Review: Fly Girl by Sherri L. Smith

by BookWatch, guest reviewer

Title: Fly Girl
Author: Sherri L. Smith
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 256
Grade Reading Level: Grades 7-9

Summary: Fly Girl is about an African American girl, Ida Mae during World War II who wants to be a pilot and also help the war effort.  Her father had already taught her how to fly his crop dusting plane.  When she learns about the WASP (Women Airforce Service Program) she decides to join even though they will not accept applicants from her race.  She is light skinned and passes as a white girl, which means she has to deny her family identity in order to follow her dreams and serve her country. The biggest enemy she confronts is prejudice.

Why I started this book:

My favorite books are the Newberry Award winners.  I have a goal of reading all of them and I have quite a few to go.  I read Fly Girl by Sherri L Smith about a year ago. (I don’t think this is a Newberry winner.)

Likes:

  • The struggles that she faces and the ultimate questions she must come to terms with make it a very moving book.
  • You also learn about the dangerous flights these female pilots flew during the war without receiving any recognition from the government or status as veterans.  That has only recently been remedied by congress for the few surviving pilots from this program.

Buy: Flygirl

Rating: I give it 5 treasure chests.

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Review: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide by Elizabeth Hankins

by First Mate Keira, guest reviewer

Title: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide
Author: Elizabeth Hankins
Format: Paperback
# of Pages: 150 pages
Grade Reading Level: 5th – 8th grade

Summary: Javier Mendoza is a 5th grade student at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary. As part of an assignment for social studies he must keep a journal and tell what he learns about the new unit being taught by Mr. Steinberg, his social studies teacher. The unit is about genocide and specifically six genocides that happened in the last 100 years. It’s a fictional story filled with factual information.

Why I Read This Book:

This book was given to LYAF as an ARC. My sixth grade sister was going to read it but she found the subject too sad to really get into it for pleasure reading. I picked it up after that and read it over a couple of days.

Likes:

  • Elizabeth Hankins keeps everything age appropriate. There are no gory details. When things are tough she keeps it light by having Javier boil the topic down to its basic components: genocide is sad, evil, terrible, and devastating.
  • A lot of factual information is condensed into this 150 page book and through Javier’s definitions, reiterations, lists, and commentary one learns a lot. It will be easy for kids from 5th grade to 8th grade to understand.
  • Two of the things gone over in the book are how genocide starts and how it is hidden or glossed over by others.
  • It is a thinking book. Young and older readers will think about what genocide is and figure out how to spot it even when it’s not being labeled as genocide.

Dislikes:

I have only one dislike. Javier begins to question God’s presence in a world where genocide exists and He doesn’t stop it. Javier also questions whether or not God is good (page 58-59).

I was hoping at the end of the book Javier would come to a conclusion about both, but it was left unresolved and that really bothered me. I couldn’t tell why it was left that way even after Javier came to the conclusion he wanted to be a doer and not a watcher. What was the purpose?

One of the reasons for genocide listed in the book is religion and how people worshipped God. The book does say religion by itself does not cause genocide and Javier thinks if God is good and fair He would hate people fighting over Him. In my opinion genocide doesn’t happen because of God. It happens because there is a lack of Him, even and especially if people are using God as an excuse to do what they do.

In addition, faith groups are mentioned as great sources for good in the fight against genocide.

Still, I really wish once it had been brought up it had been dealt with more thoroughly. It is my only concern about the book because the message is unclear.

Last Minute Thoughts: Genocide is a sad topic and while the book a little heavy it is not overwhelmingly so for young kids. I think it would be a great companion for a unit study or in a literary group. I also think it would be a good book for adults looking to learn more about the subject without getting too wrapped up in the horrors involved. You can fill in the blanks well enough.

Buy: I Learned a New Word Today … Genocide

Book Rating: 4 Treasure Chests

Keira runs a book review blog for readers by readers on romance novels entitled Love Romance Passion. She’s been reading romance since she was in her teens and began blogging about romance so she could share her passion for her favorite genre. She loves reading paranormal, Regency, historical America, and highlander most of all and completely adores blind and wounded heroes.

Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

by Captain Lyaf Yarr


Title: Number the Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 156 Pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: Two years into World War II, Nazis are hunting Jews. Annemarie Johansens is a 10 year old girl living in Copenhagen, Denmark. But everything changes once her best friend, Ellen Rosen has to hide from the Nazis for being a Jew. The Johansens decide to take her in and disguise her as Annemarie’s dead older sister. After that EVERYTHING is chaos! Annmarie is forced to mature. Childhood is a thing of the past. Everyone has to be brave and courageous and somehow pull though.

