Book Reviews by Teens
Volume 4 - Number 2

UNDER the COVER a happy partnership between Skokie Public Library, local junior high schools, and several book publishers who give us sneak peeks at the newest books for young readers. This is the second issue of the 2009-2010 school year. We call it V4N2 for short.

V4N2 features book reviews written by students from Fairview South and McCracken Middle Schools. All of the titles in this issue of UNDER the COVER are available for checkout at Skokie Public Library. Stop by and browse our shelves for any or all of these books that your friends recommend.

If you missed other issues of UNDER the COVER, you can still find them in print and on the Web! And If you haven’t yet seen V4N1, this year’s first issue of UNDER the COVER, get your hands on a copy now! Three of the books reviewed in that issue won Newbery awards!

Download this issue of UNDER the COVER in its original print format
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Daughters of the Sea: Hannah

Reviewed by Meagan O.
Fairview South School

photoKathryn Lasky’s new novel, Daughters of the Sea: Hannah is about a girl named Hannah Albury who is an orphan at the Boston Home for Little Wanderers. Having recently turned 15 she has to move on with life. Hannah loved being near the sea but Miss Pringle sent her to the middle of the U.S. Eventually though, her poor health got her sent back. Meanwhile, Miss Pringle has been replaced by a different director who sends Hannah to be a scullery girl for a family. The family and the house staff went to Gladrock, which is an island near Boston, for vacation. One night, Hannah was being chased by Lila the daughter, and ended up swimming away.cover While swimming away, Hannah noticed that something was strange about her body. The feeling made her want to swim more and then she felt like she belonged in the sea. But she decided to go back to the Hawleys even though she wanted to be in the sea forever. Hannah wanted to meet Stanish Wheeler who painted for the family. He told her that she had to choose her life of either being a mermaid or human. Hannah learned that one choice can change her life.

I would recommend this book to people who like to read about an orphan that doesn’t get adopted and has to try to move on with her life by getting a job. Also, how an unsuitable girl turns out to be a mermaid and has one choice to choose the rest of her life. Human or mermaid? (Youth Junior High Fiction LAS)

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The Espressologist

Reviewed by Kristine P.
Fairview South School

photoThe book, The Espressologist, is about a teenage girl named Jane Turner who works in a coffee shop. While she works, she writes down coffee drinks in a notebook whenever a customer comes in. She guesses on their personality and then writes it down. She calls her notebook the Espressology. Jane gets this idea of hooking people up based on what type of coffee they drink. coverShe starts hooking up her friends and surprisingly it works! When Jane’s boss, Derek, finds out about this, he gives Jane a promotion and is named the Espressologist and makes her Espressology idea a holiday special where every Friday, they promise the customers their perfect match, but they have to buy something first. This idea works out and many people come pouring in to find their matches. But is Jane forgetting one important person, herself? When it comes down to the last day for her to be an Espressologist, who will she pair herself with?

People that like twisted love stories should definitely read this book. I recommend The Espressologist because it has so many unpredictable outcomes that will leave you craving for more. Hannah learned that one choice can change her life. (Youth Junior High Chick Lit SPR)

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The Eternal Smile

Reviewed by Martin W.
McCracken Middle School

photoHave you ever read a book, and in the middle, had to stop and ask yourself, “Wait, what is this about?” That’s what I did while reading The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim. This graphic novel is a collection of three stories that use stringent morality interrupted by head choppings, greed, and characters, obviously designed to get your sympathy to cover up the horrible plots.

coverIn “Duncan’s Kingdom,” Duncan, a “knight of the royal guard,” sets out to capture the pernicious “frog king,” but a discovery, a mysterious dream, and the omnipresent “brother patchwork” blur the limits of reality. My main beef with this story is the huge amount of gory killing and the inclusion of “snappy cola,” a silly object trying to play a part in this serious story.

The next story, “Gran’pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile,” stars the very greedy Granpa Greenbax, who makes his living scamming the animal population of Frogville and whose greatest ambition is to have a pool full of money deep enough to dive in and not bump his nose on the bottom. This story was also a bit too violent. So again, the killing was a big factor in my dislike, but the greed was too.

