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

Book Review: Hotel for Dogs, by Lois Duncan

0-545-10792-XThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Hotel for Dogs is a heartwarming novel portraying a girl and her selfless devotion for saving helpless dogs. It displays how this commitment withstands even through separation from her beloved dog, and in turn inspires the other main characters to aid in protecting other helpless dogs. Written by Lois Duncan, author of several books for kids, this novel is a lively tale packed with action, sorrow, determination, and kindness.

 Hotel for Dogs is a phenomenal novel that had me captivated from the beginning to the end. Author Lois Duncan truly captures the themes of uncertainty, determination, kindness, and dedication through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl. Lois Duncan weaves the character’s personalities such that one feels as if they have known that person their entire life. Overall, I found it to be a very motivating tale.

When ten-year-old Andrea (Andi) Walker is forced to leave her dog, Bebe, due to her father’s recent job placement, she is heartbroken. Not only does she succumb to losing her beloved pet, she has to deal with starting a new life in this small New Jersey town. One day, when she is upset about being unable to help a stray dog, she later finds herself convincing her older brother, Bruce, to help her find shelter for that dog, who surprises them with a litter of three puppies. Bruce, keeping true to his word, soon finds shelter in an overgrown, shabby house down the street, “The whole backyard was overgrown with knee-high grass and brambles and vines gone wild from neglect” (44).

However, these kids are faced with the constant threat of keeping their secluded “dog hotel” a secret. They also must deal with Jerry Gordon, an unpleasant neighbor who is a constant threat. With help of their new-found friends Debbie and Tim, they somehow manage to provide shelter to these and other helpless dogs, and are able to get even with Jerry. The next hurdle is keeping their parents from finding out about their mini-hotel. This is nearly impossible especially after they decide to purchase that house, “Oh, Mom, no- we don’t want that house” (159). In order to find out how they ease out of this sticky situation, I strongly encourage reading the book!

I would strongly recommend this novel to readers of all ages. I would definitely rate it a five out of five. Personally, I feel that the author was able to successfully portray the characters through her vivid descriptions, and was able to effectively grasp the reader’s attention. It was a light, cheerful, and happy book. Overall, I truly enjoyed reading this story.

-Tarika G., 7th grade

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is an amazing book. Telling the story from Ivan (the gorilla)’s point of view, you find out the story of a gorilla’s care for a baby elephant. This book was just released in 2012, so it’s kind of new. It’s an easy read, with lots of short paragraphs. However, this book is very enjoyable.

This book is about a gorilla named Ivan, who has lived in a cage- or domain as he calls it- at Exit 8 Big Top Mall for 27 years! Ivan is a silverback gorilla, which means he’s in charge of protecting his family. But he has no one to protect since he’s all alone. But when the Exit 8 Big Top Mall gets a new member, Ruby the baby elephant, all of that might change.

Also, The One and Only Ivan is this year’s Newbery Medal winner. I think it clearly deserves this award, because it’s very well written. And I could just picture the story in my head while I was reading it, and in my opinion  that shows the signs of a good book!

I love this book very much. It broke my heart but then put it back together at the end. Ivan proves it’s not so easy being a gorilla.

-Danielle L.