Bud, Not Buddy

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Reading Range: 5.0 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: Bud Caldwell is an orphan during the Great Depression. He is also an African-American living in Michigan.  His mother died when he was five and he never knew his father. The only things he had left from his life with his mother is a suitcase that contains a bag of rocks, a photograph of his mother as a child and fliers that show Herman E. Calloway and his jazz band. Bud thinks that Herman E. Calloway is his father. He is sent to a foster home where the son picks on him. He fights back and is punished by the mother for hurting the son. They tell him they are going to send him back to the home. He decides he does not want to return there. He escapes from the shed that the family puts him in. He gets his suitcase and goes on his way. He tries to find a librarian that was nice to him to get information about what to do. She is married and gone. He ends up in a shantytown where he is treated nicely by the people there. He helps out and does what he can. He wants to hop a train but he is not able to get on the train. He decides after that he is going to find his father. He does find Calloway but he does not like Bud or believe he is his son. Bud has to try to win him over.
Review: Reading the book, even through it is not explicitly stated, there is a hint that African-Americans were treated like second class citizen. It must have been even harder for children like Bud who did not have any family to protect them. It sounded like there were too many children already living at the home where Bud used to live. It seemed like luck of the draw if they were going to get a foster family that would treat them well or not. The family that Bud lived with already looked down on him because he was an orphan. They expected him to be grateful they even took him into their home. They did not stop to consider that Bud lost everything in his life when his mother died. They did not seem to care about him at all and look at him as a bother. When Bud is on his own, there are examples of how hard it was for a child trying to survive on his own. He had to relay on the kindness of adults yet he had to be weary of them. Would they try to hurt him or help him? Bud kept fighting and trying to make a good life for himself even with everything being against him. I would recommend this book to people who like reading historical fiction. I thought it captured that time period well.
Additional Info:
This book won a Newbury Medal in 2000. The author also won a Coretta Scott King Award in 2000.
Main Characters:
Buddy Caldwell-Bud prefers to be called Bud and not Buddy. He is ten years old and an orphan. He is trying to survive and find his father.

Mr. Herman E. Calloway-Calloway is the band leader. Bud believes he is his father. Calloway does not trust Bud and thinks he is trying to pull a scam. He is also sad because he lost his daughter.

Angela Janet Caldwell-Angela is Bud’s mother. She dies before the story even begins but Bud thinks of her often. The lessons she taught him help him to survive.

Deza Malone-Deza is the girl who teaches Bud how to survive in the shantytown. She teaches him the rules. She also gives him his first kiss.

Lefty Lewis-Lefty is the a man who picks Bud up when he is trying to find his father. He takes him to his daughter’s home to fed him and give him new clothes. He takes him to his father.

Miss Grace Thomas-Grace is the “vocal stylist” in Calloway’s band. She takes care of Bud and tries to get Calloway to accept him.

Theme: Desire to escape, Fate and free will, Inner versus outer strength, Injustice

Bibliographic Info:

Curtis, C. P. (1999). Bud, Not Buddy. New York, NY: Delacorte Press




Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Reading Range: 4.8
Interest Range: MG
Plot:  This story is set during the 1950s and it involves the Takeshima family who are Japanese. The story is told through the eyes of the middle child, Katie. Katie is telling the story of her family but also of her sister, Lynn. The girls are very close and shared everything. Lynn taught Katie to call everything kira-kira, which means glittering in Japanese.  Lynn is the beautiful, smart and popular daughter while Katie is the middle child. They have a Japanese grocery store in Iowa that goes broke because there are not enough Asian people to frequent the store. They moves to Chesterfield, Georgia so the mother and father can work in the chicken hatcheries where Uncle Katsuhisa has gotten them jobs. The parents work very hard to provide a minimal existence for their children. After several years of living in Georgia, Lynn becomes ill. At first,Katie’s parents keep telling her it is because her sister is anemic. Katie has to take over more and more responsibilities as her sister gets sicker. She must care for her little brother, Sam, as her parents work more and more to help take care of Lynn.Katie’s parents finally tell her Lynn is dying. The family has to get ready to say goodbye to Lynn.
Review: This story shows the love that two sisters can have for each other. Katie loves her sister. Her sister is the center of their family. She is the one they think is going to go far. She tries to give them hope even when they are struggling. That is what she meant by kira-kira. There are so many wonderful things in this world. She tries to tell Katie how wonderful she is. The Takeshima family struggles with racism and poverty. The parents work at a chicken hatchery where they are treated like slaves. The owner is cruel to his workers. He works them as hard as he can. It becomes harder for the family when Lynn becomes sick. They have to work even more to pay for her medicine. Lynn knew she was dying in the story. She tries to leave something beyond for her family to have hope after she dies. One of the themes of this story is to still have hope even when things are hard and bleak. This is a tough story to read because there are no easy answers. I would recommend this book to kids who like reading sad yet hopeful stories.
Additional Info:
 This book won the Newbury Medal for literature in 2005.
Main Characters:
Katie Takeshima-Katie is the middle daughter. She is the one who tells the story.
Lynn Takeshima-Lynn is the oldest daughter. She is smart and talented. She develops cancer.
Sam Takeshima-Sam is the youngest son.
Kiyoko Takeshima-Kiyoko is Katie, Sam, and Lynn’s mother. She is delicate and nervous but practical.
Masao Takeshima-Masao is the father of Katie, Lynn and Sam. He is a quiet and thoughtful man.
Uncle Katsuhisa-Katsuhisa is Masao’s brother. He helps the family after they lose their grocery store.

