Sunday, November 16, 2008


1. Bibliography:
Howe, James. 2001. Misfits. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0689839561

2. Summary:
Bobby, Addie, Joe, and Skeezie are four kids who have become friends because the one thing they have in common is that they are different from everyone else. They march to the beat of their own drum and are tired of trying to fit in. They embrace their individuality and join together as a band of misfits. In order to get their message of acceptance and tolerance across, they get a fellow student DuShawn to run for student government under their No Name party. When he drops out, the group has to work together by all going on the ticket with Addie as their president. Their slogan is "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit," and even though they do not win, their idea of a "No-Name" day where everyone goes a day without calling other people names catches on and the students finally have the "freedom to be who you are without anyone calling you names."

3. Analysis:
Making fun of people does not stop in middle school. It only begins there. Millions tune in to Saturday Night Live to see actors mimic and make fun of celebrities and politicians. MTV has a TV show dedicated to "Yo Mamma" jokes. While these can be taken as fun and games, it is never fun for the person being teased. Everyone has been teased for something: race, clothes, accent, sexual orientation, weight, and the list goes on and on. Kids are even teased for their names and their family members. This topic hits home with everyone, and it is addressed beautifully in this book.
This book opens the door for students to discuss how they have been teased and how they can stop it from happening to others. Students do not always sit around and think of solutions to problems, but reading a book like this opens that discussion. As Addie and the rest of the group figure out how to make a difference, the reader can decide what can be done in his or her own life.
The No Name Party members are fun and realistic. Bossy Addie writes down verbatim what is said in the meetings and even makes the other members talk slower so she can keep up. She is angry that she is judged unfairly when she picks DuShawn to run for president simply so they can have a black person on the ticket. This brings to home that even those who think they are not judging may have secret prejudices lying under the surface, which would be a great discussion for students to have. Bobbie, the overweight tie salesman, is a typical middle school boy who struggles to find connections with his father and who feels the absence of his mother heavily. Whether a reader has lost a parent or not, the feeling of not being able to connect with parents is prevalent. Joe is coming out as a gay person, and his struggle is not so much with himself but with how his friends and society will react. Skeezie is the misunderstood bad boy. With each character facing different teasing, Howe gives readers someone with whom they can identify and relate.
Howe uses Joe and DuShawn to add some humor into the story. Joe goes to his locker and finds the word "fagot" written on his locker. Instead of getting upset, he asks," Don't they teach spelling at this school?" Joe also demands to be called Scorpio in some of Addie's meeting notes, which she does. He often has one liners that give a lighter note to this deep, tough topic. DuShawn, who is comfortable in his skin, can call Addie out about picking him because he is black and can make jokes about wanting peach ice cream in reference to Addie's skin color. The humor offsets the seriousness of the subject.
Even with the humor, the book can get a little preachy. The first part of the book seems to be the main characters sitting and spouting off a long tirade against the establishment. It is not until events start happening that the reader finally connects with the characters and the storyline. After that, the book is more action and less preaching.

4. Reviews:
From School Library Journal: Unfortunately, The Misfits rambles rather than flows. Bobby's long-winded narration is written in a passive voice and sprinkled with only occasional dialogue. When the characters do speak, their formal dialogue (presented as minutes from the friends' Floating Forum meetings) goes on for pages on end, lacking any commentary from Bobby. It is not until the last third of the novel that readers begin to identify with the characters and bask in the success of Bobby's political partners. Louie Lahana, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Publishers Weekly: The four "misfits" are slightly larger than life wiser than their years, worldlier than the small town setting would suggest, and remarkably well-adjusted but there remains much authenticity in the story's message about preadolescence stereotyping and the devastating effects of degrading labels. An upbeat, reassuring novel that encourages preteens and teens to celebrate their individuality. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. (Accessed November 16, 2008)

