Monday, January 26, 2009

Winner!

Maddy is the winner of our January Giveaway of The Heaven Shop. Congrats Maddy - we hope you enjoy the book!

Be sure to check back soon to see February's giveaway!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Westmark

By Teen Reviewer Rachel, 17
Title: Westmark (Firebird)
Author: Lloyd Alexander
Primary Audience/age group: 13+
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 190
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co.
Year of Release: 1981
Part of a Series? Yes, Westmark Trilogy; 1 of 3
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend: Yes

Description: After the King of Westmark loses his daughter, he becomes ill with sorrow. He stops ruling his kingdom, and his Chief Minister, Cabbarus takes over by forming a tyranny. During this time, Theo, an apprentice printer, and his master, Anton are falsely accused of treason. Anton is killed, but Theo escapes. He meets three people, Las Bombus, Musket, and Mickle, a strange girl with no recollection of her childhood. Theo then has to learn how to live life as a "criminal".

Review: This book will hold the readers interest. It has a common theme, which I will keep unknown in this review because it is a spoiler, nevertheless, Alexander puts his own twist on it. It is suspenseful, not only showing external conflict, but also internal. You know what the main character, Theo, is struggling with inside, and you get involved in his character.

Rating: 3 for some violence and ungodly morals

Positive: Theo loves justice and honesty. Throughout the book, he looks down upon lying and trickery. He refuses to involve himself in it, and he shows his opinion on the subject numerous times in the book. He thinks killing is a sin. Also, friendships are held in high regard in the book. Many of the characters risked their lives for their friends.

Spiritual Elements: none

Violence: There is a battle scene. A man is found with a knife protruding out of his back. A few people die, but Alexander keeps his descriptions to a minimum.

Language: da** is used once

Sexual Content: none

Other: Here's where my main problem lies. Lying is what most of the characters base their lives on. Las Bombus is the main culprit. He lies and swindles for a living. At one point, he decides to change his ways; he says "Honesty is the best policy". However, he returns to his old habits. He is not rewarded for his way of living, but he is not punished for it either.

Recommendation: I enjoyed reading this book. I got caught up in Theo's life. Nevertheless, I don't think this book is good for younger children. I think that the Las Bombus character isn't a good one for young kids to read about. It might confuse them on what is wrong with lying. Besides that, it is a great book!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inkheart

This review was originally posted 6/28/08
By Reviewer Angi
Title: Inkheart
Author: Cornelia Funke
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 9-12 *(see recommendation)
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 560
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st of 3
Rating: 3 (View Scale)

Description: One cruel night, Meggie’s father reads aloud from a book called INKHEART – and an evil ruler escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that has conjured this nightmare. For only she can change the course of the story that has changed her life forever. This is INKHEART – a timeless tale about books, about imagination, about life. Dare to read it aloud.

Review: When I was about 5 years old I thought the shadows cars made as they passed by my dark walls at night were friendly ghosts telling me stories. At 10, I believed my dreams were an alternate reality – they took me to the place I lived at night, and I returned here to Earth every morning. Inkheart captures that same kind of imagination – reading out loud – by special, gifted people can pull people and things out of stories and send nearby people and items into a story. How often we wish a well crafted story would never end – if only we could jump in for a bit! But, many of the characters of Inkheart are not the sort I’d want to visit and live with. They are scary and mean. I really liked the relationship between Meggie and her father, Mo. They were close and really looked out for each other.

Rating:3 for a few instances of violence/meanness and a few curse words.

Positive: The main character – Meggie – a 12 yr. old girl does things she never believed she would be able to do. She is brave and courageous, I think she’s a good example of a young person digging deep and being tough.

Spiritual Elements:To me it appeared Capricorn symbolized the Devil – very evil and ruthless.

Violence:There are some incidents of violence and meanness - Capricorn and his men are not nice and do things such as hang roosters by the neck in the houses of neighbors. More violence is eluded to than is actually described.