Theme:  Coming of age, Death, Everlasting love, Injustice, Love and sacrifice

Bibliographic Info:

Kadohata, Cynthia. (2004). Kira Kira. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks.


Eight Keys

Author: Suzanne LaFleur
Reading Range: 3.8 (AR BookFinder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR BookFinder)
Plot: Elisa is starting her first year of middle school and already things are not going right. Her locker partner does not like her and starts to bully her. She falls behind in her homework. A new baby moves into her house making it harder for her. She is not getting along with her best friend, Franklin. She discovers a key that opens a door in the upper part of her uncle’s workshop. There she discovers a gift left for her by her dead father. More keys come and open more doors for her allowing her to learn more about her dead parents. The more she learns about her parents leads to her learning more about herself. She does a bad thing that may cause her to lose her friendship with Franklin. Can she repair what she broke?
Review: Elisa has lost both of her parents before she even started school. She lost more then most people have but she discovers she still has a lot left. It was interesting reading the clues her father left for her and the rooms he left. It shows how much love that her parents had for her. She gets to have a connection to her parents that she did not have before. With her going to middle school, it showed her going out of her comfort zone and preparing her to learn about her parents. Learning about her past helped her with her present. She was able to grow strong enough to confront her bully. The girl who is her bully, Amanda, makes her feel uncomfortable because she seems so much older then her and cooler. Elisa is a tomboy. She starts to accept those differences about her and it helps her relationship with Franklin. She was pulling away from Franklin because she felt so babyish with him. I recommend this book to just about any age.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
Elisa-She is starting middle and already she feels she does not fit in. Amanda starts to bully her. She has to get used to the new baby in the house. She comes to love the new baby.
Franklin-He is Elisa’s best friend. They have been friends since they were small.
Uncle Hugh-He is her father’s brother. He took her in after her father died. He is a carpenter.
Aunt Bessie-She is Uncle Hugh’s wife. She offers Elisa a lot of advice.
Amanda-She is Elisa’s locker partner. She does not like Elisa and she bullies her.
Caroline-She was Amanda’s friend. She stops liking her after she starts bullying Elisa. She becomes Elisa’s friend.

Theme: Coming of age, Empowerment, Family, Identity crisis

Bibliographic Info:

LaFleur, S. (2011) Eight Keys. New York: Wendy Lamb Books

Tagline: Eight secrets. Each will unlock the past.

