. The more weight she gains the more her life seems to fall apart. She soon realizes that her perfect family was never really perfect at all. Can Lara learn to love herself again?

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first-person perspective through Lara Ardeche. This novel is painfully honest. As Lara gains more and more weight her language because more and more self deprecating and hat filled. While reading this book, I often wondered if we would ever get to a point where the word “fat wasn’t used with such intense hatred and disgust. The characters are very well thought out. No one is perfect in this book and I really appreciated that. In the beginning, everything looks wonderful on the surface to Lara. Her mother is beautiful, her father is handsome, and they are both still in love with each other. This of course was just one of the facades that Lara learned about once she started to gain weight.

Lara’s parents are extremely concerned with appearances. In fact, Lara’s mother ignores her husband’s cheating in order to keep up appearances as the perfect couple. Her mother is also extremely pressuring when it comes to Lara losing weight. her father as well. They both refuse to believe that Lara is trying to lose weight and accuse her of sneaking food. Her father acts cold towards her as she gains weight. He eventually loses interest in his family’s problems and leaves.

I really appreciated the fact that the story didn’t end perfectly. Not everything was resolved. We never know if she and her boyfriend Jett worked things out. We don’t know for sure what happens between Lara’s parents. Even her self image is left questioning. She is making progress at the end of the book to stop looking at herself like she’s fat. She is slowly starting to realize that she has to learn how to be happy with herself jut the way she is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cherie Bennet is an actress, novelist, director, playwright, newspaper columnist, singer, and television writer. She was the scriptwriter for daytime shows such as: As the World Turns, The Young and the Restless, and Smallville. She is also the author of A Heart Divided, Anne Frank and Me, Zink, and numerous television series adapted into novels.

Bennet lives in Salt Lake City with her husband Jeff Gottesffeld and their son. They adopted their son Igor from Russia. Jeff Gottesfeld is also a writer. They often collaborate on projects.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.cheriebennett.com/

READING LEVEL: 14+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might take issue with the sexual situations, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, and drug overdose within this novel.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Health

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: There were parts of the book left unresolved, do you feel this makes it more realistic? Was it conclusive enough for you?

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to include a book that dealt with body image and weight. I was drawn to the fact that the main character was the perfect beauty queen instead of having a weight problem all her life.