Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do Hard Things

Reviewed By Guest Reviewer Jamie

Title: Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low ExpectationsAuthor: Alex & Brett Harris
Primary Audience/age group: 13-18 (though applicable to adults and mature tweens
Genre: Non-fiction
# Of pages: 256
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 Highly Recommended! (View Scale)

Description: A generation stands on the brink of a "rebelution."

A growing movement of young people is rebelling against the low expectations of today's culture by choosing to "do hard things" for the glory of God. And Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge.

Do Hard Things is the Harris twins' revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.

Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life. Then they map out five powerful ways teens can respond for personal and social change.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of an already-happening teen revolution challenges a generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

Review: This was an amazingly inspiring book that made me want to get off the couch and go DO SOMETHING. Something big and important. Something that I never tried before because I wasn’t sure I could excel at it or because I wasn’t sure how to do it. It made me want to strive to be more, believe more, and do more than I ever thought possible.

As a teen I did well without trying, so I didn’t bother doing the stuff above and beyond what was required. Why work hard when I didn’t have to? Now I look back and wonder what I could have accomplished if I had only believed that I could do a hard thing. Alex and Brett Harris encourage readers to give it a try and accomplish something bigger than themselves.

Do Hard Things is extraordinarily well written and engaging. It is a page turner even though it is non-fiction and I didn’t want to put it down. Except I did want to put it down and get busy making more of my life.

Rating: 5 – This book could change your life!

Positive: This whole book is positive. It tells teenagers they are important, they do have potential, be brave and be all you can be!

Spiritual Elements: There is no objectionable content in this book unless you object to the use of scripture to encourage readers to follow the advice given. As they point out, Paul encourages Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he is young. Teens need not hide behind their ages if they feel led to do something big. The foundation of teens being able to do big things is to rely on God to help them, all points made are supported by scripture.

Violence: None

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: Warning! Don’t let your teen read this book unless are ready to see them change and do BIG things!

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book for teens everywhere, for people working with teens and for people who parent teens. I even recommend it for people who used to be teens and need a kick in the pants. Most of us are capable of so much more than we put forth and this book is just the motivation to take away all the excuses and get busy doing hard things.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Harsh Pink

Title: Harsh Pink: Color Me Burned
Author: Melody Carlson
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Christian Chick Lit
# Of pages: 215
Publisher: Think
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 12 of 13 in the True Colors Series
Rating: 3 (View Scale) Highly Recommended

Description: from book jacket: So much for blending in. After moving with her mom from their hometown of Boston, Reagan Mercer is just trying to fit in at her new high school. By winning a coveted spot on the cheerleading squad, Reagan accidentally bumps popularity poster child Kendra Farnsworth from the lineup and makes a new A-list enemy. Life at home isn't much better as Reagan struggles to deal with her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's. Things begin to look up after Kendra decides to play nice and make Reagan a part of her elite crew. But Reagan finds that acceptance has a steep price, as her new friends make life miserable for anyone who gets in their way. And after a tragic accident and drinking party gone too far, can Reagan still make the right choice?

Review: From backstabbing to nasty pranks, you’ll find all the cattiness of a typical teenage clique book but this one has a conscience. Many teenage girls will be able to relate in some way to the characters Carlson has created in the book. And the best part is the main character is a mean girl. It was enlightening to see the course Reagan Mercer travels along the way from being a backstabber and a push over to finally accepting responsibility for the mess she’s had a hand in creating. This is an exceptional book to show the consequences of seeking popularity above all else with a sound gospel message to back it up.

Rating: 3 for underage drinking (see recommendation)

Positive: At first, Harsh Pinkseems to follow the same lines as many of it’s counterparts like The A-List and The Clique. And just when you think you’ve had enough of the cattiness, Reagan’s conscience steps in and through the help of a friend she once shunned she’s able to do the right thing.

Spiritual Elements: Reagan considers herself as non-religious although she feels her take on life would be most similar to Buddhism in that she tries to even out her mistakes with good deeds. However, Christ’s love and grace are presented to her through the character of Andrea Lynch in a clear and non-threatening way.

Violence: Andrea shares with Reagan that a friend died of asphyxiation from playing the choking game.

Language: One girl curses on more than one occasion but no bad language is spelled out.

Sexual Content: none

Other: Most the girls are appearance driven and would quickly shun a friend to get ahead. Even Reagan’s mother sets a bad example of putting appearances above family. But, Kendra Farnsworth is the worst when she leads the other cheerleaders in a prank that humiliates another member of the squad and literally exposes her in front of a stadium of cheering fans.

