17 September 2007

Walk Softly, Rachel

Walk Softly, Rachel by Kate Banks
Frances Foster Books
Realistic Fiction
I.L. 7th and up
149 pages

I. Synopsis- Rachel introduces herself as “Rachel three”. She does this because her grandmother’s name is Rachel (Rachel one) and her mom’s name is Rachel (Rachel two). Her good friend Adrian is leaving town to go to Africa. He is her only close friend so this hits her pretty hard. He gives her a sweater that she wears quite often. As of late, she’s been getting this yearning to learn about her older brother, Jake, who died when she was only seven years old. Her mom and dad have left his room exactly the way it was the day he died. One day, Rachel goes into the room and starts looking around. While she is looking, she happens upon his journal. Now, throughout the book, entries from Jake’s journal appear, always appearing to have something to do with Rachel’s life. Rachel makes a new friend, Bowman, whose parents are friends of her parents. They go out a couple of times and become semi-close despite the four year difference. She notes that he is obsessed with fire, striking matches and just watching them burn. He disappears one day before the big Bread Festival that their town holds. She wonders what happened to him and then, that night, the old historic mill burns down.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature-
-Authenticity- This work can be very believable for in this day and age, there are many suicides and many families are willing to wash away the suicide from their memories and just record it as “an accident”. Also, since Rachel is ten years younger then Jake, she didn’t really remember him all that much so it would be natural for a young girl to be curious about her older brother that she didn’t even know. Also, the title of the book comes from a phrase that she remembers her mother telling her when she was younger and that was “Walk softly, Rachel. You might wake Jake”. For the longest time, that was the only thing that she knew about Jake. This is very believable because I don’t remember a whole lot about when I was seven years old and younger. I think that if I was in Rachel’s position, I would forget about Jake as well because the human brain usually blocks out incidents and so Rachel’s mind might have blocked out the tragedy of Jake’s death by deleting him from her memory all together.

III. Personal Comments- This book was very good. I enjoyed how the journal entries of Jake scattered throughout the book even though Rachel was only recorded of reading them once or twice. It seems to me that Rachel has bad luck with boys. First, her brother commits suicide, then Adrian leaves for Africa, and then Bowman burns down the mill so he might get sent to jail. Also, she keeps a little something of each of them. From her brother she keeps his journal and from Adrian she keeps his sweatshirt. Bowman, instead, she keeps a memory of him wearing the red scarf that she made for him.

The Wish List

The Wish List by Eoin Colfer
Miramax Books
I.L. 6th and up
252 pages

I. Synopsis- Meg Finn broke into a house only once with Belch as returning a favor for letting her borrow his video camera to humiliate her step-dad. Yet, things got out of control when they are caught by the owner, Lowrie McCall. Belch’s dog attacks him and Meg wants to get help while Belch doesn’t care. She runs out with him chasing her with a shotgun, taken from Lowrie. He corners her against an old gas tank and when he fires straight up into the air, a single pellet hit the gas tank, killing them both. Their spirits are going down a tunnel. Finally they come to a fork in the tunnel, up goes to heaven while down goes to Hell. Belch goes down, but Meg goes slightly up but hits the wall of the tunnel. She is informed by a tunnel mite that she has a purple spirit trail which basically means that she has equal points to go to Heaven or Hell. She is given a chance to go back down to the earth and help gain points to go to Heaven. She is sent back 2 years after her death and the only one that can see her is Lowrie. He gives her a list of four things that he has always wanted to do in his life: 1) Kissy Sissy (kiss a girl named Sissy), 2) Kick a soccer ball over the ball in Croke Park, 3) Burst Ball (punch a guy named Ball, and 4) Spit over the Cliffs of Moher. Meg finds out that she can enter Lowrie’s body and he becomes stronger because she has taken over.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature-
Theme- The theme of this book is that basically if you do enough good works, then you’ll go to Heaven. This theme is represented again and again through the entire book by Meg having to do good deeds to get into Heaven. Another theme which can be gleaned from this book is to live life to the fullest. This is demonstrated by Lowrie’s wish list which he requires Meg to help him with

III. Personal Comments- Even though this was a very good book, I just couldn’t bring myself to agree with the spiritual side of things as it says that if your good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, then you will get into Heaven. Another thing that bothered me is the portrayal of Peter. He seems like he hates it in Heaven and hates his job, which is not something I would expect of him.

The Burning Road

The Burning Road by Ann Benson
Delacorte Press
Historical Fantasy
I.L. 11th and up
467 pages

I. Synopsis- The year is 2007 and there has already been a large plague that has hit the entire world. People are still recovering from the effects of it. Janie lost her license shortly after the plague for illegal activities she did in London to try to cure the plague. Because of these activities, her friend Caroline lost a toe from the plague as well as both of them meeting “the men of their lives”, Michael and Bruce. Michael could come to the US because he is a biocop but Bruce’s visa wouldn’t go through because of the activities that he participated in. Janie has a book that she acquired while in London written by a Spanish Jewish man named Alejandro Canches. She is intrigued by this man although she can’t understand much of the journal for it is written in English, French and Hebrew. Upon the horizon another threat of the plague is coming as well as a case of a young boy’s whose neck was shattered just from a simple collision in soccer. She has to go through many illegal activities to get to the means and find out what happens and she does while falling in love with her close friend and lawyer, Tom. In 1358, Alejandro is trying to live a peaceful life with his “daughter”, Kate. She is the illegitimate daughter of King Edward of England. She survived through the plague thanks to Alejandro as he is a healer. Now they are caught in a rebellion in France against the current king. Alejandro is kidnapped by his one-time mentor while Kate falls in love with her guardian, Kale, who is the main leader of the rebellion. They get married after they free Alejandro and they make a small army in the countryside. Kate finds out that she is pregnant with Kale’s child but keeps it from him for she doesn’t want to distract him.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature
-Authenticity- This book is very believable as the author has taken great pains to research 14th century France. There are many historical people in there, such as a young Geoffrey Chaucer. One can believe that this has happened and the stuff in the modern future can happen.

III. Personal Comments- It was a good book, but I don’t see how this is a young adult book as there are some descriptions of sex in there which were unnecessary in some cases. It was retarded. They could have done without those and merely implied them and it would have meant the same thing.

Return to Auschwitz

Return to Auschiwitz by Kitty Hart
Stratford Press
I.L. 9th and up
173 pages

I. Synopsis- Kitty Hart was a young girl living in Bielsko when World War II broke out. They were sent to a ghetto where they escaped from with fake papers. They tried to go to Russia but couldn’t make it across the river before the Russians started shooting at them. They went to many other places before ending up at Auschwitz where they would stay. Only her mother and her were there as her brother had gone to join the rebel forces and her father stayed behind with some friends. She was very lucky for her mother and her both got pretty easy jobs, thus extending their lives and making it so that they were very rarely threatened with the gas chambers. They lost track of time until Auschwitz shipped them out near the end of the war so that they could destroy the compound and leave no evidence behind that it existed. They finally had to go on a death march where they didn’t know it would end.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature-
Point of View- The point of view in this book was first person as Hart was relating the events that happened to the reader. It works very well since she is the one that went through it, it is very good that she tells it in her own words.

III. Personal Comments- I liked the meaning of the book and it made me feel bad for the Holocaust, but the one big thing that bugged me was that she jumped around so much and she would break the action to start ranting on a soapbox. What she really needed to do was to just pick a way to lay it out and then stick to it. The title is misleading as only one chapter is about her going back to the concentration camp.


Redwall by Brian Jacques
Ace Books
I.L. 7th and up
333 pages

I. Synopsis- Redwall Abbey is besieged by Cluny the Scourge and the mice and other peaceable creatures must find a way to protect themselves. Because of his signs of courage when Cluny demanded surrender, the creatures lay their hopes in the young bumbling Matthias. He learns from the aged mouse, Methuselah, that the sword of Martin the Warrior is just what the Abbey needs to get rid of Cluny the Scourge. Matthias and Methuselah start searching all over the abbey for the sword while Cluny is gathering his forces and besieging them. At last, Matthias and Methuselah find the tomb of Martin the Warrior far underground. There are instructions there as to how to find the sword. It is located at the top of the abbey on a weathervane. Matthias is determined to go up there and get it. Methuselah shows him how to get up there but while he is up there, he is captured by the fierce sparrows that live up there. During this time, there are two rats that have been “captured” and are recovering in the infirmary. They decide to leave, taking several valuables with them, yet on their way out, Methuselah sees them and tries to stop them, but he is accidentally killed when one of them swings the bag a bit too hard. In the end, to escape the sparrows, Martin has to fight with the leader, King Bullwing, himself and he nearly dies in the process. He finds out that the sword is in a quarry a bit ways away and so he goes. Along the way he meets the quarrelsome shrews who help him, at times, along the way where he must meet Asmodeus, the deadly snake. Back at the abbey, Cluny has managed to get into Redwall and take the place as his own.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature-
Character- At first, one is taken aback that the main characters are mice, squirrels, and other such creatures, but as the book goes on, as early as the first chapter, one can recognize the various characters and personalities that live within Redwall. Even two different characters who are the same race can be completely different and the main character, Matthias, shows a great change in the way he acts and behaves because of the events that have happened, not just because the story would seem more interesting that way.

III. Personal Comments- I loved this story. Once you start reading it, you can’t put it down. Jacques paints such wonderful pictures into your heads and, even though the characters are all animals, one can feel their different personalities and can even relate to them. I think that he made them animals because it would be easier to bring the violence of war and fighting across to younger young adults.

Racing the Past

Racing the Past by Sis Deans
Henry Holt and Company
I.L. 8th and up
151 pages

I. Synopsis- Ricky’s dad died as he swerved off Dead Man’s Curve while he was drunk. A kid at school said that it was the best thing that he had ever done for the family. Even though Ricky agrees, he doesn’t like the kid saying that in front of his younger brother, Matt. They are both sent to the principal’s office. Ricky doesn’t want Mr. Daniels to call in his mother, for she has been dealing with enough, so he makes a deal. He will avoid Bugsie, the kid he got in a fight with, and he won’t be sent down to Mr. Daniels’ office again so that Mr. Daniels won’t call his mom. But, if he does get in another fight, then Mr. Daniels will call in his mom. It is about 3.5 miles from the school to his house and on the way there was the Murder House. An old friendly man was murdered there the year before and since then it has been abandoned.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature
-Character- The characterization in this book is pretty weak, in my opinion. Yes, there are some very strong characters such as Ricky, his brother, and their mother. Even their father, who is dead at the beginning of the book you get to know pretty well by their memories and their descriptions. Even though you “get to know” these characters, there really isn’t any development in them nor is there any change. The only character that really changes is Ricky and even that is minute with him realizing that he enjoys running. There is a slight change in him and his brother when they finally realize that their father is dead, but his brother still sleeps with the frying pan and still won’t go into the house without someone.

III. Personal Comments- I think that this is a good book to help young adults if they have abusive home lives, but other then that, I didn’t really enjoy it. The language was dumbed down, yet at the same time it used some pretty strong swear words. There was even mention of boys giving each other “the finger”. That was very confusing. It’s like the author couldn’t decide how these boys would/should act and would make them seem juvenile in one case and in the next have them swearing like a sailor. If I wanted my kids to read it, I would re-write it or something.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I.L. 6th and up
206 pages

I. Synopsis- The four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent into the country during World War II at the time of the London air raids. They arrive at the house of Professor Kirke. He lets them do whatever they like, except for getting in the way of Mrs. Macready when she shows guests around the old mansion. One day, as they are exploring the house, Lucy finds and interesting wardrobe. She walks inside and finds herself in the land of Narnia where she finds a faun by the name of Tumnus. He takes her back to his cave and treats her to tea and a song that puts her to sleep. After she has awaken, she finds out that he was suppose to take her to the White Witch of Narnia. He takes pity on her, however, and takes her back to the lamppost where they first met. She finds her way back to the wardrobe and runs through, shouting to everyone that she was back. Unfortunately for her, when one goes to Narnia, time stands still in our world, thus everyone else thought that she was hiding from them but didn’t hide long enough for them to notice. Another day, as they are playing hide and seek, Lucy goes back to the wardrobe to see if she was really mad. The “portal” is open once again and so she goes through. Edmund sees her go in and he follows after her. Not finding Lucy in Narnia, he meets the White Witch and is fed magic Turkish Delight. They find each other and go back home. Finally, everyone makes it into Narnia when they are being “chased” by Mrs. Macready. After making it into Narnia, they find out that Mr. Tumnus has been captured by the White Witch and that they have to trust the Beavers to get them to the Stone Table where Aslan is.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature
Point of View- This point of view is omniscient yet it is limited to the Pevensie children. The focus changes between them from time to time, so that Lewis can point out their feelings and the like, yet he doesn’t do this for any other people. I like this and think that it is very well done because it lets one get in touch with the main characters and shows what they are going through without revealing everything about every character.

III. Personal Comments- I loved this book. For older young adults, it may seem childish, but it still conveys the same message of hope and forgiveness. I am glad that this book has been made into a motion picture for it makes kids want to go out and actually read the book after watching the movie to compare the two, which the book is always better then the movie.


