Monthly Archives: April, 2013

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

paper covers rock

Bibliographic Information:

Hubbard, J. (2011). Paper covers rock. New York: Delacorte Press.

Plot Summary:

Four friends secretly take a bottle to the river to share. While enjoying this respite from school, a dare ends in the death of a friend and a subsequent cover-up of the events to save the survivors from expulsion. When Miss Dovecott, an English teacher who sees Alex as a fledgling writer, starts asking questions about the accident, Alex confesses his confusion and guilt in a journal he hides in the library as he tries to deal with his accountability and feelings of guilt. As he reviews the events leading to the tragedy Alex starts to question if the death was really an accident.

Critical Evaluation:

Alex is suffering a personal and moral dilemma; he feels great guilt for what happened at the river but he is afraid of the consequences if anyone finds out. He has no one he trusts to talk to. So, he turns to a trusted teacher through a series of letters, poems, and journal entries he writes that he will never share. Through these writings, Alex describes the events leading to the death of his friend. He struggles with his confused memories of his friends and their conversations which suggest the accident may have been contrived to hide darker secrets. He exposes his attraction to his English teacher, Miss Dovecott. Finally, he acknowledges his weakness and flawed character.

The convention of epistolary writing sets the tone and controls the movement of the plot. Hubbard’s decision to have Alex tell the story through his letters and journal adds an extra level of intimacy to the reader’s experience while portraying the contractions in Alex’s emotions and actions. Using a first person limited view, Hubbard continues the theme of contradiction by providing the reader with full disclosure from one flawed point of view.

Another strength of this debut novel is its’ foundation built on classic literature and use of poetry. The use of poetry is particularly effective in building the tension in the themes of attraction and betrayal that underlay the plot.

Reader’s Annotation:

When a dare ends in the death of a friend, sixteen-year-old Alex uses his journal to try to understand what happened – was it an accident or was it murder?

Information About the Author:

Paper Covers Rocks is a debut novel for Jenny Hubbard. Hubbard has taught English classes at the high school and the college level. In fact, she has also taught in a private all-boys boarding school.

Jenny is also a poet and very active in the theatre where is an actor and a playwright.

For more information please see her site: http://papercoversrock.co/

Genre:

  • Realistic

Curriculum Ties:

  • Epistolary writing
  • Poetry

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Journal writing – start by reading one of Alex’s letters.
  • Friendship

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 6.4

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this title?:

I reviewed this book for our book club at the high school I teach. It was one of my favorite books last year. I have incorporated the review into this post.

Reviews:

  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2011:
    “Hubbard has a superb handle on her boarding school setting…A powerful, ambitious debut.”
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2011:
    “The story builds to a climax that will have readers on edge. It could be read alongside many of the classics that deal with friendship and loyalty, as well as deceit…Those who are looking for something to ponder will enjoy this compelling read.”
  • Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2011:
    “Hubbard’s characters are confounding and intriguing…The traditional, buttoned-up boarding school setting makes the perfect backdrop to this tense dictation of secrets, lies, manipulation, and the ambiguity of honor.”
  • Starred Review, Booklist, July 1, 2011:
    “Both plotting and characters are thoroughly crafted in this stellar first novel. The poetry that Hubbard produces from Alex’s pen is brilliant, and the prose throughout is elegant in its simplicity. Reminiscent of John Knowles’ classic coming-of-age story, A Separate Peace (1959), this novel introduces Hubbard as a bright light to watch on the YA literary scene.”

Awards:

  • Winner 2011 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award
  • Winner 2011 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • Winner 2011 Horn Book Fanfare
  • Winner 2011 Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice
  • Nominee ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • Nominee North Carolina Children’s Book Award
  • Nominee Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
  • Nominee Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
  • 2012 Williams C. Morris Finalist http://www.ala.org/yalsa/morris
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2014 MYRCA list announced

I am happy to announce the 2014 nomination list. Some may be young for high school but there are some really great reads on the list. I marked the ones that I think may appeal to my students.