Underage drinking is a large part of the plot, and Reagan and her friends attend two unsupervised parties where alcohol is present. Although Reagan is against drinking, she succumbs to peer-pressure and accepts a drink. Some of Reagan’s friends become intoxicated at the parties and (Spoiler Warning) later one girl in particular pays a high price and almost loses her life.

Recommendation: Although clique-type books are not high on my list of recommendations, Harsh Pinkdefinitely stands out by outlining the harsh realities of seeking popularity above all else and succumbing to peer-pressure. Carlson also weaves some serious topics into the storyline like the choking game and underage drinking but sheds light on the downsides of making these often life-threatening choices. I would highly recommend the series to teenage girls 12 and up and would encourage parental follow-up on the topics discussed in the books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good Brother, Bad Brother

By Reviewer Melissa

Title:Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth
Author: James Cross Giblin
Primary Audience/Age Group: Young Adult, ages 13+
Genre: Non-fiction
#of Pages: 222
Publisher: Clarion Books
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? No.
Rating: 3 (View Scale)

Description: From book jacket: On April 14, 1865, five days after the end of the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth fired a single shot and changed the course of American history. His infamous deed cost him his life and brought notoriety and shame to his family-particularly his elder brother, the renowned actor, Edwin Booth. From that day forward, Edwin would be known as “the brother of the man who killed Abraham Lincoln.”

Award winning James Cross Giblin draws on first-hand accounts of family members, friends, and colleagues to create a vivid image of John Wilkes, the loving son and brother who became an assassin. Equally clear is the picture of Edwin, who battled his own weaknesses and emerged a pivotal figure in the development of the American theater. Comprehensive and compelling, this duel portrait illuminates a dark and tragic moment in the nation’s history and explores the complex legacy of two leading men-one revered, the other abhorred.

Review: This is the story and history of the well known John Wilkes Booth, but also of the famous, yet little remembered Edwin Booth. James Giblin weaves tragic events with stunning facts and pictures of the two brothers as they walk down very different paths. This book will change the way you think about John Wilkes Booth as well as teach you about an important piece of history.

Rating: 3, for several “d” words scattered throughout the book. (See Recommendation)

Spiritual Elements: None.

Violence: There is a hanging described and various gunshot wounds, but nothing gory.

Language: For some “d” words throughout the book expressed in quotes by Edwin and others.

Sexual Content: None.

Recommendation: I enjoyed this book very much. Though it has some “d” words in it, don’t let that put you down. Giblin clearly has a gift for writing and this biography definitely keeps you turning the pages. I recommend this book. I look forward to reading more of Giblin’s books.

Melissa is a Christian and a high school student who attributes who love of reading to her homeschooling and her parent's love of books. She also likes to write and scrapbook and is the co-owner of Christian Snail Mail Ink, a pen pal site for kids and teens.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trion Rising

Title: Trion Rising (The Shadowside Trilogy, Book 1)Author: Robert Elmer
Primary Audience/age group: 5th grade and up
Genre: Science Fiction
# of pages: 352
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3 in The Shadowside Trilogy
Rating: 5 (View Scale)

Description: From the Back Cover
What would it be like if Jesus had come to another plant?
Oriannon is living the good life on the bright side of Corista, a small planet circling three suns. But things get crazy for the teen when a new music teacher arrives at her school with strange songs and even stranger ideas. Soon Oriannon is pressured to spy on her teacher, Jesmet, by using her powers to record everything she sees and hears.
Could Jesmet really be a faithbreaker, like Oriannon's friend Margus says? She's not so sure, but her life is turned upside-down when she loses her way on the dark side of the planet and is taken in by an odd, cliff-dwelling people. And when her new friends face a deadly threat, can the once self-centered Oriannon follow her heart. . . and save half the planet?

Review: Trion Rising was a well written book that moved at a very fast pace. The characters were interesting and easy to relate to. The story follows Oriannon, a smart, "obedient" daughter and student as she meets Jesmet, a new teacher at school. Jesmet stirs things up at the school and eventually Oriannon must decide if she believes in what he is teaching and if she is going to take a stand for what is right. There is non-stop adventure along with a very interesting and exciting story line - you won't want to put the book down until you've read the last page!
Rating: 5, there is a bit of intense action, but nothing offensive or gory.