Among the Hidden

1. Bibliography:
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 1998. Among the Hidden. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0689817002.
2. Summary:
Luke is a third child. In America, this is not a big deal; however, in Luke's country, it is against the law. The Population Police dictate that no family can have more than two children. Therefore, Luke must live hidden in a room in his family's home. He can never go outside or even go to school. He lives his life scared and afraid of getting caught. A typical boy, he eventually gets tired of hiding and meets a friend name Jen, who lives next door and who is also a third child. They dream of a day where they can truly live. As Jen actively works towards that goal, she is killed, and Luke is devastated. Through that tragedy, Luke is given an opportunity to live like Jen wished when her father offers Luke a fake identity and a hope of a better life.
3. Analysis:
In America, we are used to our freedom. While we have laws, the day-to-day aspects of our lives are up to us. Young Adults do not know any other way of life. This book shows them that other way. Just the topic of the book is so foreign to most American teens that it is a gripping tale of government control and the fight to live freely. The plot focuses on Luke's hiding from the Population Police, it also discusses the government's control of farming, social life, and even when people can eat junk food! This topic raises great questions about the government's role in people's lives. It also is a springboard to discuss our government's increasing role in the average person's life. Where should the line be drawn? How far is too far? Those are great questions students can analyze and discuss after reading this book.
While the book raises good questions, it can be a little far-fetched. The reader has to wonder how all of these third children have lived for over a decade without being discovered. If the government is as intrusive as described, the children would be noticed. Because the book moves quickly and the characters are interesting, readers do not mind these leaps in reality.
Luke is a character with whom the reader can identify. The reader's heart hurts for him as he cannot even go into a room without making sure all the windows are covered. He cannot even eat breakfast with his family but must sit on the stairs and watch them. The reader feels angry for Luke when you realize he has to type Jen's password from watching her do it, not because he knows what F-R-E-E means or spells! The reader cheers when Luke and Jen make plans to rally against the government, hoping they will succeed. Then you mourn with Luke over Jen's death and feel for her father, who cannot even visually show his grief in public.
The end of the book leaves the reader with hope that Luke will have a better life as Lee Grant, but until the government changes, the reader is unsure that will happen. Overall, this book raises great higher-level thinking questions about countries, governments, and the boundaries we must preserve.
4. Reviews:
Publishers Weekly: This futuristic novel focuses on a totalitarian regime and the Internet. PW noted, "The plot development is sometimes implausible and the characterizations a bit brittle, but the unsettling, thought-provoking premise should suffice to keep readers hooked." Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
School Library Journal: To what extent is he willing to defy the government in order to have a life worth living? As in Haddix's Running Out of Time (S & S, 1995), the loss of free will is the fundamental theme of an exciting and compelling story of one young person defying authority and the odds to make a difference. Readers will be captivated by Luke's predicament and his reactions to it.Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA


1. Bibliography:
Langan, Paul. 2007. Shattered. New York: Townsend Press. ISBN: 9781591940692.

2. Summary:
Trust is the name of the game in the twelfth book in the Bluford High series. Darcy has been through a lot in the books before this one. She was nearly raped by an older boyfriend, Brian, until her father showed up to save her. In this book, she is still dealing with Brian's attack, her mistrust in her current (and former) flame Hakeem, and her mother's distrust of her father, who has recently come back to the family after years of being an absent father. Through the book, Darcy deals with her feelings with the help of her friends and ultimately has to trust herself enough to stand up for herself against Brian and her own feelings.

3. Analysis:
Like the other Bluford High books, this book is a quick read. The plot moves quickly, and the sentences give just the bare story. Nothing about the book is elaborate except the plot. The sentences are short and choppy, and there is little elaboration to create mental pictures. While the writing may lack the articulation, it is the plot that draws readers, especially reluctant or slow readers who get boggled down with long sentences and detailed descriptions.
Darcy deals with drama many kids in urban cities face (like the school where I teach). The absent father has come home and wants to do what is right for the family. While his intentions are good, Darcy and her mother and sister have a hard time believing and trusting on a man who once turned his back on his family. No matter what a student's background is, he or she can relate to having trust broken whether it is a family member or friend. Students can identify with Darcy's struggle to believe her father. Darcy's fears about her father are put to rest when he finally confides in her that he is attending AA meetings when they think he off doing bad things.
Darcy also has to deal with a friend whose advice is more gossip than fact when Brisana tells Darcy that Hakeem may be cheating on her with a girl she's never seen before. Gossip runs wild in schools, and this book does a good job of showing how Darcy calmly deals with the gossip by walking away instead of getting into an argument or fight. She decides to believe Hakeem until she runs into him and the "other" woman. It is then that she realizes to trust Hakeem she must also share what happened to her with Brian while Hakeem was gone. In the end, she confronts Brian and puts those old ghosts to rest, allowing her to move on with Hakeem.
Darcy and her father both learn that burdens and struggles should be shared with the ones you love, and that trust can be regained even when you think it is shattered. These are two lessons young adults should hear, and this book does a good job of teaching them while still telling a fast-paced story that appeals to kids from all backgrounds.

