English 8/I Booklist
Reading this year in English
A Midsummer Night's Dreamby William Shakespeare Year Published: ChallengingFrom School Library Journal- Grade 5–9— Opens with a list of characters and a description of the setting. Background information, a short synopsis, famous phrases from the play, and a biographical sketch of Shakespeare are also included. Described as titles for reluctant readers, each slim volume is written in large-sized font and includes full-color illustrations covering between two to five panels per age. All dialogue has been extracted from the original play, which exposes readers to Shakespearean language. Explanatory text boxes judiciously placed throughout the panels enhance readers' understanding of characters, actions, and events. With substantial front and back matter, these adaptations seem best suited for instructional purposes. Additional explanation, discussion, and further reading may be required if young readers are to understand the Shakespearean phrases and interlocking plots as well as the subject matter of these plays: madness, human suffering, suicide, revenge, and murder. However, the books will serve as introductions to the Bard for older, reluctant readers.
Monsterby Walter Dean Myers Year Published: ChallengingFrom School Library Journal- Grade 7 & Up- Steve Harmon, 16, is accused of serving as a lookout for a robbery of a Harlem drugstore. The owner was shot and killed, and now Steve is in prison awaiting trial for murder. From there, he tells about his case and his incarceration. Many elements of this story are familiar, but Myers keeps it fresh and alive by telling it from an unusual perspective. Steve, an amateur filmmaker, recounts his experiences in the form of a movie screenplay. His striking scene-by-scene narrative of how his life has dramatically changed is riveting. Interspersed within the script are diary entries in which the teen vividly describes the nightmarish conditions of his confinement. Myers expertly presents the many facets of his protagonist's character and readers will find themselves feeling both sympathy and repugnance for him. Steve searches deep within his soul to prove to himself that he is not the "monster" the prosecutor presented him as to the jury. Ultimately, he reconnects with his humanity and regains a moral awareness that he had lost. Christopher Myers's superfluous black-and-white drawings are less successful. Their grainy, unfocused look complements the cinematic quality of the text, but they do little to enhance the story. Monster will challenge readers with difficult questions, to which there are no definitive answers. In some respects, the novel is reminiscent of Virginia Walter's Making Up Megaboy (DK Ink, 1998), another book enriched by its ambiguity. Like it, Monster lends itself well to classroom or group discussion. It's an emotionally charged story that readers will find compelling and disturbing. Edward Sullivan, New York Public Library
The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak Year Published: ChallengingFrom School Library Journal- Grade 9 & Up- Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves.
The Giverby Lois Lowrey Year Published: ChallengingFrom School Library Journal- Grade 6-9- In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas's confidence in his comfortable "normal" existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life's work as the Receiver. The Giver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory "back and back and back," teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is "without color, pain, or past." The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with The Giver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time. --Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh