Monday, October 25, 2010

Summer of the Swans

Storyline - Sara is an ordinary teen whose life is falling apart because her shoes are the wrong color and she's not pretty enough. But when her mentally handicap brother goes missing, she learns about what really matters in life and forgiving others, even when it means admitting you were wrong.

Author -Betsy Byars

Age Group - 9 or 10 and up

Positive - Sara learns a lot about family and what is really important in life. She also learns not to make quick assumptions about people and to forgive when found wrong. Aunt informs Sara about an someone who was consumed with hate for certain people to the day he died and told her not to be like him.

Negative - Sara is a little bit of a brat in the beginning but then she wouldn't have a chance to grow. She tries to justify when she takes revenge on people for her handicapped brother but her aunt tries to tell her that holding on to angry will just consume her life. I think she got this in the end.

Finish - A sweet tale about life and a teenager growing up for childish things to seeing the more important things in life and appreciating family. There is an interesting metaphor at the end about life and what we do with it but I'll leave that for your own interpretation.

Links - None but can learn more at wikipedia

Awards - 1971 Newbery Award winner

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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Adventures of Santa Paws

Storyline - Book 1: Santa Paws - A young puppy looses his mother and siblings so goes on the hunt to look for them. Along the way, he meets nice people who he wishes would take him home with them and saving people and bringing hope to them during the Christmas season. His heroics eventually gets him the name Santa Paws.

Book 2: The Return of Santa Paws - Christmas a year later. Santa Paws and his family is flying to a cabin in the mountains for Christmas when they crash and it is left to Santa Paws and his human kids to find help before it is to late.

Author - Nicholas Edwards

Age Group - 10 and up (The book is a simple read but their are somethings in it like how a woman feels a year after her husband dies and a woman that is living in her car with her children after loosing her job and home that maybe more appropriate and understandable to an older age group.)

Positive - Sweet and charming tale about a dog. Santa Paws likes helping people (mostly because he gets attention) and tries to do the right thing among the town. It was interesting to see how the dog perceived the people and what the people saw of the dog. The things the dog does are miracle like and real dogs doing these type of things this character does have happened. In book 2, the kids and Santa Paws keep fighting even when it gets hard and everything seems lost.

Negative - In book 1,the dog sometimes thinks that the people has abandoned him and wonders if he will ever see them again as the people worry that the dog will think that they abandoned him. This might make kids worry that their dog does think like that and gives them a defense for their case.

Finish - The story was cut though young for me but that is a personal opinion. Younger kids will enjoy the delightful Santa Paws though some of the situations in the book they may not understand. Just on a personal note, when the family goes to a service for the whole town on Christmas meant to make everyone feel welcome no matter their believes, a priest says that "it wasn't about religion, it was about community. It was about neighbors." As being neighbors is all well and good, there is something to say about religion and it being important.  We should definitely be neighborly to others around us because that is how we want others to treat us. With respect. I'm just not sure how true this statement is. Something I need to research for myself. But in the end, it is still a good and sweet book and it has a good Christmas spirit to it, would recommend for kids who love dogs.

Links - None. Some information on Wikipedia and a list of other Santa Paws books.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Shakespeare Stealer Series

Storyline - Book 1: The Shakespeare Stealer -Young, orphan boy whose only known as Widge is told by his new master to steal a play by master playwright Shakespeare. Having no other choice, Widge tries to do so but ends up undercover in the company to steal the play. Eventually he has to make a choice, his master or the only family he has ever known.
Book 3: Shakespeare's Spy- The plague and the queen's dying health is the trouble in the beginning in this book. But when Widge has his fortune told to him, he is very confused and when it is read a second time is worried about if it will come true. Plus, things have been disappearing from the acting company. Mr. Shakespeare's daughter is visiting and Widge begins to lose his heart strings. Soon, news that an old friend is in trouble and Widge starts thinking about writing a play to impress Shakespeare's daughter and help his friend. What is a prentice to do?

Author - Gary Blackwood

Age Group - 12 and up
(This review is mostly about book 3, Shakespeare's Spy, because that is the one I most recently read and book 2 is not covered at all because I didn't read it for some reason)

Positive - Widge is a loyal friend and tries to do the right thing even when he's not sure what it is. The books also teach about how the theatre was back during the rule of Queen Elizabeth and names some classical plays. There is also some other historical factors in the series like a short hand that Widge is particularly good at which the author says is real.

Negative - Fortunetelling, for one, is in book 3 and it ends with Widge thinking everything is decided by fate. He also lies on occasion and helps a man escape from prison so he could get information to help a friend. The book also mentioned about how Catholics were persecuted during Queen Elizabeth's reign and how one of the main characters were hurt by some Catholics in a different acting company but doesn't help the character see in the end that not all Catholic are like that which is why this is in the 'negative' section. The priest we meet in the book is trying to help Catholics (which is good) and hiding from the police but helps Widge lie at least once  There was also very little spying in the book for it to be part of its name.

Finish - The series had a bitter sweet ending that I didn't like. Widge was alone even though he was looking forward to the future but he also believed more in fate and that he couldn't change the predictions that the fortune teller told him. He had gone back to her the last time so he could know the future to avoid future heart aches such as who should he get close to and who not to after being hurt be several characters. The series would have been better without the fortune telling and if Widge had a happier ending. I wish it had been taught that you couldn't know the future and just because you were hurt by something it doesn't mean you should try and avoid people because you might get hurt because would he really trade knowing any of his friends just because they are gone? Also he should learn from his mistakes, like when Widge felt responsible for a friend who got hurt, and try to do differently in the future. Widge and the characters are good and the books can be interesting I just personally wish they ended differently.

Links - Learn more about the series at:,,9780525473206,00.html#

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