Hoot

cover image for HootHiassen, C. (2002).  Hoot.  New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books.

 

Review:

Roy Eberhardt has moved around so much that he doesn’t really feel like he’s from anywhere in particular.  Still, Montana felt like home more than any other place before it, so he’s not too happy about having to move once again, this time to Florida.   And now, as if being the new kid wasn’t enough, the class bully has decided that Roy is now his favorite target.  But Roy soon has much more on his mind, for he suddenly finds himself caught up with a kid with no name, no home, and no shoes…and on the trail of a mystery involving pancakes, venomous snakes with sparkly tails, and owls that live underground.

Hiaasen’s tale of greed versus conservation is full of not only twists and turns but also plenty of hilarity and wackiness.  Younger tweens may find the plot confusing, but many will still be drawn in by the suspense and humor.  Older tweens will especially appreciate not only the ecological dilemma, but also the more manageable local scale of what is often presented as an insurmountable global crisis.

Best for ages 11-15

Awards and Reviews: Newbery Honor Winner

Author Website: http://www.carlhiaasen.com/index.shtml

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Julie of the Wolves

cover image for Julie of the WolvesGeorge, J. C. (1972) Julie of the Wolves.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

 

Review:

 

Julie’s provisions have run out, leaving her in the arctic tundra, miles from civilization, and without food. She isn’t alone, however. She is surrounded not only by caribou (which she has no tools to hunt) but also a by a hungry wolf pack. Julie isn’t afraid of the wolves; when she was little and lived as Eskimos used to live, her father taught her that wolves were her brothers. If she can only convince them to accept her as pack – as family – then maybe they will feed and protect her from starvation.

 

Tweens of all ages will identify with thirteen year old Julie’s feeling of being torn between the world of her childhood and the uncertainty of her future. Many will also be equally fascinated by glimpses into both the lives of wolves and of Julie’s people. It’s easy to see why this slim novel won the Newbery, is a perennial reading list favorite, and prompted countless readers to beg Ms. George for more of Julie’s story.

 

Julie of the Wolves was also one of the most frequently challenged books in 1990-1999, most specifically for a scene in which Julie’s husband (also a child) attempts to assault her. While the scene was described in one challenge as being graphic, that’s much like calling Speak pornography; the scene in question is short and results in little more than ripped clothing (as well as Julie decision to flee). It may not be the best choice for all younger tweens, especially without adult discussion, but with the average age of puberty for girls having dropped down to age 10, I personally think that non-graphic discussion of sexual assault is hardly an exceptionally inappropriate topic for upper elementary school. I also think it’s useful for children to encounter such topics in a respectful and safe manner at least a short time before – not after – they are likely to have to deal with them. However, each child is different and while I do recommend this title for children as young as 9, one should keep in mind each individual child’s level of maturity.

 

Best for ages 9-14

 

Awards and Reviews: Newbery Medal Winner

 

Author Website: http://www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com/

Zeke and Luther

image for Zeke and LutherBunje, D. & Stanton, N. (Writer), & Putch, J. (Director).  (2010).  Robo-Luth [Television series episode].  In Dearborn, M. & Burkhard, T. (Producer), Zeke and Luther.  Burbank, CA: Disney XD Original Productions.

Review:

[Once again, one can tell that a show about teens is meant to be watched by tweens instead by it’s notable lack of sarcasm.]

Zeke Falcone and Luther Waffles are best friends whose primary goal in life is to become the best skaters ever.  This particular episode revolved around Luther first getting injured during a failed attempt at a daring trick, and then later surpassing everyone’s (including Zeke’s) records via the extra power he gets from the microchip the doctor implanted in order to fix his injured knee.  The knee, of course, eventually goes crazy and must be brought back to normal.  A side plot involved Zeke driving his germ phobic little sister crazy by claiming to have sneezed in an undisclosed location in her room.

