Mar-2-2015

Under the Cover Review: Tsarina

18079793Tsarina
by J. Nelle Patrick
Reviewed by Yasmin K.
East Prairie School, 8th Grade

Natalya Kutepova, a Russian noble, embarks on an extraordinary journey in the novel Tsarina, by J. Nelle Patrick. Set during the Russian Revolution, this historical fiction novel mixes fantasy with historical content to create a thought-provoking story. As the revolution rages on around her, Natalya struggles to protect the Constellation Egg, a magical keepsake created to keep the Romanov family safe. Natalya must team up with the enemy to save Russia’s throne and ends up discovering her special abilities on the way. I loved reading this fast-paced, drama-filled novel. The author uses imagery to create vivid scenes, and the novel flows very well. I would recommend this to grades seven and up.

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Mar-1-2015

Under the Cover Review: The Other Side of Free

download2The Other Side of Free
by Krista Russel
Reviewed by Derek D.
East Prairie School, 7th Grade

The Other Side of Free is an extraordinary book about a runaway slave and his troubles. Jem, a young boy, escapes to Fort Mose to fight for the Spanish King in exchange for his freedom. I recommend this book to middle schoolers who have some kind of prior knowledge of colonial America. But those who are very interested in history might enjoy it even more, because they would have more background knowledge on the events that happen in the book. In addition, there are dates at the start of every chapter, so the reader can find out what was happening at that time in history and match it up with the book. The book always leaves a new problem at the end of every chapter. Some are simple problems and some are major. However, they all have enough suspense to make the reader want to find out what will happen next. The characters all had great traits that made them feel almost real. They were alive. I also enjoyed the tone of the book and how it used different word choices for different moods. Overall, The Other Side of Free is a great read for anyone over fifth grade, as long as they have a reasonable understanding of colonial America.

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Feb-28-2015

Under the Cover Review: Leaving China: An Artists Paints His World War II Childhood

downloadLeaving China: An Artists Paints His World War II Childhood
by James McMullan
Reviewed by Ani S.
East Prairie School, 7th Grade

Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood, by James McMullan, is about the memories of Chinese-born, Irish-Brit James McMullan during World War II. Many may find his childhood background very interesting. I certainly find it hard not to think of McMillan’s ethnic background as not fascinating.

McMillan’s great-grandparents were Christian missionaries in China. His grandparents built an orphanage and a school. Lily, McMillan’s grandmother, would later set up a business where her company sold woven goods such as gloves and handkerchiefs from what girls in the orphanage had woven. James Jr., his grandfather’s son, and his bride would later lead the company and become wealthy.

During the author’s early childhood, his family lived in luxury, but things changed when the Japanese came. Throughout World War II, the Japanese occupied much of China. The restrictions started off as small, but James’ mom decided to leave due to more more serious restrictions being put in place. The rest of the book is about the situation and what happens to his life and family.

I believe the age group of people the book should be marketed to is 5th graders and above. I find the book to be very interesting, and others may find that, too. The illustrations are magnificent. Overall, the book is a great one to read about another perspective on WWII as the author’s childhood was heavily shaped by it.

 

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Feb-27-2015

Under the Cover Review: Ore: The Foundry’s Edge

oreOre: The Foundry’s Edge
by Cam Baity, Benny Zelkowicz
Reviewed by Kieran M.L.
East Prairie School, 7th Grade

I think the book Ore: The Foundry’s Edge is a terrific book. It intertwines different elements of a story to create a rope of powerful figurative writing. Each strand of this rope is another character, descriptive word, or place. The book tells the story of a girl, Phoebe Plumm, whose father is kidnapped, and she and a servant on her estate (Micah) try to save him. She finds a plethora of metallic life underground whose inhabitants call “Mehk.” They befriend Mehkians and continue their perilous journey through the world of living metal. I would say this book would be good for all junior high students, because of its sometimes complex language and gory violence.

 

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Feb-25-2015

Under the Cover Review: Resistance

BookResistance
by Jenna Black
Reviewed by Maeve S.
Old Orchard Junior High School, 8th Grade

In the next Replica novel, Resistance, by Jenna Black, Nadia and Nate continue to fight against Nate’s father, the ruler of Paxco, Chairman Hayes, after the Chairman murdered Nate, and then created a replica of him. Luckily, Nadia and Nate have blackmail over the Chairman. The blackmail is a recording talking about the Chairman’s Artificial Intelligence, Thea, who was experimenting on the Basement Dwellers, the lowest class who live in the Basement, a place where the government supplies free housing and food. If this information got out, the Chairman believed that their would be a civil war. So he agreed to Nate and Nadia’s demands. But, even though Nadia and Nate have the blackmail over the Chairman, he will still try everything to get back at Nate and Nadia. Will Nate and Nadia’s blackmail over the most powerful man in Paxco hold?

This fast-paced dystopian future novel is a good pick if you like science fiction. One strength of this book is that it is very good at filling in details. Readers that have not read the book preceding Resistance will still be able to follow and understand what is going on. A weakness is that, at times, it can be too fast-paced, and some readers may find it hard to follow this rapid sequence of events. Readers that like science fiction and dystopian novels will also like Resistance, by Jenna Black.

