Reading books and writing reviews is a welcome opportunity for young people looking for experiences to complement their school responsibilities and extra curricular activities. Since I wrote extensively during my graduate studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia I believed the young people in my music studio would benefit from the challenge of reading and reviewing young adult literature.
With the advent of The Oneota Reading Journal, Deborah Norland, Professor of Education at Luther College challenged me to continue my passion for writing and also encourage young people to read newly published books and write reviews for a feature in the journal, Significant Others III: Voices of Young Adults from Georgia. I readily accepted this opportunity for my students because the process of writing reviews demands intentional reading and reflective, thoughtful writing and these processes complement all facets of education and life.
With the enthusiastic support of parents, grandparents, and teachers, students read and reviewed literature for the journal. Books were separated into four categories: pre-school; elementary; middle school; and older readers. Within each level, books were sorted again by subject area, science; realistic fiction; non-fiction; fantasy; and historical fiction.
Guardians and students were given directions for moving through the review process:
Read the book and think about an outstanding character, plot, theme, setting, style and/or point of view of interest to other potential readers. After students completed the review, I sent them on to the editor of the journal, and students gave their books to a variety of different libraries, including school libraries, public libraries, and a specific library associated with the University of Georgia System.
Although I am primarily a musician, teacher, performer, I have several music students who were delighted to participate in the reading and reviewing process. Students ranged from pre-school aged children to young, emerging adults. Each participant had an outline to follow as the reading/review process progressed because the editor and readers of the journal expect more than a summary of each book.
This past year almost thirty (30) young reviewers participated in this opportunity to begin critically looking at newly published literature and write about a quality scene, character, setting, style, point-of-view and/or plot pertaining to the book.
Of course, there are moments when younger readers do not connect with the language or relationships among characters, but they also may identify with different aspects of the books in unique ways. One young reader identified himself with Alexander Hamilton in one of the books about animals and their owners. Caregivers express their appreciation and admiration for the opportunities to develop reading and writing skills of their children and young adults. Because readers and writers discussed their books with their caregivers, guardians rejoiced in the refreshing, positive bonding with their youngsters reading and reviewing the books. This interaction with the books strengthened the family unit.
While the positive comments from caregivers and students alike demonstrate the positive benefits of reading and reviewing books among young, aspiring, writers anyone interested in organizing, coordinating, and facilitating a group of readers and reviewers should have a stalwart team. However, when the process is executed intentionally and carefully, everyone involved, students, caregivers, libraries, and yours truly, develop stronger relationships. The excitement shared as each new box of books arrives forms a chorus of delight and encouragement apart from music lessons, a healthy chorus from this passel of young musicians, readers, and writers in North Central Georgia.
Berenstain, Mike. 2015. The Berenstain Bears are superbears. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-235009-1.
This book was great! I read it over and over. It is so fun to dress up like a superhero. I like pretending to be Spiderman. It was so nice how the bears helped the little boy who fell on his bike. (NAJ)
Bleiman, Andrew and Eastland, Chris. 2010. Zoo Borns: Zoo Babies from around the world. Simon & Simon (Beach Lane Book). 38pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-481447027.
These animal babies are so cute! Me and my brother liked looking at this book and the pictures of the little animals. The tigers are my favorite, they were also my favorite animal at Zoo Atlanta. (NAJ)
Bleiman, Andrew and Eastland, Chris. 2015. ABC Zooborns. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 38pp. $12.99. ISBN 9781 481-447034.
This was a cute book. My little brother liked reading this one over and over. He is still learning his ABC’s, so this one was good for him. I liked the pictures in this book, the baby animals are really fun to look at. I did not know a baby flamingo was white and fluffy like that! And I liked seeing the baby elephant. How tall is he? I love going to the zoo and seeing animals like this. (NAJ)
Charaipotra, Sona and Dhonielle Clayton. 2015. Tiny pretty things. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 438pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234239-3.