Circle of Cranes – Annette Le Box (Penguin)

* Crush. Candy. Corpse. – Sylvia McNicoll (Lorimer)

* Guilty – Norah McClintock (Orca)

Making Bombs for Hitler – Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (Scholastic)

Margaret and the Moth Tree – Brit Trogen & Kari Trogen (Kids Can Press)

Middle of Nowhere – Caroline Adderson (Groundwood Books)

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire – Polly Horvath (Groundwood Books)

My Name is Parvana – Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books)

Redcoats and Renegades – Barry McDivitt (Thistledown Press)

*Seraphina – Rachel Hartman (Doubleday)

Small Medium at Large – Joanne Levy (Penguin)

*Such Wicked Intent – Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins)

The Grave Robber’s Apprentice – Allan Stratton (HarperCollins)

*The Lynching of Louie Sam – Elizabeth Stewart (Annick Press)

*The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls – John Lekich (Orca)

*The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen (Tundra)

Ungifted – Gordon Korman (Scholastic)

Yesterday’s Dead – Pat Bourke (Second Story Press)

 

Hurricane Heat by Steven Barwin

hurricane heat

Barwin, S. (2013). Hurricane heat. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers.

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Travis Barkley has been separated from his sister, Amanda, since their parents’ death five years earlier. After the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, Amanda’s family moved from Arizona to California. At that point, the siblings lost contact with each other. Now, Travis is sure that Amanda was the one who sent him a blank postcard of Hermosa Beach Pier, and he decides he needs to find her. So, when school ends, with the blessing of his foster parents, Travis moves to Hermosa for the summer to try to track her down.

While searching for Amanda, Travis meets Ethan who encourages him to try out for his baseball team, the Hurricanes. Although Travis hasn’t played baseball since the death of his parents, his natural talent and love for the game become evident to the coach. Soon the possibility of scouts recruiting him and the dream of scholarships begin to conflict with his original focus of finding his sister.

Critical Evaluation:

Orca Books is a Canadian publisher that focuses on materials for the reluctant reader. The Orca Sports series are very popular with this population because the novels are short and full of action. The use of a sports theme can help to draw the reader to the book while the use of action, mystery and adventure keep the reader engaged.

Equally important, in Hurricane Heat, the main character is an older teen who is living on his own. Reluctant teen readers may need a book whose vocabulary is at a lower level but they still want to read about characters who they can relate to; age is an important factor in their willingness to read a book.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Travis receives a blank postcard, he knows that the sister he was separated from five years earlier is trying to contact him. Now he has to decide what is more important; finding her or his shot at the Big Leagues.

Information About the Author:

Steven Barwin is a Canadian who focuses on writing sports themed books because, simply, he loves sports.  Barwin says he always wanted to be a writer and started writing his own stories when he was in eighth grade. He went to Ryerson’s TV program and became a writing intern at CBC’s Royal Canadian Airfarce.

He was a reluctant reader as a child and, as a teacher, Barwin learned the importance of having books for reluctant readers. He indicates that he writes his sport books “like I write my scripts – filled with snappy dialogue and visuals that jump off the page” (“About – Steven Barwin”).

For more information, please visit Barwin’s site at http://www.stevenbarwin.com/

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports
  • Hi/Lo – Reluctant Readers

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Use the postcard to initiate the mystery.
  • Include in a baseball-themed booklist.
  • Include in a mystery booklist.

Hurricane Heat book trailer

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Interest level 12-18
  • Fry Reading level 3.3

Challenge Issues:

N/A

Why did you include this book?:

  • I reviewed this title originally for CM Magazine. I decided to include it because I felt that it is important to have hi/lo books represented.
  • Barwin is a well-known Canadian author.
  • Orca is an excellent source of resources for reluctant readers.

Review:

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

leverageBibliographic Information:

Cohen, J. (2011). Leverage. New York: Dutton Books.(0525423060)

Plot Summary:

Danny has a plan to get to college and away from the life he hates. To succeed, he has to focus on his gymnastics; despite the fact that gymnastics falls far down the totem pole of school funding. Football is the program that garners all the community support and, therefore, all the money. It’s tough enough being the underdog. Being a target for the football team’s bullying just comes with the territory.

In fact, that football money is what has brought newcomer, Kurt, to the school. Kurt has a history that he wants to hide and he, too, hopes to gain a future for himself through a sport – football. Kurt soon realizes that getting his dream may mean stepping on some other students who are weaker and more vulnerable.

