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Hi! The purpose of this blog is to provide Christian reviews of secular books for boys. Since everyone is different in what they want their kids exposed to, I put possible areas of concern in the book's fact list at the beginning of the review. The concerns will be discussed in the body of the review. My desire is to inform parents of a book's content and possible issues so that they can make their own, informed decision about the book. My goal is to bless parents who don't have time to read everything their kids read. Favorable reviews of a book do not necessarily recommend all the author's works unless clearly stated in the review. Reviews are included in the reading level and topical indexes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Joan Lowery Nixon (For Girls)

Here are some other books by Joan Lowery Nixon:

The Name of the Game was Murder

Rating: Good
Format: Longer book
Reading Level: 5.5
Interest Level: 7-12
Concerns: Minor

Sam travels to a private island to visit her Aunt Thea and uncle, Augustus Trevor, the famous writer to learn all she can about writing. She is greeted harshly by her uncle and finds herself as spectator in a ghastly game. Her uncle has written an unpublished book including each of his guests' most dangerous secrets. If they solve a series of clues, they can find the manuscript before it is published. Unfortunately, her uncle's untimely death sends all the members of the household on a desperate search for the manuscript and the murderer!

Sadly, the cover of my book, ruins the whole mystery! Hopefully, your copy won't. This is an interesting whodunit and treasure hunt wrapped up in one. Though there is some unsavory behavior by the guests in the house, the book is very clean. Sam is much like all of Jean Lowry Nixon's characters a strong-willed girl who learns a lot about succeeding through her own efforts rather than depending on others.

The Other Side of Dark

Rating: Very good
Format: Longer book
Reading Level: 4.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Concerns: Minor


Stacy wakes up from a 4 year long coma resulting from a gunshot wound and trauma faced when her mother was murdered. As the sole witness to the murder, she struggles to unravel clues and memories to find the murderer.

Though the premise is a bit hard to swallow, I really enjoyed this book. Stacy has more depth than some of Jean Lowry Nixon's characters and I liked the relationship that develops out of the difficulties Stacy faces. His pronouncement of love and "I can wait" really send a strong message about the kind of love we want to pursue. There is some mentioning of the changes Stacy notices in her body from a 13-year- old to a 17-year-old. Also, Stacy's teen friends are really shallow. Stacy isn't as preoccupied with the make-up and parties as these girls are. There is a party where drinking happens. Again, the emphasis on girls helping themselves to succeed in life is a resounding theme of Nixon's books.

The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore

Rating: Good
Format: Longer book
Reading Level: 4.5
Interest Level: 7-12
Concerns: Minor

Christina is kidnapped for money and when she returns home finds that she herself is suspected of arranging the kidnapping to extract money from her wealthy grandmother. Christina, understandably frustrated, sets about to prove her innocence by finding out who really arranged the kidnapping.

Christina is a typically strong-willed heroine of Jean Lowery Nixon. She gets herself in a mess. Even so, it is hard to believe people don't believe her. Christina never gives up trying to help herself out of her difficulties. She learns a lot about herself in the process. She grows up and acknowledges her own culpability. Her dad is a bit of a foolish person who though claiming to be an evangelical religious person, acts only for his own self-interests and for the sake of appearances. None of the adults in this story are noteworthy. Christina learns that she must make her own way in the world and that she has the strength to do so.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Stalker by Joan Lowery Nixon*** (For Girls book)

Rating: Very good
Format: Longer book
Reading Level: 4.5
Interest Level: 7-12
Concerns: Minor

Summary: Jennifer's friend Bobby is framed for the murder of her step-mother. Jennifer knows Bobby isn't guilty but no one will believe her until she meets Lucas Maldonaldo, a retired police detective. Lucas mentors and trains Jennifer in the art of detecting. However, Jennifer's head-strong ways lead her into dangerous situations where unbeknownst to her she is being stalked by the murderer!