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Feb-24-2015

Under the Cover Review: In Real Life

In-Real-LifeIn Real Life
by Cory Doctorow
Reviewed by Serena T.
Old Orchard Junior High School, 8th Grade

In Real Life, written by Cory Doctorow and drawn by Jen Wang, is a graphic novel filled with beautiful illustrations and awesome characters. It starts with a high schooler, named Anda, who is given the chance to play Coarsegold (a massive online multiplayer game). Once she starts playing, she meets a player named Lucy who tells her about how gold farmers make money by illegally selling valuable items and that, if Anda wanted to, she could kill the gold farmers with her and earn real money. Anda agrees to help Lucy get rid of the gold farmers and everything goes fine until Anda befriends a poor Chinese gold farmer named Raymond and tries to help him get better working conditions. Once Lucy finds out everything starts going downhill for Anda until her mom bans her from Coarsegold. Then, one day while Anda is watching TV, she realizes that the problem is a lot bigger than she thought, and if her solution worked, she could help a lot more people than just Raymond. But, will she be able to get Lucy and other people on her side to help the poor gold farmers? Or will their working conditions stay the same? Doctorow’s writing flows smoothly, but unless the reader plays video games it might be harder for them to understand the problems of Anda and other characters. For non-video game players the book is also enjoyable, because it sends a great message about how it is easy to make a positive difference in someone’s life if you try.

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Feb-23-2015

Under the Cover Review: Noggin

download1Noggin
by John Corey Whaley
Reviewed by Alex A.
East Praire School, 8th Grade

Life is difficult for a boy who is constantly living in the past. In the book Noggin by John Corey Whaley, Travis Coates is a sixteen-year-old boy with leukemia. After trying all possible options, Dr. Lloyd Saranson comes to Travis and his family with one of the most insane options they’ve heard: remove Travis’s head and freeze it until a donor body is received. After finally agreeing to follow through with the procedure, Travis takes a “little nap” and wakes up five years later. When Travis wakes up, he finds that he is one of the two people to successfully undergo this surgery and is famous for it. But, Travis also finds out that, while he was stuck in time, everyone around him was moving forward, with or without him. Now, Travis must figure out how to handle being brought back to life and how to regain control of it.

Whaley’s style of writing in this book takes a sad or serious situation and adds a twist of humor to make the situation more light-hearted. Readers will like this book, because it was written in a way that most teenagers can relate to. The author uses the main character to express common teenage problems and to try and connect to the people who read this book. This book seamlessly combined a captivating story and plot with some comedy and other emotional moments that add life to the story. If you like books that have a sense of humor to them, but still want a great story, then you’re going to love this book.

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Feb-22-2015

Under the Cover Review: The Dark Unwinding

mewlThe Dark Unwinding
by Sharon Cameron
Reviewed by Emilie L.
Old Orchard Junior High School, 8th Grade

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron features a young woman, Katherine Tulman, under the strict rule of her aunt in the mid-1800′s. She is sent to her wealthy uncle to proclaim him mentally unstable and collect his riches, even though she would not be the one to receive the benefits. Rather than finding a lunatic, Katherine finds a prodigy, though childish in nature, and a small village of workers paid in the service of her uncle, Frederick Tulman. Throughout the book, she struggles to decide whether to commit her uncle, leave the small village to find a life on her own, and earn her aunt’s favor or whether to save both her uncle and the village from her greedy aunt. The Dark Unwinding offers a story about making mistakes, making the right choice, romance, and a little bit of mystery. Those who like historical fiction or romance novels will enjoy this unique read with well-placed suspenseful moments.

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Feb-22-2015

Under the Cover Review: The One Safe Place

book-coverThe One Safe Place
by Tania Unsworth
Reviewed by Lukas M.
Old Orchard Junior High School, 8th Grade

In The One Safe Place, by Tania Unsworth, the protagonist, Devin, is forced to leave his secluded farm in search of the city. This is no easy feat, considering that the planet has been scorched by the sun and turned into a barren globe of dirt and buildings. When Devin reaches the city, he is told of a place where children can go to be fed, fully clothed, and given a dream life. But when the dark hidden truth of this place comes up, Devin must work with his new friends to save every child from their otherwise inevitable fate. This book is said to have echos from Among the Hidden and The Giver, but it seems to give off more of a Starters vibe. This book has you hooked every moment by giving questions that are not answered until the very end. Although the earlier scenes could have benefited from some more description, it still sends very powerful messages. There were little problems along the route of the book that may set you off the slightest bit, but they were minuscule. The characters are very relatable and mostly down to earth with their hobbies, and there is a lovable main character who is a calm, great hero. In the end, when you put all these aspects together, you get a phenomenal book and a marvelous science fiction novel.

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Feb-20-2015

Under the Cover Review: Zac & Mia

Zac-MiaZac & Mia
by A. J. Betts
Reviewed by Eshana P.
Old Orchard Junior High School, 8th Grade

Zac & Mia, by A. J. Betts, follows two teenagers who meet each other in a hospital after being diagnosed with cancer. Zac, who tries to find faith for his own survival through the statistics of cancer survivors, has been stuck in the hospital with his mother keeping him company for months. Nothing interesting happens until he meets Mia, a fiery personality who has a burning desire to try and keep her life as normal as possible by telling people that her osteosarcoma is only a sprained ankle, after she moves into the room next door. The story revolves around their budding friendship, as well as the complications in their relationship when they meet again, after leaving the hospital to go their separate ways. This unique and quirky story of two teens with cancer delivers plenty of humorous and heart-warming moments, as well as deep and thoughtful parts coming from teens whose lives have been changed drastically after being diagnosed with cancer. Readers who like reading works by authors such as John Green and Rainbow Rowell will enjoy this adorable and happy story.

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