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Mrs. Reid's Middle School Book Reviews--Kentucky Bluegrass Awards

Brown, Don.  Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.  (5 stars)

You won't remember Hurricane Katrina, but this book is a graphic nonfiction book that gives you details of what happened after the hurricane hit southern Louisiana and especially the area of New Orleans.  This book tells you about some of the heroes of the crisis, and it also shows how many bad decisions were made and how hate and selfish acts made a horrible situation even worse.

After the hurricane, the news worked to blame certain people for the bad decisions that were made.  This book shows the truth: many were unprepared to face the crisis of the levee failures, and many were unwilling to consider the number of people who were helpless to save themselves from the coming disaster.

 

Ryan, Pam Munoz; Dinara Mirtalipova, ill.  Echo. (5 stars; a fantasy mixed with fact.)

A harmonica sounds like a silly center for a story, but I loved this one.

In the Black Forest of Germany, Otto runs across three mysterious sisters who give him a promise, a prophecy, and a harmonica.  Otto takes the harmonica home, and three decades later, it is found by a child in Germany.  Two other children--one from Pennsylvania and one from California--later come across the harmonica, each in turn.  You get three different stories of how the harmonica "plays" (a pun!) into their lives.  The conclusion will probably leave give you a smile.

 

Stead, Rebecca.  Goodbye, Stranger. (4 stars)

When Bridge survived being hit by a car when she was in elementary school, a nurse plants one idea in her head: you are here for a reason.  Bridge remembers those words as she enters seventh grade with her best friends.  Each of her friends is changing, and so is their relationship.  When Bridge meets Sherm, though, she finds not only does she have a new friend, but she also may have an answer to the question that she has been asking herself since the day she woke up from her accident.

This story is told by several different people.  I liked that, but it didn't just focus on Bridge's story.  Her friends are dealing with their own problems, and sometimes I felt as though I was trying to figure out too many stories at once.  They did all work together at the end, though.  

 

Gemeinhart, Dan.  The Honest Truth. (5 stars)

Mark is tired of fighting cancer, so he takes his dog and runs away to finish one of the things he and his grandpa never got to do: climb Mt. Ranier.  He has two hundred miles to travel, and a winter storm is approaching Mt. Ranier, but neither of these stand in his way; he is angry about his cancer, angry that his grandpa isn't with him.  Because he is so angry, he cannot see the dangers he faces until it is too late.  Neither can he see the one person he has affected most aside from his family--his best friend Jessie knows where he is, and she is torn between keeping his secret so he can complete his goal and telling his family so that they can possibly save his life.

This book makes you feel as though you are there with Mark, facing his questions and his problems.  If you like dogs, you will have a harder time reading this book (I did) because the dog is a faithful sidekick that is drawn into Mark's mission without any part in the decision.  You will feel for Jessie, too, because promises like this put a person in a hard spot--even when the promises aren't made directly.

 

Korman, Gordon.   Masterminds.  (5 stars; FUN)

Eli and his friends have grown up in the tiny town of Serenity, a place where everyone has a swimming pool and all his needs.  The town values honesty and integrity above everything.  Eli and his friend Randy ride their bikes past the edge of town one day--something Randy has done, but Eli never has.  When they hit the border, Randy continues a short way, but Eli gets sick immediately and passes out from the severe headache and nausea he experiences.  The Purple People Eaters come to get Eli to take him to the hospital, and Randy suddenly--and mysteriously--has to move to his grandparents' in Colorado.  Eli isn't convinced that Randy's move is about his grandparents, and the more he sees, the less he believes Randy's story.  Eli starts sharing his suspicions with his school friends in Serenity, and the group gets more and more evidence that the honesty and integrity that is supposed to be so important in Serenity is possibly not as important after all.

Five different kids tell this story.  It is an adventure and mystery that will keep you turning the pages.  I couldn't stop reading until I got to the end.  It definitely is not a "boring book"!

 

Oppel, Kenneth.  The Nest.  (4 stars)

Steve is worried about his newborn brother who is sick with a mysterious illness.  To add to his worry, wasps are building a nest outside his window--and he is really allergic!  Then the wasp queen starts invading his dreams with promises to "fix" the baby, and Steve is worried he is losing his mind.  And then there is the mysterious man with deformed hands who sharpens knives around their neighborhood.  But the wasp queen gives Steve some hope: let us "fix" the baby, and your worries will be over.  But "yes" isn't always a good answer.  It can bring about worse than what is already happening.  And if he says "yes," can he ever change his mind?

This story is a horror story of a different kind, and fantasy adds to the horror.  While the story line may be hard to believe, it does make you think about what saying "yes" to what seems good could be the wrong thing to do after all.