Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun is by Lorraine Hansberry. The classic play about American black culture and struggle in the 1960s. The play, set in Chicago, follows the story of the Younger family as they await the life insurance check from their father's death. Hansberry anticipated the issues blacks are still dealing with in America, from civil rights to women's rights to identity struggles to poverty. One can not help relating to the Younger's and their struggles, even if you are not black. A must read for those who seek to be well versed in American literature.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon is by Dashiell Hammett. Hammett's classic tale of Sam Spade, the tough San Francisco detective, as he tries to solve the murder of his partner. The police think Spade killed his partner so he could continue his relationship with Archer's wife. But who is the beautiful redheaded client who asked for their help? And what is the "black bird" everyone thinks Spade can deliver? Can he solve this case before he's arrested or killed. A classic tale of detective noir - as good as the movie starring Bogart.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Dr. Franklin's Island

Dr. Franklin's Island is by Ann Halam. Semi, Miranda, and Arnie survive a plane crash on their way to the rain forests of Ecuador. They find themselves on an island they believe to be deserted. Then they stumble into the hands of Dr. Franklin, a scientist, who is eager to use three teenagers who are presumed dead by the world in his experiments in genetic engineering. A modern version of the Wells' classic The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.


Stardust is by Neil Gaiman. Tristran Thorn loves Victoria Forester. To win her love, he promises to venture into Faerie and bring her a falling star. The star turns out to be a beautiful woman named Yvaine who is wanted by more people than just Tristran. A charming fantasy tale of good vs evil, freedom, and true love.

Ratings: 10th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).


Matilda is by Roald Dahl. Matilda is a very bright young girl with very nasty parents and a horrible principal. She struggles to cope with what's wrong in her life and still help her beloved teacher Miss Honey. A cute little fantasy tale typical of Dahl's style.

Ratings: 4th grade - 6 out of 10.

Tales of Ancient Egypt

Tales of Ancient Egypt is by Roger Lancelyn Green. A classic collection of tales from Egyptian mythology and other stories of ancient Egypt. A charming introduction to Egyptian mythology and heroic tales. It even contains the Egyptian version of the Trojan War. A great little book.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Battle of the Labyrinth

The Battle of the Labyrinth is by Rick Riordan. The fourth book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Annabeth and Percy are off on a quest through the labyrinth to find Daedalus and his workshop before Luke does. Grover & Tyson tag along as they search for the lost god Pan. The book ends with a terrible battle at Camp Halfblood, the rise of Kronos, the return of Nico, and the secret of Pan being revealed to the Council of Satyrs. The fifth and final book promises to be a gem. Another great entry in this wonderful series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

War Heroes: Voices from Iraq

War Heroes: Voices from Iraq is by Allan Zullo. Ten stories of American soldiers and their experiences in Iraq. A great look into the lives of true American heroes. Another wonderful book of non-fiction tales by this extremely readable author.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising is by Pam Munoz Ryan. When Esperanza's father is murdered, she and her mother must flee to America or her mother must marry her greedy uncle. In America they are no longer rich land owners but poor migrant farm workers. Esperanza wrestles with her new status. She must learn to work on a farm and care for others, including her sick mother. A tale of overcoming obstacles and the importance of family and friendship.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Ask Me No Questions

Ask Me No Questions is by Marina Budhos. A Bangladeshi family struggles to stay in the United States after 9/11. Nadira and her family came to the United States and overstayed their visas. They managed to stay under the immigration radar until 9/11 changed everything. When Nadira and her sister learn their father and uncle are arrested as suspected terrorists, the girls must put together documentation to prove their innocence. An interesting tale of illegal immigration from the point of view of the immigrants.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

The Hunt Club

The Hunt Club is by Bret Lott. This is the story of a teenage Southern boy whose blind uncle runs a "hunt club" on several thousand acres of land. Every weekend rich doctors come to eat and hunt deer. One weekend Huger (You-Gee) and his Uncle Leland discover a dead body. This discovery sets in motion a chain of events that threaten Huger and everyone he cares about. When Huger untangles this web of murder, deceit, and lies will he ever be the same again? Will he survive? A wonderful whodunit! Just when you think you've figured it all out you realize you've only uncovered another layer.

Ratings: 12th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Night is by Elie Wiesel. This classic short tale of Wiesel's Holocaust remembrances won him the Nobel Prize in 1986. Elie and his family were taken from a small Transylvanian town and transferred to Auschwitz and finally to Buchenwald. We share the death of his family, his innocence, and his faith. You cannot read this book and not be moved by the horrors of Nazi Germany. Required reading for the well read individual.