Jinx by Margaret Wild
Simon Pulse
I.L. 11th and up
215 pages

I. Synopsis- Jen is a young girl who starts dating Charlie. He is the most wonderful man in the world. Even though Ruthless, one of her friends, and her little sister tell her that something is wrong, she doesn’t pay attention. Everything seems right when she’s with Charlie. Yet, as Charlie says himself, he is troubled. There are voices that start trying to get into his head which he allows and in the end, he hangs himself in the entryway of his house where his family finds him. Everyone is asking Jen what happened and what was wrong, and she can’t tell because he didn’t open up to her. After that, she starts to become a “bad girl”, drinking, sleeping with anyone and everyone. Her friends talk about all the crazy stuff that she is doing, and her little sister, Grace, is becoming scared of her. Her mother is becoming worried and it’s only when Jen ends up in the hospital that she realizes that she needs to change.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature
-Style- The style is very unique for it is all told in poetic form. Yet, it is not one long poem, but many different poems told by many different people. Some are written by Jen/Jinx, some are written by her mom, some are written by her boyfriends and by their parents, and some are even written as third person. This gives it a great variety and also makes it interesting to read. With Jen/Jinx’s friends, there are so many subplots that they tell their own story in their own poems mixed in with Jen/Jinx’s story. The writing style gives you many different views and it’s as if you are reading someone’s journal or poetry book; it gives you a glimpse into their deepest emotions.

III. Personal Comments- This book is good because it gives you a glimpse into a young girl’s life who has gone through many great tragedies, yet at the same time I didn’t really like it. There are some poems that I would not allow my children to read because there are strong swear words. Also, I don’t know if I appreciate the way they view sex and how lightly it is taken as well as homosexuality. If only they were viewed in a more Christian light.

If You Come Softly

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
I.L. 7th and up
181 pages

I. Synopsis- Jeremiah, or Miah, is the son of the famous actor, Norman Roselind, and the famous author, Neila Roselind. They are in the middle of getting a divorce because Jeremiah’s dad had an affair with a woman, so he moved across the street to live with her. Miah is black. Because of his dad, he starts going to Percy Academy, a prep school where the population is mostly white. No one really seems to notice him all that much, for they do live in New York where different cultures are continually in contact with each other. Elisha, or Ellie, is a young girl from a Jewish home. She is the youngest of the family and she is the only child left at home. Even though her family is Jewish, they aren’t very Orthodox and don’t usually go to the Temple. This is also her first year at Percy and on the first day, she runs, literally, into Miah. He helps her pick up all her books, introduces himself, and then walks away. She can’t stop thinking about him, nor can he stop thinking about her. He tells his mother, but she doesn’t share anything with her family, except for her older sister, Anne, who gets upset with Ellie because Miah is black. They skip a class and go to a park. This is where they share their first kiss, and this is where they first realize that they like each other.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature
-Style- The way that this book was done was great. It didn’t seem to favor blacks or white, but rather it stayed in the middle and said “Can’t we just get along?” It is a love story and many things prove that (such as Miah and Ellie obsessing over each other) but at the same time, it’s a social book as well. It shows the difficulties that interracial couples have to go through. Woodson does a great job of showing these difficulties but at the same time manages to keep Miah and Ellie in their age range.

V. Personal Comments- I loved this book because it was a love story that wasn’t your typical love story. They weren’t going around and having sex nor were they sweet and innocent. They understood that people were looking at them different because they were of different races.


Dune by Frank Herbert
I.L 11th and up
474 pages

I. Synopsis- Duke Leto Atreides, Lady Jessica, and their son Paul move to the desert planet Arrakis because of the downfall of the Harkonnens. Yet, the Harkonnens didn’t actually fall, they only made it seem that way so that the House Atreides would come to Arrakis where and there the Harkonnens would make sure that they would fall. Yet, even as they go to Arrakis, Leto, Jessica, and Paul know that they are going straight into a trap. Jessica and Paul know a bit more then Leto because they have been through Bene Gesserit training. In fact, Jessica and the Reverend Mother are hoping that Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach. When they get on Arrakis, the people there start calling Paul the Muab’Dib. There are many prophesies about this messianic person that will make Arrakis into a paradise. Arrakis is a desert planet where water is the most important thing. Water is like their currency and many people have died over water disputes. Leto learns of a people known as the Fremen. They live outside of the cities, in the desert, and to his knowledge, they are against the Harkonnens as well. It isn’t too long after they have gotten settled in that the Harkonnens make their move. They have a spy in the House Atreides. Dr. Yueh captures Leto and gives him a tooth which if he bites hard on it, it will release a poisonous gas that he hopes will kill the Baron Harkonnen, for the Baron killed his wife.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature
-Setting- The setting is described very well. Most of the action takes place on Arakis but other planets are explained. There is even a map in the back of the book of Arrakis to help explain where places are, although I personally found it confusing. The setting really plays into the story and it makes everything more life-or-death. Also, it plays largely into the lives and culture of the Fremen who live in the desert and have made up ways to survive the heat, lack of moisture, and the giant worms that eat the spice.

III. Personal Comments- I thought that it was a good book, it had a good story line, but over all it was so long and drawn out that I started getting sick of reading it. Frank Herbert crams so much information in it that it gets confusing pretty quick. I would recommend this only to older young adults and those really into sci-fi for if you aren’t into sci-fi, then you will hate this book.