Author Archives: Laura Losch

Book Review – Savvy by Ingrid Law

Hello everyone! It’s book review time again! But first, let me tell you a story of how participating can make things better. I read this particular book, Savvy, back in 2009. I thought to myself, what a great middle-grades fiction book. It has action, adventure, a little love, a little sci-fi and NO curse words, inappropriate behavior, or other devilish things. So I got to thinking about the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, which I participate in every year at my school. I have heard moans and complains from time to time when a chosen Georgia Children’s Book Award nominated book was just “too” this or “too” that for their students or children and so it was purposely not read for competition preparations. Which brings me back to Savvy. I thought what a great no-complain Reading Bowl book this would be! So I pulled up the website and nominated this book. And you know what? It was chosen. Savvy was one of the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominated books for 2010-2011. And why am I telling you this story and not just reviewing the book, which is probably the real reason you are reading this post at this moment? Because it’s a lesson of – participation really does work! When you nominate a book – it very well could just be accepted. So I urge and encourage all you middle-grades Media Specialists to read, read, read middle-grades fiction and nominate, nominate, nominate when you find a gem. It will only make the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl and more fun and enjoyable experience for you and your students. And if you don’t nominate a book – – don’t come complaining to me — I told you so (yes, I am a mother to a toddler). But on a side note – Hunger Games is on the 2010-2011 list – yeah!!!

And now on to the book review. I loved this book!

Savvy is about a girl named Mississippi, nicknamed Mibs for short, who is awaiting her thirteenth birthday for a special gift. She is awaiting her savvy, a special power each person in the Beaumont family receives when they turn 13. Each family member never knows what the special power or savvy will be until the day of their 13th birthday. Mibs’ brothers have powers such as moving water and harnessing electricity. Her mother has the ability to make everything just perfect. Mibs’ excitement gets cut short when her father is involved in a terrible car accident and falls into a coma. He’s taken to a hospital hundreds of miles away from their home. The morning of Mibs’ 13th birthday she wakes up and believes her savvy is waking things up (her little sister wakes up, the dead turtle wakes up, etc.). So her mission becomes: making it to the hospital to wake up her dad from the coma. But how does a 13-year-old drive hundreds of miles away? Lucky for Mibs, the local preacher’s wife steps in to watch the Beaumont kids and insists on throwing Mibs a church birthday party. While at the church, Mibs spots a bible-delivery man leaving who she believes is heading the way of the hospital. She becomes a stow-away, but not before the preacher’s son and teenage daughter tag along, not to mention two of Mibs’ brothers. And thus begins a journey to save her father. The bible salesman who Mibs stows away with is such a great character and the adventures that hapen along the way keep you reading and engaged. And for the girls reading this? Mibs starts to realize that the preacher’s son may be more interested than just helping her save her dad.

It was a wonderful book. Easy to read, interesting to read, entertaining to read. I highly recommend this book to any students 4th grade and up.

 

Laura Losch

School Library Media Specialist, South Hall Middle School

Flowery Branch, GA

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Book Review: Theodore Boone by John Grisham

Hello everyone! My name is Laura Losch and I’m a Middle School Media Specialist in Hall County. I will be posting from time to time reviews of books I’ve read. I try to read as many middle-grades fiction books as I can – it’s my secret weapon for promoting literacy at my school. So first up, the new middle-grades fiction novel by John Grisham, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. John Grisham. Interest Level: 5-8; Reading Level: 5.2; Lexile Level: 790.

This book is about Theodore Boone, a thirteen-year-old eighth-grader who loves the law. Both his parents are lawyers (Divorce and Real Estate) and he wants to become a famous trial lawyer himself one day. The book centers around a huge murder trial in town – the first murder trial in numerous years. Everyone wants to get in to watch this historic trial. As the trial begins it appears that the murder suspect is guilty of killing his wife. All signs point to it. But late one night, Julio, an El Salvadoran immigrant who Theo knows from volunteering at the local homeless shelter, approaches him about a surprise witness. Julio’s cousin may have witnessed the crime, but Julio’s cousin is an illegal immigrant and doesn’t want to come forward. How can Theo get the prosecution to learn about the surprise witness without exposing Julio’s cousin to immigration? Should Theo just stay out of the situation and let the murder suspect get off scott free or should he stop the trial and expose this new witness who could change everything?

A couple of things right off struck me wrong about this book. I know John Grisham is a great adult writer so I expected a great middle-grades book, but I just found it okay. The first thing that gets me is Theo is thirteen and in the book it says, “Theo did not know of a single thirteen-year-old boy in his class who admitted to having a girlfriend.” Really John Grisham? Every thirteen-year-old boy I know will freely admit to having a girlfriend or liking a girl or thinking a girl’s hot. Where did he research this book? Antarctica?  The second thing I thought was ridiculous was that Theo had a cell phone and in the book says not many kids at his school have their own cell phone. Again, really John Grisham? I think 90% of my school population has a cell phone. They can’t scrap up $2.25 for lunch, but by golly they can text their friends! With those issues being stated, I think Theo should have been a 5th grader. The description of Theo just screams 5th grader to me. I’m not sure if John Grisham didn’t think a 5th grader could be so tech savvy as Theo is in the book or what, but Theo shouldn’t have been thirteen, that’s all I’m saying.

Moving on. Theo acts as a “kid lawyer” to all the kids at school. Helping them understand custody battles, foreclosures, even bankruptcy. I did appreciate that every time a kid came to Theo for help on one of these issues, the topic was clearly defined for the reader. This makes the book an easy read for even a 4th grader. Big law-type descriptions were also always well explained. For example when Theo’s class goes to visit the big murder trial, Theo explains to his class prior what they will be seeing, who the main players of the trial are, what those people will be doing, etc. So it’s nice that the reader will go away from this book with a little more law knowledge from whence they came.

Another puzzling part of the book to me was a character named Omar Chepee. This “thug” is seen hanging around the murder suspect during the trial. Theo knows Omar from other cases as a “strong arm” who doesn’t always follow the law. Throughout the trial Omar watches Theo, follows Theo, gives Theo mean looks, but at the end of the book, we don’t know anything more about Omar. What is the point of Omar Chepee? In fact, the book really leaves you with unanswered questions about a lot of things. I like things to come to a conclusion and this book didn’t really have a conclusion per se.

So for my overall review, this book is an easy read for 4th through 8th grades. The law terminology is clearly defined and explained so the reader never feels left out and goes away from the book knowing a little more than before. The book contains no inappropriate content whatsoever. I think older students will think Theo is “lame” due to the fact that he doesn’t like girls and is the only one with a cell phone. Even though the murder trial is exciting, it’s not that exciting and doesn’t make you want to “keep on reading”. This is not a “I-couldn’t-put-it-down” type of book. But overall – – – okay.