The final story in this ramshackle collection is “Urgent Request.” This is the story of Janet Oh, the insignificant office assistant at Commtech Inc. Janet is conned by someone pretending to be “Prince Henry Alembu of the Nigerian royal family.” This is the only story I liked.

Overall, I would recommend this graphic novel more to adults, because of its complexity, which makes it kind of hard to understand for young readers. On a positive note, the illustrations are quite beautiful and really help bring The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim to life. (Youth Junior High Graphic Novel 741.5973 YAN)

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Reviewed by Emi K.
McCracken Middle School

photoWe all know how wonderful it is to FINALLY be able to get something you’ve always longed for. Well, that something for soon-to-be-12 year old Rory Swenson is her 12th birthday.

When Rory finally turns 12, she can do EVERYTHING her parents told her she could at 12. She’s been waiting for this since age 7. From getting a cell phone, to attending a boy-girl party, Rory wrote each and every promise down. These experiences finally become a reality, but each time one gets checked off her list, something always goes wrong. Along the way, Rory meets many interesting people, involves herself in some very strange events, and even comes to the rescue of others. coverDuring one strange event, a lady comes along and tells Rory something that sticks in her mind throughout the entire book. Will Rory survive being 12, even when everything goes completely off course? Is a good outcome even possible?

Finally by Wendy Mass is a humorous, shocking story of your wishes gone amiss. I DEFINITELY recommend this book to girls ages 10 to 13. Overall, Finally is an extraordinary novel, similar to all books by Wendy Mass. This novel seriously made me laugh out loud and was very original. I especially enjoyed the connections this book has to every day life. You should really read Finally by Wendy Mass, unless you want to miss out big time! (Youth Fiction MAS)

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The Georges and the Jewels

Reviewed by Diana S.
McCracken Middle School

photoImagine if every day you rode horses. That would be great wouldn’t it? Well, for Abby it’s a dream come true. In The Georges and the Jewels written by Jane Smiley, 7th grader Abby Lovitt helps her dad train and sell horses. All the mares are called Jewel and all the stallions are called George. Abby has never failed to train a horse, but now one she calls Ornery George may be her first failure. Every chance he gets, he bucks her off. With the help of her Uncle Luke, the horse gets even more impossible to ride. On top of that, she is having friend troubles at school, and one of the mares had a foal. coverThen if things couldn’t get worse, she gets suspended from school because of a stolen pearl necklace found in her locker, and the foal’s mother dies. The orphaned foal must now be taken care of by Abby and her mom.

Abby has many things on her mind, from pony shows, to church, to her brother leaving the family. Soon six months goes by, and if Abby’s dad can’t sell Ornery George after six months, the horse will have to be put to sleep. Can Abby train the horse, or will he have to be euthanized? Find out when you read the book!

I really liked this book because I love horses and animal stories. I would recommend this book to students ages 10+ because it was a relatively easy book to read. I hope that you enjoy reading The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley as much as I did. (Youth Fiction SMI)

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How to Steal a Car

Reviewed by Alyssa M.
McCracken Middle School

photoHave you ever stolen a car? Have you ever risked your own life trying to steal a car for money? Well, Kelleigh Monahan did just that in the novel How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman. Kelleigh Monahan is an average teenage girl who spends most of her time with her best friend, Jen, and her odd and shy boyfriend, Will; she’s always doing her best to avoid the relationship troubles of her parents. She never did anything wrong in her life; she was “Miss Perfect”, until this summer. It all started with a man who accidentally dropped his keys in a parking lot while on his way inside Macy’s. Jen and Kelleigh were bored so they decided to take it for a spin. Kelleigh then realized the advantages she could have if she continued stealing cars, forgetting the fact that she could go to jail or even lose her life. Who knew that one little “spin” could create the most thrilling adventures of Kelleigh’s summer break?

coverHow to Steal a Car was a thrilling, suspenseful adventure. It made you feel like you were actually with Kelleigh as she risked her life stealing expensive cars for money or just thrill. However, I felt that the author didn’t make the theme of the story clear. The author also tends to go off topic and talk about things that don’t have to do much with the main idea of the book. What I got out of it was, “Live life to the fullest even though it may contain consequences. You never know what to expect.” But, I also feel that this book can influence children to do bad things, like thinking they can steal a car and possibly get away with it, even though they know it’s bad! I enjoyed the idea of a teenager who goes on adventures stealing cars and forgetting the troubles of her life, but I think the author could’ve made the theme a little clearer!

