Book Review: Thunder Dog, by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory

thunder_dog“My head is spinning. So much has happened in such a short time, and my mind reels, going over the events and trying to make sense of the explosion…” – Michael Hingson, p. 123-124

Michael Hingson is an ordinary man. He’s flown a plane, had several jobs, drives sometimes, has friends, is a Christian, and is married. And he’s permanently and totally blind.

This true story is what happened on 9/11/2001 when a blind man and his guide dog were on the 78th floor in the World Trade Center’s North tower as the first hijacked plane hit. Michael and Roselle were paired as man and guide dog for twenty-one months previously, and everything in their lives together seemed to lead up to this. Since Michael can’t see anything, he depends on what he hears, feels, smells, and breathes. He also depends on Roselle, and has to trust her very much on this terrifying day. They helped each other. They were a team working as one.

I personally loved this autobiography. Through books, I can say I’ve experienced what it’s like to be homeless, be a winner, be a gorilla, live through segregation, be a spy, live in a “crazy” family, live in a giant peach, and many other things. Oh, and now be blind. It’s a very gracious experience, and Thunder Dog has given me a new appreciation for people with disabilities.

I really like all of the details in this book. This is one of those books where you can travel back in time to a certain day, yet be home in time for supper. We all have some huge tragedy or trauma in our lives. We can choose to learn from it and teach others, or spend all our lives feeling bad for ourselves. Michael chose to teach others.

Although this book is wonderful, I do not suggest it for teens/tweens under 12 years old because it is an adult book. But it really depends on individual maturity level. For those who do choose to read this, from me to you, good reading!

-Danielle L., 6th grade

Book Review: War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo

war_horse_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is a fiction story that is filled with passion, inspiration, and loyalty. Thorough out this book the author reveals surprises in between twisted mysteries that make you not want to miss a part or even set the book down. Michael Morpurgo is an English author, poet, playwright and librettist, best known for his work in children’s literature. He was the third Children’s Laureate. War Horse is his most famous piece of work.

War Horse begins with a young colt name Joey living out his days next to his strong, healthy mother. But this was not going to last for long. When Joey was only a young horse, he was taken to the auction with his mother. Two different people fought for the two horses. The colt and his mother said their last goodbye before turning back to back and going their separate ways. Joey was bought by a young boy name Albert that immediately fell in love with him. The two were inseparable. Albert taught Joey to plow and work on the farm. He also lived with another horse named Topthorn. “Topthorn was the first horse I had ever come across that I felt could challenge me for strength, but there was also a kindness in his eye that held no threat for me” (18). However, Albert’s dad was not pleased with Albert’s new treasure. This began a long and hard disagreement.

The conflict in this story was uprising fast. After Albert and his father finally got over their huge disagreement. Albert’s father without Albert knowing took Joey back to town and sold him to the military to pull heavy machinery and to plow the fields. Soon after Joey was gone, Albert found Joey’s stall empty and his heart sank. Albert sprinted into town to find that only the general was still there. Without taking a moment to think, Albert signed up for the military to go after his beloved Joey.

If you are a person that really enjoys strong stories about relationships between animals and people, then this is the book for you. Joey and Albert both show strong bonds towards each other. In this book, trust plays a big role in the life of both Joey and Albert. At some points in the book Albert trusts Joey with his life and in other parts Joey has to relay on Albert to be his voice. “Any problem can be solved between people if only they can trust each other” (127). This book has many themes. Most are impressive and hard to find. War Horse is one of my favorites and I look forward to seeing other people reading this incredible fiction book.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend War Horse to anyone ages 10 and up. I would choose this book for ages 10 and up because there are a few words that are of a higher level and there are a couple advanced death scenes in the book. But overall, this is an incredible book for both horse lovers and people that enjoy loyal stories. Is Joey ever reunited at the farm with Albert? I don’t know. You have to read it to find out.

-Alexandra L., 7th grade

Book Review: White Fang, by Jack London

white_fang_coverThis month, I am blogging about a book that I have always wanted to read, yet have never had a chance to read, until now. White Fang by Jack London is one of those classics that people are always telling me about, yet, even though I am always reading something, I have never read it. As soon as I picked it up and looked at the back cover, I knew that it would be a book that I would like a lot.

