Friday, December 20, 2013

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers will make your spine tingle as the protagonist tries to navigate his relationships with other humans, while thinking of the best ways to kidnap them and kill them.  Every social interaction is an internal battle for Jazz, who was raised by the United States’ most notorious serial killer - his father Billy Dent.  Billy took Jazz on nearly every outing and Jazz witnessed almost every one of Billy’s murders.  Billy is now in prison, Jazz’s mother is nowhere to be found, and a new serial killer mimicking Billy’s murders has appeared.  Now, Jazz has a choice to make: use his experience to catch a copycat killer, or follow in his father’s infamous footsteps.  Jazz wants to be a normal teen with a normal life, but with Billy’s voice echoing in his ears, that is far easier said than done.

Readers of titles like Hell’s Horizon and The Escape From Furnace series should enjoy reading I Hunt Killers. This title is best suited for experienced independent readers looking for a riveting read. --Claudio Leon

Lyga, Barry. I Hunt Killers. New York City: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012. Print.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

East Side Dreams by Art Rodriguez

Rodriguez’s heartfelt memoir begins with the night that changed his life and led to his lengthy stay in a juvenile detention facility. Growing up in a Mexican-American family in San Jose, California, Rodriguez had a mother who was seemingly oblivious to his violent antics and a father who believed that physical abuse was the only way to set his children straight. While sometimes providing more detail than needed, Rodriguez’s storytelling makes it easy for the reader to picture his family, his neighborhood and the detention facility where he spent so much time. Rodriguez is clearly proud of the way his life turned out; he left the fighting and trouble-making for a happier life, one with a large family and his own business. Unfortunately, Rodriguez glosses over that process, and it’s never entirely clear what motivated him to turn his life around. Still, this book is likely to be popular with students who ask for books about real people who have spent time in prison.  --Anja Kennedy

Rodriguez, Art. East Side Dreams. San Jose, CA: Dream House Press, 1999. Print.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The 10 Most Outrageous Hoaxes by Judy Coghill

Want to know the truth about the famous haunting in Amityville, NY?  Or about who masterminded the Milli Vanilli scandal?  Then The 10 Most Outrageous Hoaxes is the book for you.  This slim volume is full of background information on some of the most surprising and gutsy hoaxes from the last century.  Each piece of trickery is introduced with a full-page photograph and a few paragraphs of text.  This is followed by a couple of pages illustrated with full-color photographs and sidebars, delving deeper into the hoax.  There are also short sections on mass media pranks and internet legends, as well as other hoaxes to look up.  Front and back matter include a table of contents and a thorough index.  Readers interested in the conspiracies and the unknown will find plenty to digest and discuss here. --Regan Schwartz

Coghill, Judy. The 10 Most Outrageous Hoaxes. Danbury, CT: Scholastic Library Publishing, 2007. Print.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Last Night I Sang To the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Eighteen-year old Zach wakes up to find himself living in a addiction treatment center.  He can’t remember how he got there, but does remember his clinically depressed mother, his alcoholic father, and his violent, abusive brother.  As the story unfolds, Zach narrates in his sad, sometimes Holden Caulfield-esque voice his struggles to feel his feelings and all that he is learning through the group therapy he participates in with adults.  For independent adolescent readers willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, this book offers perspective on the emotional world of a recovering teen alcoholic who is also attempting to heal from trauma.  Readers who appreciate emotional insight and nuance in character development will enjoy this text. Social workers may want to be aware of this one.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Saenz, Benjamin Alire.  Last Night I Sang to the Monster.  El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2012.  Print.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2 Days by L. B. Tillit

Sixteen year old Neema tells her mother that her mom’s boyfriend is touching her and her mom kicks Neema out of their house.  Shocked and seeking safety, Neema goes to her boyfriend’s house and his family reluctantly takes her in.  Neema finds solace in her boyfriend’s arms, misses two days of birth control pills, and realizes several short chapters later that she is now pregnant.  How she handles this situation makes up the rest of the story.  A tightly paced hi-lo alternative for Bluford fans, reading specialists and ELA teachers will want to know about this title for teen girls ready for chapter books and looking to build their stamina.  An interesting compare and contrast on the theme of teen parenthood may be done with Williams-Garcia’s Like Sisters on the Homefront and Porter’s Imani All Mine, as well as Johnson’s The First Part Last.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Tillit, L. B.  2 Days.  Costa Mesa: Saddleback Publishing, 2012.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blueprint for My Girls in Love: 99 Rules for Dating, Relationships, and Intimacy by Yasmin Shiraz

This year has seen an increased demand for books about relationships from girls here at Bronx Hope. Blueprint for My Girls in Love is often exactly what they’re looking for. Author and empowerment speaker Yasmin Shiraz has compiled ninety-nine rules for girls to help them keep their heads up and stay strong in the face of love and dating. Divided into three parts, Dating, Relationships, and Intimacy, Shiraz breaks it down with simple statements from the powerful, rule #12, “Self-love impacts every relationship that you will ever have” to the blunt, rule #32, “A boyfriend that hits you isn’t worth keeping.” For each of her ninety-nine rules, Shiraz describes the rule, includes a related personal anecdote to support the rule, and follows it with what she calls a “blueprint” and “your testimony.” The blueprints are usually one-liners where she models how she will take what she’s experienced and change her actions in the future; “your testimony” includes questions and sentence starters for readers to think about how they can connect their own stories to Shiraz’s rules.  Included in the back of the book is a section on who readers can talk to when they need support and, separately, information about birth control. Recommended for independent reading, especially for girls looking to make sense of their relationships with some straight-forward advice. --Anja Kennedy

Shiraz, Yasmin. Blueprint for My Girls in Love: 99 Rules for Dating, Relationships, and Intimacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. Print.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower

"Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!"  The yellow brick road that leads Dorothy Gale and her friends to the Emerald City of Oz is a beloved cultural icon for many.  Because the works of L. Frank Baum have been adapted countless times, in film, stage, television, book, and comic form, it is also a relatively accessible one.  This Eisner Award-winning graphic offering from Marvel is a whimsical and richly detailed work, designed to bring the land of Oz to a new audience.  

The action of the story follows the novel, with no reference to the famous MGM film, which may throw off some readers.  However, teachers of English may be interested in using this, along with the original and, possibly, the film, to address Common Core reading standards aimed at evaluating content presented in diverse media.  Since L. Frank Baum was also a playwright and stage adaptations of his work are available, it may be a good fit for Passages Academy’s drama unit. --Regan Schwartz

Shanower, Eric. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Adapted from the novel by L. Frank Baum. New York: Marvel, 2011. Print.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Plan B by Charnan Simon

Lucy has the seemingly perfect boyfriend in Luke, a hot athlete who is currently being scouted by a big university.  Her single, working mom has been able to provide a stable and secure life for Lucy who has flourished both academically and socially.  Lucy has earned her mother’s trust and, as she gains independence, she is faced with the challenges of making decisions while alone with Luke.  As the cover of this short novel conveys, an unplanned pregnancy occurs and Lucy is forced to negotiate her options.  While Plan B does not offer readers a resolution, nor the grit reluctant readers frequently seek here at Passages, it does give pre-teen girls a chance to think about and discuss the critical topics of birth control, sex, and unplanned pregnancies. Reading specialists may be interested in using this book with developing readers. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Simon, Charnan.  Plan B.  Minneapolis: Darby Creek, 2011.