Devoting your life to dance is no easy task. At an elite ballet school in Manhattan, girls are desperately clawing their way to the top of the ballet food chain. Bette is the perfectionist. With her striking face and polished technique, it’s no wonder she’s one of the most talented dancers. But under all the makeup, she’s yearning to be noticed by her alcoholic mother and her teachers. She is determined to be the best and stand out from her sister’s constant shadow, even if she has to result to drastic measures. When a sweet oblivious girl with loads of talent shows up at the school, she seems to have nothing to hide. However, with her captivating performances and poise, Gigi gets most of the main solos. Bette can’t have that, so naturally she decides to dig up every dirty secret Gigi holds close to her heart, quite literally. Gigi has a hole in her heart, and it’s extremely dangerous for her to be dancing in her condition. June is Gigi’s sharp roommate, who may also have a thing or two to hide from the rest of the school. As one of the most hard-working dancers, June is the epitome of diligence. Her envied self-control allows her to keep her weight dangerously near 100 pounds. Yet still, she struggles to hide it from the nurses, as they’d send her home if she were just one pound below 100. The world these girls live in is wrought with pain, beauty, and secrets. They all know that ballet isn’t always about being beautiful. Sometimes it’s necessary to bring the other girls just close enough to the edge that they are dangerously close to falling.
I really enjoyed this novel! It was so suspenseful, I honestly couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend for students 13+. (RJM)
Coats, Lucy. 2015. Beasts of Olympus: Steeds of the Gods. Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset and Dunlap).137 pp. 5.99 ISBN 978-0-448-46195-5
In Beasts of Olympus: Steeds of the Gods, the stable boy of Olympus, Demon, is called down to the ocean to cure the Hippocamps of an unknown illness. In the meantime, Poseidon gets in a race with Helios, and Demon ends up having to help both Poseidon and Helios win the race. Along the way, Demon makes a new friend who helps him with the stables and the Hippocamps.
This story was entertaining, exciting, and hard to put down. Readers will enjoy the vivid details of this funny story. The dialogue makes the story more interesting than other narratives. (EA)
Cornwell, Betsy. 2015. Mechanica. Houghhton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 307pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-92771-8.
Mechanica is like a different version of Cinderella, with added pizzazz. Nicolette’s Stepsisters are cruel, and on top of that, call her Mechanica. Which, however awful, suits her. She learned to invent from her Mother when she was a child. But her Mother is dead now, and her Father too, which is what put her in this situation in the first place. But on her 16th birthday, she receives an envelope, apparently from her Mother. The moment she opens this envelope, her life is changed. In it is a mysterious set of directions, all above her mother’s signature. The directions lead her to a hidden workshop, housing a number of magical things, among them, a tiny stable with a little mechanical horse. As she explores this newfound room, she realizes that what she’s been dreaming of might actually come true. I liked this book, it was sweet and funny, and would recommend it to young adults. (SMM)
Cotugno, Katie. 99 days. 2015. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer+Bray). 376 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-221638-0.
Some childhood friendships turn into something more. But some ruin you. Unfortunately for Molly Barlow, it’s both. Her friendship with the Donnelly brother, Patrick, quickly turns into an intimate relationship at the start of their teen years. However, Gabe Donnelly somehow wedges his way into her life, and she begins falling for him. After a bad fight with Patrick, Molly finds herself in Gabe’s arms. The whole town is oblivious until her mom makes the decision to write a best-selling book about Molly’s love life. The book is about a girl called Emily Green, who is caught in a love triangle with the brothers down the street. Although Molly’s name is never used, it’s obvious who it’s about. In an extremely difficult situation, Molly decides to head to Bristol, the school that offered her a track scholarship. But Molly is back for the summer, and she knows that it isn’t going to be easy. On her first day home, Molly’s house is egged and her car keyed. Gabe, forever the optimist, is sure it will get better. With Gabe’s sister watching her every move, Molly refuses to give Julia any power over her and gets a job at a hotel. As fate would have it, Patrick’s new girlfriend, Tess, is working there, as a lifeguard-but she realizes everything that happened was not all Molly’s fault. The townspeople eventually forget about her. Her summer with Gabe becomes increasingly better, but Patrick is determined to get her back, even though he has a long-time girlfriend. Do either of the boys really love her? Or is it all just some twisted competition?
I didn’t particularly care for this novel. It was repetitive and predictable, and it got confusing. There were some good parts, but it was mostly just mediocre. This book would be suitable for students 13+. (RJM)
Drummond, Ree. 2015. Charlie plays ball. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229752-5. Illustrated by Diane deGroat.
The first thing Charlie played with was a football, then a soccer ball, then the next was a basketball, but the ball he liked to eat was a meatball! That was funny. The pictures in this book were really good and this book was easy to read. I think other kids would like to read this. (NAJ)
Florence, Tyler and Craig Frazier. 2014. Tyler makes a birthday cake. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-204760-1.
We really enjoyed this book. It’s fun to learn about birthday cakes. I never knew that dogs cannot eat regular cake like us. (NAJ)
Grey, C.R.. 2014. Animas: Legacy of the claw. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 295pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142318038-8.
Bailey Walker has a problem. He doesn’t have an Animas, an animal with whom he has bonded. And without that, he will be labeled as an outcast, or he could quite possibly lose his mind. So when he receives a letter that says he’s been accepted to Fairmount Academy, he leaves his home and travels there, hoping someone can teach him how to find his Animas. But he doesn’t quite get what he bargained for. He makes new friends and is accepted onto a sports team, but when things are starting to look up, someone’s Animas is attacked on school grounds. He and his newly found friends embark on a mission to find out what could possibly be going on at Fairmount Academy. Along the way Bailey learns some very interesting lessons and eventually find what he has been searching for all along. I liked this book, it was compelling and well crafted, and would recommend it to kids 11+. (SMM)
Hale, Bruce. 2015. Danny and the dinosaur and the new puppy. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-228153-1. Illustrated in the style of Syd Hoff by David Cutting.
In this book Danny got a new puppy and they played all day with the Dinosaur, they hated to leave him so they went and spent the night with him at the museum in the sleeping bag. I think it would be scary to sleep at a museum. I would not want to. My favorite picture in this book is when the Dinosaur picks up the tree and eats it. (NAJ)
Hale, Bruce. 2015. Danny and the dinosaur: Too tall. HarperCollins Publishers. 32 pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-228156-2. Illustrated in the style of Sid Hoff by David Cutting.
The Dinosaur did not like being so tall, and everyone asking ‘how’s the weather up there’. My favorite picture was when the wind was blowing and the crane was about to tip over. The man in the crane needed help getting down and the Dinosaur was the only one who could help him. After that, it was not bad being tall. (NAJ)
Haydu, Corey Ann. 2015. Making pretty. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 360pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229408-1
Montana knows love is not to be squandered or mistaken. True love is rare and sure and different. Her dad doesn’t see this exactly the same way. Divorced and remarried many times with a slew of past girlfriends, Montana’s dad can’t seem to stop finding new people to “love” and fix. After a few weeks or even years, the magic between them is gone and the women are left with a broken heart and plastic faces. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it her dad wasn’t a plastic surgeon; all he does is constantly fixate on flaws. Montana and her sister, Arizona, make a pact to never surgically alter their bodies or change for someone else. But when Arizona gets a few procedures done and her dad starts dating Montana’s 23 year-old best friend, she feels like her whole world has shifted. Outraged, Montana dyes her hair and acts completely out of line in an act of singularity. When her plea for attention catches the eye of mysterious Bernardo, it seems that they were meant to meet each other. His air of quiet confidence and odd tendencies slowly draw Montana in deeper and deeper. She isn’t like her dad. She’s sure there’s something there that will last a lifetime. But she is her father’s daughter after all.