Positive: The story seems to urge readers to think for themselves. Don't do something or believe in something just because you are told to or "that's the way it's always been". Seek the truth, seek answers and understanding that are real to you.

Spiritual Elements: Though the book never uses the words "Jesus" or "God" the symbolism is apparent. Many events from the Bible are rewritten/modernized in the book (there is a David vs. Goliath like story, the Prodigal Son, and a few more). I like how it is done here because I think it helps teens relate those Biblical stories to events that happen in their everyday life. The Codex is the "bible" on this planet and the issue of people adding man's own thoughts or ideas to what is written in the Bible is a prevalent one. Many of the adults resemble pharisees while the kids and people from another village are the true followers/believers.

Violence: A tiger-like creature bites the arm of a character. Several intense action scenes, nothing gory or gruesome.

Language: None
Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series. My 13 year old son read it as well and really liked it. I found the setting to be interesting and the author described it well enough so I could form a mental picture but not in so much detail I got bored reading it. The characters were easy to relate to and the story had me hooked from the beginning. I highly suggest Trion Rising - it is a fun read that I think boys and girls ages 9 - 15 will love!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mixed Bags

Title: Mixed Bags (Carter House Girls, Book 1)
Author: Melody Carlson
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult, ages 13-16
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
# Of pages: 219
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes. The Carter House Girls Series
Rating: 5 (View Scale)

Description: From book jacket: Mix six teenaged girls and '60s fashion icon (retired, of course) in an old Victorian era boarding home. Add boys and dating, a little high school angst, and throw in a Kate Spade bag or two... and you've got The Carter House Girls, Melody Carlson's new chick lit series for young adults!

Review: In this, the first book in the series, DJ is forced to live with her grandmother when her mother dies. They do not see eye-to-eye on things since DJ would rather wear her basketball uniform than haute couture as her grandmother wishes. As the girls begin to arrive for the school year, each one tries to discover exactly how they fit into their new home.

Rating: 5, although there is a situation dealing with alcohol and some situations of affection (please read recommendation below)

Positive: Each girl comes from different circumstances. One girl is a Christian and tries to be a good influence. The others try to figure her out. Though the girls don't always agree, they do try to work their way through their problems. This book does a good job of showing that situations that arise in teens' lives are not always what they seem and are not always cut and dried.

Spiritual Elements: Mixed Bags is not overly religious. It is a fresh, modern take on each individual girl's walk through her teen life. The professing Christian, Rhiannon, is misunderstood in the household for her forgiving nature.

Violence: none, though there are instances of anger
Language: none

Sexual Content: Dating is a topic in this book, so attraction and one instance of heavy kissing occurs. There are accusations tossed around of some girls being "easy."

Other: While it would be more comfortable for the alcohol and dating issues to have been left out, that would not have been realistic. They are woven in as part of the storyline and not overwhelming or out of place.

Recommendation: I enjoyed this book that is clearly intended for young adults and not children. I do believe it handles a few weighty issues quite well. It would provide an open door as a conversation starter in helping young people decide how they would handle certain circumstances if they were faced with them. I was glad that this book has a sequel.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Jesus

Title:Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Jesus
Author: David Vaughn Parry Sr.
Primary Audience/age group: 14 and up
Genre: Non-fiction
# Of pages: 58 pages
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? no
Rating: 3 (View Scale)

Description: We teach our children to believe in fictional characters like Santa Claus and then we teach them about Jesus. But, how are they supposed to differentiate between what’s real and what’s fake? “Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth fairy, and Jesus” helps logically explain how out of all four characters Jesus cannot be a myth.

Review: In the author’s words, the book is a “back-doored” approach in teaching the gospel message. It is intended for non-believers who may not be willing to open a Bible but be willing to read a simple, comical book with a godly message. It is unique in its presentation of Christ and asks to the point questions that encourage the reader to think logically about Christ and His life.

Rating: 3 for some crude language

Positive: The book uses humor along with comical sketches to grab the reader’s attention. It presents a simple gospel message and gives suggestions for additional reading about faith.

Spiritual Elements: The book deals with Jesus’ life and uses Scripture to teach the gospel message.

Violence: Mention of the crucifixion

Language: The book uses some phrases like “Crap!” and “Darn it!” in a comical way. One line in particular says “He was God for C***** sake!”

Sexual Content: The book talks of the virgin birth of Jesus. It also mentions the Jewish custom of having the hymen checked prior to marriage to make sure the woman is a virgin.