4. Reviews:
**NOTE: I had a hard time finding reviews by "experts" on this book, so I went to the publisher's website, where I found reviews by teachers, which are probably more relevant than someone who doesn't work with kids. :)
"Thank you for the wonderful Bluford Series! We bought a lot of them for that great price. We were looking for anything our reluctant readers would spend more than 10 minutes reading. Kids are now swapping books, discussing them, not wanting teachers to end SSR time, and teachers have been coming begging for sets for their rooms also."
--R. Archer, Reading Teacher, Cabrillo High School (Long Beach, CA)
"I teach in a middle school, and there is little my students like less than to be asked to read. The Bluford books, however, have made a huge difference. The boys in particular will pick them up and actually lose themselves in them."
--H. Pollock, Teacher North Brandywine Middle School (Coatsville, PA) (Accessed November 16, 2008)

Out of the Dust

1. Bibliography:
Hesse, Karen. 1999. Out of the Dust. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0590371258

2. Summary:
Billie Jo is a young woman living in 1934, struggling with her family to survive on a farm in a dust field land. She enjoys playing the piano and is looking forward to the birth of her new sibling. However, A horrible accident causes her mother's death, and Billie Jo must deal with her father's distant attitude, her guilt over her part of the accident, her loss of ability to play the piano with ease, and life in general.

3. Analysis:
Hesse tells a heart wrenching tale of a young girl's struggle in life. The set up of the poems clearly reflects the mood of the story. In the entry Almost Rain, the sentences are short and convey the hopeless feeling of the town, and Billie Jo, of the lack of rain.

"In town,

the sidewalksgot damp.

That was all."

Because the drought and dust was the way of life, the characters had become used to disappointing hopes of rain.
Hesse's use of short, terse lines conveys the feeling that disappointment was the norm. They also show the hopelessness of the people to do anything to prevent nature's cruel destruction of their hard work on the crops.Hesse's writing has an authenticity to it that draws reader into the story. Lines like,"We shake out our napkins, spread them on our laps, and flip over our glasses and plates, exposing neat circles, round comments on what life would be like without dust" clearly describe what life was like during a dust storm or living in a dusty place without the type of building we have now.
Hesse's description of the day Billie Jo's mother got burned and then dies grabs the readers heart even though it is written simply as "Ma got burned bad" and "Ma died that day giving birth to my brother." I asked my students who had read the book to tell me what they thought, and one girl said she couldn't put it into words but that the style of writing felt real. Although life in this era was difficult, Hesse ends the book with the protagonist once again playing the piano, full of hope for the future.

4. Reviews:
Publishers Weekly:In a starred review of the 1998 Newbery Medal winner, set during the Depression, PW said, "This intimate novel, written in stanza form, poetically conveys the heat, dust and wind of Oklahoma. With each meticulously arranged entry Hesse paints a vivid picture of her heroine's emotions." Ages 11-13.
School Library Journal: Hesse's ever-growing skill as a writer willing to take chances with her form shines through superbly in her ability to take historical facts and weave them into the fictional story of a character young people will readily embrace.Carrie Schadle, New York Public Library


1. Bibliography:
Ferguson, Alane. 1994. Poison. New York: Bradbury Press. ISBN: 9780027345285.

2. Summary:
Chelsea is a typical teenager. She wants to lie around and relax during the summer but is forced to work at her dad's company, Symthe Towers. She does not know her father well as he is a workaholic, and she misses both her deceased mother and her stepmother who walked out of her life without a goodbye. These emotions and conflicts play right into the mystery when Chelsea overhears two men discussing moving something, money, and the police. Intrigued by what she hears, Chelsea convinces her friend Amber to go along with her to find out what the men are hiding. What she finds is her worst nightmare--her stepmother lies dead in a cave near the water. She and her friend go to the police, who later cannot find a body at the crime scene. Chelsea and Amber are left to solve the mystery on their own.

