Friday, June 27, 2008

Maureen Johnson. SUITE SCARLETT

Wow! I just spent such an exciting time in New York with some zany and heartwarming characters (at least if feels like I was there!). Fifteen-year-old Scarlett and her family live in a small 5 story historic hotel called the Hopewell. Lola is the older sister with beauty and a great personality. Marlene is the younger sister who has experienced major illness in her past. Spencer is the older brother and Scarlett’s best friend. Spencer is an actor and quite the comedian. Business in the hotel hasn’t been great, so the family is struggling. Spencer has been awarded a scholarship to culinary school, but it’s the last thing he wants to do. He feels pressured by his parents, because they could use some financial help. But, he really wants to pursue his acting career. When Ms. Amberson, an intriguing new guest, arrives at the Hopewell, she brings a lot of ideas, money, and a unique perspective on life. She certainly shakes things up, but will it be for the best or will she bring disaster?
The greatest part of this quirky, fun novel is the characters. All the main characters are so unique and special. I enjoyed spending time with them. To me, that’s what a great book is all about. If you don’t want to be with the characters, then you won’t keep reading. Ms. Amberson is a hoot! And I really cared about the family. The idea of the family living in a hotel was also interesting to me. I spent about 5 years in the hotel business, but it was with big chain hotels, so this little family run, historic hotel was fun place to be. Plus, the situations that they get themselves in and out of are hysterical. I laughed and had a great time!! Highly recommended for all. (and what a gorgeous cover!)

Maureen Johnson has written many other great books.
Check out her website here
And her blog here
She says the just finished the sequel. Woohoo! Looking forward to it!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guest Blogger - Heather Johnson

The Cay: A Timeless Classic by Theodore Taylor

I remember when I was in middle school and The Cay was one of the most popular books in our English classes. I can picture Timothy with his dark skin and white hair standing on the beautiful white-sanded beach. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, my class never read it. Recently, I went back and picked up a copy of The Cay and read it. I’m ecstatic that I did. I don’t know if it was the cover or the word, “cay,” that stuck with me. Regardless of what drew me back to this short novel, I’m a better person for reading it.

Theodore Taylor penned this novel about forgiveness and equality aimed at the young adult. The language is easy to follow and the descriptiveness employed really makes the reader feel like he or she is stuck on the cay with Timothy and Phillip. The Cay takes place off the island of Curacao in the Bahamas during World War II. Phillip is a young boy, about 12, who is on a ship with his mother headed for the United States. They are leaving Curacao as there is unrest on the Dutch island as fears about attacks from the Germans abound. Timothy is a crew member on the ship, a laborer.

The ship is attacked by Germans and Phillip is separated from his mother and winds up on a raft in the middle of the ocean with Timothy. Phillip grew up very sheltered and his mother, in particular, was wary of black people. Timothy is getting on in years and does everything he can to help Phillip, who has lost his eyesight, stay safe. This is a tale about survival and, in order to survive, Phillip needs to put aside his inherent racism and work together with Timothy if they ever to reach safety.

This is a great story for young adults as there is certainly enough adventure to grab their attention and they learn about what is needed to survive in this world. They learn that racist thoughts can only hinder people when they are stripped from every convenience of their regular, day-to-day lives. Phillip comes full circle in this story and realizes that we are all human beings in this world just trying to make it and harboring ill will towards someone for no legitimate reason does more harm than good. I realized, as I read The Cay so many years after leaving middle school, that this is a worthwhile story for readers of all ages and wish that I had the privilege of reading it when I was in my formative years!

By-line:

This article was contributed by Heather Johnson, who is a regular writer on the subject of Concord Law School Reviews. She welcomes your questions, comments and writing job opportunities at heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

Thanks for the article Heather!

*Mrs. Hill's note: If you like THE CAY, there is a companion novel called TIMOTHY OF THE CAY.






Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Susan Vaught. BIG FAT MANIFESTO

It’s Jamie Carcaterra’s senior year in high school. She has a long to-do list consisting of ACT testing, college applications, senior pictures, staring in the school play, and now it seems like changing the world has been added to her list. Jamie begins writing a column for the school paper called Fat Girl Manifesto. She’s fed up with the world’s assumptions of what it’s like to be fat. She begins with shattering myths of fat girls. She says she doesn’t want to be called “chubby,” “large,” or “plus-size.” She says “I’m fat.” She says that she has a boyfriend and a life - a life that isn’t all consumed with losing weight or apologizing for her weight. Her column shakes up the school and the community. She points out what it’s like to be her, “fat girl,” as people begin calling her, after the name of her column. For example, she details her limited clothing options, the way she is treated at the doctor’s office and the way the airlines treat her. She began writing the column to win a journalism scholarship, but ends up gaining nationwide media attention for her honest, yet contentious, opinions. When her boyfriend, Burke, decides he wants to have gastric bypass surgery, she sees firsthand how much pain a person will go through to be thin. Then things begin to get tough in her life, so Jamie begins to wonder what is really important to her and what she is willing to fight for.
Jamie is one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve encountered in a long while. She’s refreshing, strong, honest, realistic and completely wonderful. Plus, her friends Freddie and No-No are well-developed and fun characters, as well as Burke and Heath. In fact, all the characters are realistic and unique. This was a surprisingly enlightening and memorable read! I highly recommend it.

Enjoy a sampling of the the Fat Girl Manifesto here from the author's website.
And read more about his author here. (glad I stumbled across her!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Margaret Peterson Haddix. FOUND

A new series by Margaret Peterson Haddix! How awesome is that? I knew this would be good. All her other books are so unique and intriguing. Jonah has always known he was adopted, but never thought it was a big deal. Then one day, he gets a letter in the mail that says he is one of the “missing.” His friend, Chip, gets the same letter. A few days later he gets another mysterious letter that says that someone is coming to get them. Jonah and Chip, along with Jonah’s non-adopted sister, begin investigating their adoptions. After obtaining some secret files and making a lot of phone calls, they have even more questions. Plus, when they find the one person who seems to have some answers, she disappears. Then they begin to feel forces for and against them, but they don’t even know why. This is an incredibly suspenseful novel that will catch on with readers like wildfire! I absolutely cannot wait until the sequel!
In case you aren’t familiar with her other books, check out her brand new website, here. Her books are all so different, yet all so intriguing in their own ways.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meg Cabot. AIRHEAD

Another one from the prolific Meg Cabot. But today, what I’m amazed at isn’t her massive number of books, but the diversity. Just consider how different When Lightning Strikes, The Mediator series, Avalon High, and Jinx are from each other. And her latest, Airhead, is just as new and fresh. I hate to even give a summary, because it’s more fun to be surprised like I was. I just picked it up and started reading, without reading the book jacket. I didn’t need to. I knew it would be good- it’s Meg Cabot! But I’ll give you a few tidbits to tease you. It’s about a girl named Em who is best friends with a boy named Christopher. They love to play video games and make fun of the popular kids at school. Em is a tomboy who really doesn’t care about fashion or makeup. (and we think Em secretly likes Christopher) One day a freak accident occurs that completely transforms Em’s whole life. Her whole life! And she has no choice whatsoever in the matter. Plus, now that she can have whatever guy she wants, the one guy she does want doesn’t even know she’s alive. This book is so much fun! The characters are enjoyable and likeable. And it looks like she’s setting this up to be another successful series. It ended with many unanswered questions, and it gave a preview of the first sequel. More fun than a day at the beach!

And if you've been living under a rock & aren't familiar with Meg Cabot, check out her awesome website here and her blog here. She's really something!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Audrey D. Brashich. ALL MADE UP: A GIRLS GUIDE TO SEEING THROUGH CELEBRITY HYPE...AND CELEBRATING REAL BEAUTY

I read a fair amount of nonfiction, but I’m rarely compelled to blog about it. But this is really a meaningful book for teen girls. These days girls and women are bombarded with images of what we “should” look like. We are told what is considered beautiful by the media, the fashion industry and Hollywood. But for most girls, that ideal standard isn’t necessarily achievable and frankly, why it should be the goal? A former model and major writer for teen magazines has written a book that encourages girls to see through all the celebrity hype to find their own beauty. She writes about the evolution of models and how they became the “standard” of beauty. Then she breaks through the hype by enlightening readers what a celebrity must go through to maintain their “look.” She also questions why women who are famous for being famous are more celebrated by our media than say, oh, women who are actually doing something, like researching a cure for cancer or training for the Olympics. She encourages girls to find real role models and to celebrate their own beauty, just the way they are. There are some great resources in the back of the book, and the author has an awesome website to discuss topics in the book. I’m glad I discovered this amazing writer. She’s a wonderful advocate for girls and women of all ages!

Here’s her website www.allmadeup.net

Her awesome blog is here: http://www.audreybrashich.blogs.com/

Check it out!