Sunday, April 18, 2010

Broadway Lights by Jen Calonita

Summary: In this 5th book in the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series, Kaitlin Burke, teen star, heads to New York for her Broadway debut. Moving from a TV show to Broadway is a huge change, and Kaitlin must balance learning how to act on stage (with a hateful co-star) with her everyday life, which includes her new friendship with an old enemy. Kaitlin's ready for the Big Apple: the shopping, shows, food, and even SNL. Is she willing to risk her friendships and her boyfriend for the glamour of the big city?

My thoughts: I like this series for middle school girls. It includes the drama of the big city, Hollywood, acting, celebrities, etc. Yet, the romance, back-stabbing, and fears are age appropriate for middle school girls. Kaitlin and Austin only kiss, and there is none of the drug, sex, underage drinking that is often associated with teens in Hollywood. It's a clean book, and I recommend it for the middle school girls who love celebrity stories.

Author's website:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper


Melody Brooks is clever, determined, and full of life. She has so much to say. Words fill her every moment and comprise her earliest memories. These same words that bring her joy also haunt her. Even though she has a photographic memory, she has never spoken a word. Melody was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a body that is uncontrollable, a wheelchair, and the prejudices of those around her who think she must be "stupid" because of her disability. When Melody is introduced to a new laptop that allows her to type words to be spoken, Melody is a given a chance to tell the world the words she has bottled up for almost eleven years. Will she be given a chance show everyone who she really is?

My thoughts:

Without sounding sappy, I must say that Melody's story has stayed with me long after I finished the book. I see her when I see kids in wheelchairs. I remember her when I see kids tease each other in the hallway. I was unsure of the book when I picked it up because it is so different from Draper's other books, but this book has become my favorite. The characters are well-developed and captivating. The story is realistic and depicts the both the positive and negative sides of how handicapped children are treated in the public education system. Because Draper taught for many years, she is a master of capturing the "voices" of students, making her books favorites for students.

This is a story that should be told and shared with kids from intermediate to middle school. Teachers should use this book to talk in literature circles to. The book is told in way that the reader becomes a champion for Melody, wanting to help her beat the odds, which will appeal to kids and teach them much more than a lecture from teachers or parents.

I am buying a second copy for my classroom even though my students are a little older than the protagonist. My students are huge Sharon Draper fans, and I hope this book will cause them to think about how they treat people, specifically those with disabilities, and how they can work hard to overcome any obstacle.

Please note: This book is for ages 10 and up. Sharon Drapers other books are for grades 7 and up at least. While I recommend her books to my students, I wouldn't recommend her other books to intermediate aged children. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum

Summary: Maya Davis is happy with her life as a barista. She has great friends and a solid family (even if she doesn't measure up to her doctor brother). Her life is turned upside down when her ex-boyfriend shows up in town, doesn't recognize her, and begins dating her roommate Jen! To further complicate things, her "perfect" brother moves back to town, and Jack, her best friend, seems to want more than friendship. Maya begins to struggle with the truth: that she may not be over the past relationship, which affects her relationship with Jesus and her roommate. Will Maya stick her head in the sand and ignore the past that is now glaring her in the face, or will she embrace the truth that God gives? Add coffee and sticky note lists to the mix, and you have a wonderful tale of love, friendship, and family.

What I loved: When you read as much as I do, it's hard to find an author who has a fresh, unique voice. Erynn Mangum has that voice. I loved her style in the Lauren Holbrook series, and that style was definitely in Cool Beans as well. Second, few authors can weave spiritual truths into their novels without sounding preachy. Erynn is good at this. She delved into the topic of honesty in this book, and I felt like I was learning with Maya, not hearing a lecture or sermon. Finally, the book is funny. While the topic of ex-boyfriends, first loves, and being honest are serious topics, this book is balanced with funny coffee jokes, an annoying Parrot, and the flirtations of a romance in the making.

What I didn't like: There was only one thing that I didn't like about this book. One night, Maya is at home waiting for Jen to get home. The book says Maya gets home from work at 11:03 p.m. She then gets annoyed on the next page because it's 10:30 and Jen isn't home. Then it's 12:07 (pm, should be am), and Jen isn't home. I was confused because then I thought Jen hadn't come home all night...then the next page mentions the morning. So, I think it was just typos, but it confused me. This is something an editor should have caught. Again, if this is the biggest problem in a book, then the book is great.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to anyone who loves books like Kristin Billerbeck or Robin Jones Gunn. It's a fun read that also makes you think about the Bible some. I also think it's a great book for a high school or college aged girl.

I can't wait to read book two in this series.