Language:A few instances of he** and da**.

Sexual Content:None

Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed Inkheart – and look forward to seeing the movie with my 13 year old son, who also liked the book. However, I would change the suggested reader age to 12 and up. I feel like Amazon’s reading age suggestion is a bit young, considering the intense action and evilness, meanness and violence of some of the characters. I have read that the second book, Inkspell is even better than this one.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Perilous Gard



By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: The Perilous Gard
Author: Elizabeth Marie Pope
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller
# Of pages: 280
Publisher: Puffin
Year of Release: 1974
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (View Scale)

Recommend: Yes

Description: (from book cover) “Because her sister sent an impulsive letter to Queen Mary, Kate Sutton, lady-in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth, has been exiled. Sent to Elvenwood, ‘the Perilous Gard,’ Kate is intrigued by the master of the isolated castle, Sir Geoffrey Heron, and his strangely silent brother, Christopher. Elvenwood is shrouded in secrets that no one will explain to Kate, so she sets out to find some answers on her own. But her curiosity almost kills her, for she stumbles upon the otherworldly province of the secret residents of the land around Elvenwood – the People of the Hill. And the People want to make Kate a slave for life.”

Review: Something unusual happened when I read this book – as soon as I finished, I immediately flipped back and read the last two chapters again. I don’t know if that was because I wanted to make sure I got all the action that happened at the climax of the story, or if I just didn’t want the book to be over yet! Down-to-earth Kate Sutton has always lived in the shadow of her “perfect” younger sister and is forced into exile over something that’s really her sister’s fault. Once she gets to the Perilous Gard, however, she’s caught up in a situation that tests her and stretches her and helps her find her own value as a person.

Rating:
5

Recommend: Yes

Positive: Put in a situation that would make most of us bitter and jealous, Kate (for the most part) resists the easy route of blaming her sister for the events that befall her. She shows strength of character when she refuses to let the People of the Hill give her mind-altering drugs so she can bear being a slave to them. She also refuses to give up hope that Christopher can be rescued from the terrible fate the Folk have planned for him, and when it appears no one else is going to rescue him, she does it herself. Christopher makes a noble self-sacrifice to save the life of his niece.

Spiritual Elements: The People of the Hill are the remnants of the pagan peoples who lived in Britain before Christianity was introduced. Although their religious beliefs are not given in great detail, there are some references to pagan beliefs, particularly their belief they must pay a “tiend” to the devil by sacrificing a powerful young man. There was a very clever passage in which Kate tries to argue with one of her captors that Christ has already paid the “tiend” for us all for all time. While the clash of religious cultures is an important element of the plot, this is not a book about religion.

Violence: The climax of the story is built around the ritual of human sacrifice practiced by the “People of the Hill.” Although it’s clear that is what is planned, (spoiler!) Kate averts the sacrifice before any violence occurs. The greatest violence in the story is the way the “People of the Hill” mess with people’s minds (if that makes any sense!).

Language: I recall only one instance of “d****d.”

Sexual Content: None, really. The romance element is so understated that I wasn’t sure at first that it was even there. Kate and Christopher fall in love by talking in the dark, when she sneaks every night to where he is imprisoned to try to help him keep from falling into despair as he waits for his execution.

Other: The People of the Hill use drugs of some kind to pacify their slaves, and a couple of the characters argue strongly that Kate should allow herself to be drugged as a way to escape the horrible reality of what has happened to her. But Kate steadfastly and stubbornly refuses to let the Folk "take her mind," because she believes that would be much worse than awareness of her suffering. It's a good anti-drug message. There is also some interesting historical information worked into the story. It is set during the reign of Bloody Mary, just before Elizabeth I becomes queen, and we get to see the quality of relationship between these two daughters of Henry VIII. The book also touches on the cultural heritage of Britain, with its use of the “Fairy Folk” and the Ballad of Tam Lin.

