Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret


     3.5 stars


Thirteen-year-old Sunny Skyland's life wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.  All she ever wanted was a real home to call her own.  Left without parents since the age of three, she had been traded between her relatives, treated as if she were a burden, mistreated and abandoned, while being shifted from one foster home to another.  It seemed that she would never have a real family that loved her.  True, her latest foster home wasn't THAT terrible.  Rita was a little annoying and strict - always wanting Sunny to eat gross healthy foods and exercise.  If that weren't enough, she had even forbidden Sunny to eat her favorite foods:  nachos, snickers, and the ultimate goody - Twinkies.  Rita did seem to care somewhat, though, and had even decorated a bedroom for Sunny that looked like it was actually made for a teen.  Rita, though, wasn't family....


Just when Sunny was beginning to lose hope, fate intervened in the form of an abandoned backpack....a backpack that contained hundreds of dollars!  Sunny knew then what she had to do.  Night after night, Sunny had studied the old photograph she still had - the picture that was taken so long ago before her parents had died.  Sunny knew she wasn't alone in the world.  She had a twin sister named Starr!  Now was her chance to travel back to her hometown and search for her long-lost sister, reclaim the only family she had left...


She never imagined then that the venture to find Starr could ultimately cost Sunny her life.


 Suspenseful story with an ending which will make the reader reconsider the true meanings of "home" and "family"...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell




     3.5 Stars 




Genevieve could not believe her mother’s summer plans for her family – to live three months at Camp Frontier, completely “roughing it.”    Gen had to give up her iPod, cell phone, TV, and even indoor plumbing!  And how could anyone expect Gen to ever get used to wearing the long scratchy petticoats?


The most disgusting part of frontier life was not having running water to take a regular shower  - gross!  To top it off, Gen also had to share a bed with her younger brother, Gavin.   No matter how much she hated it, Gen’s parents insisted they stay and experience what life was like for early pioneers in the 1890s.


Did pioneer teens have to deal with a bratty, Mrs. Know It All, like Camp Frontiers owner’s daughter, Nora?  Did the girls in the 1800s crush on boys?  To Gen’s surprise, there actually was a hot guy who was also forced by his family to live at Camp Frontier.  Caleb could even rock a straw hat; he was THAT hot.  It wasn’t like he would ever look Gen’s way, though – she didn’t even have deodorant, much less makeup or a flat iron.  Besides, Caleb and Nora seemed awfully chummy.  He barely glanced her way.


The only thing that made Gen’s life somewhat liveable was when she discovered her cell phone hidden at the camp.  Each day, Gen looked forward to texting Kristin and Ashley -  telling them what it was like to grow crops, eat beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…..and how stupid it was she had to spend hours making butter for the family.


Gen had no idea that she wasn’t isolated from the modern world at all.  Her friend Kristin had created a blog documenting Gen’s frontier experiences, and suddenly a fan base for the blog exploded as  thousands of people began subscribing to the blog's RSS feed and reading each day…waiting for Gen’s newest observations…wondering what would happen next.


 Gen thought her life couldn’t become more different than when she left their home and began living at Camp Frontier. All she wanted was to go back – to have her old life back the way it was before.  In reality, though, Gen finds she can’t go back.  Her experiences at Camp Frontier, the relationships her family formed with the other pioneers,  and the popularity of the blog documenting Gen’s words will change her world forever….


 

Fun story which reminds us of all the modern day amenities we take for granted in today’s world


If you enjoyed Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass, try Little Blog on the Prairie.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where the Sky Doesn’t End by Ron Nichols


      This novel tells the poignant story of three people who seemed to have nothing in common - yet when their lives fatefully intersect in Where the Sky Doesn't End, the characters ultimately help inspire each other to realize their own potential and to reach their desired dreams.  

     The youngest, Aria, is a daring, fiery redhead.  Though small in stature, Aria had monumental-sized bravery and spirit.   Aria's need for recognition and adventure made her feel like she never fit into the world she was born into  -  too different from the other girls and no longer accepted as "one of the boys."  Though Aria had two loving parents, they never understood her restlessness and her deep-rooted need for independence.

     Brendan, also somewhat of a misfit, just wanted to protect his mother, go through life "unnoticed" and be left alone to live in the preferred world of his daydreams.   Brendan could not stop thinking about the wonders of aviation, following in his deceased father's footsteps, and living his dream of flying an airplane.

    Mr. Washington, the school janitor, was an humble, honest, unassuming man who lived his life with integrity.  Despite his positive outlook, Mr. Washington still woke up each day feeling burdened -  haunted by the heavy weight of a past unintentional mistake.  Though able to experience a great part of history as a former Tuskegee Airman mechanic, Mr. Washington is still unable to let go of what he perceives as his greatest failing - and his contribution to a close friend's dream never coming into fruition.   

     When Aria and Brendan both begin helping Mr. Washington after school as part of their punishment for misbehaviors, they begin slowly learning about each other's lives.  Eventually each character serves at some point in the novel as a mentor to the other as the close relationships the three develop will help inspire each to  change his/her current outlook and to realize the potential of turning dreams into a reality. 

    Brendan helps Mr. Washington let go of the mistake he made in his past in order to embrace pride and honor while remembering his remarkable achievements as an integral part of the African-American Tuskegee flight crew.  Aria, inspired by Brendan's passion for flight, eventually gains the notoriety and fame she craves, but it is the writing that will cleanse her and help her calm the fire within her soul.   Brendan is also well onto his way of making a reality his dream of becoming a pilot and leaving a life that is now devoid of any happiness- thanks to the hope and help given to him by both Aria and Mr. Washington.

All stories don't have happy endings, though, and this story (like life) is riddled with tragedy.  In Where the Sky Doesn't End, the reader can still perceive how the lives of each of character is enriched through their shared experiences and learned insights.  Though some mistakes can never be undone and all our wants may not be accomplished during our lifetime, it is the experience of living a full life - a life which embodies love, support, hope and dreams - where one's true happiness lies.