 

So, clearly, not the most realistic of shows.  It is, in fact, full of quite a bit of stupid.  However, with the exception of the fact that once again it is the third wheel, Kojo, that is black while both of the title characters are white, it’s mostly harmless stupid.   Zeke and Luther’s exploits are generally too outrageous and unbelievable for any one old enough to enjoy the show to consider trying to emulate them much, and while they spend most of their time loafing around, it’s clearly meant to portray how tween boys would like to spend their time and not how teen boys are expected to spend their time. It’s bit too ridiculous and over the top for me to find it enjoyable personally, but I’m not overly surprised to find that it is one of the higher rated shows among tween boys.

Best for ages 8-12

Official Website: http://disney.go.com/xd/zekeandluther/

Kids on Strike!

cover image for Kids on Strike!Bartoletti, S. C. (1999) Kids on Strike!. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Review:

The common narrative of immigrant and worker’s rights in the United States is that change for the better was as gradual and inevitable as the passage of time itself.   Bartoletti’s moving description of various strikes involving children and teens shows that the fight for decent pay and working conditions was very often an all out war that required great courage on behalf of the striking workers.

 

Kids on Strike! focuses on the 1836 Lowell strike, the Newsies strike of 1899, the New York City rent strike of 1907, the Anthracite coal strikes in Pennsylvania from 1897 to 1902, Mother Jones children’s march in 1903, the Garment Worker’s strikes of 1897 and 1909, and the 1912 Lawrence strike.  It ends with a chapter on the National Child Labor Committee and a timeline of federal laws on child labor.  By focusing on strikes that involved child and adolescent laborers, as well their specific contributions to the strike, Bartoletti not only highlights the differences and similarities in children’s lives then compared to now, she also introduces an important historical movement in a way that makes it easy for tweens to relate and understand.

 

 

Bartoletti describes not only the danger even small children faced from working on the streets and in factories but also the sometimes violent lengths the striking workers went to in order to gain even the smallest of concessions.  While the factory owners rarely come across as sympathetic characters, neither does Bartoletti pretend that all the violence was on their end.  In being clear, honest, and up front about the actions of the workers Bartoletti presents not only a fair picture, but also one that shows various historical figures as the multi-dimensional and real people they were.  A generous amount of historical photographs also help to bring the truth of the text to life.

My only wish was that the use of text and pictures was more dynamic.  The text itself did a great job of capturing one’s attention, but the amount of it was still a little overwhelming considering the reading level.  Younger tweens might find the large amounts of unbroken text daunting, while older tweens might find the language sometimes a bit simplistic considering the topic and amount to be read.  Nevertheless, this is an excellent and necessary addition to any library for tweens.

Best for ages 9-14

Awards and Reviews:

Starred review Publisher’s Weekly

Starred review Kirkus

Starred review School Library Journal

Jane Addam’s Children’s Book Award

Author Website: http://www.scbartoletti.com/

Into the Wild / Out of the Wild

cover image for Into the Wildcover image for Out of the Wild

 

Durst, S. B. (2007) Into the Wild.  New York, NY: Penguin Young Readers.

Durst, S. B. (2008) Out of the Wild.  New York, NY: Penguin Young Readers.

Review:

Julie Marchen lives in Northboro, Massachussetts with her mother, Zel, and her brother, Puss.  As it weren’t weird enough having a cat for a brother and a fairy tale heroine for a mom, Julie also has to contend with an actual monster trapped under her bed.  And then there’s junior high.  But Julie soon has even more problems on her hands, for somehow the Wild has escaped – and is now threatening to swallow up all of Northboro.

At first glance, Into the Wild appears to be another fractured fairy tale, but not long into the story, one realizes that is is also a story about fairy tales – fractured and otherwise. The Wild that lives under Julie’s bed is not just a fairy tale monster, it is the fairy tales – or rather the force that keeps them going. When a wish allows the Wild to escape and grow once more, the people that wander into it – or are swallowed up by it – act out the plots of various tales – over and over again.   When Julie herself ventures into the Wild in order to save loved ones, the fairy tales become traps that Julie must avoid, for if she does she will forget herself and her mission.   Eventually she realizes that the trick is not to avoid them altogether, but to pick and choose among and them and to refuse to belong to any single one.