Rating: 5

Recommendation: The writing style of the book is a little stiff and old-fashioned, which may, unfortunately, keep today’s young readers away from it. That’s a shame. The book, like Kate, has sort of a stubborn charm to it, and I think it’s well worth looking past some of today’s fluff (which is like Kate’s sister, ha ha) to get to know it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

January Book Giveaway!

This contest is now closed.
This month we are giving away the book The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis. It is a very well written book that I think is a must read for kids 13+! You can read a review here. To win, please leave a comment with your email address. If you blog about this contest you will receive 5 additional entries, and if you post our Teen Lit Review button on your blog, you will receive 5 bonus entries! (Be sure to let me know if you get bonus entries!) Good Luck - I hope you win.
The drawing will be held January 26, 2009 at noon!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Heaven Shop

By Reviewer Angi
Title: The Heaven Shop
Author: Deborah Ellis
Primary Audience/age group: 13+
Genre: Fiction
# Of pages: 186
Publisher: Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes!

Description: There is a lion in our village, and it is carrying away our children.
At her father's funeral, Binti's grandmother utters the words that no one in Malawi wants to hear. Binti's father and her mother before him, dies of AIDS. Binti, her sister, and brother are separated and sent to the home of relatives who can barely tolerate their presence. Ostracized by their extended family, the orphans are treated like the lowest servants. With her brother far away and her sister wallowing in her own sorrow, Binti can hardly contain her rage. She, Binti Phirim, was once a child star of a popular radio program. Now she is scraping to survive. Binti always believed she was special, now she is nothing but a common AIDS orphan.
Binti Phiri is not about to give up. Even as she clings to hope that her former life will be restored, she must face a greater challenge. If she and her brother and sister are to be reunited, Binti Phiri will have to look outside herself and find a new way to be special.
Compelling and uplifting, The Heaven Shop, is a contemporary novel that puts a very real face on the African AIDS pandemic, which to-date has orphaned more than 11 million African children. Inspired by a young radio performer the author met during her research visit to Malawi, Binti Phiri is a compelling character that readers will never forget.

Review: The Heaven Shop was a book I will never forget. The story of Binti is one that I am sure happens everyday to many, many children. The story was the perfect introduction for 6th to 9th grade children into the horror of what is happening with AIDS in some parts of the world. Ellis wrote a book that touches readers, draws them in, teaches them, and in some sense shows you that no one should be too confident that life will always be as they expect it to be. For Binti, it was AIDS, for someone else it may be a car accident, cancer, or murder. Whatever your hardship, this story tells you to be strong, and keep living.

Rating: 4, includes mild sexual detail

Positive: The Heaven Shop tastefully presents the AIDS crisis on a level that is appropriate for 6th to 9th grade readers. Binti is a very good daughter who shows respect for her father and helps him a lot when he is sick. She is dedicated to her family and perseveres to help her brother and sister when they are split up. Binti’s life is drastically changed by the death of her father, but she makes choices that in the end, make her a better person than ever.

Spiritual Elements: There are a few references that the coffins Binti and her family make will take the deceased swiftly to Heaven but nothing more religious/spiritual.

Violence: Some of the family members are quite mean to Binti and her siblings. I seem to recall they even hit them at one point.

Language: None

Sexual Content: Eventually Binti’s sister starts “being nice” to men in exchange for money that they save to escape. The term used is “being nice” and is clearly prostitution, though no further details are given. Of course, with AIDS being a disease transmitted primarily through sex, it is implied that is how people got AIDS. Again, no detail is given.

Other: None

Recommendation: I would highly recommend this book to girls and boys ages 13+. I would go so far to say that I wish it was required reading in the 8th grade! I can name a couple books my 8th grade son has had to read this year that this one could replace. By reading The Heaven Shop I feel that kids will have better understanding of the scope and tragedy of AIDS as well as a good example of how to keep living when life doesn’t turn out as you thought is was going to.