When a series of escalating pranks end in a suicide, Danny and Kurt have to decide what happens now.

Critical Evaluation:

Cohen has done a credible job in creating two distinct voices in his characters of Danny and Kurt. Kurt’s history of abuse provides a strong foundation for explaining his grim focus on football as well as his admiration for the smaller and equally talented gymnasts. Danny’s backstory underscores his determination to get as far away from his hometown that he can.

Cohen has provided an interesting juxtaposition of strong and weak within both of his main and secondary characters. Indeed, Danny and Kurt are excellent examples of the flawed hero. For example, although physically strong with an impressive football build, Kurt has been emotionally and psychologically scarred because of the abuse he suffered in his past. Although intelligent, he appears to be slow because of his stutter and lack of social skills. Despite of growing up in poverty and abuse, Kurt has a strong moral code that he must struggle to reconcile with the realities of his situation.

The reader is led to compare Kurt and his flaws to the other football stars who have been made into heroes by a community steeped in a winning football tradition. These secondary characters by all appearances are strong, successful and popular. But, as the story progresses, the reader is introduced to the ugly world of bullying, steroids, and ego.

Although similar in their focus on escaping their respective situations, these two main characters have very distinct voices and through their respective lenses, the underbelly of competitive sports is revealed. Ultimately, this is a story of personal responsibility, choice, and accountability.

Reader’s Annotation:

When an escalating series of pranks and bullying causes the death of a student, two students have to decide whether the truth is more important than their future dreams.

Leverage is a gritty and violent tale full of the glory of football and the fear of being the underdog; where the good guy does not always win and right is relative.

Information About the Author:

Joshua C. Cohen played many sports while he was growing up in Minnesota. His favorite sport was gymnastics but he did not have the right body type to perform at an elite level. Instead, he was able to take his training in a different direction and became a dancer.

Cohen stared writing Leverage when he read about an attack on a group of underclassmen by their senior teammates. He says that when the victims came forward, they were verbally attacked by the community for “sullying the reputation of the school and causing a cancellation of the football season” (Cohen)

For more information about Joshua Cohen, visit his website http://www.leveragethebook.com/

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports

Curriculum Ties:

  • Identity
  • Character development, voice
  • Choice

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Rape
  • Bullying
  • Suicide

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    1. Ask if he/she has read the book
    2. Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    1. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion       documents
    2. Provide school’s selection policy
    3. Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

In all honestly, I do not like this book. I appreciate the different voices of Kurt and Danny. I also believe that Cohen has told a story that needs to be told. His focus on football and the hype and pressures young men are under to succeed – even to the detriment of their health – should be told.

Awards:

  • Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2011),
  • YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults (2012)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2010). Leverage. Booklist, 107(8), 45.
  • Leverage. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(24), 1265.
  • Wilson, B. (2011). Leverage. Booklist, 107(18), 5

Sports Illustrated (magazine)

sports illustratedSports illustrated: Magazine. (1954). Los Angeles, CA, etc: Time, Inc..

Plot Summary:

Sports Illustrated includes interviews with celebrity sport figures including athletes, coaches, and analysts. It also includes statistics and summaries of the current sports seasons.

Critical Evaluation:

Sports Illustrated focuses, primarily on American sports and athletes. It provides weekly coverage about the current sports seasons. Major sports such as football, baseball, and hockey are covered.

The magazine is visually appealing as it is filled with full page actions shots and candid pictures. The magazine is supplemented by the Sports Illustrated website  which includes multimedia segments.

Reader’s Annotation:

Sports Illustrated is a weekly sports magazine for the fan to stay in touch with his favorite sport.

Information About the Author:

According to the Time, Inc website, Time is one of the largest magazine publishers in the United States. They publish a large variety of lifestyle magazines including People, Cooking Light, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, and Time.

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports
  • Current events

Curriculum Ties:

  • Current events
  • Media studies
  • Expository writing

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Can be included in any booktalk involving sports and sports related materials.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Swimsuit issue treatment of women as sex objects

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

  • Very popular magazine with adolescent boys who enjoy sports.
  • According to Time website, the The Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Launch Week 2012 won a 2013 FAME Award for Best Special Event
  • Webber (2009), in a School Library Journal article indicates that “if you only have space for one sports magazine, this should be it”.

PC Gamer

PC gamer

PC gamer. (1990). Burlingame, CA: GP Publications. (ISSN 1080-4471)

Plot Summary:

PC Gamer focuses on games played on PC.

Critical Evaluation:

Computer games continue to be a popular recreational activity among young men. Filled with glossy coloured images featuring characters and scenes from games, PC gamer advertises upcoming games through exclusive reviews of upcoming games and special deals.

The main selling features from the player’s perspective are the cheats and strategy guides that help players move successfully through their favorite games.

The magazine is supplemented by the PC Gamer website, which should be linked on the catalogue.

Reader’s Annotation:

Includes hints, cheats and strategy guides for popular games. Also provides news and reviews of upcoming games.

Information About the Author:

According to the PC gamer website, PC Gamer is part of Future pic, an international media group. Future pic produces content in five area: Sports, Creative, Music, Entertainment, and Technology. “Future is the PPA and AOP Consumer Digital Publisher of the Year.”

Genre:

  • Entertainment
  • Video games
  • Hi/Lo – Reluctant Readers

Curriculum Ties:

  • Media classes to discuss the concept of writing for ones’ audience and tone.
  • Expository writing and persuasive writing.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Use as an alternative title when presenting new materials to teenage boys that do not like reading novels
  • Gaming options

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Not all readers read novels. Nonfiction, current events, and entertainment resources can encourage the teenager who considers himself a nonreader to read. Further, teenage boys represent a significant percentage of gamers. PC Gamer will interest this population.

Further, it was a suggested title in the School Library Journal article “The Good, The Bad, and the Edgy” by Julie Bartel. http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA621754.html

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

boy meets boyBibliographic Information:

Levithan, D. (2005). Boy meets boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Plot Summary:
Paul is comfortable in his skin. He has grown up in a family that has supported and accepted him throughout his life. He lives in a town that is supportive of all types of people. In fact, he found out that he was gay from his kindergarten teacher when he was five-years-old.

Even though his life is pretty good he cannot escape some high school drama. When his best friend decides to break up with him and his ex-boyfriend decides he wants to be part of his life again, things get complicated with his new love, Noah.
Critical Evaluation:
The simplicity of Levithan’s plot and language make the plot accessible to the reader. The narrative arc also follows the traditional pattern of a romance.  The simplicity of the story allows the reader to appreciate some of the literacy devices artfully employed by the author.

For example, the idealized world Levithan created for Paul, such as the supportive school with the transsexual football star, supportive town, and family, is negatively mirrored by the lack of support and desire of suppression portrayed by Tony’s family and the lack of interest or affection in Noah’s family.

The simplicity of the writing also allows the reader focus on the diverse group of characters in a utopian world. In Levithan’s utopia, gender and sexuality are simply not an issue. There is no segregation of the homosexual community.  Teenagers of all types gather to dance in a bookstore. There are motorcycle-riding cheerleaders. The transsexual homecoming queen is also the football quarterback. The ex-boyfriend turns out to be bisexual.

In the end, Levithan is looking at relationships. He is looking at relationships between siblings, boys that are friends, boyfriend-boyfriend, friends of the opposite gender, parent to child, and boyfriend-girlfriend. He also looks at what type of relationships exist after break-ups.


Reader’s Annotation:

When Paul’s best friend decides to break up with him and his ex-boyfriend decides he wants to be part of his life again, things get complicated with his new love, Noah. Paul holds out hope that he will be able to beat the odds and reunite before the Dowager Dance. After all, in a high school with motorcycling cheerleaders and a homecoming queen who is also the star quarterback, anything is possible.

Information About the Author:

David Levithan is a man with many hats. He has worked for Scholastic since he was 19 and has moved through the ranks to be an editorial director of Scholastic Press fiction. As an editor, he has been involved with several series including Star Wars and the Baby-sitters Club.

In 2002, he founded the PUSH imprint which is interested in “new voices and new authors in teen literature.” Through PUSH, Levithan has worked with such well-known authors such as Suzanne Collins, M.T. Anderson, and Garth Nix.

Boy Meets Boy was published in 2003 and started his career as an author. Since that time he has published a number of books. He has co-authored a couple of books and has become a crossover writer with his adult book, Lover’s Dictionary.