I would recommend How to Steal a Car to teenagers, ages 13 and up. This book contained some inappropriate actions that might influence children to move in the wrong direction. I would also recommend having this book be approved by your parents before you read it.

All in all, if you enjoy a thrill, reading about interesting tales of teenage lives, and auto theft, How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman would be a perfect book for you! Just make sure you don’t end up turning your summer break into a criminal mishap! (Youth Junior High Fiction HAU)

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Kit Feeny, On the Move

Reviewed by Claire O.
McCracken Middle School

photoMoving is tough for everyone. And Kit Feeny knows that he won’t be able to live without his best friend Arnold. In the graphic novel Kit Feeny, On the Move by Michael Townsend, Kit and Arnold devise a “stupid-awesome” plan, so that the buddies can stay together. Kit believes it’s a flawless scheme, until it backfires, and Arnold gets sent back home. coverKit becomes devastated that he is without a companion to go ninja fishing with, or to accompany him in making cheese ball sculptures. He would never try to replace Arnold, but he must choose between a life of eating cold beans as a hobo, or to try to make new friends.

This graphic novel is satisfactory. It is an easy read, but not incredibly interesting. It is, however, somewhat funny and stays true to its simple concept, and the artwork adds nicely to the story. Kit Feeny, On the Move by Michael Townsend is a short, uncomplicated story that suffices as a quick, amusing read that most people can relate to.
(Youth Graphic Novel 741.5973 KIT)

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The Lonely Hearts Club
Psych Major Syndrome

Both reviewed by Abigail R.
McCracken Middle School

photoThe book The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg is about a girl named Penny Lane Bloom. She has had it with the mean boys at her school! All they do is cause girls grief and pain, and she’s done with them. coverSo she forms the “Lonely Hearts Club” with her as the only member. Soon, her idea turns into a revolution and more than half of the girls in her school have joined! But will the club be able to stay true to the no-dating rule? Or better yet, will Penny be able to?

This book was hilarious! It has just the right amount of wit and spunk without being lame or overwhelming. It also has some interesting plot twists. It isn’t corny (although seeing the title you might think it was) and it is beautifully written. The characters are well developed and funny. I loved this book, and I hope there will be a sequel. All in all, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg is definitely worth the trip to your local library. (Adult Fiction-Teen EUL)

coverThe book Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson is about a girl named Leigh Nolan, who is a freshman at Stiles College. This young psych major has a couple of problems. Her boyfriend Andrew is being weird, and she thinks they’ve grown apart. Andrew’s roommate, Nathan, seems to hate Leigh. But the worst thing of all is that Nathan played the lead in Leigh’s “much-too-friendly” dream. For some reason, she can’t figure out what the dream means, or what Nathan’s problem is. This story has you join Leigh as she tries to figure out the one thing she never really can: her twisted and odd life!

This book was really good. It had an interesting plot line, realistic characters, and the humor came effortlessly. Leigh is a sardonically witted girl, and it’s hard to put this book down! It has a whole bunch of weird twists and some cool facts about psychology mixed in. I was sad when it ended. Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson is simply one you can’t miss. (Youth Junior High Fiction THO)

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Raider’s Ransom

Reviewed by Anguel H.
Fairview South School

photoHow would you live in the 23rd century if England and the surrounding countries were all halfway underwater and no one knew about technology except the Scots? That is where the story takes place. A girl called Lilly Melkun has to undergo a dangerous journey to get back the Prime Minister’s daughter who was stolen by raiders. She has to dress like a boy so no one can notice her during her journey. She also takes a jewel that is a really super advanced computer. This is what she would trade for the Prime Minister’s daughter. Lilly also takes a sea cat that would help her.

