Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

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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Poop Happened! A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee

Title: Poop Happened! A History of the World from the Bottom Up

Author:  Sarah Albee

Publisher: Walker Childrens; 1 edition         Year: 2010

ISBN -13: 978-0802720771

Age: 10 and up

Genre: Non-Fiction

Subjects / Themes: Poop, History, Disease, Science, Sanitation, Industrial Revolution, Humor

Plot Summary:

Waste disposal and sanitation have had huge effects on the development of world civilizations. Historically contagious diseases have killed huge numbers of people every year: the bubonic plague, cholera, typhoid, polio, etc… These diseases have shaped human history and their spread is linked to human waste disposal.

Sarah Albee explores human history through the progress of waste disposal and hygiene. She examines advances in sewer technology and how they affected different cultures and she explains how improper waste disposal is linked to the spread of disease.

My take:

Poop is not something we talk about in polite society so naturally this book’s title immediately draws EVERYONE’s attention. When I first say it on the shelf of the book fair, I eyed it over quite a bit before working up the nerve to take it off the shelf. Now that it is in the library, it is hardly ever on our shelves!

Rather than reading this book from cover to cover, I found it more fun to randomly flip through and read the stories. Tweens are definitely going to want to check out this book. Not only will the title have them giggling and perusing but add in the humorous illustrations and the flippant style and kids will be hooked.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars! Who knew that poop had such a long history!

Similar Read: How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

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Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Title: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Author: Gennifer Choldenko

Publisher: Perfection Learning     Year: 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0756970208

Genre: Fiction

Age: 10 and up

Awards: Newbery Honor, NYPL’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Book 2004, ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2005, ALA Notable Book 2005, New York Public Library Best Book for Teen Age 2005

Themes / Subjects: Alcatraz, Special Needs, Relationships, Coming of Age, Friendships, 1930s, Famous convicts of the 1930s, Family, Social Issues

Plot Summary:

It is 1935, right in the midst of the Great Depression when Moose Flanagan’s father takes a job as a prison guard on Alcatraz Island. This means the whole family, including his mom and older sister, Natalie, have to live on the island, within the shadow of the prison, in an apartment building with the families of the other guards. Moose is not happy about leaving his home and friends in Santa Monica to take up residence next to a prison. Moose adjusts to life in a strange new place, stuck with the responsibility of looking after his sister, hardly seeing his parents, and getting to know the other children on the island, including the pretty and problematic Piper, the daughter of the Warden.

My Take:

When I first saw this book in the school library three years ago, I thought it sounded silly. I was expecting a comedy, maybe some boy humor too. I totally judged this book by the cover. And it was totally not what I expected. Sure there is humor sprinkled throughout the book, but I was so surprised how serious the book was.  The story is told by Moose Flanagan, a 12-year-old boy whose family has recently moved to Alcatraz because of his father’s job. I expected the book to be about Moose’s relationship with Alcatraz and fitting in, which it does a little, but the bulk of the book is about Moose’s relationship with his special needs sister.

What I love most about this book was reading about their relationship and how Natalie’s special needs affect the entire family. It really is tough love.  I really believe this book could help teens to understand people with special needs and that they deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. This story is really deep and has so many wonderful messages yet the setting and time period help to keep it light.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars … I think Al Capone would be delighted to know he plays a vital, positive, role in a young teen’s life in this novel

Similar read: The Children of Alcatraz: Growing Up on the Rock by Claire Rudolph Murphy … A great non-fiction read to learn more about life on Alcatraz with real stories from the kids who lived there.

