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Welcome to the book blog, featuring reviews for teens from InfoSoup librarians and users!


Author: Maya Van Wagenen

Maya is an exceptional young woman offering us an exceptional book. She stumbles across an old guide to being popular, by Betty Cornell, and begins an experiment in her middle school to see if the tips still apply and will possibly make her "popular". Maya is mature, introspective and funny. She gives us glimpses of her solid family. She has loving parents who offer her church and adventures in nature, support and guidance, set to a background of challenges and violence. (They are living very close to the Mexican/Texas border which makes some school experiences surreal like drug dogs checking lockers.) Maya is sensitive about not being exclusive. She also grieves for a lost sister. Her voice is real and likeable. Yay for a great young voice! She also has a respect for her elders like Mr. Lawrence and Betty. She realizes that wisdom spans the generations. Some of her conclusions, after her experiment, are that all kids have something to share and everyone feels awkward in the hierarchy. So true! And so real for all settings and stratums of society. LOVED THIS BOOK!


Title: Bleach
Author: Tite Kubo

Bleach is an exciting story about an orange-haired teen named Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo has been able to see the spirits of those who have passed ever since he was born. He grew to live with this ability, and used it to communicate and help the souls. His life is normal - as normal as it could be - until Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchki walks through Ichigo's wall. Rukia teaches Ichigo about the purpose of Soul Reapers, and about Hollows, souls who have turned evil. When Ichigo's family's lives are in danger, he takes in the power of a Soul Reaper from Rukia Kuchki. Although, something goes wrong during the exchange, causing Rukia to pour all of her powers into Ichigo. Now, IChigo must take over Rukia's duties in the World of the Living, weither he wants to or not.

Author: Jake Maddox

This is an awesome book about a girl named Gina. She moved to a new school and is super excited about joining the soccer  team. The other girls on her team can't wait to win a game together, but Gina wants to impress the coach. When the game comes around, Gina is all set to win. So she does all she can; by herself!!! The girls are very disappointed in her, and her team loses the game. She doesn't know what happened! She did everything right! But she didn't. She forgot the key ingredient to winning a soccer game. When Gina realizes what went wrong, she is worried that her friends won't forgive her. She is determined to set things right. What was it that Gina forgot? Will her team forgive her? There's only one way to find out. Read this awesome and exciting book!!!

Author: Jake Maddox

This is a wonderful book about a high-spirited girl named Jo. She loves softball and would love to make it on a winning team this year, a team like the Red Angels. When Jo finds out that she is on a different team, she is very disappointed. However, over the weeks of practice, she grows to love her team. So when she gets a surprising invitation, she has a hard decision to make. Later on, Jo finds out an interesting secret about the Red Angels and gets a shock! Will Jo choose a winning team with a secret, or a team that she's grown to love? Read this exciting and encouraging book to find out!!!

Tsarist Tragedy

Author: Candace Fleming

I didn't know much about Tsarist Russia and the tragedy of the Imperial Romanov family before reading this book. The author's deft writing had me hooked before the first chapter was over. We know the final outcome before starting the book, and the author does a great job setting the scene of life in Russia before, during, and after the fall of the Tsarist Empire. Tsar Nicholas and his family were so far removed from the people over which they ruled, watching these events play out to their ultimate end was like watching the proverbial train wreck. You know what's coming, and you can see exactly how every moment is unrelentingly and irrevocably unfolding into the next, but you just can't tear your gaze away -- or put the book down -- until the horrible end finally arrives.

Very engaging writing makes this book an easy read, and it should be accessible to middle school students, as well as older teens and adults. The author provides newly accessible and highly informative journal and diary entries written by people from all social strata and many different occupations, bringing her picture of Imperial Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution, and World War I vividly to life. A section of photographs, some taken by the Imperial family (who would have guessed that they were nuts for photography?) provide an additional layer of detail.

A must-read for anyone interested in learning more about this period in history!

Author: Wayne Batson

This medival adventure begins in Colorado were Aidan, a teenage boy, unexpectedly discovers old scrolls in his basement.  Before he knows it, he is in the middle of a medival quest and is fighting with a real sword. This book has an adventure you don't  to want to miss.

Author: Peter Sís

This book is about a boy who grew up in communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. This boy loved to draw and drew whatever he wanted…that is, until he began school where communist indoctrination took place. He then drew what he was told to draw. Many major events took place in this boy’s life—Prague Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of Communism, etc.

The illustrations are crude, yet detailed and mostly black and white, with some red. The color red seems to symbolize Communism in this context—red flags, red hammer and sickles, red Russian tanks, etc… Whenever the author speaks of freedom, Western ideals, and the like, the illustrations are done in full color. It is a beautifully executed concept.

This book won the Robert E. Siebert Medal and was named a Caldecott Honor Book, among other awards and honors. The plot itself is quite simple, but the addition of captions to the illustrations adds a great deal of depth. Keeping the sentences short helps to add to the feeling of mounting fear of the government as the author experienced it.

Personal Reaction:

I loved this book because it covered a topic that is quite close to my heart. Sís helped to make this topic simple enough for children and teens to understand without bogging them down with the more depressing aspects of Communism, as it played out in Eastern Europe. The drawings were interesting, sometimes comical and I really enjoyed the way Sís used color. The red in his black and white panels was very striking.

Themes:  Communism, Authoritative government regimes, following directions (“compulsory”), dreams, rock ‘n roll, fear, individuality, social conditions

Author: Steve Sheinkin

This is a true story from WWII that has been overlooked in textbooks and in the mainstream civil rights history.  Segregation in the military was common.  Port Chicago was a naval base in California where munitions ships were loaded by all black crews.  Following a huge explosion that killed hundreds of sailors, fifty black sailors refused to go back to loading bombs on ships.  They were tried and convicted of mutiny.  This is their story..... told by Steven Sheinkin in a manner that is easy to read and understand, yet complete with all the primary sources necessary to make this a history textbook in its own right.