Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: One Crazy Summer

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Publisher: Amistad    Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0060760908

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner, 2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2010 National Book Award Finalist, Junior Library Guild Selection, Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010

Themes / Subjects: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prejudice & Racism, Family Life, Travel & Culture, African American, Black Panther Party, 20th century issues, Civil Rights Movement

Plot Summary:

It’s the summer of 1968 and sisters, 11-year-old Delphine, 9-year-old Vonetta, and 7-year-old Fern embark on an adventure that takes them from Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California to meet the mother that abandoned them many years ago. The girls have no idea what to expect, but they certainly didn’t expect to participate in a day camp run by members of the Black Panther Party. Cecile Johnson, their mother, “mammal birth giver,” is secretive about her work behind the closed kitchen doors and wants nothing to do with them. Set during one of the most tumultuous years in American history, One Crazy Summer explores the civil rights movement through the eyes of children.

My Take:

I actually walked away from this book with a better knowledge of the civil rights movement and Black Panther Party. The reader sees the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister. Although she is just 11 going on 12, Delphine is extremely wise for her age and carries the added weight of being responsible for her sisters. I love how conscious she is of the differences between blacks and whites, yet she doesn’t allow her views or opinions to be mandated by others especially the Black Panther party.

Throughout the book, I kept hoping for Cecile Johnson to change and finally become the mother the little girls so desperately wanted/needed. However, through Delphine’s, Vonetta’s, and Fern’s journey I grew to feel sorry for Cecile and had a better understanding of her relationship with her children (or lack of one). This book is both excellent for teens and adults because the impact of that summer continues to affect us today.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham1963  by Christopher Paul Curtis

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books            Year: 2002

ISBN-13: 9780440237686

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: 1994 Newbery Medal, 1996 William Allen White Award,  American Library Association listings for “Best Book for Young Adults”, “ALA Notable Children’s Book“, and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000”,  A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Winner of the Regina Medal, Booklist Editors’ Choice, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Coming of Age, Classics, Dystopia, Survival, Social Situations

Plot Summary:

Jonas lives with no pain or worry, a place where our world’s issues have been eliminated. Everything in his community is orderly and perfect, but there is no love, until The Giver shares it with Jonas. Then life’s pleasure and pain become part of his own life, his truth. Jonas begins to question the perfection of the community and it is here that the story begins to unfold. Angered and confused by his imperfect and very intriguing past, Jonas must save himself and his community from the fantasy life that has been thrust upon them.

My Take:

Back before parents were complaining about Twilight, Harry Potter, or the Hunger Games, parents had issues with Lois Lowry’s The Giver. There are some pretty disturbing situations that Joans must go through to test his courage, strength, and heart in the story but it is not without reason. Like The Hunger Games this book brings up a multitude of emotions such as joy, anger, horror, love and desire. This read is an excellent part of a student’s curriculum because in the classroom there is an opportunity for discussion and further understanding. Parents should encourage their teens to discuss the consequences of the book and how that might look in our own society.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Matched by Ally Condie

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Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Check out my booktalk trailer for Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi that I created using goanimate.com!

http://goanimate.com/videos/0LwSHJC08TIo

 

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They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: They Never Came Back

Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers      Year: 2010

ISBN-10: 0385738080

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense, Convicts, Family Life

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney http://goanimate.com/videos/0-1DbRFgc0yA

My Take:

Imagine having the world at your fingertips: a rich family, mansion, any type of lessons you could want, new clothes and accessories, vacations out of the country, etc.. Now imagine that in one day everything is flipped upside down and you are told your parents are criminals that have fled the country and have left you behind to answer the questions of dozens of people with initials like FBI and NASD. All this and you are ten years old. I could not begin to imagine what young Murielle must have felt.

My heart goes out to Tommy and his family because they so badly want to believe that Cathy Ferris is their missing niece/cousin, Murielle Lyman. The whole book I kept wanting to read ahead to see if Murielle’s parents would ever come back or if they were truly just in love with the money. At the head of each chapter is either Murielle or Cathy’s name which tells the reader not who is talking but what year it is … the present is Cathy and five years back at the time of the incident is Murielle. This was a pretty neat way to not only tell the current story but provide the reader enough of the backstory.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … I didn’t like finding out so quickly about Cathy Ferris and felt that should have been drawn out more.

Similar read: The Face on the Milk Cartoon by Caroline B. Cooney … after reading They Never Came Back, I had a strong urge to reread The Face on the Milk Cartoon. I remember that book giving me the chills.