Strengths: This is a great murder mystery with some good messages tied in. Jennifer learns to not be so impulsive and to think logically and precisely. She also learns that she shouldn't rush into a relationship and marriage when she isn't ready. Thinking ahead and getting advice are always good skills to have. Lucas is a wonderful mentor. Patient and wise. He has Jennifer's back and sees her future better than she can. Also refreshing in a young adult book is the message of waiting until we get married rather than sneaking away for the weekend. Jennifer's boyfriend asks her to go away with him and she says no. Later, he apologizes and tells her she is worth waiting for.

Concerns: None really. Possibly, the teen issues of going away for the weekend and the waiting for marriage might be more than you want your child exposed to. It is only two paragraphs in the whole book and nothing is explained in detail. Some chapters are written from the perspective of the stalker and may be a little creepy for a sensitive reader.

Links:

Author information:
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/stalker-0#cart/cleanup




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Abduction! by Peg Kehret***

Rating: Very good
Format: Shorter chapter book
Reading Level: 4.7
Interest Level: 5-9
Concerns: None (If your child is sensitive, then this theme of kidnapping might bother them.)

Highlight: Nice strong role-model in Bonnie. She's self-sacrificing and she keeps thinking even when things look bad.

Summary: When Matt gets abducted by his long-lost father, Bonnie and her family struggle to maintain hope. Then a miracle happens, Bonnie spots her brother at a major league baseball game. Can Bonnie save him? She'll have to act fast or all will be lost.


Strengths: This is an exciting read. The heroine is a smart girl who thinks fast and never gives up trying to save herself and her brother. Matt is younger and more impressionable but he is a real nice child who tries to stay positive despite his predicament. A reoccurring thread throughout the book is when several individuals notice something unusual about the children but don't act. Later, they come to the realization that they could have helped an abducted child if only they had had the courage to act.


Concerns: None. (If your child is sensitive, then this theme of kidnapping might bother them.)

Discussion Points:
1. Bonnie has to take care of her little brother and sometimes feels burdened by it. When he is kidnapped, she feels guilty about those feelings. What would you tell her if you were her friend and had a chance to encourage her despairing heart?

(I would tell her that everyone has those feelings sometimes when they have to take care of someone in need. Even grown-ups. The important thing is that she still did everything required of her. Praying for God to change her heart towards Mark in those moments is the best most of us do. Change does come sometimes in small increments.

However, she is not responsible for what happened to Mark. Her step-dad is the one responsible. She did nothing wrong. In fact, it was her actions that allowed the police to be called in quickly.)

2. Several people saw Bonnie and Matt yet did nothing to help them. Why?

(They made excuses that they couldn't be right. Nothing was wrong. Why do something especially since they might be wrong and then they would be embarrassed at being wrong. We would biblically label this fear of man.)

3. Do you feel this is a common reason to avoid reporting suspicious behavior?

(I think fear is the most common reason to avoid reporting something suspicious.)

4. Why is Bonnie a hero in this story?

(She's quick-thinking in several instances. She gets everyone to notice Matt is missing. She is other- focused. She tries to do all she can to help her mother during this difficult time. She is brave when she spots Matt. (She's foolish here not to get the police but then our story wouldn't have such an exciting end!) She doesn't give up and keeps trying to find ways of asking for help. Her actions save her life and her brother's.)

Links:

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/abduction-0#cart/cleanup

Monday, August 22, 2016

For Girls.....(Books with Strong Female Role Models)

Middle School:

Abduction by Peg Kehret***

Beyonders: (Strong female homeschooler is the heroine of this story.)

A World Without Heroes (Book 1) by Brandon Mull***
Chasing the Prophecy (Book 3) by Brandon Mull***
Seeds of Rebellion (Book 2) by Brandon Mull***

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy: (Plasma Girl, a great role-model, is allowed to be a girl and not have to fall into the traditional tomboy role that the world seems to love.)