Why I Started the Book:

I started this book because we read it in class for a project in language arts.

Likes:

  • Every chapter kept me on the edge of my seat, I had to keep reading and figure out what happen!
  • I can’t help but feel sympathetic toward Annemarie. No ten year old should have to go through what she did!
  • Kirsti is defiantly my favorite character in this book! She’s so adorable and oblivious to everyone! She’s self-centered and is always craving pink frosted cupcakes. I love cupcakes and can relate to such cravings… but mine don’t necessarily have to have pink frosting.
  • I love the chapter where Annmarie and Ellen are waiting for the soldiers to arrive in their bed and Papa acts like a barrier and acts like he will do anything to protect his loved one! So sweet and brave!

Dislikes:

  • I think that it is so sad to think about World War II and the horror involved! :(

Last minute thoughts: This was a really good book! I defiantly want to read more book by Louis Lowry! But I wonder if all of of her books are about historic events? This book is a Newberry Award winner.

Buy: Number the Stars

Book Rating: I give this book 4.5 Treasure chests!

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Movie Review: Titanic directed by James Cameron

by Captain Lyaf Yarr

Title: Titanic
Director: James Cameron
Run Time: 194 Minutes
Rated:PG-13

Summary: Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is in despair. After boarding the famous boat called “Titanic” she decides that she can’t bare living another day as a secure little rich girl that’s being forced to marry her fiance Cal (Billy Zane). One night, for an escape of her miserable life, she attempts jumping overboard! Luckily, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) convinces her to come back onboard. And that’s when everything starts!

Rose decides to go against her mother and everything else she knows and starts getting along with Jack, also know as that poor man that saved her life. Once this happens, Rose couldn’t be happier with Jack! But it’s not that easy. While they’re both laughing and enjoying each other, the ship hits an iceberg! Now there’s panic! With not enough lifeboats, not by half, will Titanic, the “unsinkable ship” sink tonight?

Jack and Rose refuse to die, not here anyways. But trying to avoid Rose’s raging fiance, her uptight mother, and stick together like glue is harder than you think! As the boat sinks and crumbles to its most imponderable death, everyone and everything is tragically atrocious. But Rose won’t let go.

Why I watched this movie:

I watched this movie because it aired on the Oxygen Channel and it looked really good.

Likes:

  • Every time (thanks Oxygen!) I watch this movie I start crying! It’s so horrifying about what happened, but James Cameron did a PERFECT job on directing and writing this great movie.
  • I love Leonardo DiCaprio! He was hot in this movie. (But now he just looks weird.) He did a splendid job on his role and I could watch him all day (in this part)!
  • This movie has the best quotes ever! Most of them are romantic and sweet but the other ones just make you stop and think about it! I’ve used several key phrases from the movie throughout this review! Can you spot them all?
  • One of my favorite scenes in this movie is when Jack gives Rose the spot atop a floating wooden door and despite the freezing cold water, holds her hand all night until his death. It was so sad but still it was great! Very very romantic.
  • I also like the scene when Jack is under arrest and Rose has to break the handcuffs of with an ax! “Okay Rose, now try to hit the same exact spot!” Snicker.

Dislikes:

  • The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was knowing that the sinking of the Titanic is a true story… those events did happen, maybe not exactly like they reenacted, but similarly. The romance between Rose and Jack is not historically accurate. It was created for the movie.

Buy: Titanic (10th Anniversary Edition)

Movie Rating: I give this movie … *drum roll* 5 Treasure Chests!!!!!!

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Review: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

by First Mate Keira

Title: The Mother Tongue
Author: Bill Bryson
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 245
Grade Reading Level: Ages 16+

Why I read this book:

It was loaned to me by a friend who knew how much I enjoyed English.

Why you should read this book:

The Mother Tongue is a non-fiction work that as the cover says is about English and how it got that way. I love words, so this book really struck a cord with me. I have soaked up more useless trivia by reading this than a sponge. Valuable trivia too. 😉 Some of which I’ve included below the review.

It’s not a YA book by any stretch of the imagination, however, I would fully recommend it to high school students prepping for standardized tests. College students too for that matter, for the same reasons. It’s a fascinating, in-depth look into English. Bryson explains word structure, changes, and definitions while at the same time comparing English to other languages. I imagine anybody who takes the time to read this book will pass the language side of any standardized test (SAT, ACT, GRE) with flying colors.

