The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)

Bibliographic information: The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1). Jonathan Stroud. Miramax, 2003. $17.95. 462p. ISBN-13:  9780786818594.
Summary:  After incurring the wrath of Simon Lovelace, a powerful magician, ten-year old Nathanial, a magician’s apprentice, decides to summon a 5,000 year old djinni named Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace. Bartimaeus could care less what his assignment is, he just wants to get back to the spirit world and be left in peace. The djinni’s sole goal is to get the amulet and then get back at Nathanial for summoning him. Bartimaeus preferred his earlier master, Ptolemy, to Nathanial and takes every opportunity to say so. Although, since this is a rather difficult assignment, Bartimaeus and Nathanial get caught up in a flood of magic, rebellion, and murder that the two have to work together to survive.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 12 and up IL: grade 6 and up
Review: Filled with interesting characters and a plethora of magic, this book will catch your attention and pull you in for a tantalizing ride. The tale is narrated by Bartimaues, a 5,000 year old djinni, who takes sarcastic to a new level. His hilarious script paired with the dark and foreboding tale makes for an intriguing story that is sure to lure you in and you won’t want to wait for the sequels. Stroud’s elaborate descriptions and great details make the images of the story pop into your head. While narrating the story Bartimaeus will make side comments that are numbered and can be found at the bottom of the pages in Chicago style writing. Tweens will get a kick out of the crazy tricks that Bartimaeus and Nathanial pull off together.
Readers’ annotation: Nathanial feels confident enough in his magical powers to summon up a 5,000-year-old djinn, but he is in for a rude awakening.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: The various supernatural monsters in this book would help children fight their fears. Many teens have monsters in their lives that they are afraid of and reading about some will help them cope and get past these fears whether they be make-believe or real.
Issues present: There is magic and supernatural monsters present in this novel that people may object to. It may go against their beliefs and they will not want their children reading such things, however, children use such books to fight their fears against monsters make-believe and real. Also, different viewpoints on religion gives children a broader scope of the world.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Nathanial and Bartimaeus’s characters,
What happens when you summon a 5,000 year old djinni who thinks he’s a know it all?
Genre or subject: Fantasy: magic, djinn/demons, wizards
Readalikes: Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, The Demon Lexicon, Hex Hall, The Golden Compass
Author’s website:
Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature (2006), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2004)
Reviews: Kirkus Review:; School Library Journal:; Booklist:; Publisher’s Weekly:
Why I chose it: I found this book a the list of challenged books while I was working on one of my projects for class and thought I would read it and add it to my collection.


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Gemini Bites by Patrick Bryan

Gemini Bites

Bibliographic information: Gemini Bites. Patrick Ryan. Scholastic Press, 2011. $17.99. 240p. ISBN-13:  9780545221283.
Summary:  Kyle and Judy are twins, who do not get along. Judy is always trying to win against Kyle. It is a large household and takes a lot to get some attention. Kyle has just told his family he is gay. To his relief, the family accepts it and moments later are distracted. Not to be one-upped by Kyle, a few days later Judy tells her family she is born-again and has found God. However, she is met with the same reaction that Kyle got. Later, over dinner, their father tells everyone that they are having a mysterious guest stay with them until the end of the school year. The mysterious guest is a boy, Garret Johnson, from Kyle and Judy’s class, but nobody knows much about him. Kyle gains information from a fellow student who says Garret is a vampire. After moving in, Garret plays on the vampire thing saying he really is one and gradually he starts to take an interest in both Kyle and Judy. Both intrigued by this, they start to compete for his affections.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 14 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: Gemini Bites is a delightful story of sixteen-year-old twins of a family of nine, Judy and Kyle, tend to compete over anything and everything. Kyle is gay, but Judy is born-again. And their newest competition, Garret Johnson, is…a vampire? After moving into their attic, claiming to be a vampire, Garret starts to take an interest in both Judy and Kyle. They can’t figure out whether he is gay, straight, into twins, or if he really is a vampire, but they compete for him anyhow. This book is written so that every chapter alternates between Kyle and Judy in the first person. All of the characters in this book have their own unique personalities that make them easy to remember. Teenagers will have an easy time relating to the language. This is a wonderful story with a twist at the end that may just surprise you. Covering a variety of problems teens may face in life, this book illustrates how you may get through them.
Readers’ annotation: A mysterious character takes up residence in Kyle and Judy’s home claiming to be a vampire, all the while leading them both on. Gay, straight, twinsexual, or vampire? Which one is Garret Johnson?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book encourages teen to be proud of who they are and their sexuality. They do not need to hide behind facades to be excepted by their parents and friends. And they should not hide who they are.
Issues present: Not only is there a couple of gay boys in this book, but one of them claims to be a vampire. People may object to these two things thinking they are wrong and possibly too frightening for children to handle. However, we should be able to encourage children to be who they are and not balk at their sexuality. Also, supernatural monsters in books help children fight their fears in a safe way.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce the twins and Garret’s characters.
Gay, straight, twinsexual, or vampire?
Genre or subject: GLBTQ, twins, relationships
Readalikes:  Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Totally Joe, Boyfriends with Girlfriends, Rainbow Boys
Author’s website: N/A
Awards: Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Debut Fiction Nomination, Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Nomination
Reviews:  Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Review:
Why I chose it: This book had a different way of introducing gays into the book and Ryan threw in a popular topic by using vampires to twist up the story a bit. I couldn’t hold back from reading it.