This story is absolutely compelling and realistic. I couldn’t put it down and highly recommend it to 13+ readers. (RJM)
Headley, Maria Dahvana. 2015. Magonia. HarperCollins Publishers. 309pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232052-0.
Since she was a baby, Aza Ray Boyle has suffered from a rare lung disease. So rare it was even named after her. Azaray Syndrome. It’s so rare she is the only person to ever have it. The disease makes it almost impossible for her to breathe. She has a history of hospitalization, or so she tells people. But she never tells them about her hallucinations, a cruel side effect of the medication keeping her alive. Her most recent one was of a ship in the sky. And now she’s hearing voices, calling to her. She shoves the strange things she’s seeing and hearing to the corner of her mind. But then, she has an episode. And she is gone from her world. Aza wakes up in a strange place, with strange creatures, half human and half bird, and even more strange, she’s on a ship, soaring through the sky. All around her are countless other boats, big and small, and she takes a moment to wonder. Is she dead? Or were the hallucinations real? I liked this book a lot, and would recommend it to teens 14+. (SMM)
Hillyer, Lexa. 2015. Proof of forever. HarperCollins (HarperTeen). 339 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233037-6.
Most people wish they could leave the past behind them. Not Joy. She aches for the long-lost summers with her best friends. Unlike Joy, however, her summer friends know that growing apart was just a thing that had to happen in order for them to move on with their lives. But when Joy calls a reunion with Zoe, Tali, and Luce, the girls find it impossible to resist. The camp where the girls spent their summer doesn’t seem to have changed, but the people have. Joy is no longer the sweet, adventurous person they remember. They have all changed, and they can’t go back to the summers when they were young. Or can they? After a moment of nostalgia in the old photo booth, the group finds themselves in the last week of summer camp. Two years ago. Bewildered, the girls are frantic to find a way back to the present. They conclude that they must look exactly like they did the day they took the pictures on the last day of camp in order to leave the past. It’s more difficult than they thought, and time is running out. As secrets eventually find their way to the light, the teens grow closer and closer. Could it be this world is better than their messy futures? As the last day of camp grows ever nearer, Joy still has a secret that is impossible to withhold forever.
I really enjoyed this novel. It made me think about how precious the time we have in the present truly is. I strongly recommend this to students 13+. (RJM)
Moore, Dr. Gareth. 2015. Brain benders: Think outside the box. Lerner Publishing Group (Hungry Tomato). 32pp. $16.65. ISBN 978-1-4677-6344-8.
This book was full of puzzles, they were fun to look at. I am looking forward to trying the mirror trick with the pictures. I also liked the mazes in this book. (NAJ)
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. 2011. Blood wounds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Harcourt). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-49638-2.
Willa is luckier than most. She lives with her mom, her two stepsisters, and her stepdad. But when Faye, her mom’s best friend, calls and leaves a strange message, Willa is puzzled. She hasn’t heard from Faye in four years, so why is she calling now? Willa soon finds out when a murder takes place in her mom’s hometown. Her father has killed his new wife and young children, and now he’s coming for Willa and her mom. Blood Wounds is about secrets, and how sometimes mysteries should stay buried. I didn’t really like this book, something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. I’d say it wasn’t appropriate for kids under 14. (SMM)
Rustad, Martha E.H.. 2015. What is it made of?. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 24pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-8561-7. Illustrated by Christine M. Schneider.
This was a fun book. I liked it because it was like being in a classroom. The teacher was really nice. The page with all of the kids doing art was my favorite. I love art, building stuff with different materials! I like thinking about how hard things are, what is harder glass or rock? Metal or wood? (NAJ)
Rustad, Martha E.H.. 2015. When will it rain?. Noticing weather patterns. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 24pp. $23.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-8577. Illustrated by Holli Cogner.
I really enjoyed this book. I like to look at the clouds when we are driving down the road and try to figure out what type of clouds they are. So, page 14 was my favorite because it talks about the types of clouds. This book helped me know what the weatherman on TV is talking about. (NAJ)
Schneider, Robyn. 2015. Extraordinary means. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen). 324pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-221-7165.
Lane is headed straight for Stanford. He seems to have an abundance of luck; an intelligent girlfriend, a first-rate scholarship, and a prominent plan for his future. However, his plan doesn’t include contracting total-drug resistant Tuberculosis. Lane is thrust into a completely new environment where his every movement is monitored, and kids around him are dying in their rooms. So far, there’s no cure. You can only wait it out and hope you don’t kick the bucket while you’re sleeping. It seems ridiculous to Lane to even try making friends if there’s a chance that one of you might not show up at class the next day. But everything changes when he meets Sadie. On his first day at Latham House, Lane finds out that she caught TDR Tuberculosis years after they attended the same summer camp, but she’s not the shy girl he remembers. Sadie has become fearless and rebellious, sneaking away from Latham to the local Starbucks to get Butterbeer lattes with her group. Unfortunately, Sadie doesn’t seem to have very many fond memories of Lane. Lucky for him, he gets the chance to explain. Soon, they grow closer and closer, but their TB is determined to keep them apart. After the death of their close friend, everything seems to change. They didn’t think death could touch the ones they love. What if Sadie or Lane is next?
I adored this story, it was heartfelt and painful; yet joyous and full of love and rebellion. I didn’t care for the ending very much, but I do recommend this novel for young adults 13+. (RJM)
Schreiber, Joe. 2015. Con Academy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-320208.
Connaughton Academy is the nation’s most exclusive private school and Will Shea has just conned his way into this prestigious academy. Before long he realizes he is not the only con artist there. In comes Andrea Dufresne, who has been running her own con for the past year. Unfortunately the school isn’t big enough for two con artists and so Will and Andrea decide to make a bet. In a game of conning it’s hard to tell who’s double crossing who and in this game only the best con will win. Two con artists, one bet, and a whole lot of twists and turns. The end of this book will leave you in shock. If readers love the thrill and suspense of a con, this book is an excellent selection. (MAA)
Scollon, Bill. 2015. Captain Jake and the Neverland pirates: The great sea conquest. Disney Book Group. 23pp. $4.99. ISBN 978-148471150-7.
I like Jake and the Neverland Pirates, so this was a fun book to read. I watch them on TV. In this book there was a magic sword that raised a ship that had sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Is that real? I liked the stickers in this book! I also liked the jokes on the corners of the page. (NAJ)
Scollon, Bill. 2015. The hidden Mickeys of Disneyland. Disney Book. 125pp. $11.99 ISBN 978-148471276-4.
This book was great! I really want to go to Disney now! My three favorite Mickeys from this book were the Mickey Mobile on page 32 (does it run?) and the cactus mickey and the mickey shaped swimming pool. I liked all of the pictures in this book especially the one of Flo’s Café. Are there Cars there from the movie? (NAJ)
Shepard, Sara. 2015. The good girls. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). 368pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207452-2.
Five girls, one murder case, and one big question: who murdered Nolan? All fingers point to Ava, Julie, Parker, and Caitlin. Are they being framed or did they really kill Nolan, the school bully? Who would kill Nolan, and who would frame a group of nice girls for murder? All these questions must be answered. Take a look in the book, your answer lies in there Recommended for ages 15-17. (ALA)
Siglain, Michael. 2015. Star Wars: Rescue from Jabba’s palace. Disney Book (Lucasfilm Press). 32 pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-148470-501-8. Art by Pilot Studio.