Here Lies Linc

Author: Delia Ray
Reading Range: 5.2 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: MG 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: Linc is starting his first year of real school. He has been homeschooled before this time with other children of professors. His mother, Lottie, is a professor who researches the history of burial customs. She and Linc travel around the country looking at different grave sites. His father passed away when he was younger of a heart attack. They live close to a graveyard so that Lottie can do her research. His history class is given an assignment where they have to document the history of a gravestone. He chosen the local “cursed” angel to write his report on. While researching his report, he becomes friends with a girl named Delaney. She is researching a grave with the last name of Raintree which is the middle name of Linc’s father. They started researching Raintree together and discover this person had a tie to Link’s dead father.
Review: At first glance this book seems to be another story about a boy trying to fit in but it is really about dealing with grief. Lottie studies gravestones but she cannot stand having anything of her husband around. Linc’s father died unexpected leaving a big hole in both Linc and Lottie. Even Delaney is processing grief. Her mother had a baby that was stillborn. Her mother is pregnant again and she marks the days down until that baby is born. She worries this baby will not make it either. It is also about how people find ways to maintain the link with their dead family members. Delaney finds comfort in walking through the baby part of the graveyard and seeing how people still put flowers and toys for their children. Linc finds comfort in discovering an unknown tie to his father. I would recommend this book. Even through it is about grief, it is still humorous.
Additional Info:
The grave that Linc did his report on is based on a real person and real grave. The author researched the history of the angel and the woman who had it built.
Main Characters:
Linc-He is the main character. He is starting his first year of school which happens to be middle school. He was homeschooled before this time.
Lottie-She is Linc’s mother. She is professor of history who specializes in burial customs.
Lincoln-He is Linc’s dad. He is dead during this story but Linc thinks about him often. He is still important to Linc.
Jeeter-He is the graveyard keeper. He is also Linc’s friend and his father’s friend. He helps Linc when he can.
Delaney-She is a new girl at school. She and Linc become friends.

Theme:  Circle of life, Dangers of ignorance, Death,  Lost love

Bibliographic Info:

Ray, D. (2011). Here lies linc. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knofp.


The Hunger Game-Book 1

Author: Suzanne Collins
Reading Range: 5.3 (AR Book Finder)
Interest Range: Grade 7 and Up (School Library Journal)
Plot: Every year in the country of Panem the Hunger Games are held. A boy and a girl are chosen from the Twelve Districts to take part. They are taken the Capitol and they are forced to fight to the death until one is left alive. This year, Katniss Evergreen’s sister Prim is chosen to fight in the Hunger Games for District 12. Katniss volunteers to go in her place to save her life to fight in the Hunger Games. Peeta Mellark is the other tribute chosen to go for their district. As they prepare for their fight in the Hunger Games, they are guided by Haymitch Abernathy. Haymitch the last person in their district to win the Hunger Games. He provides them with advice on how to survive the Hunger Games but also the most important thing-winning fans in the Capitol. It is not only a fight to the death but it is also entertainment for the bored citizens of the Capitol. Katniss not only has to fight to survive but provide a good, entertaining story while doing so.
Review: Many people would have an issue with the violence that is used in this book. This is a book about children who are killing other children. This is done of the entertainment of the Capitol and to punish the 12 Districts. The thing is that the other characters in the book find the violence just as disgusting. Katniss hates killing as does Peeta. They are forced by the society they live in to do this. If people are disgusted by this book, they should be. The point is to find the Hunger Games disgusting and see that it is a tool used to keep the populations of the 12 Districts in their control. This is also a crit of reality television and all of the machination that go on behind the scenes. The tributes are not only fighting each other but they have to fight for ratings. They have to entertain the Capitol otherwise they will be killed off by the game masters.
Additional Info: This is the first book in the Hunger Game series. There have been a number of challenges and bans to keep this book out of different libraries because it is a story about children killing children for entertainment.
Main Characters:
Katniss Everdeen-She is the female tribute from District 12. She cares for her mother and sister. She hunts and sells illegal meat. She volunteered in place of her sister so she did not have to compete.
Peeta Mellark-He is the male tribute from District 12. He works at the bakery. He has been secretly in love with Katniss for years.
Gale Hawthorne-Katniss’ hunting partner. He helps her family.
Haymitch Abernathy-He is the last victor of District 12. He is a drunk. He helps Katniss and Peeta as best he can to win the Hunger Games and get sponsors.
Primrose Everdeen-She is Katniss’ sister. She and their mother are healers.
Rue-She is the female tribute of District 11. Katniss and her fight together for a time in the Hunger Games. She reminds Katniss of her sister.
Cato-He is a career tribute of District 2. He is one of the strongest tributes and considered the person to beat.
Foxface-She is the tribute of District 5. She is one of the most clever tributes.
Thresh-He is the male tribute of District 11.
Cinna-He is Katness’ stylist. He provides emotional support for Katniss.
Effie Trinket-She is chaperone provided by the Capitol for Katniss and Peeta. She draws the tributes and helps take care of them while they are in the Capitol.

Theme: Man against society, Overcoming hardship, Sacrifice

Bibliographic Info:

Collins, S. (2007). The hunger games. New York: Scholastic.