The Hero Revealed (The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, Book 1) by William Boniface***
The Return of Meteor Boy? (The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy #2) by William Boniface***
The Great Powers Outage (The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, #3) by William Boniface***

The Mysterious Benedict Society (This series has lots of great female characters in it.)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart###***
Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart***
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart***
The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive

High School

Joan Lowery Nixon Books: (Nixon has strong-willed female characters that emulate the many good character traits such as not following the crowd, waiting for the right relationship, not giving up when things don't go your way.)

The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore
The Name of the Game was Murder
The Other Side of Dark
The Stalker


Friday, August 19, 2016

Silent to the Bone by e.l.konigsburg

Rating: Very good
Format: Longer chapter book
Reading Level: 5.4
Interest Level: 5-9
Concerns: I feel this is a young adult book that should be read in high school because of the  abuse that occurred in the story.

Summary: Connor's best friend Branwell is not talking. He is accused of dropping his baby sister, Nikki, and causing her life-threatening injuries. The trauma has made him unable to speak about what happened. As a result, Connor sets off on a mission to solve the mystery of what happened to Nikki. Through interviews and the help of his older step-sister, Connor discovers the truth.

Strengths: This is an interesting psychological study in guilt and shame. Shame is often the cause of silence. Connor is a great role-model in his friendship and desire for justice for his friend. The adults, especially Connor's sister, really assist and give wisdom and help to Connor--always affirming his ability and intelligence to get things done. I really enjoyed the psychological element of this mystery. It has a lot to say about speaking out early and not hiding things that could cause harm to others.

Concerns: This has a lot of mature issues: abuse of an infant through neglect; a concerning sexual encounter between a minor and adult (minimal description; not consummated); illicit affair between a member of the household and an outside person; smoking; etc. Most concerning is the downplay of criminal culpability on the part of the perpetrator. There were consequences to the individual's employment status but no mention of charges being filed.

Links:

For purchase:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Silent-to-the-Bone/E-L-Konigsburg/9780689867156

Lesson Plan:

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/silent-bone

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Dead Man in Indian Creek by Mary Downing Hahn*** (some concerns)

Rating: Very good
Format: Chapter book
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 4-7
Concerns: Relationship between Parker's mom and boyfriend.


Favorite line:
"If ever a kid was misnamed, Charity was." (Matt talking about his little sister Charity.)

Summary:
 Parker's life is a mess. His mom is dating a guy he doesn't like and his only friend in the world is Matt. To make things worse, Parker and Matt are camping by Indian Creek and Parker sees his mom's boyfriend near where they find a dead body. Parker is determined to solve the mystery and maybe help out his mom. The search quickly leads into dangerous places. Can Parker and Matt solve the mystery before anyone else gets hurt?

Strengths:

The whole story is told through Matt's perspective. Matt is a somewhat heavyset, loyal friend of Parker. His humor really makes this story a fun read. Matt's family as seen by Matt in the beginning as being overly protective is raised up to be a true loving home envied by Parker. A fun read full of suspense and action. Otis, the faithful dog, is a great character and hero of this story.

Concerns:

Parker's mom, Pam, gets involved with Evan and things go downhill for her. She is young and was widowed early. Evan and Pam are helping transport drugs. There are several scenes with Pam and Evan kissing. Pam stops coming home at night and stays with Evan. There are no details. The children do mislead parents about their activities.