Ratings: 8th grade - 10 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt is by Elizabeth Payne. Egyptian history is explored in a very readable fashion. From Cheops to Rameses the Second we learn about the life and times of one of the world's oldest civilizations. A fantastic non-fiction read for young readers interested in mummies and ancient Egypt. Enough pictures to be interesting, but not enough to make this a picture book.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

School's Out - Forever

School's Out - Forever is by James Patterson. The second book in the Maximum Ride series. Max and her flock continue their struggle to survive and find their parents. When Fang is injured the flock finds itself living with an FBI agent and, OMG, going to school with regular kids. But things are never what they seem for Max and the gang. Just when you think you know what's coming, Patterson throws in another plot twist.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blue Moon

Blue Moon is by Alyson Noel. The second book in the Immortals series. Something is wrong with Damen. As Ever's powers grow she watches in horror as her beloved Damen becomes weaker and older. Is the new kid at school to blame? Is he really the nice guy he seems or the evil Ever believes him to be? In her search to cure Damen she discovers the ability to travel through time. Should she save Damen or return and rescue her entire family? Is there a correct choice and who can she trust to help her make it?

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity).

So Far From the Bamboo Grove

So Far From the Bamboo Grove is by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. A look at WWII from a less well known perspective. Yoko and her family must escape Korea at the end of WWII and return to Japan. Korea has been occupied by the Japanese for years and now the Korean Communists want to destroy the Japanese. The journey of this family is terrifying and remarkable. A true story of courage and survival in the aftermath of war. A fantastic introduction to non-fiction reading.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (some mature content).


Snakehead is by Anthony Horowitz. The 7th book in the Alex Rider series. Alex is recruited by the Australian Secret Service to infiltrate a gang of smugglers who specialize in drugs, weapons, and people. He takes the job only to have the chance to work with his newly discovered godfather and learn about his parents. What he discovers is a painful secret that could get him killed. Another great Alex Rider adventure.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Samurai's Tale

The Samurai's Tale is by Erik Christian Haugaard. A wonderful story of a young orphan boy who dreams of becoming a samurai in feudal Japan. He finds himself caught up in the power struggle to rule the country and must survive and find himself with honor. A enchanting look at society and life in 16th century Japan. Boys will love this story of courage, honor, and loyalty.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

A Trap in Time

A Trap in Time is by Celia Rees. The second installment of the Supernatural Trilogy. This is really two separate stories in one. At the beginning of the book, Davey suspects his new drama teacher is really the Grey Lady in disguise. He believes she is intending to do away with him in front of everyone in a play she is setting up for his school. Only his friends can save him, if he can get them to believe him. In the second half of the book, Davey and his friends must save a religious relic from being used for evil by a power-hungry human and the Judge.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

Heroes, Gods, & Monsters of the Greek Myths

Heroes, Gods, & Monsters of the Greek Myths is by Bernard Evslin. A wonderful introduction to Greek mythology. It goes through the main gods, the nature myths (Echo & Narcissus, Pandora), the demigods (Perseus & Atlanta), and fables (King Midas). Evslin tells these timeless tales in a way that holds the reader and yet is faithful to the original Greek. A great little book.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dear Mr. Henshaw

Dear Mr. Henshaw is by Beverly Cleary. A young boy comes of age and deals with his parents' divorce by writing letters to the author of his favorite children's book. The author's responses and advice help Leigh to come to grips with his life and family problems. A cute story for less advanced readers.

Ratings: 5th grade - 8 out of 10.


Wolfling is by Gordon R. Dickson. One of Miss D's favorite science fiction authors, Dickson is also the author of Miss D's favorite science fiction novel, The Right To Arm Bears. Wolfling is the story of Jim Keil, who is sent from Earth to the Throne World to observe the High-born and determine if Earthlings are indeed descendants of these advanced beings. He becomes involved in a plot against the High-born Emperor that may destroy both the Throne World and Earth. Dickson is rated 9th grade merely for reading level. There is no profanity or mature content of any kind in this book. If you love hard core science fiction, you will love Dickson.

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10.

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister is by Jenny Nimmo. The second in the Children of the Red King series. Charlie is hoping for a better term than the last at Bloor's Academy. Then Henry Yewbeam appears, brought forward in time by the Time Twister. Henry is a relative and Charlie feels he must save both Henry and the Time Twister from the evil Bloor's. But with the Bloor's, his grandmother, and evil aunts out to stop him can he possibly succeed?

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Lady Friday

Lady Friday is by Garth Nix. The fifth of seven in The Keys to the Kingdom series. Four down and three to go for Lord Arthur, Rightful Heir to the House. He must rescue his friends from the Piper and save the House from an invasion by the New Nithling army and find the fifth part of the Will and the key held by Lady Friday, who holds his friend Leaf and other mortals, including possibly Arthur's own mother.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Cobra King of Kathmandu

The Cobra King of Kathmandu is by P.B. Kerr. Book three in the Children of the Lamp series. John & Philippa sneak away from home to help Dybbuk discover who murdered his friend and is trying to murder him. They travel from New York to London to Nepal to India and end up in the clutches of the Cult of the Nine Cobras. They must escape themselves and rescue Nimrod and Mr. Rakshasas as well. Another excellent installment in an enjoyable series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is by Ann Brashares. Four best friends must separate for the summer. They decide to share a pair of jeans that fit all four miraculously well. Each will have the pants and then pass them on to the next in turn. All four must face a personal challenge and learn something about life, love, courage, and friendship. A wonderful journey for pants and reader alike. Some mature thematic content and slight profanity, but nonetheless a wonderful adventure.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).