Friday, June 27, 2008

My Life Unscripted: Who's Writing Your Life?

Title: My Life Unscripted: Who's Writing Your Life?
Author: Tricia Goyer
Primary Audience/age group: 14+ girls
Genre: Non-Fiction
# Of pages: 224
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (View Scale)

Description: Using the metaphor of screenwriting, My Life, Unscripted explores relationships in every teenage girl's life-with herself, her friends and enemies, her parents, guys, and with God.
Real-life scripts, screenwriting terms, and timely topics, make this an interesting read for teen girls as they delve into their own inner struggles and outward relationships. They'll also learn the importance of "scripting" their own responses BEFORE challenging life-situations arise so they are able to think about, pray about, and consider how to face these situations before the scene begins. By contrasting real-life with TV or movies, teens will understand they don't have to get caught up in the drama.

Review: My Life Unscripted is what I would call a 20 week devotional for teens ages 14 to 18. Each chapter has a script that has a situation that is either actually from Tricia’s own life – or one that she has made up but is very common to teen girls. Then, there is discussion on the script. Next comes the Intermission – where the script/situation is related to a similar situation in the Bible. There are usually questions that the girls are to ponder and write down their thoughts. Also in each chapter is a section called “My Script” which has comments from teens on the subject/issue discussed in the chapter. Woven in every chapter are bible verses, strategies for evaluating situations and the way we react. I found the scripts very relevant and interesting – I was looking forward to the script in each chapter. I like how the script was tied to a similar situation in the Bible – showing that the Bible is as relevant today as it was hundreds or thousands of years ago. The goal seems to be to get young women to THINK about their choices – before they make them. To THINK about God when making daily decisions. To think about possible consequences if they make their choices without bringing God into the decision making process.

Rating: 5 – This is an excellent book for teen girls ages 14 and up. I don’t think it would be appropriate for those 12 or under – the scripts/situations are too mature.

Positive: The way the book is laid out makes it entertaining to read. The chapters go by quickly and you look forward to the next script. It really gets you to think about how you’ve been making our choices and learning how to make better choices – choices based on what God would have us to do.

Spiritual Elements: The book and lessons are based on lessons/stories and verses from the Bible. The book is not preachy – but rather from the view of someone who has been there – and can relate to today’s teens. All the while, it shows that if you rely on God more, you are more likely to make choices that will benefit rather than hurt you.

Violence: No violence, just mature situations.

Language: No bad language.

Sexual Content: No sexual situations, just talk about pre-marital sex and pregnancy.

Recommendation: I highly recommend My Life Unscripted for teen girls. It would be a great devotion to use at home or with a youth group of girls. This book was such a creative way to deal with self-image, popularity, true beauty, hate, friendship, and so much more!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Holes

By Reviewer Melissa
Title: Holes
Author: Louis Sachar
Primary Audience/Age Group: Juvenile Fiction, ages 10+
Genre: Realistic/Humor, Fiction
# of Pages: 200Publisher: Yearling
Year of Release: 2000
Rating: 4 (View Scale)

Review & Description: Camp Green Lake is not green. And its definitely not a Girl Scout Camp either. (Mr. Sir makes sure everyone knows this.) What do you do at Camp Green Lake? Dig holes. What for, you ask? It builds character. But as Stanley finds out, he's digging for entirely different reason........

From jacket: This wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar weaves a narrative puzzle that tangles and untangles, until it becomes clear that the hand of fate has been at works in the lives of the characters-and their forebears-for generations. It is a darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment-and of redemption.

Rating: 4, for mild language and crude humor.

Spiritual Elements: None.

Violence: Stanley and “Zig-Zag” get into a fight.

Language: Words such as stupid and dumb.

Sexual Content: None.

Recommendation: Personally I liked Sachar’s style of writing. With its blunt short sentences filled with humor and his whimsical made-up things make it hard not to like the book. His characters are unique yet oddly realistic. Another thing I like about this book is that it jumps from the present to the past, which helps tell the story of Green Lake and Stanley.

Most of the book takes place at Camp Green Lake where Stanley spends time with his “bunk mates” who are, by the way, juvenile delinquents. They are sentenced to Green Lake for committing “minor” crimes such as stealing or, as Stanley puts it, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The boys aren’t bad, just deprived of love and family.

Though the book is an easy read, I think children (starting at ages 10 to 11) or pre-teens would enjoy this book the most. Children younger than ten might have a harder time understanding the concept of the story. To sum it all up, Holes is a story about the past, the present, family, and most of all life-and don’t forget the matter of those yellow-spotted lizards........

Holes is now a major motion picture!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Lightning Thief

By Reviewer Greta
Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Primary Audience/age group: Young adult
Genre: adventure/fantasy
# Of pages: 375
Publisher: Hyperion/Scholastic
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: (from book jacket) “Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of this troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: He must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.”

Review: My 12-year-old son raved about these books, so I thought I should look into them. At first, I thought I really was not going to like this book. The main character, Percy, seemed to be too much of a smart-aleck, and the book seemed like one of those stereotypical “magical action” stories that have sprung up everywhere with the popularity of the Harry Potter series. But I have to confess that the book grew on me – I came to like Percy a lot, and I thought the story, while it had some definite similarities to the Potter series, was imaginative and thought-provoking. I will definitely put the other books in the series on my “to read” list.

Rating: 3, for the overall premise of the Greek gods being real and the circumstances around Percy’s birth.

Positive:
Although Percy is what most people would label a “troublemaker,” his adventures bring out a number of good qualities. He and a friend overcome the long-standing rivalry between their parents to work together to solve problems; he shows a lot of loyalty to his friends and his mother; he is concerned about the safety of a human family during one of his battles with a monster and tries to save them; he has compassion for and is kind to some mistreated animals. One of Percy’s friends (a satyr) presents a good message about caring for the environment, without being overbearing. The book presents some thoughtful observations about death without breaking out of the character’s viewpoint.

Spiritual Elements: The book is built on the premise that the gods of Greek mythology are real and living in New York City. They control weather and events, and the characters in the book give part of each meal as a sacrifice to the gods. There are a couple of references to God that I need to take a little time to think through – I read it that Riordan is reminding us, “this is just a story,” in an effort to avoid controversy. However, some parents may be uncomfortable with the idea of even pretending the Greek gods were real.

Violence: Percy fights a lot of battles against mythical monsters, so some violence is inherent in the story. However, even when there are injuries, I don’t think the violence is so graphic that readers would be disturbed by it. There are some monsters that might scare younger readers a little.

Language:
I don’t remember any objectionable language.

Sexual Content: The story itself doesn’t involve any sexual content. Percy’s friend Annabeth has a crush on another character and blushes anytime he’s around, but that’s the extent of sexual behavior. However, there is the issue of Percy’s parentage – he is the result of the union between a Greek god and a human woman, and Percy has a lot of questions and internal conflict over that situation. Some parents might be uncomfortable with this aspect of the story.

Other: Percy has a rather rebellious attitude toward authority. I was also a little disturbed by one aspect at the end of the book (spoiler alert!). Percy has come into possession of Medusa’s head, which is a deadly weapon. When tempted to use it on his abusive and completely disagreeable step-father, he doesn’t. However, he leaves it at home and his mother uses it after he’s back at camp to rid herself of her husband. I thought that sent a bad message about revenge. On the other hand, I thought Riordan did well with showing the effect of a father’s absence on a child (not just Percy), and of giving a little boost to children with ADHD (which Percy has).

Rating: 3, for the overall premise of the Greek gods being real and the circumstances around Percy’s birth.

Recommendation: If parents are not turned off immediately by the premise of the story, I think this is a good adventure story for kids. It has the action that keeps a reader turning pages, but it’s a “smart” read – by which I mean Riordan blends in thought-provoking issues like responsibility to the environment, parental responsibility, and the impact of one’s actions on others. Percy is a likeable character who I think has the potential to really mature across this series. I also greatly enjoyed seeing how Riordan adapted the Greek myths to the 21st-century world. It made me wish I had brushed up on my mythology before reading the book, so I could catch the references as he was telling the story!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jenny of the Tetons

By Reviewer Melissa
Title: Jenny of the Tetons
Author: Kristiana Gregory
Primary Audience/Age Group: Young Adult, age 13-16
Genre: Historical Fiction
# of Pages: 163
Publisher: Gulliver/Harcourt Books
Year of Release:
2002
Part of a Series? Yes, Great Episodes series (various authors & stories)
Rating: 3 (View Scale)

Description: From Back Carrie Hill hates Indians. Indians killed her parents. Indians left her wounded and alone. Indians ruined her life.Now fifteen year old Carrie is on her own in the wild pioneer country.With nowhere else to go , she signs on to care for the growing family of Beaver Dick Leigh, an English trapper. To her dismay, Carrie discovers thatDick’s wife, Jenny, is a Shoshoni Indian. An Indian! Carrie’s parents would kick the dirt from their graves if they knew she was living with a native and a mountain man with no school or church to attend.But as her wounds heal under Jenny’s gentle care, Carrie learns to respect and love this kind and sensitive woman. Shoshoni appreciate the beauty of the towering Tetons and the feeling the oneness with nature. She learns that sometimes, even when it seems impossible, enemies can become friends.

Review/Recommendation: Though it was a short book, I fully enjoyed flipping the pages. Kristiana Gregory re-created the wondrous and dangerous world of the pioneer days. Carrie tells the story through her own words and the beginning of each chapter includes a few sentences from the real Beaver Dicks journal.

Positive: Struggling with loss, Carrie learns to live and respect Jenny and her family, all while dodging bears, disease, and most of all, find love.

Rating: 3, mild language and sexual reference.

Spiritual Elements: The Leighs read the Bible.

Violence: People have to put-down animals and hunt, but nothing in detail.

Language: A few “d” words from Dick.

Sexual Content: Kissing.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew, Book 1)

Title: The Secret of the Old Clock: Nancy Drew, Book 1
Author: Carolyn Keene
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 9-12
Genre: Mystery
# Of pages: 180
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Year of Release: originally 1959
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 64
Rating: 5 (View Scale)

Description: Quick-witted Nancy Drew happens upon her first mystery after rescuing a child from a serious fall. She discovers the child’s caregivers along with several other needy relatives were promised an inheritance after the death of their beloved family member, Josiah Crowley. But it appears all the money has mistakenly been left to the Tophams, a rather pretentious wealthy family. Nancy begins a search for a second hidden will but drags up more trouble than she ever could imagine.

Review: Nancy Drew is still quite the sleuth even today. You are easily drawn to her quick-wit and resourceful attitude as well as her ability to never give up. From beginning to end, the mystery will capture your curiosity and keep you reading page after page.

Rating:5 for good values.

Positive: Nancy is an admiral character. She is always respectful, especially to her father. She is quick to help someone in need and humble in her acceptance of praise. No matter another’s outlook, she is always hopeful.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: A little girl narrowly escapes being hit by a van before toppling over the side of a bridge. Her only injury is a bump on the head.

Nancy is overtaken by a thief and locked in a closet. She beats on the door until her fingers are bruised and bleeding.

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: I highly recommend this series. Nancy Drew is such an astounding role model for girls of all ages. She’s intelligent, respectful and isn’t afraid to take on responsibility. Even though the book was written in the 1930s it will still hold the interest of today’s pre-teens.