Book Review: Ruby’s Slippers, by Tricia Rayburn

rubys_slippersRuby’s Slippers by Tricia Rayburn is a realistic-fiction novel depicting a girl named Ruby moving all the way from rural Kansas to Florida because of a grandmother she barely knows.

Ruby Lee, who had never heard of Facebook, seen a video on YouTube, or downloaded a song from iTunes, is suddenly thrust into Coconut Cove where her new school is much nicer compared to her old one back in Kansas. The school is about ten times bigger and has a very nice auditorium.
On the first day of school she does not only manage to embarrass herself with a metal lunchbox, but also manages to make enemies with the most popular girl in school, Ava Grand.

Despite the trouble of being the new kid at school, Ruby also has to prepare for the upcoming talent show, Citrus Star, where participation is mandatory. Not having any friends, Ruby is unable to partner up with anybody. Miss Anita, the school’s performance director, helps Ruby join the dancing group Constellation. Ruby is thankful for her help, but her relief is eradicated when she realizes who is in the group- Ava Grand and three of her friends. Going to her first rehearsal, Ruby begins to have fun against all expectations. I do not want to give away the ending, but it has a surprising twist I did not see coming.

Overall, the book was decent. There were both pros and cons in the book, especially with how Ruby handled different situations. For example, I liked how Ruby supported her Mom when she was looking for a job. Although, I did not like how Ruby was completely clueless in some situations in the story, that she could have easily handled. At the same time, I did not like how sometimes in the book, the author took time to describe simple things. On the other hand, I felt like the ending was good and gratifying. This book is great for kids aged 9-12.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Book Review and Music Pairing: Counting By 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

counting_by_7sCounting by 7s is a heartfelt novel about a genius girl who is an “angel” to many.  Willow Chance, a 12-year-old girl going into middle school has a natural green thumb.  She made chemical analysis of bee poop at the age of seven.  At the age of eight, she raised a baby green parrot and later set it free.  The story opens with her driving up to the driveway of her house to find a police car.  However, she rewinds and tells about her past.  She has always been “highly gifted” and has yet to meet a teacher who understands her or has understood her teacher, for that matter.

Fast-forwarding to the present time, the story transfers to her parents’ perspective.  Her mom is at the doctor getting a small dimple on the left side of her chest checked out.  This dent turns out to be a tumor, and she learns that she has cancer.  On the drive home, in the middle of an intersection, Willow and her parents’ world completely falls apart.  The only thing unharmed was a sign that clattered down saying, “SAFETY FIRST!  Tell me how I’m doing.  I am truck number 807.”  Ironic.

So, when Willow comes home that night, she becomes an orphan.  Though she is immediately taken in by her brand new friend’s mom, Willow feels her life is going downhill.  At this point in the story, I thought of the song “Someone Like You” by Adele.  Although Adele is singing about a relationship between her and her boyfriend, I thought about the song differently.  Willow will never find parents who replicate her deceased ones.  This part of the story was very emotional for me.  Sloan does such a fine job of displaying this mourning that you begin to wonder if her own life inspired this story somehow.  If so, I hope she was able to find “someone like you.”

The resolution, as expected, repaired Willow’s situation, and she was very happy.  Two people came together and made her ends meet.  This is the kind of story that I enjoy.  The narrator expressed Willow’s true feelings.  I feel as though Holly Goldberg Sloan wrote this from her heart.  If this novel was made into a film, the song “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles should be played.  It represents the theme of “life is a winding path” well.  The lyrics “nothing is real” explores what life would be like with no permanent future.  It could be bad.  Or it could be good.

I would rate this story 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for its sincere message.

-Maya Salem, 7th grade

Book Review and Music Pairing: Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger

keeper_lost_citiesKeeper of the Lost Cities is about a girl named Sophie Foster who learns that she is not human. Shocker! She is a 12-year-old senior in high school and has been admitted to the most prestigious Ivy League schools. It all begins when she is sitting in science class one day, with ear-buds in, listening to music. The teacher asks her a question that she is not expected to know the answer, but her very rare ability, her photographic memory, helps her. Later, on a fieldtrip to a museum, an odd-looking boy tells her the words of her fate, “It’s okay, Sophie. I’m here to help you. We have been looking for you for 12 years.”

She has no choice but to go with him. She learns that his name is Fitz, and she is amazed at the lost world of the elves they have entered. Messenger provides some history and explains that the Ancients, the governing body for the elves, had a fight with the Humans a long time ago. When I read this, I thought of the song “Revolution” by the Beatles. After reading further, I realized not only is this not a revolution, but also it is the start of a broken bond. If the two groups had actually agreed, perhaps the world would be much happier. But, they didn’t. The Ancients wanted peace; however, humans wanted to go to war. So the two were separated, and the elves became forgotten to the humans except for the ones believed to reside in the North Pole. The forgotten elves actually live in areas called the Lost Cities. The human cities are known as Forbidden Cities to the elves, because nobody except for the Ancients and the Council members are allowed to enter them.

Sophie Foster starts school at the most prestigious school for prodigy elves. She learns that she is a Telepath with impenetrable brainpower, an elf who is able to read minds and transmit thoughts without anybody reading hers. She has always been able to read human minds. However, elf minds proved more difficult. And, another thing, it turns out a group of elves are out to get her. If this book was turned into a film, the song “When you wish upon a star” from Walt Disney’s Pinocchio is a symbolic song for the credits. Sophie wished that she could belong and not stand out as the only prodigy. I give this first book in the trilogy 11 stars out of 10! I loved it and the series so much that it is now my second favorite book series next to Harry Potter! Kudos, Shannon Messenger.

-Maya Salem, 6th grade

Book Review: The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra Goodman

other_side_islandThe Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman is about a brave girl named Honor, born in the eighth year of Enclosure, living in a society controlled by the Earth Mother and her Corporation. Every family on island 365 lives peacefully and follows the rules– except for Honor’s. They sing songs, ignore curfew, and do not pray to Earth Mother. Families are only allowed to have one child, but Honor also has a younger brother. Despite her great effort, Honor has great trouble trying to fit in with the other girls at her school.

At her school, she befriends a boy named Helix who is very knowledgeable about the island and he reveals to Honor that the people who are not “normal” disappear and never come back. Honor has a constant fear that her parents will be caught and taken, and she and her brother would be orphans forced to live at school– and one day, she discovers that her parents are missing. She is scared and lives alone with her younger brother at her home. Eventually she is discovered and is forced to live at school. The girls in her class no longer accept Honor because of her orphan status.

Honor and Helix, both trying to escape from school, devise a plan to escape during a great storm, which happens every couple of years. After the storm comes, only Honor escapes and she runs away from the school. To see if she makes it to her parents, you  need to read this book with a shocking ending!

I found this book very interesting and unique among other dystopian novels. I really liked the surprise ending and found the whole book really interesting. I finished this book in one day because it was so good and I could not put it down. Recommended for anyone with an interest in dystopian novels, The Other Side of the Island is for ages ten and up.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Book Review: The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann

unwanteds_coverThe Unwanteds is a unique dystopian novel by Lisa McMann depicting the fantasy world called Quill. Each year in Quill, all the thirteen-year-olds are categorized into different classifications: the capable, intellectual Wanteds go to university, and the imaginative Unwanteds are sent to die. Thirteen-year-old twins Alex and Aaron Stowe are awaitng to see what their futures look like. Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted; Alex knows that he would not be with his brother because he had been discovered drawing in the dirt. In the desolate region of Quill, being creative is a wrongdoing, punishable by death.

After becoming an Unwanted, Alex must be confronted by the dreaded Eliminators. There he discovers the mage Mr. Today and the secret world called Artimé, where the Unwanted children from Quill have been hiding. Over in Artimé, Alex discovers talking statues, uncommon creatures, and magic. After taking some surprising twists and turns, the ending will be a surprise for anybody.

This is the perfect dystopian novel for any age. I enjoyed it very much because of the element of magic. Even though the book was thick, I could not put it down. I think that Kirkus Review described the book the best when they said that: “The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.” After reading The Unwanteds, you may enjoy the second book in the series, Island of Silence. I have not read it yet, but if you have please tell me about it! If you are looking for another anti-utopia book, then The Unwanteds is for you.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani

school_good_evil

“Sophie had waited her whole life to be kidnapped. But tonight, all the other children of Gavaldon writhed in their beds. If the School Master took them, they’d never return.”

Every year in Gavaldon, the School Master kidnaps two children and takes them to the School for Good and Evil to be trained to survive their own fairy tale – or so they say.

Best friends Agatha and Sophie are complete opposites. Sweet Sophie is like a princess with her kindness and fancy dresses, and gloomy Agatha seems fit for the School for Evil. But when they are whisked into the Endless Woods, Agatha gets sent to the School for Good to take classes like Beautification, Good Deeds and History of Heroism, while Sophie is sent to Evil to take Henchman Training, Special Talents and Curses & Death Traps! But maybe this mistake is just the first step to discovering their true selves.

In this book, nothing is as it seems. It is filled with creatures that only exist in fairy tales, like the golden goose, werewolves, and witches. Suitable for people of all ages, pick up this book at a bookstore or your local library for a great read. I am waiting eagerly for the release of the second book, A World Without Princes, which comes out in mid-April so that I will be able to find out what happens next.

-Linna C., 7th grade

Series Review: “Dear America” by Scholastic

dear_americaAs we have many history-making moments in our time, you get to see big historical moments through a girl perspective in the series “Dear America” from Scholastic. The “Dear America” books are stories about big moments in history, like Hitler, in a form of a girl’s diary. The original series published by Scholastic in 1996, had hard covers, ribbon bookmarks attached inside (to hold your place), and 36 books.

The books out of the series I have read, and are my favorites, are Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847 by Kristiana Gregory (1997), Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, RMS Titanic, 1912 by Ellen Emerson White (1998), The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West, Utah Territory, 1868 by Kristiana Gregory (1999), One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss, Vienna, Austria to New York, 1938 by Barry Denenberg (2000), and many more.

The series was cancelled in 2004 with its final release, Hear My Sorrow. However, it was relaunched in the fall of 2010. The 2010 re-launch series came out with new covers and had no ribbon bookmarks were attached. The re-launch series has 19 books, from the original series like A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859 by Patricia McKissack (January 2011), Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine, 1918 by Lois Lowry (January 2011), as well as new “Dear America” stories like Behind the Masks: The Diary of Angeline Reddy, Bodie, California, 1880 by Susan Patron (January 2012).

As I am reading Color Me Dark by Patricia McKissack, I think the reading level is a bit low for middle school and high school, it is a great way on getting a learning on historical moments in a creative, non-boring way. The reading level I chose was from 3rd grade up to 7th grade.

-Kate B., 7th grade