3. Analysis:
This book is a light, quick mystery that goes beyond the "who did it" to dealing with relationships. Chelsea misses her mom so desperately that she is thrilled when her new stepmother Diane pays attention to her. Although Diane is much younger than her father, Chelsea instantly likes Diane's independence and confidence. Chelsea believes Diane loves her when in reality Diane is isolating her from her best friend Amber and even her father. When Diane walks out of their lives and her father will not answer any questions, Chelsea becomes even more alone. Ferguson develops the relationship between Chelsea and her father throughout the book. In the beginning, her father was cold when asked about Diane and stubborn about making his daughter work her way up the corporate ladder. Chelsea acts impulsively without even thinking about her father and his feelings. By the end of the book, her father shares his feelings about Diane with Chelsea, and he is the first person she calls when she goes to the police station after being threatened. This character development makes up for the small holes in the mystery part of the book.
The reader knows something is not quite right with Diane by the clues about how she has pulled Chelsea away from her friends. While Chelsea does not believe Amber when she tells her this, it is obvious to the reader. The reader just does not know how involved Diane is until the end. The most obvious hole in the mystery is that there were not enough clues as to who the killer really was. Ferguson drops some clues that lead to the father as Chelsea wonders if her father is guilty of murder, but he is quickly ruled out. Readers like to solve the mystery along with the protagonist, so more clues should have lead the reader to suspect Diane was involved in fraud with Peter Karsch and Dr. Marcroft. Instead, the reader has no idea who these men are until the murder is solved. This jump in information takes some of the fun out of reading and solving the mystery, yet Chelsea's renewed relationship with her friend and father make up for this hole in the plot.

4. Reviews:
School Library Journal: The unlikely plot, sketchy setting, and minimal character development keep the book from being deeply engaging, while the few clues offered make it difficult for readers to solve the puzzle independently. Despite these flaws, however, this is an entertaining, light mystery. Fans of the genre will enjoy the chatty, contemporary tone and be attracted by the provocative title (a reference to Diane's favorite perfume and, as Chelsea discovers, a clue to her personality).Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Publishers Weekly: The tale is not complete without Mr. Smythe's brief imprisonment, a high-tech stalking, the revelation of Diane's life of crime and a riveting if far-fetched confrontation with a would-be murderer. Product names, dropped in abundance, serve to define characters, while their emotions are most often telegraphed by the state of their clothes: "His suit had pulled to one side... and tears had left dime-sized marks on his powder blue shirt." Ages 12-up. Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. (Accessed November 16, 2008)

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

1. Bibliography:

Sonnenblick, Jordan. 2004. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 0439755190.

2. Summary:
Steven is a normal middle school boy. He has a crush on a girl, the most popular girl on campus, loves playing the drums, and gets along with his parents. When his brother, Jeffrey, gets leukemia, Steven's world changes. What was once a carefree life is now replaced by a life of isolation from his family as they concentrate on Jeffrey's illness, failing grades in school, and a fear for his brother's life.

3. Analysis:
Sonnenblick's style is one of the most refreshing voices in young adult literature. Because he taught middle school, Sonnenblick speaks the language of middle school kids. The characters are real. He captures the sarcastic and quick wit that is rampant in young adults, and that wit and fresh voice make this book a fantastic read for both young adults and adults. Steven says things like, "You have to love it when the doctor lays all this horrific stuff on you and then tells you not to worry. It's like saying, 'Here's thirty-seven pounds of assorted chocolates. Try not to think about food though.' Or,'Look! There's Renee Albert in a bikini. But please try to keep your mind on algebraic functions.'" This wit makes the book that deals with a tough topic (cancer) an enjoyable and fun read.
Young adults often think they are invincible, but sadly, many kids are diagnosed with cancer and leukemia specifically each year. This book touches on the realities of cancer: long hospital stays, missed vacations, and even death. Steven starts the book out as a carefree, normal kid. He ends the book at his 8th grade graduation as a more reflective kid, one who thinks of how Samantha died and the lessons she taught him.
The book stays realistic with Steven's grades plummeting as he feels distant from his classmates and ignored at home. Sonnenblick accurately describes the teachers' responses and Steven's disgust because school should be a place where things stay the same. Sonnenblick also adds to the realism by having Steven make "deals" with God to let Jeffrey live like "Here goes a good offer, Lord. If that bird on that tree over there flies away within ten seconds, Jeffrey is cured." While it has a funny tone, it's a realistic reaction for a middle school kid.
While the book remains funny, it focuses in on a serious topic of cancer and its affect on not only the sick patient but also the family. Steven learns that it is okay not be the center of attention and how families stick together during tough times and how parents do love both kids even if they have to focus on one more for a while. And finally as he falls for Annette, his best friend, he learns that sometimes the best friend and love can be the one right before your eyes.