For more information, please visit his website, http://www.davidlevithan.com/

Genre:

  • GLBTQ
  • Romance

Curriculum Ties:

  • Personal identity
  • Plot development

Booktalking Ideas:

  • “Romance by any other name” booklist
  • “Not your typical high school”   booklist
  • Create some notes that Paul and Noah may have sent to each other.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Grades 9-12
  • Reading level 6.2

Challenge Issues:

  • Homosexuality and transsexual identity
  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    1. Ask if he/she has read the book
    2. Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    1. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
    2. Provide school’s selection policy
    3. Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

  • Won the 2003 Lambda Literary Award in the Children/Young Adult section.
  • Reviews:
    • Jones, T. (2003). Boy Meets Boy (Book). School Library Journal, 49(9), 216-217.
    • Boy Meets Boy. (2005). Publishers Weekly, 252(27), 97.
    • Cart, M. (2003). Boy Meets Boy (Book). Booklist, 99(22), 1980.

Additional resources:

Levithan, D. (2004). Supporting gay teen literature. School Library Journal (January 10, 2004) retrieved at http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA456885.html

David Levithan’s site: http://www.davidlevithan.com/

Lambda Awards: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/

Become Inspired! a booklist by Miranda Forrest

There’s a new display in the library featuring books to inspire YOU!

These books contain stories of triumph over adversity, and tell tales of survival. Other books contain advice to guide you to success, showing how athletes and artists achieved greatness.  

corneredCornered: Hijinks, Highlights, Late Nights and Insights by Ron MacLean

In Ron MacLean’s first book he entertains with his quick wit, sharing inside accounts from his early days as a radio announcer to his time hosting Hockey Night in Canada. Containing hilarious and inspiring stories, MacLean has been there for many of Canada’s sports milestones over the past few decades, and he shares his experiences here.

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Ultimate Teenage Success Guide by Sean Covey

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

bounceBounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed

Filled with interesting and helpful insights, Bounce offers a look at hidden clues to success. Former Olympian Matthew Syed explores our competitive nature, revealing how competition can provide an explanation into the most controversial issues of our time.

Sports Leaders & Success: 55 Top Sports Leaders & How They Achieve Greatness

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan & the World He Made by David Halberstam

Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy

Keane: The Autobiography by Roy Keane

Moneyball: The Art of Winning and Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

longrunThe Long Run: A New York Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long

Pushed to the brink of death after being struck by a bus while cycling, Matt endured psychological consequences that were just as punishing as his injuries. This book features his story as this elite athlete struggled against the odds to compete again.

Playing with Fire: The Highest Highs and Lowest Lows of Theo Fleury by Theo Fleury

My Greatest Day: 50 People, 50 Greatest Moments by Scott Morrison

No limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps

Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey by Kelly Slater

tigerThe Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

A man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote Russian village in the winter of 1997. Horrifyingly, the tracking team discovers that these are not random attacks, but an animal out for vengeance. We read the struggle facing the lead tracker as he hunts down the tiger, revealing insight into the relationships of man and nature as well as predator and prey.

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

Ideas and Opinions: Albert Einstein by Albert Einstein

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

buddhaBuddha: A Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra takes us on the journey of a young prince who abandons his inheritance to discover his true calling. With an iconic journey that will change the world forever, we follow Siddhartha through his life as he deals with love, murder, and betrayal and overcomes it all to achieve enlightenment.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

c_rebelheartRebel Heart, the second book in the Dust Lands series, follows Saba and her family’s attempt to move on from the deception and destruction sown in Blood Red Road. Lugh wants nothing more than to take their small family and start a new life at the Big Water. He wants to forget his time with the Tonton and all the misery they have lived through.

Saba, however, is being followed by too many ghosts to allow her to find peace. When a message comes from Jack, she decides to risk everything to find him and get him away from the Tonton. While hunting for Jack, Saba is reunited with another of her nightmares, DeMalo.

First person narrative is a common motif in young adult literature. This narrative mode has many benefits to an author. First, the immediacy of the telling can quickly draw a reader into the plot. It also a great way for an author to control the information the reader is receiving as the narrator’s understanding is limited to, and shaped by, his own experience and what he has been told. Young uses this technique to demonstrate the duality that exists in Saba’s character: she is strong and determined but vulnerable and filled with guilt.