I do not want to give the whole plot away, but White Fang starts out as a tiny puppy struggling for survival, half dog and half wolf. He is found by a cruel man named Gray Beaver, whose brother owned White Fang’s mother. Gray Beaver turns White Fang into a nasty and vicious dog that cannot trust anyone, and White Fang has to quickly learn how to hurt, or be hurt, and soon becomes the most feared and hated dog in Gray Beaver’s tribe. Gray Beaver then sells White Fang to an even nastier man named Beauty Smith, who discovers White Fang’s fighting abilities, and has him fight other dogs for money. Without spoiling anything, I can gladly say that the ending is a happy one, where White Fang finally learns that some people can be kind and caring after all.

White Fang is a story of survival, and trust. It is also a story of love and companionship. White Fang is a great story, and I really like Mr. London’s style of writing. He shows what it is really like to be out in the harsh lonely world with no one to trust, and no one on which to rely. White Fang is not the best book I have ever read, but I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone above nine years old (a little of a complicated read for younger children), boy or girl, who enjoys reading, especially about animals and nature. All in all, White Fang is definitely a great book and I would most certainly read it again.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: The A Circuit, by Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

a_circuit_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

The book The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka is a captivating story filled with friendship, loyalty, and journey to reaching goals. Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of New York City mayor, and Catherine Hapka, are both accomplished riders and lifelong horse lovers. Through teamwork they have created an inside few of the horse show circuit, by letting readers see it from different perspectives.

When it comes to horse shows, the A circuit is the highest and most prestigious of them all. Many travel the circuit all year round. It’s a lifestyle with its own rules, and horses that cost as much as some homes. Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite riders competing on the circuit with their trainer Jamie, but they all come from completely different backgrounds.

Tommi is a billionaire heiresss trying to prove that she really does have talent, and that it doesn’t come from her money. Kate comes from a middle class family that doesn’t have the money to support her riding, so instead Kate works constantly at the barn. She earns lessons and the ability to show, through all the stalls she’s mucked out, the tack she’s cleaned, and horses she’s cared for. Kate’s friends have realized that her grueling schedule is not good for her and that she needs time to focus on her own life. And then there’s Zara. She’s the wild child of a famous rock star. The party girl is having trouble changing her ways, but is slowly starting to take riding more seriously.

Competing in the A circuit requires training, experience, and passion. In my view, the phrases ‘riding horses’ and ‘borrowing freedom’ are synonyms. The A Circuit not only is a story on riders lives’, but it also teaches you tips along the way on how to ride, “Always make the horse look good. Always make the ride look easy”(14). The characters in The A Circuit; Tommi, Kate, and Zara have taught me, if my eyes are up and my heels are down I can do anything.

You must hold on to what you love, if it tries to buck you off, hold on even tighter. Throughout this book loyalty, friendship, and journeys to reaching goals are all protrude. The bond between a horse and its rider is like nothing else, they’re inseparable, a team, and forever friends.

Knowing from my own personal experiences, I know that this book really does describe what a young competitive rider’s life would be like. The unique way of telling the story through three perspectives in different situations really intrigued me. This book is really well written with lots of figures of speech, and other ways to describe different aspects of the book. “He was leaning against the rail, his whip-thin body relaxed but buzzing with barely contained energy, like a sports car running in neutral” (17). I recommend this book for teens of all ages, because there is some mature content. Also, the main characters are teenagers, so teens who are reading the book can relate to the characters in various ways. As a horse lover myself, it was extremely easy for me to become engaged in the book, but I do believe that even if you’re not a horse person you will still feel involved in this book, because there is just about anything anyone can relate to.

-Savannah A., 7th grade

Book Review: Rotten, by Michael Northrop

rotten_coverJD has just gotten back from staying “upstate” with his aunt, so he says, and finds out that his mother has rescued a full grown, untrained, slobbering Rottweiler who JD immediately calls Johnny Rotten.

JD would’ve never guessed that he’d become friends with Johnny but they slowly bond and it looks as if they have a great future together. Yet that idea is ruined when a lowlife, Mars, provokes Johnny and gets himself bitten. Mars and his family are poor and decide to sue JD’s mom for the tiny wound their son got. With barely enough money to support their family, JD’s mom will have to get rid of Johnny. However, JD strongly believes that Johnny was only protecting himself from Mars, and tries to find a way to prove the court that Johnny is innocent and Mars was trespassing and harassing the dog. But how will JD prove to the court that Johnny is innocent with no hard evidence? Read Rotten to see if Johnny is saved and find out what JD was doing “upstate.”