4. Reviews:
TeenReads: Readers who have never gone through what Steven is going through will have a newfound understanding of what it is like to --- very literally --- battle someone else's cancer. Those who have will be grateful to Sonnenblick for getting it so right. --- Reviewed by Jennifer Krieger (Accessed November 16, 2008)
Booklist: The recriminations, cares, and nightmares that come with a cancer diagnosis are all here, underscored by vomiting, white blood cell counts, and chemotherapy ports. Yet, this is also about regrouping, solidarity, love, and hope. Most important for a middle-grade audience, Sonneblick shows that even in the midst of tragedy, life goes on, love can flower, and the one thing you can always change is yourself. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. (Accessed November 16, 2008)


1. Bibliography:
Blume, Judy. 1975. Forever. New York: Simon Pulse. ISBN: 978141693444

2. Summary:
Katherine is a high school senior who meets Michael, a charming and kind guy. She quickly falls for Michael, and their relationship moves to sex fairly quickly. Katherine goes through the emotions of wondering about her feelings for Michael, worrying about STD's (called VD's in the book), getting birth control, and balancing relationships with her parents, friends, and her new love. While Katherine is convinced their love will last forever, she soon realizes young love is not always lasting love when she is forced to go camp, where she meets Theo. Katherine soon develops feelings for Theo, leaving her to wonder about her relationship with Michael. Katherine ends things with Michael, and she quickly starts a relationship with Theo, leaving the reader to wonder how long forever really is.

3. Analysis:
In today's world, teens often have sex recklessly and without much though. Judy Blume's book Forever, while written long ago, speaks loudly and clearly to today's youth. Katherine is a typical girl who falls for a guy. Blume does a great job of keeping the relationship realistic with the teens meeting at a party, going on dates, and even meeting each other's parents. The sexual relationship also progresses naturally. Judy Blume gives a realistic and detailed description of sex, contradicting the misconception that sex is like it is in the movies. She also has Katherine going to get birth control, teaching that birth control is mandatory while not preaching at the reader. On the contrary, Michael had a VD from a previous relationship, and that is blown off as something that is not a big deal. He tells Katherine that he took some medicine and is fine. Katherine naively believes him, and this could have been explored more in the book. STD's are common in America's teens, and Blume could have taken that opportunity to teach more about STD's and reach deeper into Katherine's blind acceptance of his explanation.
More groundwork could have been laid to show how the relationship progressed. The reader is not sure about what makes Michael so special. Why is he different from other guys? Why is he the one she should have sex with? Because this is not shown, the reader questions whether the love is real or if it is just hormones. This questioning continues when Katherine moves on so quickly, especially when she sees Michael after the break-up. She knows she is "not ready for forever" but can only say, "See you around." Then she gets home to hear that Theo has called. There is no mourning over the end of her relationship with her first love. It treats that first love and first sexual experience as not that big of a deal when it should be.
In this book, Blume also explores the relationship between teens and parents. Katherine has a healthy relationship with her parents, but when she becomes sexually active, the relationship changes some even though the parents do not come out and talk to Katherine about sex. The relationship becomes more tense with Katherine's parents eventually having to send her to camp in an attempt to get her away from Michael. This type of relationship was typical for the time the book was written. However, today, more parents are talking about sex with their kids, and many kids are more openly discussing their lives. While some parents may fear their children reading a book that speaks so openly about sex, if they are talking to their kids about sex, this book does not cover anything new. Instead of banning this book, adults should use it as a springboard for an honest, open talk about sex and its consequences, especially when rushed into.
4. Reviews:
"A convincing account of first love." –The New York Times Book Review
"No preaching (Blume never does) but the message is clear; no hedging (Blume never does) but a candid account by Kathy gives intimate details of a first sexual relationship. The characters and dialogue are equally natural and vigorous, the language uncensored, the depiction of family relationships outstanding."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults. (Accessed November 16, 2008)

The Chocolate War

1. Bibliography:
Cormier, Robert. 1974. The Chocolate War. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf. ISBN: 0440944597

2. Summary:
Jerry is a high school freshman at Trinity High, a strict private school. While he deals with the death of his mother and a uninvolved father, Jerry finds his place by saying he will not sell the chocolate for the school's fundraiser. His refusal creates problems for Jerry as Brother Leon is depending on the students to sell the chocolate. Brother Leon is so desperate to sell the chocolate that he works with the leader of the Vigils, the elite group on campus, to coerce Jerry into selling the chocolate. Jerry remains firm in his resistance, and he must fight Emile Janza in his final stand against the Vigils.

3. Analysis:
Robert Cormier writes a dark tale about the conformity expected in schools and the bullying that often accompanies any refusal to follow a group. His realistic view of life is universal. While not every student has been asked to sell chocolate, many students wish they could stand up against the rules and hierarchy of a school. These readers will want to root for Jerry, but because the reader is not given much insight into Jerry's thoughts and feelings, it is hard to identify with him or completely support him.
A couple of areas could be addressed further to make readers relate to Jerry more. Jerry's mother is dead, yet there is little written about Jerry dealing with those emotions or feelings. Jerry also has random sexual feelings which are not explored throughout the book. Jerry wonders why he feels guilty about buying Playboy in one scene and then feels aroused while tackling another guy at football practice. These scenes fall flat as they are not developed more. They almost seemed an afterthought instead of a part of the plot. If Jerry's feelings and emotions had been shared with the audience more, perhaps readers would care if Jerry made a stand or not!
While the character of Jerry falls flat, the situation is realistic. Every school or organization has the elite group that runs the social aspect of the school. At the beginning of Jerry's refusal, students believed Jerry was completing an assignment given out by the Vigils. As his stand continues, it becomes obvious that Jerry is refusing for his own reasons, defying Archie and the Vigils. His refusal makes him an enemy of both the Vigils who like to control people instead of allowing people to think and to act for themselves and Brother Leon, who must have the students sell the chocolate. Brother Leon is so desperate that he resorts to teaming up with Vigils, suggesting that authority figures are sometimes corrupt and use students for their own needs. This idea is further proven when Brother Leon allows Archie to orchestrate a final showdown between Emile Janza, the school thug, and Jerry. The idea that an adult would allow students to fight is disturbing since school officials should protect students.
Jerry's stand ends when he loses the fight, leaving the readers to reflect on how good people do not always win in life. Jerry took a stand for what he believes is right and yet still did not win. While this outcome does not seem fair, it is one that often happens in real life. It is a lesson young adults should learn early on. In addition to Jerry's loss, Archie is protected by a crooked adult, and Archie suffers no consequences for his actions, which is another hard lesson.
So while readers may find it hard to identify with Jerry, everyone understands the struggle against evil and sometimes not winning.

4. Reviews:
“Masterfully structured and rich in theme; the action is well crafted, well timed, suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The characterizations of all the boys are superb.”—School Library Journal
“Compellingly immediate. . . . Readers will respect the uncompromising ending.”—Kirkus Reviews
An ALA Best Books for Young Adults
A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Choice
A New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year (Accessed November 16, 2008)

