Monday, July 25, 2011

Booktalk: Bystander (Virginia Readers' Choice)

When a friend like Griffin turns on you, he really turns on you. Some of your stuff goes missing, you get beat up by his sidekick, and you’re worried he might plant a weapon in your locker. Scary, isn’t it? So why would a nice, low-key 7th grader like Eric even be friends with Griffin in the first place? To start with, Eric is new in town and needs a group. Plus, Griffin isn’t all bad: he’s got some good qualities -- he’s charming, sociable, intelligent, and a group leader. And he and Eric have something really important in common: their fathers. Let’s just say that both boys are not doing well in the father department, sadly, and both of them know it. But remember how I told you that Griffin can turn on a person? Eric is going to have to decide whether he will be a friend to Griffin, an enemy who doesn’t tolerate Griffin’s cruelties, or a casual “bystander” who does nothing. Bystander by James Preller.

Bystander by James Preller. 226 p. 2009: Feiwel and Friends. Virginia Readers’ Choice: 2011-2012. Booktalk to middle school and to high school.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Booktalk: The Leanin' Dog (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Desssa Dean has an unusual life. She lives in a cabin in the deep woods with her father, who must hunt or find all their food. Their neighbors are coyotes, birds, and squirrels. Her mother died, and Dessa Dean is pretty lonely. She also has daymares, which are sort of like nightmares, only she’s wide awake, and re-living the time in which her mom died. If anyone needs a friend, it’s Dessa Dean. It’s pretty normal for her to be completely by herself in the cabin while her dad goes hunting. There are no people nearby, either. If a bear comes along, Dessa Dean has got to fend for herself. But there’s a dog who shows up scratching at her door one day. It wants to make friends with her, but it’s too frightened to stay. She chases after the dog but can’t get him to come back. Dessa Dean can’t forget this dog, but she hatches a plan, which involves a delicious meat stew offered as bait. That looked like one hungry, lonely dog. The Leanin’ Dog by K. A. Nuzum.

The Leanin’ Dog by K. A. Nuzum. 250 p. Joanna Cotler Books, 2008. Booktalk to middle school. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Booktalk: Chasing Lincoln's Killer (Virginia Readers' Choice)

If you’re going to murder someone as famous as a U.S. president, you need to PLAN and plan well. You need to plan how you’re going to murder the person, how you’re going to get away successfully from the crime scene, and how you’re going to stay hidden or safe for the rest of your life. So basically, your planning involves three parts, right? If any of those parts go wrong, you’re in big trouble.

John Wilkes Booth hated President Abraham Lincoln. He hated him with a passion. John Wilkes Booth believed in slavery, was a racist, and wanted to see President Lincoln dead. Booth was a really good-looking, self-confident actor who was quite skilled at getting people to do what he wanted them to do. Along with some other like-minded Confederates, Booth set up a plan to kill Lincoln while Lincoln was watching a play with his wife and some friends. Unfortunately, Booth was successful. The day he shot President Lincoln was one of the saddest days in American history.

Booth’s getaway plan had a lot of holes, but it also had a lot of successes and plain old good luck, both in the immediate getaway and in the manhunt that followed. For example, when Booth made his way onto the stage right after he murdered Lincoln, the actor on stage was just too stunned to grab Booth, even though he physically could have. The guard who should have stopped him from crossing a bridge to leave Washington, D.C. on horseback after dark actually did let him cross … even though he wasn’t supposed to! And in the thrilling, crazy national manhunt which followed, John Wilkes Booth did crazy, desparate things. He really had not planned for an extended campout under the stars with a badly broken leg, for one thing. And he really hadn’t anticipated the extent to which people would see him as an evil assassin to be hunted down, and not a hero to be lauded. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. 194 p. Scholastic Press, 2009. Booktalk to middle school, high school. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012.