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Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Title: Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Author: Beverly Cleary

Publisher: HarperCollins        Year: 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0380709564

Genre: Fiction

Age: 8 and up

Awards: Newbery Honor Book, IRA/CBC Children’s Choice, Buckeye Children’s Book Award (Ohio), Garden State Children’s Book Award (New Jersey), Charlie May Simon Book Award (Arkansas), ALA Notable Children’s Book, Horn Book Fanfare, Horn Book Fanfare, Parents’ Choice Gold Award, Parents’ Choice Gold Award

Themes / Subjects: Juvenile Fiction, Elementary School, Friendships, Family Life

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary http://goanimate.com/videos/0ZjsHi-6puxw

My Take:

Another classic from my childhood! The pages of my copy are literally falling out, but I’ve had the book since childhood and can’t bear to throw it out for a new copy. In elementary school I had my fair share of mishaps which is just one of the reasons I love Ramona Quimby. Reading about her made me feel like it was ok that I leaned up against the wall with wet paint and got it in my hair because Ramona had gotten egg in hers. Ramona is literally the little girl inside every one of us and even if you relate more with Beezus, I am sure you have had a Ramona moment. Although this book is intended for children, I would highly recommend that parents buy it for their young kids and keep it on the family bookshelf because they are going to want to read it again and again.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. No young girl’s life is complete without Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume by their beds.

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Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Title: Gym Candy

Author: Carl Deuker

Publisher: Perfection Learning          Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1606863763

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, High School, Family Life, Sports, Health – Steroids, Friendships, Coming of Age

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker http://goanimate.com/videos/0vXZkYLbVR68

My Take:

I am not a football person at all. When I was in high school marching band and had to go to all the football games, I would hide books in my uniform and read when I wasn’t playing. I watch the Super Bowl every year and even then I fast forward during the game to watch the commercials and half time show. Did I mention I strongly dislike football?

With that said and off my chest, I loved this book! All the football jargon confused me a little bit but honestly it wasn’t overwhelming. The best part was getting to see the darker side of sports. I’ve always heard about professional athletes using steroids on the news and never thought that it would begin as young as freshman in high school. This book in no way encourages the use of steroids and really goes to great length and detail to show just how screwed up Mick’s life became all because he wanted to be the best. Parents who push their children to be star athletes need to read this because I don’t think they realize the consequences their actions can have on their kids. And all kids whether they are pressured to be the best or not should read this book because it will cause them to think twice about trying any sort of drugs.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars … while I can’t say it has turned me on to being a football fan, this book has caused me to really examine the pressures we put our young athletes under.

Similar read: Boost by Kathryn Mackel. Whereas Deuker explores the use of steroids in male athlets, Mackel takes the readers into the girls locker room for a change.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Square Fish           Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0312674397

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Outcast, High School, Relationships, Social Situations, Art

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

My Take:

It’s pretty obvious within the first couple of pages what happened at the party so right away the suspense that captured my attention from the back of the book is gone. The book has a long, drawn out story which is interesting, yet all of a sudden everything is A-Ok at the end. I don’t think so. If she really did experience that terrible thing from the party, I hardly doubt that just by speaking everything is going to be better. That might be the step to recovery but it most definitely does not make everything right.

What I did like about the book is how it is divided by school semesters and the report card so you can see how her grades are being affected. This book is easily relatable to any teenager who is or may have been a social outcast. The occurrences throughout the book could happen to anyone these days which further helps the reader’s mind perceive what is going on. I do think there is an important message to be taken away from this book which is why I would recommend it to teens.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars … I didn’t hate or love the book which is why I stand in the middle

Similar read: Monster by Walter Dean Meyers

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Holes by Louis Sachar

Title: Holes

Author: Louis Sachar

Publisher: Yearling Books   Year: 2000 edition

ISBN-13: 978-9990833089

Genre: Fiction

Age: 10 and up

Awards: 1998 New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year and the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the 1999 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Fiction and the 1999 Newbery Medal.

Themes / Subjects: Adventure, Boys, Teens, Camp, Juvenile delinquents, Friendship, Social Situations, Family Life, Survival

Plot Summary:

Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.

And so, it would seem that Stanley would be serving an easy sentence for a crime that he had not committed. Yet fate has other things in store for Stanley. Camp Green Lake is not the kind of camp that you look forward to going to during the summer. In the heart of Texas, Camp Green Lake is a bizarre, other worldly place without a lake and absolutely nothing green, although it once boasted to have held “the largest lake in Texas.”

Every day the warden makes the boys “build character” by digging holes five feet deep and five feet wide. Soon Stanley realizes there is more to the character building than simply digging holes but that the warden is actually looking for something lost a long time ago and it isn’t long before Stanley begins to do some searching of his own – for the truth.

My Take:

First off, how cool would it be to have a first name that was your last name backwards and to have that name passed down for generations? It’s pretty neat once you get past the confusing part of understanding what I just said.

Holes is an action filled story full of characters with strong voices, funny scenes and tons of twists and turns that will keep any reader engaged from cover to cover. This is an excellent read for young boys because the characters are so relatable. The beginning is a bit depressing with its bleak descriptions yet the ending is definitely worth the emotional journey. One of my favorite things about this book is how Sachar is able to interweave characters and stories throughout the main story. There were many times I felt myself having an “Oh my gosh!” moment and rushing off to share what I had just read. A good read for in the classroom or book clubs.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and definitely check out the movie (after you have read the book of course!)

 

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Scene It? – Disney and Harry Potter Versions

Name: Scene It?Disney and Harry Potter Versions

Created by: Screenlife

Age: 6 and up (Disney) / 13 and up (Harry Potter)

Players: 2 or more

Description:

Scene It? is a DVD trivia game in which players have to answer questions either from trivia cards or viewed on the TV from the included DVD. More than just a trivia game, Scene It? also challenges you to use observation, memory, wordplay, and problem solving to decode the puzzles that you see on-screen. Designed for two or more players, this family-oriented trivia game will appeal to kids and adult fans alike.

Disney Version features clips, images, and characters from everyone’s favorite Disney and Pixar movies! While most of the questions are incredibly easy, players will find the game immensely satisfying.

Harry Potter version – includes questions, images, and challenges from all 8 of the movies! This game is the ultimate Harry Potter test for the HP fan and even includes some obscure questions that you would only get if you had read the book.

My Take:

Do you have teens who think they are know it alls? Well, I think it is time for them to prove it with the game Scene It?! Scene It? comes in a variety of versions but my two favorite ones are the Harry Potter and Disney Versions. Although you can play with two or more players, I prefer to play the game in teams with players of various ages. I found that some of the younger kids can help me out with the movies I have yet to see while I can help with the older stuff (well not too old).

The first couple of times you play the game it can be a bit completed trying to figure out the rules and what each category and roll of the dice means. I highly suggest keeping the rules handy. Also, this game can get pretty loud as people get excited and shout out answers so don’t expect to play this in a quiet area or to calm anyone down. The reason I like specific versions of Scene It? as opposed to the original is because it forces the game to focus on one topic, otherwise you’d have to be a know it all in everything (like my mom). The Disney and Harry Potter versions are definitely perfect for teens and the entire family.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … the games have some technological glitches sometimes and I’ve found a couple wrong answers in the Harry Potter game

Similar Game: Pass the Popcorn by Wiggles 3D

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Apples to Apples Junior – The Game of Crazy Comparisons!

Name: Apples to Apples Junior – The Game of Crazy Comparisons

Created by: Mattel

Age: 9 and up

Players: 4 – 10

Description:

Apples to Apples Junior is a hilarious card game with crazy comparisons that is not only fun to play but also helps players expand their vocabulary and thinking skills. “The game is as easy as comparing apples to apples – just open the box, deal the RED APPLE cards to each player, and you’re ready to go!” (from the manufacturer).  Players take turns being the judge and the judge starts the game by playing a GREEN APPLE card featuring a one-word characteristic such as Amazing or Scary. The rest of the players must then pick one of their own RED APPLE cards in their hands that they think is best described by the judge’s card. When everyone has put their cards on the table, you must try to convince the judge that yours is the best match. If your card is picked, then you win that round! The first player to win four rounds wins the game!

My Take:

I first played this game at Christmas time with my family (that was the Disney version) and am an Apples to Apples addict! The game and rules are very easy to follow and the discussions it causes people to get into are hilarious! I would suggest the junior version for younger kids because I’ve found that they did not understand some of the words on the original version. Winning is entirely based on the opinion of the dealer and everyone gets a turn of being the dealer so this game is perfect for everyone. There is really no way to cheat in this game although I have been a part of some pretty heated discussions over whose card is the best match. I think this game also offers insight into how people think and was really impressed by the thought the dealers put into selecting a card.

Rating: 5 out of 5 apples … I’ve played quite a few versions of Apples to Apples and loved each and every one of them!

Similar Game: Headbanz Game by Spin Master Games

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