Other: none

Recommendation: Some of the language is a bit colorful and may be offensive to some parents, especially the line, “He was God for...” Although I do not think the author meant this phrase as offensive. It was used in a humorous context, but I would have preferred he use a different saying. I wouldn’t want my child repeating it. I do not think the book was intended for younger children, especially with the reference of the female anatomy because they may not understand the concept.

All in all, I feel one of the book’s best assets was in encouraging the reader to really think for himself about Christ and the miraculous events surrounding His life. It could be a useful resource for some older teens and young adults who have never been introduced to Christ.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The A-List

Title: The A-List
Author: Zoey Dean
Primary Audience/age group: Grades 9 and up
Genre: Young Adult Chick Lit
# of Pages: 228
Year of Release: 2003
Part of a Series? Yes
Rating: Shortlisted (Not Recommended) View Scale here
Description: From book jacket: After twelve years od exceptional grades, Waldorf-Astoria teas, and 'working well with others,' Anna Percy has had it with her perfect academic record and her perfectly boring prep school life. So she jets off to LA, where in the course of twenty-four hours she'll hit an Oscar winner's wedding, lounge at an after-hours back-lot party, and meet a guy she just might love. Life couldn't be going better for Anna. That is, until Cammie, Sam, and Dee enter the scene. They are the A-List, and no one steals their spotlight.
Rating: Shortlisted for language and sexual situations
Recommendation: When I asked my middle school son what books he saw the girls around school reading this was one of the series he mentioned. I found this book very offensive and would never allow one of my kids to read it. The lanuage is horrible - using the "f" word and many others. There is alcohol and drug usage. Many sex scenes. Status, money, weight obsessed teens are all a very bad example.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Clique

Title: The Clique
Author: Lisi Harrison
Primary Audience/age group: 9-12 yr./5th - 8th grade
Genre: YA Chick Lit
# of pages: 220 pages
Year of Release: 2004
Part of a Series: Yes
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Description: The social minefields most privileged middle-school girls drive the over-the-top drama in this addictive new book, set in suburban New York City's Westchester County. Massie Block: With her glossy brunette bob and Whitestrip smile, Massie is the uncontested ruler of The Clique and the rest of the social scene at Octavian Country Day, an exclusive private school in Westchester, New York. Dylan Marvil: Massie's second in command who divides her time between sucking up to Massie and sucking down Atkins shakes to try to get rid of the extra fifteen pounds that won't seem to leave her hips alone. Alicia Rivera: As sneaky as she is beautiful, Alicia floats easily under adult radar because she seems so 'sweet.' Would love to take Massie's throne one day. Just might do it. Kristen Gregory: She's been dying to fit in ever since her parents went broke. She's smart, hardworking and will insult you to tears faster than you can say 'scholarship kid.' And then there's Claire Lyons, the new girl in two-year old GAP overalls from Florida, who is clearly not Clique material. The only problem is that Claire's family is staying in the guest house on the Blocks' massive estate while they look for a new home! Claire's future looks worse than a bad Prada knockoff. But with a little luck and a lot of scheming, Claire might just come up smelling like Chanel Mademoiselle....
Review: The Clique is a middle school version of "The A-List" or "Mean Girls". The girls are all very mean, even to each other. They are fashion/label obsessed - wearing $400 t-shirts! They make fun of kids who wear Keds (I love my Keds!). Even the outsider, the "good girl" becomes mean and does wrong things to try to get into the "in" crowd and become like the popular girls. The girls are boy obsessed and already plotting on how to pick up a high school boy. I found nothing in this book that would warrant me even considering to let my daughter ever read this book.
Rating: 3 for meanness, rudeness, unacceptable behavior
Spiritual Elements: None
Violence: Flat-out meanness to peers
Language: The girls take the Lord's name in vain several times.
Sexual Content: The girls are boy crazy and are into making out.
Other: The parents of one of the girls get drunk at a party.
Recommendation: I asked my middle school son what the girls in his school are reading. He told me he had seen this series around. My suggestion is to keep your daughters away from these books. There are so many better books out there - there is no reason to mess with these. The girls are SO MEAN! Even the "good girl" wants to be a part of the "in" crowd. She turns mean to get back at the popular girls and get some of the clique to like her. They stress the outward appearance of people, making fun of them if they wear anything from The Gap - or clothes that are designer labels. My daughter knows nothing about the world described in this book - and I plan on keeping it that way as long as I can!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The House...Winner

Oops! Leave it to me to forget to draw a book winner this afternoon for "The House at the End of the Tracks" book. I just contacted our winner, so lets congratulate Christina for her win!

