Friday, March 21, 2008

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


Title:The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Primary audience/age group: 9-12
Genre: Fantasy
# of pages: about 200
Year of Release: 1950
Part of a Series? Yes
Rating: 5

Description: (from book) Narnia….the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy…..the place where the adventure begins.


Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first, no one believes her when she tells of her adventures in the land of Narnia. But soon, Edmund and then Peter and Susan discover the Magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. In the blink of an eye, their lives are changed forever.


Review: Wow! That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of how good this book was. Not being a fantasy lover, I was skeptical as to whether I’d even want to finish the book. However, after the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. The story takes you into the land of Narnia, where the children struggle to keep themselves and the land safe from the White Witch. It is an amazing story of their journey and troubles along the way.

C.S. Lewis is an amazing writer and I can’t wait to read all of the other books in this series.

Positive: There are so many positive things throughout the story. One of the most positive things in the book is the relationship of the siblings. Although the older children disregard Lucy’s story of discovering Narnia at first, they soon find out she is telling the truth. They are quick to apologize to their sister for their behavior and I believe they grow closer through this.


Spiritual Elements: Again, there are so many things to draw from in this book. There is clearly a good side (Aslan’s side) and a bad side (the side of the White Witch). Aslan sacrifices his life for the sake of the kingdom, which is a picture of Christ and His sacrifice for us.


Violence: The section surrounding Aslan’s death is pretty descriptive. I feel it is appropriate and provides depth to the story. I think this is a wonderful way to teach our children about the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf.


Language: None


Sexual Content: None


Recommendation: I heartily recommend this book. It was a great read and there are lots of lessons to be learned through it.


Rating: 5


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Name of This Book Is Secret


Title: The Name of This Book Is Secret
Author: Pseudonymous Bosch
Primary Audience/age group: 9-12
Genre: Mystery
# Of pages: 384
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)

Description: From book jacket: Warning: this description has not been authorized by Pseudonymous Bosch. As much as he'd love to sing the praises of his book (he is very vain), he wouldn't want you to hear about his brave 11-year old heroes, Cass and Max-Ernest. Or about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange (and stinky) circumstances. And he certainly wouldn't want you to know about the hair-raising adventures that follow and the nefarious villains they face. You see, not only is the name of this book secret, the story inside is, too. For it concerns a secret. A Big Secret.

Review: Can you say strange? The book’s storyteller has chosen to remain anonymous so that know one is able to discover his identity. We don’t really know if he’s one of the main characters or not, which makes for an interesting plot. Every few chapters or so, he’ll show up and draw the story back to himself without ever giving you any idea about who he is really. This is certainly a very mysterious and out of the ordinary read and reminds me of a somewhat less gross children’s version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Rating: 3 for violence and gross detail (see below)

Positive: Cass and Max-Ernest are peculiar children whose personality traits tend to ward off friends. Cass is the over-prepared-waiting-for-the-world-to-end type while Max-Ernest is an eleven year-old aspiring comedian, but his jokes are far from funny. He also talks non-stop. This pair team up to solve the case and end up starting an unlikely friendship.

Spiritual Elements: The book is not heavily religious. However, the captors, Ms. Mauvis and Dr. L are searching for immortality based on their belief in the True Science, a philosophy based on alchemy “where everything is one” and “all life is made of one thing.” Spolier Warning: They believe they have found that one element in the mind of a boy named Benjamin and plan to extract this everlasting life. As part of the extracting ceremony, they call upon the Egyptian god Thoth (or in Greek, Hermes).

Violence: The plot revolves around the mysterious death of a magician, Pietro. His gardener finds his decomposing body several days after his death, and the story goes into detail about the description of the remains and the horrible stench.

Cass worries about extreme circumstances they may happen like finding her two grandfathers’ dead, lying in pools of blood and breathing their last breaths.

Many of the relatable tales told within the book are bizarre and quite disgusting. Mussolini (the fascist dictator of Italy) was expelled from school as a child for stabbing another student. A Buddhist monk cut his eyelids off so that he would not fall asleep while meditating.

Once Cass and Max-Ernest enter the secret spa, they encounter many strange events. During an evening meal, Ms. Mauves is served wine (that may or may not be monkey blood) and a thick piece of pulsating meat that to Cass resembles a heart. Spolier Warning: The whole basis of the secret spa is to call upon the god Thoth and extract the brains of another eleven year old boy through his nose in order for the spa members to obtain eternal life.

Language: none

Sexual Content: none

Other: Part of Max-Ernest’s quirks is that he talks non-stop. His parents have taken him from doctor to doctor to try to figure out what actually is wrong with him. In reality, it’s the stress caused by his parent’s breakup and the lifestyle they have chosen to inflict on him. They divorced the day they brought him home from the hospital, but they chose to remain in the same house, living on opposite ends. They never speak directly to each other, only through Max-Ernest.

Cass has two grandfathers who are not related and who live and run an antique shop together. Their friendship is not thoroughly explained.

Cass doesn’t normally lie, but she tests out small ones on her mother in order to gain the confidence to tell a big lie. Her mother believes the big lie, and Cass and Max-Ernest sneak off to investigate the murder.

Recommendation: Even though the story was appealing and the mystery intriguing, I didn’t really like the book based on the increasingly gross content. At one point the book gives a tip on lying. I realize this is just fiction, but I do think some children would probably test this theory out. The book is intended for children ages 9-12, but I would not recommend it to children under 12 if at all due to the violence portrayed throughout and the degree of vile details.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Blog Party Book Winners

We had a wonderful time visiting new blogs and finding new friends along the way during the Ultimate Blog Party. Thanks to all who stopped by and left encouraging comments as well those who might end up being future reviewers. I'm sure you're all waiting to see who the book winners are, so without anymore hestitation here they are:

#1 Winner of the The Heart Reader of Franklin Highby Terri Blackstock:

Laurie

#2 Winner of In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen R. Lawhead:

K. Cleaver


Winners, you have five days to respond. If we don't hear from you, we will draw again. Thanks to all who participated, and please stop back by for future drawings.


Also, please feel free to submit your reviews anytime.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ultimate Blog Party Welcome

Ultimate Blog Party 2008

********This contest is now closed.*********

It's finally here!! The ladies at Teen Lit Review are so excited to have you over! Hi! I'm Shawna and I will be telling you a little bit about our site.

Another friend and blogger, Angi, and I decided to start a teen book review blog in order to help parents find out what really is in the books they allow their children to read. We hadn't seen a lot of other sites out there that based their reviews on the content of the books. So, being concerned parents ourselves and all-around book lovers, we jumped right in with the help of another blogger friend, Tamara, and several other reviewers.

We review pre-teen, teen, and young adult books with a Christian perspective and rate them based on a 1-5 scale. You can easily search our site by topic/genre, age, series, or our favorite authors, which are listed on our sidebar if you scroll down.

We are also looking for more guest reviewers. All you have to do is submit book reviews using our format or a similar one by emailing me: teenlitreview@gmail.com
To say thanks for stopping by, we are also giving away 2 books:

Book Drawing #1: The Heart Reader of Franklin High by Terri Blackstock
This is a used copy of the book when it was first published as Anonymous. It has some scuffs on the cover but otherwise it's the same story. Read the review Janice wrote here.

Book Drawing #2: In The Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen R. Lawhead
(Book 1 of the Dragon King Trilogy)
The review will be up next week.

Click below for the rules to enter.

1. Leave a comment below and please specify which book drawing (or both) you would be interested in.
2. You don't have to be a blogger to participate but you must leave an email address so we may contact you.

The contest will end Sunday, March 16 at midnight, and the winners will be announced Monday, March 17 after 12 pm.

We have book drawings once a month, so please join us back here often! Also, if you would like to help spread the word about our site, we have a button you can put on your sidebar. Please email me for instructions (teenlitreview@gmail.com). Thanks again for stopping by!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years


By Guest Reviewer – Lisa M. Hendey

Title: The Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years
Author: Rosemary McDunn
Primary Audience/age group: 9-12
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 200
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (highly recommended)

Reason - The relationships at the center of The Green Coat, those between Tressa and her brother Will and between the two siblings and a young married couple also in great need of healing, make this book a wonderful journey. Along the way, readers young and old will learn about customs and circumstances in a part of our history that differ greatly from today’s world. For its wonderful character development, compelling plot, and attention to historical detail, I give The Green Coat my highest recommendation.

Story Line - Set in the 1930s in the Great Plains state of North Dakota, The Green Coat introduces us in its earliest pages to twelve year old Tressa Bauer. Hailing from the humble farming town of Dazey, Tressa appears to be a bit of a “Daddy’s girl”. What her family lacks in financial resources, they seem to make up for in familial bonds.

But shortly after the celebration of her twelfth birthday, Tressa is forced to deal with some very grown up news – owing to losses suffered from a lingering drought, her parents are on the verge of losing the family farm. As auctioneers eventually sell all of their land and property, Tressa’s parents are forced to make a horrible decision in order to survive.

Tressa and her older brother Will, the two youngest of the four Bauer siblings, are sent to live in the home of Doctor Heileman near Fargo, ninety miles from the place her parents have found jobs and temporary shelter. Upon her arrival in the Heileman home, Tressa must deal with her new reality. In exchange for their room and board, Tressa and Will become domestic servants in a formerly genteel home that has been ravaged by dust storms. Tressa quickly realizes that the mentally ill Mrs. Heileman is unable to cope with her domestic duties or care for her two year old son, Ben. In addition, Tressa must contend with Claire, the Heileman’s daughter who is near Tressa’s age but is unkind to her from the start. Tressa longs for nothing more than to leave this place and be reunited with her parents.

“I didn’t sleep that night. I swayed between silent fits of rage and fear gripped me so hard that my breathing became labored. Why would God do this to us? I wondered. Ma always said God had a plan. What kind of cruel plan is this?”

Language – No harsh or course language is used in this book

Violent Content – This book contains no violence of any kind

Sexual Content – This book contains no sexual content.

Spiritual Content - A quite stream of spirituality runs throughout The Green Coat as Tressa develops an active prayer life, calling on God to help her overcome what she feels are insurmountable obstacles. Ultimately, Tressa learns to draw on her own reserves of strength to endure and ultimately triumph in her newfound circumstances. What follows is a wonderful coming of age tale where life lessons are learned, tragedies are overcome, and lifelong friendships are forged.

Other Objectionable Content – There is no objectionable content in this book.

Originality – The premise for this book is completely original. I am not aware of another youth or young adult work of fiction set during the Dust Bowl Years.

Character Likeability – The main characters of the book, Tressa and her brother Will, are the reason for the success of the book. Tressa is not without her personality flaws, as she is ripped from the security of home and family. But her ability to triumph over her fears and sadness makes her a wonderful role model for readers. The only character in the book I did not like was Claire Heileman, but she was written to be unlikeable.

Age Appropriate - While readers of all ages will be drawn to the storyline and personalities presented in The Green Coat, teachers of middle school readers should specifically consider using the text to compliment language arts and social studies curricula. Author McDunn, an experienced educator, has provided an excellent educational resource at the conclusion of the book. For each chapter, a broad cross section of vocabulary words and relevant reflection and discussion questions are provided. An additional section looks at effective tools of figurative language and provides a “treasure hunt” for young readers to spot examples of this literary technique.

About the Author – Rosemary McDunn is an author, wife and educator from Michigan.

Guest Reviewer Lisa M. Hendey writes for several websites and blogs including www.catholicmom.com, Productivity @ Home and Catholic Mom Moments Blog.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The BFG


Title: The BFG
Author: Roald Dahl
Primary Audience/age group: 9-12
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 208
Year of Release: 1982
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3



Description: This is a story about a little orphaned girl named Sophie and her friendship with a giant named the BFG…The Big Friendly Giant. The BFG “captures” Sophie when he notices that she has seen him blowing dreams into the neighbor’s window. Of course, at the time, Sophie has no idea that the giant is nice and is blowing good dreams into the bedrooms…all she knows is that she has been snatched by the giant and is being whisked away quite quickly!

Review: I completely loved this story! I found myself underlining new words to use…the nonsense words that are so fun to say! I mean come on, it’s true fun to be able to use the “word” redunculus” isn’t it?? Seriously, I think this is an incredibly fun book that is just chocked full of cleverness and extreme creativity! I will have to forewarn that there is a chapter where the BFG discusses “whizzpoppers” with Sophie. “Whizzpoppers” occur when you pass gas! I know, I know…but the chapter is written in a nice and humorous way and you’ll find yourself laughing instead of being offended!

Positive: I loved how the BFG and Sophie worked together to find a creative solution to the problem of the giants eating the “human beans”. I also thought it was quite nice that the giants ended up in captivity rather than being killed…of course it would be that way though since the BFG really is kind! There were also times in the story where Sophie was encouraged to accept the BFG as he is and she did so beautifully. There was honesty between the two friends and that made it easy for both of them to understand each other better. I’m sure there are deeper messages in this book(tolerance, animal rights, etc), but I chose to see them as opportunities to talk about general kindness to others and even to animals.

Spiritual Elements: The general message of being kind is a theme that runs throughout this book.

Violence: Though there are no scenes where little ones are being eaten, the giants certainly do talk about eating the “Human beans”. Also, there is a scene where the main giant starts tossing the BFG in the air and it ends up being a game where he is tossed around in the air between the giants and then tossed onto the ground. This just about made me cry!

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Rating: Though I loved this book immensely, I am giving it a rating of 3 because of the violence.

Recommendation: In all honesty, I would really recommend this book, but just make sure you don’t have a child/reader who is easily scared by “monsters” in their closets and such! Though the BFG is imaginary, I could see myself in my earlier years letting my mind fly and spooking myself!! I would have hung on to that thought of giants snatching kids out of their beds in the night and I would not have been able to sleep at all!