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Karen's Book Reviews

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Fiction, Fantasy, and Young Adult Literature

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Rowling, J. K. 1997. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: Scholastic, Inc. ISBN:059035342X.
 

Harry is an infant when his parents are killed, and he is sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousin. They mistreat him until they all find out that he has been summoned to attend the Hogwarts School for Wizardry by Hagrid. Harry finds friends at Hogwarts and begins adventures he never dreamed he would have. He is puzzled by the actions of others as he is curious to find out what is going on, and he learns his away around Hogwarts, even in places he is forbidden to enter. He finds out he is well-known for his past and his famous survival, and becomes a hero at Hogwarts. Something Harry had never dreamed possible.

 

Harry Potter is a character that reader’s can connect with. He has no close family and life is not very exciting for him. Until someone summons him to attend his rightful place at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reader is captured by the intelligence  and competence of Harry in his new surroundings. He has found a place where he can call home and is accepted for who he is. The adventure in the

book keeps the reader’s attention to see what will happen next. The descriptive images in the book help the reader to create the scene in their imagination. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a very captivating book.

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Johnson, Angela. 2003. The First Part Last. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0689849222.
 

Bobby and Nia are both sixteen when they learn she is expecting. Both decide giving up the baby will be the best thing so that they can lead a normal life. Bobby decides to raise his child. Bobby tells of the past and the present in this book. He expresses the love he has for his daughter as he takes care of her into the night hours. He attends to her needs as a loving father even though he would like to be the child he was again. He takes Feather, the baby, to the babysitter, and still attends school. The reason for Nia not being in the picture is a mystery until the very end of the novel.

 

The  book shows the male’s point of view on pregnancy and caring for a baby by alternating between the past and the present. The reader gains sympathy with Bobby as he attempts to raise an infant because he is so young himself. He struggles to understand the needs of the child while he puts his life on hold for her. His reason of raising the child without a mother is revealed in the end when the reader finds that Nia is in an irreversible coma. The reader is filled with emotion as Bobby expresses the love for the baby, his need to raise her, and his feelings for Nia as he visits her in the nursing home where she lives in her vegetative state. In the end, Bobby decides moving will be the best for both Feather and him. This book is a very emotional and compelling story of love.

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Wolff, Virginia Euwer. 1993. Make Lemonade. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN:0805022287.
 

 

LaVaughn is smart, ambitious, and wants out of the neighborhood where she grew up and desires to get a better education. She begins babysitting for Jolly who is only seventeen and has two children of her own. Jolly loses her job and can no longer pay LaVaughn.  Against her better judgment, LaVaughn follows her heart and helps Jolly in her time of need. She helps her return to school so that she can make life better for herself and her children. Jolly also learns that when life hands you a lemon, you should make lemonade. . Jolly learns with the help of LaVaughn how to survive in tough times.

 

The author shows through the eyes of LaVaughn how tough life can be and how you can learn to cope without giving up. Helping  Jolly in her time of need increases LaVaughn’s growth in character. LaVaughn sets goals for herself and sees that to make a better life for herself there can be limitations only if you set them. She also realizes that others may not see their potential, but as she offers Jolly help, she realizes how much potential Jolly does have  and the room she has for growth. LaVaughn helps Jolly because of her own perseverance and her belief that she can make a better life for herself also. Wolff's humor in the story, as well as the seriuosness of the sexuality issue, draws the reader close to the two girls who are struggling for identity. This is a heart warming story of two teenage girls struggling to make a better life in a rough world.

Smith, Greg Leitich. 2003. Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. New York: Little, Brown, and Company. ISBN: 0316778540.
 

Shohei, Elias, and Honoria have been friends since grade school.  This story is told in a diary format that reveals each character’s thoughts. Each faces very different and extenuating circumstances in their life. Shohei's parents push his Japanese culture on him  which he resents. Elias struggles in the shadow of his older siblings and secretly loves Honoria whom he discovers cares for Shohei.  Honoria, has feelings for Shoehei, and is too busily involved in her science project to notice Elias's feelings.  The science fair almost causes the three to end their friendship, but things work out in the end. Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo help their friendship survive.

 

This humorous real-to-life story causes the reader to remember the difficulties of growing up. Smith’s story is  a refreshing one of  three overachievers whose friendship survives the throngs of betrayal and honesty. All three learn valuable life lessons through their own actions. The reader can relate to all three characters through the author’s use wit and humor. This a wonderfully written story of friendship and honesty.

Lowry, Lois. 1993. The Giver. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 0395645662.
 

Twelve year old Jonas lives in a time of no poverty, no war, and no illness. He eagerly waits the time he is of age to learn the role he will take on as an adult. He will be apprenticed to an adult to learn this role. He learns he will be the Giver of memories in the community and begins working with the current Giver. He does not like the secret he uncovers.  He courageously decides he cannot fulfill the wishes of the community.

 

This is a powerful novel written by Lois Lowry of a society in which one person carries the pain, the fear, the illness and memories of the community. The children anxiously await their assigned roles for their training to be a useful member of the community. Lowry writes in a unique way for the reader to feel the fear and agony of Jonas as her learns more about what his role will entail. His vision of a valuable and successful life was not what the adult members of his society try to force upon him. His decision to leave the community makes the reader rally with him. A wonderfully written fantasy novel everyone should read.

 

This site was created by Karen B. as a graduate student requirement from Texas Woman's University. Summer 2004.