coverOn the other side, a raider boy named Zephaniah has to go back to his home village because his father accidentally left him in London during a voyage. Along the way, the two characters meet and get to know each other. Zeph does not tell Lilly that his raider tribe abducted the Prime Minister’s daughter. Zeph and Lilly make the long voyage back to the raider camp to find that the Boss (Zeph’s father) was starting a war against the English. Will Zeph and Lilly stop the war? Will the Prime Minister’s daughter escape? Read Raider’s Ransom to find out.

I would recommend this book to people and kids who like a great adventure story. This book has a good amount of action. It also has a lot of cliff-hangers that couldn’t make me stop reading it until I was forced. Raider’s Ransom is written a little bit differently than other books I have read because some chapters talk in the point of view of Lilly and some talk in the point of view for Zeph. But all together it is a very excellent and fascinating book with surprises to keep you reading. (Youth Fiction DIA)

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Reviewed by Seam L.
McCracken Middle School

photoShiver by Maggie Stiefvater is a love story about a teenage girl named Grace and a wolf named Sam. Every winter Grace looks forward to watching the wolves who live in the woods behind her house. She especially likes one wolf in particular who has sharp, yellow eyes. When Grace was only nine years old, one of the wolves saved her from being attacked by the other wolves. Grace can’t help thinking it was the wolf with the yellow eyes.

coverOne day Grace finds out that a teen has been killed by wolves and that the wolves are being hunted in revenge. When she finds a boy covered in blood, laying on her porch, she recognizes the yellow eyes and knows that he is the wolf she sees in the woods. She learns his name is Sam and that he becomes human during the spring and summer months. Grace and Sam fall in love, but they both know that soon winter will return and Sam may be changed back into a wolf forever. What will happen to their romance?

I recommend this book, especially if you enjoyed reading the Twilight saga, then Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is a book for you. (Youth Junior High Fiction STI and Adult Fiction-Teen STI)

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Reviewed Tenzin W.
McCracken Middle School

photoThis book is a true story about a girl going to middle school, named Raina. The book is mostly about her teeth, which she broke by tripping and falling on her face. She has to go through a ton of operations and many other traumatizing things happen; like an earthquake, school, sports, bad friends, and boy troubles. I recommend this graphic novel for girls 11 to 13. The plot isn’t too complicated, but some things she refers to are from 1991, so those things you may have to figure out.

I liked this book, because it’s a real story, and it’s easy to relate to. It’s not too long or too hard of a book to read, so if you’re looking for a quick read, like for an hour long plane trip, this would be an ideal book. The book spans from 6th grade to the beginning of high school.

coverIn the story, Raina loses her two front teeth by falling flat on her face. She has to go to the orthodontist for medical attention. The dentist puts her teeth in a special cast, and you’d think it would be done with. But no, her teeth seem to have been pushed upward, and now she needs different retainers and braces changed back and forth every week. Imagine seeing the dentist every single week!

Raina also has a 6th grader as a boyfriend, and is happy. Until she meets 7th grader Sean, who she falls head over heels for. So now she has the problem of telling Sammy, the 6th grader, that she doesn’t like him anymore. That gets even harder when Sammy invites her to be his date for the dance.

So, in short, Smile is a very interesting book about a girl and her traumatic life. This book is lenient to girls 11-13, and is a good quick read. Raina Telgemeier also wrote many other books, including The Baby-Sitter’s Club. (Youth Nonfiction 617.6 T)

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The Squire’s Quest

Reviewed by Liam W.
Fairview South School

photoPicture King Arthur’s court, great and valiant knights, feasts of enormous magnitude, minstrels playing their lays of far off lands, and enter Terence. Terence is the squire of Sir Gawain, a husband, and a friend of the king. Yet there is more to him than meets the eye, something that the knights of the round table overlooked. coverTerence is part Faerie, and after six months with no contact from the Otherworld, Terence is restless. With no news from his real home, Terence will face dangerous quests, sinister plots, and the politics of Medieval Europe to regain contact with his lost home.

Gerald Morris has done a wonderful job with his tale The Squire’s Quest, introducing young readers to the misty past of Medieval England, the tales and characters of King Arthur, and exposing readers to Celtic mythology. Morris has successfully written an educational and exciting novel, which captivates the reader, whisking them off to the lands of magic and chivalry. I would happily recommend this book to anyone wishing to dip their feet in some Celtic myth and Arthurian legend, as well as anyone seeking to read a comfortably readable and captivating tale. (Youth Fiction MOR)

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The Time Pirate

Review by Ari B.
McCracken Middle School

photoThe Time Pirate, by Ted Bell, is as much a work of action and adventure as any book you will ever read. Nick McIver, the 12-year-old main character, learns to fly his father’s old Sopwith Camel that had shot down 23 planes in WWI. Then, the evil pirate Billy Blood kidnaps his sister, Kate, and takes her from the year 1940 back to 1781. Nick and his friend Gunner use their Tempus Machina, or time machine, to rescue her from his clutches. But while doing this, the threesome find out about Billy’s scheme that will ruin the American Revolution. While this may seem like a good thing to the loyal Englishman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself had told them that Britain needs the “Yanks” in order to defeat the Axis, 160 years later. Therein lies a problem, because in order for the Americans to come to Britain’s aid, there has to be a United States in the first place.

coverI absolutely loved this book, mostly for three reasons. The first is that I really got a sense of who the characters were and their personalities. Secondly, the history is very accurate, from the description of the fighter planes and U-boats of the day, to the strategic positions of the three armies – the American, French and British – at the Battle of Yorktown. Last but not least, there is enough action packed into this one book to satisfy anyone for a lifetime: gunning down half a squadron of Nazi Messerschmitts, dropping homemade explosives on enemy airfields, battling what is by far the greatest armada of pirate ships in history, and personally conversing with Winston Churchill and George Washington are just some of the adventures that young Nick goes on. Besides, I forgot to mention the swashbuckling! Without a doubt, this is a book that all tween and early teen boys have to read. (Youth Junior High Fiction BEL)

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Twenty Boy Summer

Reviewed by Irene D.
McCracken Middle School

photoIn the book Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, Anna Reilly has only had one wish her whole life, and that’s to kiss Matt Perino (her best friend’s brother). On her 15th birthday, her wish comes true. She and Matt are in love and everything is going exactly as she planned, except for the fact that her best friend Frankie doesn’t know about any of it! They are worried that Frankie won’t approve of their relationship, so they keep it a secret.

coverSince Matt will be leaving for a trip to California, he tells Anna that he will finally tell his sister the truth about their relationship; however Matt tragically dies before he can tell Frankie about his love for Anna. Of course, Anna is heartbroken, but true to her word, she doesn’t tell Frankie that she had been in love with her brother Matt. To help get their minds off of the loss of Matt, Anna and Frankie challenge each other to meet 20 different boys in one summer. Anna agrees to play along, but she doesn’t expect to enjoy herself. She promises herself she will never get over the memory of Matt. Instead, she ends up learning more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Twenty Boy Summer is an honest, emotional book that will never leave your memory. I loved this book so much, that it is now one of my favorites! The author is very good at dialogue and I really got into the vivid characters. The ending was a total page-turner that made me cry! You could read this book over and over… So, does Frankie find out Anna’s secret? Does Anna let go of Matt’s memory? You have to read Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler to find out! (Junior High Fiction OCK)

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Fairview South School: Kristen Godfrey, Media Specialist; John Haley, 8th Grade Core Teacher

McCracken Middle School: Tori Gammeri, Director of Learning Center; Kim Favor, ELP Language Arts/Literature Teacher; Judy Kopp, Assistant Director of Learning Center; Annie Monak, Technology Specialist

Skokie Public Library: Linda Sawyer, Youth Services Programming Coordinator; Ruth Sinker, Youth Services Technology Coordinator