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Schooled by Gordon Korman

Title: Schooled

Author: Gordon Korman

Publisher: Hyperion Book CH     Year: 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1423105169

Genre: Fiction

Age: 10 and up

Themes / Subjects: Middle School, Bullying, Hippies, Humor, Social Issues, Survival, Relationships, Prejudice

Plot Summary:

“Capricorn (Cap) Anderson has never watched television. He’s never tasted a pizza. Never even heard of a wedgie. Since he was little, his only experience has been living on a farm commune and being home-schooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain” (back of book). Yet when his grandmother falls from a tree and has to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time, Cap is forced to move in with a social worker and her mean teenage daughter. At school, Cap is immediately targeted because of his weirdness. He wears hemp, tie-dyed clothes, beads, has long hair and practices tai chi and meditation. At Claverage Middle School, it is a long standing tradition that the biggest nerd be elected eighth grade class president, and big man on campus Zach Powers has his eyes set on Cap.

My Take:

The kids at this school are horrible! What really bugs me about this book is the entire time Cap attends Claverage Middle School no one stands up for him, yet at the end of the book all 1100 students have something good to say about him. But what really bugged me was Mr. Kasigi’s, the principal, ignorance throughout the book. He knew that bullying was going on at his school and he knew the joke of the eighth grade president yet he looks the other way. As a mentor and educator he has a really horrible attitude.

Overall the book lacked the action that I’ve come to expect from Gordon Korman. Every day was the same for Cap with little change, I wasn’t a fan of the characters especially Mrs. Donelly, Cap’s social worker. Her daughter was one of the worse people to Cap yet she did little to stop her. And the ending, well it kind sucked. Suddenly everything is resolved. No problem. Really? Not very realistic.

With all that being said, it’s a work of fiction and a quick read and it might make kids think about different lifestyles and values different from their own. A school reading group could have a field day with this book when used in a discussion about bullying.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars … I really like Gordon Korman but I sit in the middle with this book. Too much bullying, not enough action and a not so great ending

Similar read:

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The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

 Title: The Red Pyramid

 Author: Rick Riordan

 Publisher: Hyperion Book CH

 ISBN -13: 978-1423113454

 Genre: Fantasy Fiction

 Age: 10 and up

 Awards: A #1 New York Times bestseller ; A School Library Journal Best Book of 2010 ; Winner: Children’s Choice Book Awards 2011: Best Book, Grades 5-6

Themes / Subjects: Fantasy, adventure, Egyptian Mythology, family life, siblings

Plot Summary:

Carter Kane, 14, and Sadie Kane, 12, have grown up practically as strangers since their mother’s death six years earlier. While Sadie has grown up with her grandparents in London, Carter has travelled the world with their father, Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. On Christmas Eve, the family is reunited in London and headed to the British Museum for an experiment to “set things right.” Things, however, go terribly wrong and five Egyptian gods are released, including Set who entombed Dr. Kane and causes the children to flee for their lives.

Now the siblings must embark on a journey to master their hidden powers as descendents of magicians who can host Egyptian gods, learn to work and understand one another and save mankind from Set’s destructive red pyramid.

My take:

After reading the Percy Jackson series by Riordan, this book was very hard for me to get into even with my love for Egyptian mythology. I expected it to have as much action and adventure as the Percy Jackson series and instead felt like there was a lot of down-time/explanations which made the story seem to drag on. Riordan does an excellent job incorporating Egyptian mythology and providing readers with additional information and a means of keeping track of all the gods in the back of the book.

The best  part of the book was the way the character’s personalities and relationship developed throughout the book. The book is told from both Sadie and Carter’s perspective, alternating chapters and as though it were an audio recording allowing readers inside the thoughts of both the main characters. I was especially impressed with the impact race/ethnicity played and how it impacted the characters. Although they are siblings, Sadie and Carter are not only practically strangers but physically look nothing alike. Sadie is caucasian with an English accent who likes to wear combat boots and a streak of color in her hair. Carter on the other hand is African-American and always dressed presentable in slacks and a button down shirt. Immediately I felt sorry for Carter because of the two he always seems to get the raw end of the deal and is overshadowed by his little sister.

Rating: 3/5 stars because it was not as adventurous as some of Riordan’s other reads but still an interesting insight to how Egyptian gods might spend their time and the hilarity of sibling rivalry.

Similar Read : The Pharoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss

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