Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

December 14, 2010

Grade Level: 5 – 7

Genre: futuristic fiction

Theme: Friendship, Morals, Adventure

Uglies was recommended by one of my students…a reader extraordinaire!  After reading it, I could definitely see what appealed to her.  In this futuristic North America, Tally turns 16 three months after her best friend Peris.  This would normally be no big deal, however at the age of 16 every “Ugly” goes through a drastic surgery to become “Pretty”.  These “Pretty”s do not interact or communicate with “Ugly”s. 

This transformation opens up lots of doors as far as classroom discussion regarding society’s opinion of pretty, and media’s role (perhaps it’s power) in guiding people’s opinions.  Another strong theme is what happens to those people who do not, or do not wish to fit into the world’s molds.

This is an easy read, and can be read with great interest without knowledge about the theme.

ISBN: 0-439-80611-9, 425 pp.


Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

December 3, 2010

Grade Level: 4 – 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Theme:  Coming of Age

This book was recommended to me by a colleague who has suggested it to students who have been in foster homes, or have led transient lives.  It is a story about a girl who has been in and out of foster homes herself, eventually running away from each of them.  Every other chapter describes in great detail a picture which Hollis Woods has drawn that provides a window into her life.

I found this book a little hard to follow to begin with and didn’t really get into it until about three quarters the way through.  It was a short enough book, with easy to follow language.  The characters are colourful and interesting, however the plot didn’t come together quickly enough for my liking!  I, also, might recommend it to students who would be able to connect with the main character.

ISBN: 0-439-57784-5

Pub: Random House 2002

Wild Geese by Carolyn Pignat

November 25, 2010


  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Red Deer Press; 1 edition (Sep 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0889954321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0889954328
  • Wild Geese  is the long anticipated sequel to Carolyn Pignat’s poignant book Greener Grass.

    When I saw this title , I just snapped it up and devoured it in one sitting! It is the story of Irish immigration in the years 1845-47 to Canada,during the “Great Hunger”, where families were fleeing the destitute and poverty-stricken land that called home, Ireland. This is a tale of strength, courage, determination, grit, love,  faith and adventure. Through Kit’s narrative we cannot  help but be drawn into the sufferings and deprivations that family upon family had to endure during these lengthy ocean crossings. Pignat ‘s descriptive prose has skillfully brought to life an almost forgotten a part of Canadian history…and time of great trial, tribulation and opportunity.

    Although this is a sequel to Greener Grass, Wild Geese can stand alone. However by  reading the first book it will allow readers to better understand the harrowing  ordeals of the Irish immigrants.

    Reading ability: Intermediate / Senior level; Grade 7, 8, 9

    Genre: Historical fiction, Canadian

    Who would like this book? This book will appeal to those interested in ancestry, historical fiction, and adventure

    Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna

    November 25, 2010

     Mr. Peabody’s Apples  is based on a 300 year old story and deals with the power words hold. 

     This book tells the story of  a teacher in the town, Mr. Peabody, and the consequences that arise when a rumour is circulated about him.  Tommy, the boy who began the rumour, goes to Mr. Peabody to make amends when he discovers what he saw and said as a result are wrong.  Mr. Peabody demonstrates how the power of words  becomes almost impossible to stop. 

    He has Tommy cut open a feather pillow on a windy day and tells him that each feather represents a person in the town.  Tommy realizes what impact his words have had on his teacher and realizes the importance of words.  I especially like how the vivid illustrations by Loren Long add to the story.  This book allowed for excellent discussion in both my junior and intermediate classes.  Students understand the hurt that rumours can cause but not always the difficulty required to try to right the wrong that has been done.  This is an excellent book for character education, and  a wonderful read aloud.


    Reading ability: Level P  and above – but I would suggest it as a junior or intermediate read aloud to have discussion and get the most out of this book

    Genre: fiction

    Theme: integrity, courage, growing up

    Who would like this book young adolescents, fans of Madonna

    ISBN: 0-670-04492-X

    Greener Grass by Caroline Pignat

    June 25, 2010


    Fountas and Pinnell Reading Level:   R      Grade Level:   5-7    

    Genre:  Historical fiction /Adventure 

      Literature Circle set ( 6 copies) available  at  Classroom Support Centre 

    Red Maple Book Award nominee 2010,  278 pgs.  

    Other recognition and awards:

    Governor General’s Literary Award winner 2009 CLA Children’s Book of the Year Award shortlist, 2009


    Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People 2009 finalist 
    Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Awards shortlist, 2010 

    Canadian Children’s Book Centre Our Choice, 2009«Starred Choice 

    Red Maple Book Award nominee 2010 


    “1847 – Ireland. The potato famine enters its second year, as British landlords raise rents and tumble cottages, leaving Irish families homeless and overcome by hunger and disease. Kit Byrne, a young girl of fourteen, will do everything she can to save her family. But will it cost her soul?” 

    Review by Karen 

    I am a lover of historical fiction and was eagerly looking forward to reading this latest book by Canadian author Caroline Pignat. I had thoroughly enjoyed Pignat earlier debut novel Egghead and was interested in how she would handle this genre. 

    The 1840’s in Irish history was a period of unrest turmoil and utter destruction and devastation — devastation to human life, human dignity and the human spirit. Pignat’s novel Greener Grass opens in the second year of the Great Potato Famine — 1847. We become first-hand witnesses to the heartrending struggles of human survival through the eyes of the central character 14 year-old Katherine (Kit) Bryne and the choices she  and her family are faced with.  The author has skilfully woven the horrors and bleakness of the times, with Kit’s courage and herioism , and that makes this is a truly inspirational story. 

    Highly Recommended!!!

    Similiar Books:  Nory Ryan’s song by Patricia Giff; Katie’s Wish by Barbara Hazen; The Grave by James Heneghan 


    Author Interview on Greener Grass: 

    Study Guide (free) : 

    Girl on the other side by Deborah Kerbel

    April 13, 2010

    Shoes….are sometimes taken as a symbol of what kind of a person we are….and in Deborah Kerbel ‘s   Girl on the other side, shoes do in deed become a personification of the two girls  in this novel.

    Tabby Freeman and Lora Froggett…..two girls from opposite worlds… one is  a rich, popular, self-assured ‘queen-bee’ and the other a social outcast, who has been shunned and rejected by her peers since grade one. 

    As the story progresses and perspective shifts from one girl to another, we are witness to a subtle transformation of both characters….for in their own world…each conceals a secret filled with loneliness and personal pain.  A succession of events and circumstances have the worlds of these two girls  colliding in a way that neither could have ever imagined!

     Kerbel’s sensitive portrayal of issues such as  bullying, humiliation and peer pressure makes this novel a very engrossing and thought-provoking read  appealing to many teens.

    I found this book to be a fast-paced,  engaging read and the  accurate use of  teen vocabulary adds credibility to the story.    

    Highly Recommended!!               

    Reading Ability:  Grade 7,8,9  

    Genre: Realistic fiction

    Theme: Bullying; Teen Social issues; Peer Pressure; Family life; Friendship

    Book Trailer on You Tube:

    Home Free by Sharon Jennings

    April 8, 2010

    Meet Leanna Mets ….an engaging 12 year-old whose unquenchable spirit and inquisitive nature is the backbone in Canadian author Sharon Jennings’  coming of age novel Home Free.

    It is the 1960’s… the age of white go-go boots, John Lennon hats, The Ed Sullivan Show and childhood innocence .  Lee is part of a school writing club and is told by her teacher that she has a ‘gift’.  Taking her teacher’s words to heart Lee incorporates all the components of good writing and begins on her first story. In her ‘Author Notes’ she remarks that writers embellish the truth a little to make it better or maybe a little worse and that it will be up to the reader to determine which parts of her story are true and which are embellished.  This phrase becomes the starting point  for Lee’s story ” of a summer that was both wonderful and terribly sad” .

    Lee’s mom is a firm believer in the traditional role of women and sniff’s her disapproval as  Lee continues writing or asking  questions that “ladies should not be asking”.   Writing and reading are Lee’s escape and after being introduced to Anne Shirley and Green Gables, her daydream of a kindred spirit is on the brink of becoming reality with the arrival a ‘possible orphan’ named Cassandra.   

    Our aspiring writer’s  unorthodox approach to Cassandra develops into a friendship  where both girls gain the courage to trust themselves enough to do daring things . At this point Lee says that “suddenly it was like being struck by lightning” and both girls realize that their sanctuary is not a physical space, but that it would be a place with them always …if they just look inside themselves.

     Lee’s brave honest approach to life will resonate with  readers both young and old ……and bring a smile to your face! A true ‘Gutsy Girl’ book!

    Reading ability:  Junior (Grade 5,6)

    Genre:  Realistic fiction

    Theme: Acceptance, Courage, Grief, Death, Friendship: Social issues; Coming of age; Writing

    Similiar Reads:  Books by Judy Blume

    Author Website: