Avalanche! by Terry Lynn Johnson

March 1, 2018

AvalancheAvalanche! by Terry Lynn Johnson [Series: Survivor Diaries: Book 2]

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: c2018: 104p.

Avalanche!! The word alone conjures up a combination of unspeakable beauty, power and terror.

Avalanche! is the second book in the acclaimed action-adventure series, Survivor Diaries by Terry Lynn Johnson.

Readers will be riveted by this narrative at the start from the opening tantalizing sentence “Tell me how you survived the avalanche?“.  The descriptive action and suspense continues  until the last page is reached!

The protagonist of this survivor diary is twelve year-old twin Ashley Hilder and her interview sets the stage for an engaging first-person narrative. Being told from this perspective heightens the reader’s anxiety levels as they become a silent witness to a family ski holiday where a rash ‘competitive’ decision has unforeseen consequences  for [both]  brother and sister.

The strength of Ashley’s character is a reflection of her intense training as a skier to always ‘be prepared’.  As the nightmare of the avalanche unfolds, this instinctive  reflex allows her to think logically and not panic.

Throughout the story, the author has interwoven all sorts of survival skills needed to survive such an event. All of the techniques that Ashley displays, are the reactions needed to get through an catastrophic event, such as being caught in an avalanche. Readers will be riveted to the narrative from beginning to end, holding their breathe until the very last chapter!

This high-octane story of survival and adventure, will have reader’s adding Ms. Johnson’s Avalanche and all the books in her Survivor Diaries, with Lauren Tarshis’  “I survived” and Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet” books.

Series Titles: Overboard

Highly Recommended  for any reader from grade 3-6 and every school library!!!
five-stars

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Random Acts by Valerie Sherrard

February 18, 2015

 

Random-Acts-cover-194x300Publisher: Puffin Canada; 264 p. c.2015

Random Acts is the newest novel by Canadian author Valerie Sherrard.  The title brings to mind that one has to step out of a normal routine or comfort zone and attempt a random act of kindness, and I was delighted that this topic would be the focus of a middle-grade narrative!

However the reader will quickly learn that ‘random acts’ takes on an entirely different meaning within the parameters of this story. Teenagers, Zoey, Jenna and ‘Bean’  have been BFF’s for a number of years. It is during an afternoon of overindulgence in a ‘pizza-feast’ that the simple idea of preforming random acts of kindness takes hold, but then evolves into a story filled with slap-stick humour  and misdeeds, reminiscent of skits from the “I love Lucy” show!

Ms Sherrard has eloquently and completely captured the angst and self appreciating humour often demonstrated by teens with the voice of Zoey. As the story progresses, the relationships of these three friends is in a constant state of flux, ever changing and growing in self awareness.  Told primarily from Zoey’s perspective, her interaction with her parents plays a pivotal part in the telling of this narrative.

This delightfully well written tale will definitely have the reader smiling, laughing out loud and groaning in empathy with all the ‘random acts’ performed by our three amusing artless teens!

Highly recommended for grade 6,7,8 !!!

Genre: Realistic fiction; Humour

Themes: Pay it forward; Friendship; Family; Relationships; Teenagers

 


Connecting Dots by Sharon Jennings

February 18, 2015

Connecting Dots Publisher: Second Story Press; Series: ‘Gutsy Girl’ ; 183p.:c2015

Sharon Jennings’ long anticipated companion to the multi-nominated book Home Free has finally been launched!

Connecting Dots is the heart wrenching story of feisty Cassandra Jovanovich, Leanne Mets’ ‘bosom’ friend, first introduced in ‘Home Free’.

We are given a small hint that our central character  has a very direct and forthright attitude, as she remarks on her friend’s constant inquisitiveness about her life. The italicized word “my” in the sentence “so I am sitting at my desk in my room” is a subtle indicator for the reader that this tiny word will become important in the narrative of Cassie’s life.

Society in the late ’50’s and early 60’s often dictated the social norms of the day. It is for this reason that every aspect of family life comes under close scrutiny when the circumstances of Cassie’s birth are established. At age 5 with the untimely passing of her Grandmother, we see how Cassie’s sliver of childhood innocence rapidly diminishes as she is passed through the ranks of various relatives.

Over time she is looked upon as a liability. Facing ongoing criticism, her confusion and mistrust merge into a mask of stubborn defiance. Cassie’s constant ‘tough -act’ demeanor translates further when participating in a school play her ‘acting skills’ win her positive praise. Amazed at how she feels on stage, she vows to explore this revelation and strives to hone it into a new found career.  Cassie faces the ultimate test and when she freezes it is Lee’s genuine open-minded belief in her that comes to the rescue. It is at this awkward moment that the reader is given a glimpse of the real Cassie beneath the cultivated tenacious exterior.

I found this tale of a harrowing childhood to be a sensitive coming of age portrayal. Ms Jennings’ has written Cassie’s story with great perceptiveness and understanding, which is communicated to the reader who in turn cannot help but become an unshakable champion of Cassandra Jovanovich!

Spirited, inquisitive and quirky, “almost twelve-year old” Cassandra Jovanovich, exhibits such a fearlessness that despite all odds, the reader cannot help but admire, applaud and ….be…..amazed!

Highly Recommended!!!     Be prepared “to be amazed at what will emerge!”

Reading Ability: Junior : Intermediate (Grade 6,7,8)

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: Abuse; Acceptance; Grief; Courage; Coming of Age; Acting, Actors; Friendship; Social bias;

Second Story Press: http://secondstorypress.ca/books/175-home-free

Author Interviews : http://www.openbooktoronto.com/atsintziras/blog/interview_with_sharon_Jennings

 

Thank you to SECOND STORY Press for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 


The Kayak by Debbie Spring

March 27, 2011

The Kayak

by Debbie Spring

Thistledown Press | March 11, 2010 | Trade Paperback; 190 pages; $12.95     ISBN: 978-1897235-71-3

The simplistic realism of this cover … of a young woman paddling a kayak toward the sunset is what first drew my attention to this book! 

 Serenity and peace … an image that also conjurs  a feeling of enjoyment and relaxation.  At the onset, author Spring cleverly has the reader believing  in  this “sense of freedom”  and even  Teresa’s own words while kayaking …. “This is a mystical place. Out here I feel safe and secure.”   is a contradiction of what  this story is really about….. that of a young woman facing  major psychological and physical challenges in order to enjoy the freedoms she once took for granted.

Teresa , once a typical teenager, hanging with friends, and  running track until a tragic accident changes not only her life but that of her family’s.  Entering adolescence is difficult enough for teens, but add insecurities, anger, and doubts and Teresa struggles to push herself  to attempt things that she’s never done before.  As Teresa battles her physical and psychological demons we  also see the impact these adversities have upon her parents and sister.

This is a powerful touching story with a protagonist that displays courage, determination and grit, but also has an inner depth that  truly has the reader cheering for  her!

Highly recommended!!!!

Genre: Realistic Fiction; Romance

Interest Level: Intermediate/ Senior students; interest in the Physically challenged

Weblinks: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/exams/marking_materials/en10/training_papers.pdf

http://www.docshare.com/doc/91928/Debbie-Spring-The-Kayak-A-literary-deconstruc

http://voicethread.com/share/1893491/


Journey to Atlantis by Philip Roy

June 9, 2010

 Philip Roy’s newest adventure ” Journey to Alantis” once again stars that intrepid trio that I fell in love with in his debut novel “Submarine Outlaw”.  Alfred (captain of the submarine), first mate Seaweed the Seagull, and canine companion extraordinare Hollie, sail into another fantastic adventure on his improved homemade submarine,  this time attempting an Atlantic crossing inorder to locate the fabled city of Atlantis!  Along the way, Al dispays  courage, determination and humour as he encounters  the Coast Guard, pirates in the Meditterean, old World War Two sea mines, and a camel in the Sahara of North Africa.

I was not disappointed in this rollicking high-sea adventure. Roy has skillfully blended the mythology and legends of ancient civilizations with geographical accuracy so that a reader could actually plot out Albert’s voyage on a map! Highly recommend it  even for  the reluctant reader!

River Odyssey, the third in the Submarine Outlaw series, coming fall 2010! ( by Ronsdale Press)

  • August 2009
  • ISBN: 978-1-55380-076-7  ; 224 pp
  • Reading ability : Grade 5 to 8

    Who would like this book?  Anyone who dares to dream and follow their imagination and loves to explore the world!

    Teacher/Curriculum Connections: ” Journey to Atlantis would be useful in the classroom, especially when read along with a geography or social studies unit on modern ocean travel, the Mediterranean area, or ancient Minoan society.”  by Karen Taylor, CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009


    THE BREADWINNER

    February 4, 2010

     Summary:

    In The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis  creates a story to drawing in the reader, connecting us to the character while teaching about the culture of    Afghanistan.  Maps are provided to help  visualize where the story is happening.  Literature Circle questions,  activities and a glossary at the back of the book are helpful when using this text in the classroom.

    The story follows sixth grade Parvana and her family as they struggle to survive in war torn Afghanistan.  After Father is taken away, how will the family survive?  Parvana is forced to find ways to support her family, while hiding her identity as a young Afghan girl.    

    Reading Ability: Intermediate

    Genre: Historical fiction, War
    Themes: war, courage, determination

    Who would love this book?

    history buffs

    -girls looking for strong female characters

    -those interested in current events

    -fans of Deborah Ellis

    Related Links:


    Sarah, Plain and Tall

    February 3, 2010

    Summary:

    In this award winning novel, a family tries to come to grips with the death of the wife and mother.  The two young children, Caleb and Anna desperately long for their father to be happy again.  Father advertises for a mother for his two children and accepts a response from Sarah who has written from Maine.  Sarah arrives full of dreams of the sea and imagination and finds it difficult to fit into the lives of her new prairie charges.  Caleb loves Sarah instantly and is afraid that she will leave, taking any happiness he has found with her.  Anna is afraid of losing the memories she has of her mother but is drawn to the kind and gentle Sarah.  This story relates the hardships of living in the prairies, the loss of a parent and the uniting of a family.

    Reading Ability: Grade Three

    Genre: Realistic Fiction


    Themes:  Prairie Life, Family Life, Survival, Pioneers

    Who would love this book? This has been a hit whenever I used it in a grade three and four classroom.

    Related Links: