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It’s been a long time since I’ve read some good high school fiction. Artichoke’s Heart was just what I needed. Rosemary Goode is just trying to survive high school. She tries not to get noticed, and comforts herself with food. When one of her mom’s beauty shop clients draws attention to Rosemary’s growing weight, Rosemary knows she needs to make a change, and for the first time in her life, she wants to make a change too.

Artichoke’s Heart has everything–underdog heroine to cheer for, perky cheerleaders to hate, cute “boy next door,” a little drama, a little romance, and a plot that makes you believe that if you had to do high school all over again, just maybe, it could be better.

Cerrito’s first novel is excellent. Ryan is incarcerated for murder. His story is revealed gradually, alternating flashbacks to his life before the murder with present day scenes from his time in Great Oaks School. The tension throughout the book is just perfect, and “what really happened” is revealed at just the right time. This book would be excellent for middle schoolers, and lends itself to many meaningful writing assignments.

Brother lives on his family ranch in Oregon with his four brothers, father and grandparents.  Even though Brother works hard on the ranch, he fears that he doesn’t have the heart of a rancher.  But when his father’s National Guard unit is called up to duty in Iraq, and his brothers are off at school, the responsibility for running the ranch falls to Brother.

This was a wonderful book, perfect for 4th-6th graders.  It’s an excellent example of how Christian values can be portrayed in literature without being preachy, overbearing or fake.  I would love to see the Christian community embrace Parry’s contribution to quality, significant juvenile fiction.

Book Overload

08th October 2009

The stack of books on my desk, waiting to be reviewed, is insurmountable.  I will never get to them all.  So for the sake of time, I need to do a combo post.  Here are the books I’ve been reading the past few weeks.  Most of them have been fantastic:

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf–Two young girls are missing in the woods.  Told through multiple perspectives, the families work to find their girls, and one of the girls, Callie, works to regain her voice.  I had a hard time putting this one down.

Day After Night by Anita Diamant–A fictional account of the October 1945 rescue of Jewish detainees from the Atlit internment camp in Israel.  A grim reminder that the plight of the Jews didn’t end with the surrender of Germany.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam–The autobiographical account of Somaly Mam, who was sold into prostitution in Cambodia as a young girl, was able to escape, and returned to help other girls.  An amazing and heartbreaking story that continues today.

While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty–A college student and her mom try to figure life out.  I love the way Moriarty writes about mother-daughter relationships.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone–A fictional account of Samuel Collier, page to Captain John Smith and his journey to Jamestown.  I read this after having visited Jamestown Settlement.  The book brings the familiar story to life.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick–I can’t believe I didn’t discover this book earlier!  A love of reading and writing saves a dystopic civilization.  Great book.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements–Twin brothers take turns going to school, and in the process, discover who they are as individuals.  Not my favorite by Clements, but well done nonetheless.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan–One of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever read, based on the real journey made by Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they attempted to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914.  Highly recommended.

A compilation of short stories, all in standard Berg format.  Most of them were fine, but not outstanding.  One story was fantastic, and I’d definitely read it again: “How to Make an Apple Pie.”  If you’re an Elizabeth Berg fan, it’s worth checking this book out from the library just to read that one story.  If you’re not a fan, then check it out anyways for an example of her best and funniest writing.

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