My favorite part of this book was when Han Solo did the flip off the plank. He signaled to R2-D2, I thought he was going to fly. Why didn’t he fly? I liked the pictures in this book, my favorite one was of Boba Fett when he fell into the Sarlacc pit. Jabba the Hut was a bad guy but in some of the pictures he looks friendly. My favorite bad guy was Darth Vader. (NAJ)
Silverman, Erica. 2015. Lana’s world, let’s go fishing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Green Light). 32pp. $3.99 ISBN 978-0-544-10659-8. Illustrated by Jess Golden.
This book was about a little girl who could not get anyone to play with her. So, she went to her room and pretended to fish. She got on her bed and played make-believe. One by one her family came to play with her; they ended up having a good time together. When I cannot get anyone to play with me, I go play by myself too. (NAJ)
Sitomer, Alan Lawrence. 2015. Noble warrior. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 400pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1484705285.
He believes in one thing, saving the dragon and putting his emotions on the shelf. He is the one who makes sure every street corner is clean of the world’s baddest criminals that walk on the earth. Everyone calls him McCutcheon Daniels or M.D for short; the biggest, hardiest cop ever ever seen. But what happens when a new threat comes along how will he go through this? How will he do this? Find out in Noble Warrior. (ALA)
Springstubb, Tricia. 2015. Moonpenny island. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 292pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211293-4.
This book is about a girl named Flor and her best friend Sylvie. They both live on a small island called Moonpenny, a great place for summer vacation. But things got difficult for these friends when Sylvie moved away to a private school and Flor’s mother went away to help family. All was up to Flor’s dad to watch over the three kids in the family, and Flor’s head started to fill with negative questions. “What if Mama doesn’t come back?” “What if Cecilia runs away?” Instead of sixteen year old Cecilia being strong, and taking care of her siblings,she got upset and started to sneak out at night. Flor made a new friend named Jasper, who taught her that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. After a series of events, Flor’s mother came back, and things straightened out. Moonpenny went back to being a sunny, peaceful, summer vacation island.
This realistic fiction book would be appropriate for kids ranging in age from 10 and up. Parents and teachers would enjoy this book because it teaches a great lesson of facing fears, and looking for the positive to get through the rough times. (SAB)
Travers, P.L.. 2015. Mary Poppins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 191pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-544-43956-6.
This was a long book, but I liked it so much I want to read it again! My favorite thing about this book was the make-believe zoo. The thing l liked about the zoo was when they were in the snake house when it was Mary Poppins’ birthday. I liked the part where they went to the bakery and bought gingerbread then the store disappeared. The saddest thing about this book was when Mary Poppins left. I liked the pictures, but I wish there were more of them in this book. After I read this book, I watched the movie and it was good too, but it wasn’t exactly like the book. I want to watch the movie again too. (NAJ)
Vaughn, J.D.. 2015. The second guard. Disney Book Group. 415pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-142316909-3.
In the peaceful realm of Tequende, ruled by a Queen, there are three guilds, each named for their Diety. Talimendra Sañchez, a Sun Guilder, is a member of the Magda river traders. She has lived her whole life on her father’s trading boat with her mute twin sister, Nel. Her life is peaceful and calm, but she knows that she will soon have to travel to the Alcazar to fulfill the Oath of Guilds, which dictates that all second born children must serve the Queen, either by becoming a Guard, or an indentured servant. But Tali welcomes this opportunity. It will give her a chance to bring honor to her family, as serving in the Second Guard is a prestigious title, and she will be able to uphold her mother’s legacy. A lot of effort must be put into becoming a Guard, and she is prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the Queen. But Tali’s firm loyalty will be tested when she discovers a secret that could rip Tequende from its roots and turn the peaceful country into a warzone. I liked this book, it was imaginative, and would recommend it to young adults 13+. (SMM)
Wyatt, Chris (Adapted). 2015. Avengers, the new team. Disney Group (Marvel Press). 32 pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-148471-454-6.
I really liked this book; I read it all by myself. I liked looking at the pictures. What would be better, to run fast or shoot arrows, or fly? I can’t decide… I would like to do all of those things. (NAJ)