Links:

Book and author info:
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/dead-man-indian-creek

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Introduction to Literature Analysis Book List

 
“Introduction to Literature Analysis”
  •  class for seventh to ninth graders
  •  class will conduct a year-long survey of genre.  
  • focus will be on learning beginning literary analysis skills such as analyzing setting, plot, and character.
  • activities will include hearty discussions (hopefully ;)), creative projects, and short writing assignments.
  • assignments are geared to thinking and discerning worldview and theme rather than basic comprehension level questions.
This is the list of literature covered. Concerns will be posted (if there are any).
  •   if anyone has any objections to a book, I will consider changing it or provide you with page numbers so that you could consider buying it and whiting out the areas of issue.
  •   if everyone or most have read a book on the list, then I will consider changing it. 
  •  all books will be readily available in the library and can be listened to in audiobook format if reading is a challenge unless otherwise noted. Short stories and plays will be provided and must be read (no audio).   Here is the list of books to be used:

 
 

Categories of Genre
Genre type
 
 
    Literature list for 2016-2017
Poetry
 
Historical fiction/ poetry
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (3 weeks)
 
This is a beautiful book written totally in free verse poetry. It is a Newbery honor book. I believe the author is a Christian. She mentions God in the bio at the end and throughout the book.  The poetry tells the story of several real life people: a nurse and her husband, a slave hunter, and a young Cuban girl. There is a mention of a body being cut into 4 pieces and ears being collected like Indian scalps. A girl loses her mother and 2 brothers in a concentration camp (Yes, this was the first time concentration camps happened). But there is no gore or detailed descriptions. There is talk about how healing one’s enemy is only a mercy possible because of God (the nurse heals the slave hunter). Rosa is referred to by the slave hunter as a witch because she heals people with herbs and eludes capture. She later says she is not a witch but a nurse.
Prose
 
 
Realistic Fiction
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (3 weeks)
 
 (Some drinking and smoking by teenagers on periphery (not main characters). Young people make good decisions to avoid these situations. Mature issues and bullying are prevalent in the book. This is a beautiful book.)
Historical Fiction
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2 weeks). There are only 2 copies in Berks Library System and no audio books.
 
 (This is based on a true story. There is a gruesome scene in the beginning of a pregnant woman being killed by a bomb. This incident spurs our heroine to become a spy that helps in making D-Day the success that it was. Other than this scene, the book is very God-honoring and is a great read.)
Science Fiction
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar (no concerns) (2 weeks)
 
"Flowers of Algernon" by Daniel Keyes (short story). (1 week)
 
We'll be using the short story form of this story of a mentally disabled adult who participates in an experiment to make him smart. Keyes wrote the short story first and then the book. The short story is much cleaner and is considered the better work. There is an incident of smoking and two scenes where the protagonist is tricked into getting drunk. In one scene, he thinks they are laughing because they are his friends and in the second, he realizes that his "friends" are making fun of him. The word “damn” is used. I can white this out as it is a short story.
           
 
Biography/
Autobiography
 
 Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank (2 weeks)
 
(Mature themes; set during the Holocaust; This is typically read in middle school. I need to reread this but don’t remember any other concerns besides the ones mentioned. )
Mystery
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (2 weeks)
 
(The words “damned” is used once and “hell” twice. There is some smoking and one suspect is a drug user. This is considered her best novel. I really enjoyed rereading it. Her books appear on many middle school lists.)
 
" The Red-Headed League" by Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story) (1 week)
 
Graphic Novel
(“illustrated prose”
R.C. Harvey)
The graphic novel is a newcomer to literature with the term first being used in 1978. (2 weeks)
 
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
 
This is a wordless graphic novel about an immigrant in a foreign country. A wordless novel helps us sort out what makes graphic novel unique. There are battlefield scenes with skeletons but are not overly scary.
 
(ONE MORE HERE.......STILL LOOKING.)
 
 
Fairytale/Folktale/
Fable
Animal Farm by George Orwell (novella) (2 weeks)
 
(mature concepts and themes; this appears on high school and middle school book lists)
 
 
Fantasy
Watership Down by Richard Adams (4 weeks)
 
 (Some dark imagery)
Drama
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose (2 weeks)
 
 (This appears on many middle school lists. It has a number of curse words. I will print this out and white out the bad language. It is a two act play and will work well as an introduction to drama. )
 
Possible movie choice here: “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Cary Grant. We’ll see if we have time and if everyone agrees to it.