Visit us each month for a new book giveaway. Plus, we are always looking for guest reviews. Submit reviews to me via email.

The House at the End of the Tracks Giveaway

This post will be stickied until the drawing. Scroll down for newer posts.

We are giving away a copy of new author Marc Elliott's The House at the End of the Tracks.

This hope-filled short story would be great for ages 10 and up. See the full review here.
Rules of entering:
1. Leave a comment with a link to your blog or your email address.
2. Post about the giveaway on your site. This is appreciated but not required.
3. The contest is limited to US residents only.
4. The winner will be drawn Monday, May 12 after 1:00 pm CST.
5. If you are the winner, you have 5 days to reply and give us your address, or we will draw a new winner.

And here is the rest of it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

By Reviewer Pepper
Title: Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Primary Audience/age group: 6 and up (Read to the younger ones)
Genre: juvenile fantasy
# Of pages: 195
Year of Release: 1951
Part of a Series? Yes, #4 of 7
Rating: 4 (View Scale)

Description: It’s back to school for the Pevensie children, or so they think, as they prepare to board the trains taking them back to the studies of Latin and Math. But as Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy wait for the familiar whistle of the oncoming train, the distant sound of a magical horn breaks into their thoughts and calls them back to the world of Narnia. Suddenly, they are transported from the railway junction to a beautiful island, filled with the ruins of a castle.

After a little investigation and a whole lot of apple eating, the children realize they are standing among the ruins of their old home of Cair Paravel, and whereas only a year had passed in their world, over a thousand years had passed in Narnia. As they wonder why they’d been called back to Narnia, they rescue Trumpkin, the outspoken dwarf from some soldiers.

Trumpkin begins to unfold the tale of Prince Caspian, the rightful king of Narnia, who has run away from his kingdom for fear of his life. Since Caspian’s uncle, King Miraz, has taken rule of Narnia, no one is allowed to speak of the old days of Narnia when the animals spoke and the trees came to life, but now Caspian has discovered the ‘underground’ world of Old Narnia and wants to renew it. Miraz rules Narnia with a heavy hand of oppression and has every intention of killing Caspian so he can ensure the throne for himself and his son.

Unfortunately, Caspian’s rebellion sparks a great battle between the magical creatures of Old Narnia and the wicked, selfish Telmarine lords of New Narnia. When Caspian and his army are trapped within the caves near Aslan’s How (The Stone Table), Caspian pulls out his most precious possession, Susan’s horn and blows it, which is the reason Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy were called.

With the knowledge of Caspian’s battle and the desire to save Old Narnia, it is up to the young kings and queens of Narnia to join Caspian in his battle against the great forces of evil men to decide who will rule Narnia and what sort of land Narnia will become. Centaurs, hedgehogs, giants, dwarves, dryads, squirrels, and beavers reenter the scene to fight. Along the way, the children must remember where true faith and strength lie and who they can trust. As in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan comes right on time to provide the courage all the faithful warriors need and to ‘reawaken’ parts of Old Narnia to join in the battle.

Review: The book flows at a great pace, immediately pulling the reader into the story by the suspense of the first chapter. The reader is transported back to Narnia within the first TWO pages! The storyline moves and builds, leaving the reader wanting more. My children and I read it together, and although my 2 year old didn’t listen as well as my oldest three, he stayed close enough to ask questions like “You heard a lion?”

The struggles the children have are real and believable and I especially like the camaraderie among them that wasn’t shown in the first book – as if the first adventure in Narnia helped them mature, grow, and bound them together in some special way. The reader discovers new endearing characters, like the brave little mouse Reepicheep and the hilarious dwarf, Trumpkin – as well as new enemies, like King Miraz.

The magic of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe continues into this book, except the reader gets to be a part of watching Old Narnia ‘awake’ from its hundreds of years of slumber. I don’t want to give way to a spoiler, but instead of an evil White Witch on the bad side in The Lion….., there is a giant, water god on the good side in this book….read the book to discover more of the magic!!

Rating: 3 – there is some violence due to the fighting scenes, but the violence is not very explicit.

Positive: The children learn to work together to help others; they show courage and determination, as well as chivalry. There’s a lovely element of ‘family’ among the children that I mentioned in the review section. The character, Prince Caspian, is the person who grows the most throughout the story, changing from a young, inexperienced, curious, and frightened child to a brave, honorable, kind-hearted leader.

The reason this book has been around for 57 years is because it is a classic. It leaves plenty for the imagination, does not resort to obscenity or promiscuity, and brings to life a fantastic story for all ages.

Spiritual Elements: As in the other books, Aslan is portrayed as the ruler of all things and ‘waker of the trees’….so to speak, he brings Old Narnia back to life. In a sense, if we look deeply at this book, we can see how Lewis may have been trying to ‘revive’ the Church to stand and fight against the armies of evil….as Lewis scholar Michael Ward states, “restoration of the true religion after corruption”. As in all of The Chronicles, there is a constant battle between good and evil, and the purity of the former verses the corruptness of the later.

I think in this book, again using Lucy as the first one to ‘see’ the magic, Lewis was trying to encourage ‘child like’ faith again. Also there is an underlying theme of ‘standing up against evil’ no matter how young or old one is.

Violence: The battle scenes do portray some violence, especially the scene when one of King Miraz’s own soldiers helps kill him. Most of the descriptive of battle events are fairly broad.

Language: The language is definitely ‘G’ rated. The children use words like “Gosh” and “Bother” to express there frustration.

Sexual Content: none

Other: none

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book. Not only for the many reasons previously stated, but because it isa fantastic read. Lewis doesn’t go into deep descriptives about things, but I think that leaves so much more to the imagination. As unexpected, frightening, and unsettling as Narnia may be, I love to visit it. The characters all seem very real and believable; the storyline is interesting and exciting; and the morale is wholesome, positive, and real. The book has a happy ending, but almost bittersweet. One end leads to a new beginning, especially for Peter and Susan.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Review by Greta Marlow

Title: Pirates!
Author: Celia Rees
Primary Audience/age group: Upper Young adult
Genre: historical fiction/adventure
# Of pages: 380
Year of Release: 2003
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 1 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes with reservation

Description: (from book jacket) “Thrown together by chance, ambitious for adventure by nature, Minerva Sharpe and Nancy Kingston defy the expectations of everyone around them and take to the high seas on the pirate ship Deliverance. A thrilling journey across the world from the bestselling author of Witch Child, Celia Rees.”

Review: The description from the book jacket leaves out a lot. Certainly, Nancy and Minerva “take to the high seas on the pirate ship,” but it’s not quite as simple as that description makes it sound. The two girls are brought together when Nancy’s father and brothers make a deal to marry her to a (delightfully creepy) older man to save their family business. Minerva is one of the slaves on the family’s sugar plantation in Jamaica, and when she and Nancy become friends, a sequence of events is set in motion that leads them to become outlaws and eventually pirates. Although there is a lot of adventure and though Nancy has a love interest, it is really the relationship between her and Minerva that is the focus of this story.

Rating: 1 for violence and sexual content

Positive: Nancy witnesses and is repulsed by the brutality of slavery. She stands up for and befriends the slaves, which places her in conflict with a society that is clearly in the wrong. She and Minerva are loyal to each other, and Nancy is faithful to her love for William, even when it seems they may never see each other again.

Spiritual Elements: There is some reference to African mystical religions, and one object has an uncanny, otherworldly quality. Sailors have “hurricane religion” in the face of troubles.

Violence: I think the violence in the story would be the main concern. Each of the main characters kills a man to defend the other from a life-threatening situation. There is graphic description of torture and mistreatment of slaves, with one scene in particular that is especially disturbing.

Language: A few objectionable words are scattered through the book, but that’s not the main issue.

Sexual Content: The two main characters in the story are half-sisters, thanks to an affair between the widowed slaveowner (Nancy’s father) and a slave (Minerva’s mother). The story includes an attempt to rape Minerva, sexual harassment of the female characters by some men on the ships, and an encounter with prostitutes in a tavern. While not mentioned explicitly, it is implied that some characters have premarital sex. Minerva becomes pregnant out of wedlock (and then marries the baby’s father).

Other: A lot of rum is consumed! Nancy’s brother is an alcoholic gambler. And of course, as pirates, the characters steal, lie, and generally deceive people.

Recommendation: From the description above, one might think I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone. However, I think it does have some merit for older, more mature teens. There are some messages about the realities of slavery and the position of women in the 18th century that make the book worth reading if a teen has a strong enough moral compass to recognize that some of the choices Nancy makes are wrong, even if the story seems to condone them.