unRequired Reading Blog

04/27/2012 - 3:31am
Unwind by Neal Shusterman

During Freedom Middle School Cafe Book Get Together Day at Salem Church Library Alia, Emily, Madison & Hope review Unwind by Neal Shusterman: In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives "unwound" and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to uphold their beliefs--and, perhaps, save their own lives.

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05/16/2014 - 2:20pm
Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

What would you do if you discovered that you could read other people’s thoughts?

It’s not bad enough that Callie Anderson has to get glasses just before the start of middle school, but they are the ugliest glasses she has ever seen. Yet those huge, geeky lenses and fat black frames hide a secret. These glasses show Callie what other people are thinking. Maybe they will actually help her. And she can use all of the help she can get. She’s lost in math and Spanish classes. Her best friend seems to be drifting away. And her parents’ marriage is falling apart. But can Callie follow the eye doctor’s instructions and learn to use the glasses wisely?

04/23/2012 - 3:30am
The Seventeenth Child by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne

The Seventeenth Child, by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne, sets down the memories of a childhood lived in the countryside of 1930s Virginia by a black woman who grew up before the Civil Rights Movement made so many gains.  These remembrances are plain, soft-spoken and ring true to an age that was certainly different from the one we know.  In some ways, it was a harder time as in her earliest years even basic food was very hard to come by and the sharecropping system made it difficult for all farmers, black and white, to get ahead or even stay afloat during the bad harvest years.

But it was the warmth of family, faith, shared hardship and simple joys that made those days good as well as difficult. The children worked, not only because their help was needed but because it was understood that working was a good thing in and of itself. They helped pull and tend tobacco, can vegetables, sew quilts, raise chickens, and shell corn.  Lucille Payne tells of how hard it was to earn money. How sometimes her mother might not be paid much more than fifty cents for a hard day’s washing of filthy clothes in a dark and cold shed. Well, fifty cents and a hambone that might not be fit to eat without it being scrubbed, too, and sometimes not even then. But her mother said, “Well, you accept what they give you; next time it might be better.”

It wasn’t all about acceptance. Sometimes Lucille would see her mother spit in the water while she washed and she would ask her why she did that. “That helps to get them clean.”  But I know she was just so angry because she had to survive.  When you have so many children you have to survive the best way you can.  Likewise, when white children rode the bus to their segregated school, leaving the black children to walk and even calling them names, the black children got a bit of revenge…and a chance to be better than their so-called betters with an act of charity.

04/26/2012 - 10:38pm
You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

During Cafe Book Get Together Day at Heim Middle School,  Priya & Danielle review You Wish by Mandy Hubbard.

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You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Kayla McHenry's sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla's secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do. Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year's supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla's wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend's boyfriend.

07/21/2015 - 12:41pm
White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel Sharpe, wearing only his underwear, awakes to find himself slowly slipping off the icy roof of his school dorm. He’s clueless about what landed him in such a precarious position (with certain death below) and is equally unsure about navigating his way back safely. Thus begins White Cat, the first book in The Curse Workers series, by Holly Black.

Cassel comes from a family of workers, a worker being someone—who with the slightest touch of a fingertip—has the power to place spells, change memories, or even kill. Although his grandfather, mother and brothers each possess one of the above-mentioned skills, Cassel appears to have been skipped when the special talents were being passed out. He tries to live a normal life away from the family madness by attending school at Wallingford.

04/13/2012 - 2:54pm
Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford

During Drew Middle School Cafe Book Get Together Day at England Run Library,  Will reviews Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford.

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Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford
Shipwrecked on the shore of Japan, twelve-year-old Jack Fletcher is wounded and alone. His father and the entire crew have been slaughtered by ninja pirates. Jack's last remaining possession is his father's rudder, an invaluable book of maps and notes about the world's uncharted oceans. Masamoto-sama, one of Japan's greatest samurai, rescues Jack, adopts him, and sends him to samurai school, where Jack will be trained in the Way of the Warrior. Will it be enough to help Jack defeat Dragon Eye, the ruthless ninja who is intent on stealing the rudder at any cost?

04/11/2012 - 10:14am
The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art by Tamsin Pickeral

The recent movie War Horse, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo, succeeded in showing the strong emotional connections between horses and people. Indeed, this bond was much a part of human history and everyday life up to the middle of the 20th century.  Tamsin Pickeral’s book, The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art, is as much about history of this relationship as it is about art.

From Neolithic horse hunters’ vivid and probably shamanic cave paintings in France to portraits of proud aristocrats and royalty with their prized possessions to scenes such as the mournful “Ownerless Horse on the Battlefield at Mozhaisk in 1812,” by Adam Albrecht, the horses depicted are as much a projection of human feeling as they are simple studies in landscape or nature.

07/07/2015 - 2:31pm

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Princess Elisa is sixteen years old and getting married to a man she has never met – King Alejandro from neighboring country Joya d’Arena. Although plump Elisa often feels commonplace and dowdy, she is widely considered singular because she was chosen to bear the Godstone, a once-in-a-century occurrence. The living stone nestled in her navel marks her as God’s chosen one with a special destiny. Elisa has spent her years in Brisadulce living in her older sister’s shadow and studying the Scriptura Sancta in relative peace. Upon leaving, she is about to be thrust into a world of political intrigue and omnipresent danger for which she is ill prepared.

04/13/2012 - 2:48pm
Looking for Alaska by John Green

During Dixon-Smith Middle School Cafe Book Get Together Day at Headquarters Library, Emily and Aili review Looking for Alaska by John Green.

See more teen book reviews on our YouTube channel.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Sixteen-year-old Miles' first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks, but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash.

04/02/2012 - 8:40am
The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

There was more than one wide-scale genocide in the 20th century. In 1916, the Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha sent a letter to the government of Aleppo in Syria reminding them that all Armenians living in Turkey were be destroyed completely: “An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex nor to conscientious scruples.”  It was an order that was to be echoed by Adolph Hitler in 1939 in pursuing the end of “the Polish-speaking race.” Hitler added, “After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?”

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