My Top 10 Favorite Trivia from the Mother Tongue:

(Heavy on the paraphrasing)

  1. Slurvian is what the slurring of words is called.
  2. Chopping syllables off the front of a word is aphesis, apocope when it’s off the back, and syncope when it’s from the middle.
  3. Shakespeare was a master wordsmith. He created a new word once every ten words in his plays. That’s approximately 2000 words. This does not include his phrases that stick around to this day in common use.
  4. Ough can be pronounced 8 ways: through, though, thought, tough, plough, thorough, hiccough, and lough. Can you guess which is chough? The estimate is that only 1 person in 100 can be truly sure they got it right.
  5. English has more than 100 prefixes and suffixes in regular use.
  6. Harlot used to mean boy. (I take such pleasure out of that as a romance reader… haha.) Girl used to be any young person.
  7. We hear words faster than we can speak them; that’s why we have answers to questions before they’re finished being asked. Our desire to talk as fast as we hear is partially the reason behind mispronunciations and slurring.
  8. Th is probably one of the hardest sounds for non-native English speaking Asians to say. That and the el sound. They usually get pronounced as efs and ars accordingly.
  9. No letter in the English alphabet is pronounced the same way consistently in words. They all change depending on the other letters associated with the letter in question.
  10. The schwa, or upside down e, which looks like this ǝ, is the most common vowel sound in the English language. It features in nearly every multisyllabic word.

I’ll leave it there, but trust me, there’s so much more to discover. Your mind will be blown and you’ll probably wonder at some point while reading it how you could ever have learned English to begin with… but you’ll also be glad to know English because of how rich the depth of it can be.

Buy: The Mother Tongue

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

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Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

by Cook Cutlery, guest reviewer

Title: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
Format:
Hardcover
# of pages: 108 pages
Grade Reading Level: 8.7

Summary: Elie Wiesel is a young 14 year old Jewish Orthodox boy. He’s 15 at the end. He lived during the time that Adolf Hitler rose to power. He was one of very few to survive the Holocaust. Night is his journey of how he and his father survive the different concentration camps, one of which was Auschwitz. During the journey they are evacuated from Buna and sent to Auschwitz’s concentration camp.  Once they walk through the gate of Auschwitz it’s only the beginning of their rigorous journey to survive the horrors they are going to encounter and endure.

Why I Started This Book:

We read this book in language arts as part of our Holocaust unit. We read Night because he was the same age as many of us in class and this is the story of how he survived some truly awful terrible things.

Likes:

  • Elie Wiesel is a truly extraordinary human being. I’m glad he survived and I can only wish there had been more survivors.
  • I am grateful many of the descriptions were brief and that some things were condensed to a few sentences. It made it easier for me to read it.
  • I liked this book because it tells a tale of inner strength. If someone, especially a kid, survive all that, it really makes you think. It’s sort of empowering because of that. It’s a good lesson to teach kids. You can survive even the worst of troubles, fears, and experiences.

Dislikes:

  • This really isn’t against the book so much as it’s against human history. I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that anyone could think doing this to people is okay. Ethnic cleansing is not okay and it made me really uncomfortable to read about it from someone’s personal experience. It’s impossible to understand such evil.
  • On the trip to Auschwitz a woman has visions and starts to scream out “Fire! Can’t you see it? Fire!” Many people run to the edge of the cattle cart to see if there was a fire and there wasn’t one, but still she persisted in screaming “Fire!” until some men beat her up. How awful. Then they tie her up and gag her to silence her. Then when they arrive at the gate of Auschwitz they realized why the woman was screaming “Fire!” because when they looked up they saw a huge crematory and they looked at the chimney, coming out of it was huge flames. This is even worse. I can barely stand imagining such a scene let alone living through it in real life.
  • I also disliked the fact that his father didn’t survive when they got to the other camp. I wish Elie was able to say goodbye to his father before he was taken in the night. I wish I could rewrite the ending if not the whole story. The whole thing is so sad.

Last Minute Thoughts: Reading this book is like squeezing your heart until you feel all bruised and hallowed out. It isn’t pleasure reading and despite the rating I probably wouldn’t read it again, but it’s definitely a book you should made a point of reading.

Buy: Night

Rating: I give this book 3 out of 5 treasure chests.

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