Friday, July 23, 2004

Touching Spirit Bear *****

Mikaelsen, Ben.  Touching Spirit Bear.  New York:  Harper Collins, 2001.

I LOVED this book.  This book has been sitting in my (very large) pile for OVER a year.  I avoided reading it last summer and it sat there for the entire school year, unread.  I think I avoided it because of what I thought the book was about as opposed to what it ended up being about!  The picture on the cover made the bear appear to be fake.  Also, the title, calls it a "spirit bear" giving me the impression that it wasn't real.  I thought this was going to be some sort of novel about a boy going out on a vision quest or something, which could be pretty boring. 

Cole is an angry boy.  His father has beaten him for his entire life which has made him angry; he takes this anger out on the world. He has been in trouble at school and with the law, but he doesn't care.  One day he beats up Peter for no reason, banging his head on the concrete repeatedly.  This is one mess his father can't get him out of.  Cole's problem is also that he doensn't take any personal responsibilty for any of his actions. He blames everyone for his problems, he even blames Peter for being attacked by him because he asked for it.

His parole officer, Garvey, a native Tlinget Indian, suggests that instead of going to jail, he go through Circle Justice. Circle Justice is a way that Native American use to "punish" their criminals. In his Circle Justice, Cole is sent to an island off the coast of Alaska where he must live alone, except for occassional visits from Edwin, who brings supplies and tries to steer Cole in the right direction.  On his first night, he torches his hut and tries to swim away to another island, but the tide just brings him right back.  Before he can swim away again at low tide, a white bear (called a Spirit Bear) approaches him.  Because the bear isn't afraid of him, Cole tries to kill it, and it retaliates, breaking many of Cole's bones and slicing up his body. He lays there for days, and only then does he realize he wants to live and wants to change. 

There is more to the story but I don't want to give away too many details.  The only negative to the book was that Cole seemed to "get it" and want to change a little too early in the story.  He was only on the island for several days before being mauled by the bear.  Yes, a near death experience can change anyone overnight, but this seemed a bit too much overnight for my tastes.  Still, the story iteself is so well written and powerful this one slight problem doesn't take away from the overall effect of this book, which is amazing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Pool Boy *****

Simmons, Michael. Pool Boy. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2003.

I absolutely LOVED this book. It got a starred review from School Library Journal, but, like with the last book, the cover kept me from picking it up until now. I plan to buy several copies and booktalk it next year!

Brett is a rich, spoiled kid who gets everything he wants and has never had to work a day in his life. That is, until his father is convicted of a white collar crime and goes to prison, leaving him and his mother and sister with no money. He hates his father for taking away everything he had and frequently calls him an idiot and is mean to him during visits.

In order to survive, Brett gets a job in a fast food joint, which doesn't last long, due mostly to his bad attitude. He is quickly hired by Alfie, an old eccentric man, who owns a pool cleaning business. During his time with Alfie, Brett learns a lot about life and grows up.

The story is a great one but it is enhanced by the fact that it is told in the first person point of view. Brett is a really sarcastic kid, and he tells it like it is. He is also spoiled which comes out in how he says things. He is also very funny. This point of view really adds to the story and makes it even better.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Fat Kid Rules the World *****

Going, K.L. Fat Kid Rules the World.  New York Putnam, 2003. 
                                                                                                                                                                        I was excited to read this book because it had gotten a starred review in School Library Journal.  I have had this book in my collection since September but have put off reading it. I think the problem was the cover.  It is a really ugly cover.  I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I do!  The cover of this one made it look very dark and depressing and I like to avoid that unless I am in the mood for that sort of thing!  I am glad I finally picked it up.                                                                                                                                                              Troy is a 300 pound high school student with no friends. One day he is contemplating committing suicide by jumping onto the subway tracks, but it saved by Curt, a homeless drug addict who used to go to his school.  Soon, he becomes friends with Curt who introduces him to the Punk Rock scene.  Despite the fact that he can't play the drums, Curt creates a band with Troy as the drummer and books them a show.  Troy has only a few weeks to learn how to play guitar.  Troy keeps trying to quit, but Curt won't give up on him.  Troy and Curt both learn the meaning of frienship during their time together.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Angel Factory ****

Blacker, Terence. The Angel Factory. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.

Thomas comes from one of those families that seems almost too good to be true. They are all good looking, they never fight. The only problem is that Thomas can't quite figure out what his parents do for a living. Everything is turned upside down when, at the suggestion of his friend Gip, they download some files from his father's computer to see if he works for the CIA. On their family vacation/business trip to Santa Barbara, Thomas follows his parents to their business meeting and finds that their job is definitely not what they told him it was. Upon his return home, he finds out that his teacher, has decoded the file from the computer, and it says that he was adopted. Still angry with his parents for lying to him, he finds out that his parents are, in fact, from another planet and are involved in a plot to improve the Earth internally because humans wouldn't take the help otherwise. They try to recruit him to work for the Project, but he is torn between doing what he was raised to do, or doing what he thinks is right.

On the book cover, this books is compared to Lois Lowry's _The Giver_. While it isn't that similar, I would have to say that anyone who enjoyed _The Giver_ would definitely enjoy this book as well. This genre isn't really my favorite, but even I enjoyed this book. It is fast paced and enjoyable.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Greetings and Salutations

I am a high school librarian who reads a lot of Young Adult fiction for work.  I try to read most of the fiction that I buy for my library.  I will be creating an entry for each book I read with a brief synopsis and a review. 

How do I select books for my library?  I use a Journal called School Library Journal.  In addition to articles of interest to school librarians, it features book reviews by professional book reviews.  By reading the reviews, I can decide what to purchase and what not to purchase.   There is also a section called "Adult Books for Young Adults".  Books that are appropriate for teenagers are spotlighted there.  These books are written for an adult audience, but often feature children and young adults as the main character.  
If you have any recommendations of books I should read, please let me know.