Into the Wild is a fun, fantastical adventure story that will appeal most especially to tweens that love stories and reading and who will delight in all the “ah ha!” moments and commentary about the power of myth and self-determination that Durst has woven throughout her tale.

Out of the Wild is the sequel, and it’s hard to describe much of the plot without giving away the ending of the first.  What I will say is that it’s about Julie’s father, who has been trapped in the Wild since before she was born.  Out of the Wild was engaging, but not as strong as the first in the series.  The literary commentary was not as intriguing and it felt like the romance between Julie and newcomer Henry was a bit forced.

Best for ages 8-13

Awards and Reviews: 2007 Andre Norton Award Finalist (Into the Wild)

Author Website: http://www.sarahbethdurst.com/index.htm

A Walk to Remember

cover image for A Walk to Remember dvdShankman, A. (Director).  (2002).  A Walk to Remember [Motion picture]. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.

[must find something good to say…can’t make the review all negative… must find something good to say…ummm…Shane West is very pretty?]

Jamie Sullivan is sweet and caring – and the odd girl out at school.  Landon Carter is popular and charming (when he bothers to be) – but he’s hardly the boy to take home to your parents.  Especially if you’re the minister’s daughter.  So what happens when the two of them are thrown together for a community service project?

To be perfectly honest, I would have loved this movie when I was about 13.  Not only is it chock full of drama! tragedy! true love! sacrifice! and just about everything else that made me all swoony as a tween (yes, including pretty boys) but Jamie is a complete dweeb.  The only thing that would have made my inner 13 year old love her more is if she had been a geek as well.  And slightly less perfect.  And for Landon to have been a bit more scruffy in his bad boy stage.

As it is, I am no longer 13, and at the moment my noggin is aching from all the head-desking I was doing over the idea of a movie that is all about the importance of love and chastity and long term monogamy – and yet fails to show a single marriage that doesn’t end in divorce or is cut short – really short – by death.  Also, the whole “bad boy made good through the love of a decent woman” left my eyes strained from all the rolling they did.

This isn’t a completely awful movie for teens, and it’s one that few parents would object to and many tween girls would love.   There were even a few moments that made me go “awww” (Landon saving the day in the lunch room and Jamie making him promise not to fall in love with her among them).  However, it’s not a good movie either.  It’s the kind I’d make sure I had in my collection – resources allowing – but not really one I would talk up, except maybe to convince fans of the movie to try reading the book it’s based on.

Best for ages: 11-15

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

Delaney, J. (2005) The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Review:

At thirteen, Tom Ward is at an age where he is expected to begin making his own way in the world – or at least learning how to, in any case.  The problem is, as the youngest child in a large family, there aren’t a whole lot of options left for him.  Jack, the eldest, will inheirit the farm and most of their parent’s meager savings have already gone to paying for apprenticeships for Tom’s older brothers.  Tom isn’t just the youngest, though, he’s also the seventh son of a seventh son, and that makes him the perfect candidate to become the newest apprentice for the local Spook – the shadowy man whose job it is to keep the spirits at bay.  As he leaves his home for the first time, Tom isn’t just worried about being homesick or passing his trial period, he’s worried about living through his inevitable encounters with the things that go bump in the night.

 

This book was seriously both creepy and scary.  It wasn’t exactly Supernatural level of frightening, but it definitely gave me goosebumps and kept me turning the pages.  It’s also well written, fantastically illustrated, and has characters, themes, and plots with plenty of depth.  Tweens of all ages will love the scary stories and all but the youngest of tweens will also be drawn in by Tom’s moral and emotional dilemnas.

Best for ages 10-14

Awards and Reviews: ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Series Website: http://www.spooksbooks.com/

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