This book was the best book I read since last year. I had so many connections to it since I had an aggressive dog that bit other dogs. It was very fun to read and I recommend this book if feel like you need a relaxing book. Michael Northrop did an excellent job to keep the story flowing and have you wondering what would happen to poor Johnny.

-Marilyn J., 8th grade

Book Review: Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen

hoot_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Should helpless owls die just because nobody knows about them? In the book Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen, the author took me to Florida where the main character has moved. This is a story about a boy and his friends trying to save owls and their dens that will be destroyed if construction is not stopped. These kids are determined to be the ones who stop it.

Roy Eberhart has moved to Florida because of his father’s job. Prior to this move, Roy became the new kid at his school. Naturally, a bully named Dana Matherson starts to pick on him. Roy hates everything about Florida, the bullies, and the fact that it is so flat. However, this makes biking easier than in the mountains. Roy later befriends Beatrice Leep who helps him with his bully problem. Beatrice is a strong girl that no one dares to get in her way. Mullet Fingers is fixed on saving the owls. He is so steadfast about saving the owls, that he will do anything. The last important character is Officer Delinko. He is an officer that is trying to figure out the person that is vandalizing the construction site.  Officer Delinko is determined to find the vandal in order to clear his name.

Mullet Fingers is the reason that I loved this book. His dedication to the saving the owls is so touching. I thought it was good the way that the author made him so selfless. He doesn’t care what condition he is in; he will do anything in his power to save the owls. He is the reason that there is so much suspense in the book. You will just want to keep on reading the book because of him. “There’s only one way to find out.” (179) Mullet Fingers leaves you hanging so you just have to continue on.

The idea of owls being killed is absurd. However, that is what is going to happen if Roy, Mullet Fingers, and Beatrice don’t stop the people from proceeding with construction. Roy is struggling to find ways that he can save the owls while struggling with Dana Matherson.

One of the major themes in this book is never give up. Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do it. Mullet Fingers never let anyone stop him when they thought that it was dangerous.  The last obvious theme was curiosity could get you involved with things. Roy’s life would have been normal if he hadn’t been curious. “The running boy was way ahead of him, but Roy figured he could stay close enough to keep him in sight.” (15) If Roy doesn’t continue on being curious, who knows what might happen to those owls.

Hoot made me sympathize with characters. It made me feel like I should make a difference. Anyone can make a difference. Even students in middle school can change the outcome of something. In this way it inspired me. Not only did it make you feel like you can make a difference, it showed me that bullying is a real problem. It made me feel sad for Roy because he is being bullied. I think that this was a good way to capture the reader’s attention a little more.

One thing that I did not like about this book was the word choice. I think in some places of the book, the author shouldn’t have used some words. Also, one thing that I think this book lacked of was suspense. Mullet Fingers was the only character that I felt added suspense to the book. Other than him, the book was very straightforward.

Innocent owls shouldn’t be killed just because they can’t fend for themselves. If you want to know what the fate of these owls are and what Roy did about Dana Matherson, you’ll just have to read the book.

-Grace M., 7th grade

Book Review: Star in the Storm, by Joan Hiatt Harlow

star_in_the_storm_coverA book filled with hope, suspense, and the strength of a relationship between a girl and her dog; Star in the Storm, written by Joan Hiatt Harlow, is by far one of my favorite books.

“One for sadness, two for mirth, three for marriage, four for birth; five for laughing, six for crying; seven for sickness, eight for dying, nine for silver, ten for gold; eleven for a secret that will never be told.”

When all non-sheepherding dogs get outlawed from the coastal village where Maggie lives, she is unwilling to let her Newfoundland, Sirius, go. She hides Sirius away as diseases flood the village. Having nosy neighbors, keeping Sirius hidden is a challenge. But when a violent storm hits, a boat packed with a hundred passengers gets stranded. Maggie knows that Sirius could save the passengers but is bringing him out of hiding worth risking his life. Besides, if anything goes wrong the passengers and Sirius’s life could be in danger.

This is a page-turning book that I had to read several times. This book is an easy read with twists and turns. I have suggested it to many of my friends knowing that whatever their type, Star in the Storm is a book worth reading.

-Danielle T., 7th grade