Through allowing Saba to tell her own story, Young depicts the typical flawed hero often associated with high fantasy plots. Young’s post-apocalyptic setting provides a contemporary feeling to the hero’s quest. In this way, the Dust Land series follows a current trend of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels starring strong female protagonists which includes The Hunger Games, Legend, Shatter Me, and Divergent.

Saba has many similarities to the female protagonists in the books listed above. One of the main differences is her voice. Young’s future is one where literacy is limited; where the very language is decaying. As a result, Saba’s dialect is filled with misspelled words, contractions, and grammatically incorrect sentences. The result is jarring and uncomfortable to a reader used to author’s following the rules and conventions of English – which is the point. This devolution of language is echoed in the harsh, barren landscape where Saba lives.

I thought Blood Red Road was great. Rebel Heart follows a typical pattern for a middle book in a series; it is setting up the elements for the conclusion. Some things are left unsettled and it raises more questions than it answers. So, in other words, you need to read it if you want to know what happens next but it just can’t stand on its’ own.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

code name verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Bibliographic Information:

Wein, E. (2012). Code Name Verity. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, c2012. (978-0-385-67654-0)

Plot Summary:

When a female spy is captured by the Germans in France during World War II, she is tortured until she agrees to tell everything she knows about the Allied plans. Her “confession” takes on a journal-like tone as she talks to and about her jailers. Through her writing, the spy peels back a corner of her own prison thus allowing the reader to understand her own courage, pain, and despair.

A secondary plot develops as she relates how she came to France and her concerns that her pilot, her friend Maddie, may have been killed when their plane crashed. While divulging England’s military secrets, the story of two very different young women growing up in England emerges.


Critical Evaluation:

It should be noted that often, one can discuss the literary aspects of a novel without giving away the twists of the plot. This is one novel where that is very difficult to do. Wein was very creative in the development of her plot. This is one component that would be well worth discussing as would the use of voice in a narrative.

Many writers fall into the trap of wanting to tell their reader too much. The omniscient narrator does allow the writer to convey requisite background material needed to advance the plot to the reader quickly. This technique, however, can often distance the reader from the character (which may be an excellent technique depending on the story). A much more difficult task is to have the protagonist tell the story with a believable voice. The reason this can be difficult is that much of what is important to the plot must be inferred or naturally infused into the conversation or action of the tale. Wein decided to tell the story through the papers her protagonist was forced to write. This act suggests an implicit censoring and bias must be present while still being true to that character’s personality and voice. Code Name Verity is an excellent example of this type of narrative.

Further, one of the most important aspects of a realistic historical novel is that it is historically accurate. Although I am not a historian, it does appear that Wein did her homework. At the back of the book she provides an author’s note (Author’s Debriefing) in which she notes where she explains how history becomes fiction. She also discusses her research and provides a bibliography of additional reading for the interested reader.


Reader’s Annotation:

Two women who become friends during World War II meet again while working for the War effort in England; one is a pilot and the other is a spy.

Information About the Author:

On her site, American-born author Elizabeth Wein explains she spent her early years in England and Jamaica. After her parents separated she returned to the United States and lived with her mother in Pennsylvania. She and her husband returned to live in English in 1995. She currently lives in Scotland.

Wein loves flying and has her private pilot’s license. She and her husband have flown all over England, Scotland as well  other parts of the world.

Elizabeth Wein is an accomplished young adult writer. Her Lion Hunters: The Arthurian/Aksumite Cycle novels have received excellent reviews and The Lion Hunter was short-listed for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2008.

Please click the following link to read an interview with Elizabeth Wein talking about Code Name Verity on the Girls Like Giants blog.

Genre:

  • Historical fiction
  • Adventure fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • Social Studies – World War II
  • English – journal writingBooktalking Ideas:
  • Journals and personal papers
  • Friendship
  • Truth and lies
  • Strong female protagonists
  • Book Trailer

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14-

Challenge Issues:

  • none

Why did you include book?:

  • Received starred reviews from Horn Book, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.
  • 2013 Printz Honor Book.