Sunday, October 02, 2011

Various Reads

Pearson, Mary E. The Fox Inheritance
This sequel to the very good The Adoration of Jenna Fox does not disappoint. Locke and Kara are put into new bodies after their minds are kept in a small box for 260 years. Dr. Gatsbro had gotten the boxes after a series of mishaps had kept the two in limbo, and not only has put them in bodies but is grooming the two... to be floor models for his business of selling people the service of "replanting" their minds into BioPerfect bodies. Kara and Locke escape into the strange new world and are aided by a cab driving bot who helps them navigate through new security measures. They travel back to Boston where they find most traces of their former world completely erased, but learn the Jenna is living in California. They head there, but because they are being chased by Dr. Gatsbro, split up. Locke arrives first at Jenna's home and learns a lot about what has gone on in the years he has been imprisoned, but once Kara shows up, things become dangerous.
Strengths: Very, very good. It was interesting to see the world from Locke's perspective.
Weaknesses: I would have liked to know more about how the world is in 260 years, but the story is more about Locke, Kara and Jenna's role in that world. Also, the print is tiny. Both books are small and thick-- I would have preferred a bigger book with bigger type. (See discussion of pictures yesterday; sometimes these things just do matter!)

O'Connor, Sheila. Sparrow Road.
Nominated for the Cybils.
Raine and her mother have always been alone except for Raine's grandfather, but when the two go to spend the summer at an artists' camp where Raine's mother is working as a cook and maid, Raine learns that she has a father. Unfortunately, her father made choices that rendered him a less than appealing choice for Raine to be around, although he has changed. The house where the artists' camp is held has some secrets of its own, since it was an orphanage at one point, and some of the residents are still around. Raine gathers a community around her to figure out all of these problems.
Strengths: Well-written and has an intriguing premise. The idea of personal identity is one which students like.
Weaknesses: A bit too philosophical, with not a lot happening. My students would have loved to read more about Raine's father's problems with alcohol. (Again, inexplicable but true.)

Ray, Delia. Here Lies Linc.
Nominated for the Cybils.
Linc's mother is a college professor who specializes in burial customs, so he has spent a lot of time in cemeteries-- they even live next door to one! His father dies several years ago, and this is still something which both of them are working through. When Linc's mother gives his class a tour around the cemetery and the class is supposed to adopt a grave for a project, Linc chooses to investigate the person buried under the "black angel" monument, which has quite a local legend attached to it. With the help of Delaney, a girl in his class who is working through her own grief, an elderly neighbor who once met the person who put up the black angel, and an odd assortment of fellow students, Linc manages to finish his project and come to terms with some of the mysteries in his own life.
Strengths: This was quite an enjoyable read. I thought it would be like Grabenstein's The Crossroads, with some spooky ghosts, but it wasn't at all. There was enough humor, and enough discussion of fitting in to middle school that I think students will enjoy it.
Weaknesses: Having spent way more time that I would have liked in cemeteries in Iowa, I wonder if I liked this more than my students will! I think the cover will attract readers, and once they meet Linc they will like him.

Dooley, Sara. Livvie Owen Lived Here.
From the Publisher: "Olivia "Livvie" Owen, an autistic girl who suffers from destructive outbursts, learns her family is going to be evicted once again because of her behavior and decides they should move back to the one place where she believes they were all happy, but that house was burnt down by Livvie and her parents and sister struggle to understand her plan."

We have a unit serving students on the autism spectrum at my school, so I am always looking for books that might help other students understand some of the differences that these students show. It can be very hard for middle school students to deal with people who are different, and I really like Nora Leigh Baskin's Anything But Typical because it helps make sense of the autistic character's world. Livvie Owen is a fairly interesting book, but even Livvie's parents are usually annoyed with her, so this is just not quite what I need.

Teen Book Review Blog, Abby the Librarian, Sophistikatied Reviews (I've been citing her a lot recently!), Granny Sue's News and Reviews, and Kiss the Book all liked this better than I did.

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