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Monthly Archives: August 2007

“Schooled” by Gordon Korman

TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:

"Schooled" is the story of Capricorn ("Cap") Anderson, a young teen who was raised in virtual isolation on the Garland Farm commune with only his grandmother, Rain. When Rain falls from a tree while picking plums, Cap's entire existence is radically changed. Because Rain will need at least two months of rehabilitation for her broken hip, Cap — for the first time in his life — must leave the commune, move to a house in town, interact with other teenagers, and attend a regular middle school. Mind you, Cap has never seen a television, computer, cell phone, or ipod. He has no idea how people use money, checks, and property. In fact, he can't even understand why someone would need a school locker!

Cap is placed at the suburban home of social worker Flora Donnelly and her beautiful, somewhat bratty high school age daughter, Sophie. Many years before, Flora's parents had been members of the commune, so Flora knows full well just how jarring it is to be thrown into modern life all at once. As for Sophie, she either ignores the "freakazoid" or, in her more evil moments, dumps water on him while he practices tai chi on the front lawn.

Unfortunately, Sophie's "freakazoid" label, while harsh, is also fairly accurate. To his new classmates at Claverage (nicknamed "C Average") Middle School, Cap might as well have landed from a different planet. With his tie-dyed shirts, hemp sandals, and long hippie hair, Cap is literally stuck in the 1960s. Even beyond his appearance, Cap's behavior — his desire to learn all 1100 students' names, his complete failure to get ruffled by bullies or teen pranks — is completely foreign. Unlike his peers, Cap literally sees only good in people, regardless of the situation.

Cap's classmates, including football jock Zach and popular girls Naomi and Lena, immediately size him up as an easy target. They conspire, successfully, to get Cap elected 8th grade class president, thinking the results of putting someone so clueless in charge will be hilarious. But what begins as a cruel joke eventually becomes a life-changing experience for both Cap and his peers. Slowly but surely, he wins them over with his simple innocence, generous spirit, and refusal to compromise himself.

This book's theme — an outsider teaching conformist teens the true meaning of individuality — reminded me of Jerry Spinelli's "Stargirl." But this book is so much more gentle and lighthearted in its tone. While author Gordon Korman is clearly trying to impart a lesson, he does so in a thoroughly entertaining, enjoyable manner. I also liked the use of rotating narrators, which allows the reader to understand Cap's story from his perspective as well as those of his classmates, Flora, and even Sophie. The actions of a mean-spirited jock look awfully different when you see exactly why he's behaving the way he is.

I really liked this book. It's a quick read, and I found myself chuckling in delight quite a few times. And not to give anything away, but the ending is truly heartwarming. Plus, this is a completely clean book, with no harsh language or adult situations, so it'll be great for readers in grades five and up. I hope you like it, too!

FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:

The book "Schooled" was hysterical. I enjoyed it so much! The characters in the book were so unique. I loved reading this story.

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Posted by on August 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“Cover-Up” by John Feinstein

TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:

Fans of "Last Shot" and "Vanishing Act," author Feinstein's previous sports-related mysteries, will be glad to see teen reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson back in action. As "Cover-Up" starts, Stevie and Susan Carol have a weekly show on the all-sports USTV network, and they're all set to head to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and California Dreams. But on the eve of the trip, USTV management abruptly fires Stevie, replacing him with a boy band singer who looks great on camera but knows nothing about football. Stevie still manages to get to the Super Bowl, again reporting for his mentor Bobby Kelleher's Washington Herald, but now there's some tension between him and Susan Carol.

All the personal drama takes a back seat when Stevie and Susan Carol stumble upon (yet another!) conspiracy at a huge sporting event. This time around, it's a scandal involving the entire Dreams' offensive line testing positive for the steroid HGH, human growth hormone. The Dreams' obnoxious owner, Little Donny Meeker, had apparently worked with the team's doctor and possibly members of the media to hide the positive test results. When Stevie and Susan Carol learn the truth — and get their hands on the documents themselves — they're faced with a difficult decision. Do they expose the truth and possibly ruin the Super Bowl? And if they act, how will it affect Dreams' quarterback Eddie Brennan, who has been so kind and supportive to them?

This particular Feinstein mystery is much lighter on sports action than his previous novels, so know that going in. Also, you'll need to suspend your disbelief to fully appreciate the story, as it's beginning to seem a bit unlikely that two teen reporters keep uncovering enormous scandals. Having said that, I genuinely enjoyed this book. Feinstein nicely maintains the tension and suspense throughout the story while providing a real backstage view into an event many of us watch on television every year. The ethical dilemma faced by Stevie, Susan Carol, and Eddie Brennan is given ample discussion, but not in a heavy-handed way. Plus, it's great to see two kids use their brains and courage to stand up for what they think is right. Throw in a budding romance between our two young reporters, and you have all the makings of a great story.

I'd definitely recommend this book to middle school readers, say in about grade six and up. This is a fairly "clean" book, one that should interest both boys and girls. If you like sports or mystery/suspense stories, you should love "Cover-Up."

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place” by E.L. Konigsburg

SUMMER READING REVIEW!

FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:

I liked this book because it talks about art and deals with real situations.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“MAR (Marchen Awakens Romance)” series by Nobuyuki Anzai

SUMMER READING REVIEW!

FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:

I like this manga series. It's action packed and has something for everyone: humor, romance, and even fighting.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“Grace’s Twist” by Melissa J. Morgan

SUMMER READING REVIEW!

FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:

I liked this book because at the end, Grace finally tells everyone her secret!

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“The Name of the Game was Murder” by Joan Lowery Nixon

SUMMER READING REVIEW!

FROM KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWERS:

Review #1:

I liked this book because it was very suspenseful and exciting!

Review #2:

I liked "The Name of the Game Was Murder." It involved clues that were difficult to decipher. I enjoy trying to solve the clues before the book reveals the answer.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler” by James Cross Giblin

SUMMER READING REVIEW!

FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:

I like this book. So far, it has been very interesting, but sometimes it can drag on about something unnecessary. Still, I'm excited to finish the book and see what happens next.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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