The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie
Reading Range: 4.0 (AR Book Finder)
Interest Range: Young Adult (Follett Library Resources)
Plot:  This story is about a teenage boy named Junior, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junior is a cartoonist and he draws about his experiences. He was born with medical problems.  Junior decides he wants a good education so he chooses to go to the white school off the reservation. He was picked on before but now it gets worse.  The Indians are mad him for leaving and now the whites are not too fond of him either. He has to find a way to survive in his new school.
Review: Although this book is at a reading level of 4.0, it is really written for high school students.  It deals with teenage issues like identity, sex and drugs and alcohol and profanit. Sherman is very funny. I went to an author’s talk he did a number of years ago in Buffalo, New York and he was hilarious. He does present reservation life in a very negative light. Truthfully, there are many problems on reservation and they do need to be address. At sametime, there are some good things about reservation life. This is one of the few popular books written about life on the reservation and people might assume that it is the same for all Native people not realizing that we all have different experiences.
Additional Info: This book can be pretty raunchy because of the language and Junior likes to talk abut mastrubuation a lot. Other people seem to take issue with the fact that a lot of the characters around Junior die due to drugs and alcohol.  Honestly, there are a lot of deaths on Indian reservations due to drugs and alcohol so that part is realistic.
Main Characters:

Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) –Junior is a cartoonist who documents his life. He had several medical issues as a child and still has problems. He is going to an off-reservation school.

Junior’s Mom (Agnes Adams) –Junior considers his mother one of the smartest people he knows. He often wonders what her life would be like if she did not live on the reservation.  She is a former alcoholic.

Junior’s Dad (Arnold Spirit, Sr.) –He is a talented musician but he is an alcoholic.

Mr. P –He is a geometry teacher at the reservation school. He encourages Junior to leave the reservation.

Rowdy –He was Junior’s best friend before Junior start to the white school. He is abused by his father. He fights and is considered very tough. Junior spends the book trying to get Rowdy to forgive him.

Mary –Junior’s sister. She is also known as Mary Run Away. She lives in their basement after high school. She secretly writes romance novels.

Gordy –He becomes Junior’s friend while at Reardan. He teaches Junior many things about life and he calls him out when he needs to.

Penelope –Junior’s crush at his new school. They start to “date.” She is bulimic.

Junior’s Grandma (Grandma Spirit) –Grandma Spirit provides Junior advice when he needs it. She believed in tolerance and accepting people for who they are. She travels to different pow wows.

Theme: Death, Man struggles against society, Overcoming adversity

Bibliographic Info:

Alexie, Sherman . (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian.   New York, NY: Hachette  Book Group.


A Monster Calls-Review

Author:  Patrick Ness
Reading Range: 4.8
Interest Range:   Young Adult (Follett Library)
Plot:  Conor’s mother has cancer.  He is alone trying to deal with that fact.  One night, a monster comes to him and tells him that he will tell him three stories and Conor has to tell him one in return.  This story is about what Conor fears the most otherwise, he will eat him. As the monster tells his stories, Conor discovers that people are more complex then he realizes.  Conor starts to realize that his mother is not as well as she says.  In fact, his mother has been downplaying how sick she really is.  Conor hopes the monster is here to heal his mother but who is the monster really here for?
Review:  This is a hard book because it is talking about how a boy who is trying to deal with dead and dying.  Conor is only thirteen but he has to handle issues that most adults have trouble dealing with.  There are no easy answers in this book.  The monster is both cruel and kind telling Conor the truths he need to let his mother go. Conor is not perfect.  He is trying to find his way through his mother’s illness.  I would recommend this book to people who like stories that are not easy and do not mind crying.
Additional Info:  This book is based on an idea by the author, Siobhan Dowd.  She died of breast cancer before she could write it.  Patrick Ness took the outline she created and wrote the story.
Main Characters:
Conor O’Malley-His mother is sick with cancer.   He has become “the boy whose mother has cancer” at his school.  He hates that.
Conor’s Mother-She has cancer.  She is not truthful with Conor about how sick she really is.
Liam-Conor’s father who lives in American with his new wife and child.
Grandmother-His mother’s mother.  He does not get along with her.  She is caring for Conor while his mother is in the hospital.

Theme: Circle of lifeDeath,Growing up,Isolation, Loss of innocence

Bibliographic Info: Ness, P. (2011). A monster calls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.