Hitler Youth

1. Bibliography:
Bartoletti, Susan Campell. 2005. Hitler's Youth. Singapore: Scholastic Nonfiction. ISBN: 0439353793
2. Summary:
In this deeply moving book, Bartoletti goes to people themselves who followed Hitler to discover and to document the move that brought Hitler into power in Germany. The book explores both the movement leading to the rise of Hitler, his reign of terror, and the aftermath of his fall. Because the book uses the words of the youth who were brainwashed by Hitler and his lackeys, its authenticity stands out and creates a moving read.
3. Analysis:
This book is a powerful read. I have often wondered how people could follow Hitler so blindly and miss the atrocities being committed while they served without questions. Although I had studied the history of WWII and Hitler's charisma, reading this book was eye-opening. It is amazing to read in the words of the kids how Hitler began putting the pieces into place many years before the war. Tactically speaking, Hitler's plan to create a Hitler's Youth group was brilliant, turning kids into robots of war.
Quotes from members of the group like, "We ran for Germany. We did the long jump for Germany. We did it all for Germany," clearly depict the total brainwashing of these children. Their total identities were wrapped up in not only their country but the socialism promoted by Hitler. The songs they sang contained words like "When Jew blood spurts from the carving knife/ Oh, it's that much more okay." The brutality of the lyrics also demonstrate the sadistic mind and its influence on vulnerable children.
What is most moving aspect of the written part of the book is the anguish some felt after the war. When the war began, these warriors were children, innocent and naive. That innocence was shattered when American troops brought them to see the destruction of the Hitler regime. Their grief over the pain and slaughter they had contributed to is heart wrenching. One boy says,"The impact of what we had seen was too great to be immediately digested." However awful the crimes against them, the book documents that the survivors of the concentration camps never retaliated after they were freed. "I thought they were going to tear us to pieces, but never a word was uttered, never a hand was raised." That may be the most moving part of all.
Bartoletti also spends adequate time focusing on the young people who saw through Hitler's rhyme and reason and who stood up for the truth. These teenagers were tortured and sometimes put to death. While many historians focus only on the negative actions of the people of Germany, Bartoletti paints a full picture by highlighting the efforts of teens such sixteen-year-old Helmuth Hubener, who died for his stance against Hitler.
The language of the book is perfect for the age group targeted. Because the book is for younger readers, many of the brutalities are not given in detail. The sentence structure and flow are also easy to read.
The pictures for the book were thoughtful and added to the story immensely. Since the book is geared toward younger readers, the pictures are not the most gruesome ones that can be seen at Holocaust museums around the world. The pictures added to the story but did not take away from the power of the words of the people who lived through this time.
4. Reviews:
Publisher's Weekly: "Bartoletti's portrait of individuals within the Hitler Youth who failed to realize that they served "a mass murderer" is convincing, and while it does not excuse the atrocities, it certainly will allow readers to comprehend the circumstances that led to the formation of Hitler's youngest zealots." Ages 7-10. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The final chapter superbly summarizes the weighty significance of this part of the 20th century and challenges young readers to prevent history from repeating itself. Bartoletti lets many of the subjects' words, emotions, and deeds speak for themselves, bringing them together clearly to tell this story unlike anyone else has.–Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

The House of Scorpion

1. Bibliography:

Farmer, Nancy. 2004. The House of the Scorpion. New York: Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9780689852237.

2. Summary:

Matt is a clone, but not just any clone. He is the clone of the El Patron, who is a powerful drug lord in a land between Mexico and the US. Unlike most clones who are used for harvesting organs, Matt has been kept in secret and allowed to live without being harmed. When he is finally free from his hiding, he must go on a journey to find out who he really is--a clone of El Patron or Matt.

3. Analysis:

In a society where cloning is often in the headlines, the topic for this book is one that will interest students in the middle school level. When I have talked about cloning with students while we watch our daily Channel One news, the topic always goes to humans. What would it be like to have cloned humans. This book explores one side of this topic...the side where clones are used, abused, and scorned. When you read,"'It's not a boy,' Tom said scornfully. 'It's a clone,'" you feel the punch to the gut that the next sentence tells us that Matt feels. How could a boy like Matt be considered anything other than the boy that he is. Even though the reality of human clones may be a ways away in the headlines, it is believable in a fiction form. The book also fulfills many of the "criteria" for a good young adult book. First, it has a young adult protagonist. Although the book starts out labeled 0-6 years, it does not stay there long. Most of the book (over 200 pages) is from ages 12-14. Therefore, readers can recognize their own feelings and reactions such as Matt's dealings with Jorge, the unfair taskmaster, which is how many middle school age kids see any authority figure. Readers can also identify with Matt's growing friendship with his fellow prisoners. Although he struggles to fit in, as he discovers himself, he finds his place in the group and becomes a hero by taking the beating meant for Fidelito.Second, action is all over the book. Readers follow Matt as he is trapped in horrible conditions where he is put in paper like an animal because people don't believe clones are housebroken. They then follow him to a happier time when he tastes of the wealth and luxury life of El Patron. Happiness doesn't last long when he must flee and ends up working under a harsh Jorge. As the action concludes, the writer leaves the readers will a hopeful ending, which is the third fulfillment of good YA criteria. Matt discovers himself (and perhaps the readers discover a little of themselves) and takes his rightful place as the next ruler of El Patron's estate, vowing to do good with his power instead of evil. It's even nicer that Maria will be there by his side, at last reunited with her mother.

4. Reviews:
Winner of the 2002 National Book AwardYoung People's Literature
A 2003Newbery Honor Book
A 2003Michael L. Printz Honor Book
The author strikes a masterful balance between Matt's idealism and his intelligence. The novel's close may be rushed, and Tam Lin's fate may be confusing to readers, but Farmer grippingly demonstrates that there are no easy answers. The questions she raises will haunt readers long after the final page. Ages 11-14.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.