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Clockwork, or, All Wound Up by Philip Pullman


Bibliographic information: Clockwork, or, All Wound Up. Philip Pullman. Scholastic, 1996. $5.99. 144p. ISBN-13:  9780439856232.
Summary:  In the old day in Germany an apprentice clockmaker named Karl, an innkeeper’s daughter named Gretl, and a writer named Fritz start the gears turning on the story of Clockwork. The townspeople gather the night before the unveiling of the new figure for the town clock, although, Karl has failed to make the figure. Fritz reads his latest story about a local aristocrat, Prince Otto and his son, Prince Florian. When Prince Otto dies on a hunting trip his heart is replaced by clockwork that helps him find his way home. Fritz is at a loss for an ending. However, his story starts to come true when the evil Dr. Kalmenius comes to the tavern, leaving Fritz to run in fright. The Dr. offers Karl a clockwork figure named Sir Ironsoul and Karl accepts.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 10 and up IL: age 12 and up
Review: This is a haunting tale of a writers made up story that ends up becoming a true nightmare. Fritz never expected to see one of the characters from his story in flesh and blood, but when Dr. Kalmenius walks through the door of the tavern, he can’t believe it and runs in terror. Accepting Ironsoul for his apprentice’s clockwork piece was a bad move for Karl. Gretl, in an act of unselfishness saves Ironsoul from death. All of the stories of the characters start to come together to form one story and when they meet in the end it is not what you were expecting at all. This fast-paced nightmare of a tale represents the sacrifices that humanity has taken with becoming mechanical, quite well. You could read it several times over.
Readers’ annotation: What started out as a bedtime story, turns into a real life nightmare.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: We have all had to sacrifice one thing or another in our lives, whether it be small or large, and it is not an easy thing to do. This book lends readers insight into the sacrifices, the good and the bad ones. It lets them know that they are not the only ones who have had to sacrifice something in their lives.
Issues present: This book is quite scary and it has violence. Some people might be against these topics. However, children use such topics in books to help them cope this these things in their daily lives.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce individual characters.
What if the story you thought was fiction became real?
Genre or subject: Science fiction: steampunk
Readalikes: Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Graveyard Book, Leviathan, The Girl in the Steel Corset, Soulless
Author’s website:
Awards: Whitbread Award Nominee for Children’s Book (1996), School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (1998), New York Public Library Best Book of the Year (1998)
Reviews:  Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Kirkus Review:
Why I chose it: This book looked incredibly interesting and I discovered that it was very eery and then wanted to add it to my collection.

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The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

The Halloween Tree

Bibliographic information: The Halloween Tree. Ray Bradbury. Yearling, 1972. $5.50. 145p. ISBN-13:  9780375803017.
Summary:  A group of eight friends, all boys, get all dressed up in their best costumes and head out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night. They soon discover that a ninth Friend, Pipkin, has been taken away on an adventure that could be the end of his life. With the help of a shrouded guy named Moundshroud, the boys chase after their friend across space and through time. Traveling through such places as Ancient Egypt and Greek all the way to Mexico on the Day of the Dead. The origins of Halloween is revealed through their travels, as well as, the role of death and how it has shaped civilization.Will the boys reach Pipkin in time to save him and will he be the same in the end?
Reading level and interest level: RL: ages 10 and up IL: ages 12 and up
Review: Ray Bradbury’s work always has a meaningful core that slaps you in the face and makes you understand things on a whole new level and that is just what The Halloween Tree does. The Halloween Tree represents the influences for the traditions of different cultures have about Halloween and how they all merge into one. Pipkin is taken on a journey of life and death and his friends chase after him trying to keep him alive, along the way they learn the origins of Halloween and how other cultures celebrate the holiday. In the end, each boy gives up a year of his life for Pipkin so that he can live. Children will love this story’s lyrical text and learning about the origins of Halloween.
Readers’ annotation: On the night of Halloween 8 friends are swept away by the devil on a fantastical adventure to chase after a ninth friend who is battling death.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book discusses the death of a friend. Teens can read this book as a way to cope with a friend of theirs who may be struggling with a terminal disease or with a friend who has died. The kids in this book are brave and able to look death in the eye as a way to help their friend through this tough time. This will encourage kids to not be afraid of their situation.
Issues present: Many people may think that this title is too scary for young adults. It mentions death casually and has some scary creatures that could be considered frightening to some. However, children could use this book as a way to fight their fears of death and dying and be able to look at it with a different perspective. Also, they can fight their fears of things that go bump in the night be reading about these courageous kids and their adventures.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce various characters. – especially Pipkin.
Talk about general idea of Halloween, then how it used to be.
Would you take a ride with the devil, Death himself?
Genre or subject: Fantasy: Halloween, death
Readalikes:  A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Secret of the Indian
Author’s website:
Awards: N/A
Reviews:  Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a long known challenged book. Many of his other works are just as likely to be challenged and I wanted to add something of his to my collection, but Fahrenheit 451 is long overdone, so I decided on this one for my collection. Not as many people have heard of it, and it was a favorite movie of mine when I was younger.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Bibliographic information: Divergent. Veronica Roth. Katherine Tegen Books, 2011. $17.99. 487p. ISBN-13:  9780062024022.
Summary: Beatrice lives in Chicago, but a Chicago that is divided into 5 factions. The factions were chosen because people could not agree on how to live their lives and much fighting took place, so each factions chose a certain aspect of the human personality to follow: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). She was born into the Abnegnation, however when each child reaches the age of 16 they get to choose which faction they wish to be a part of. Choosing another faction than the one you are born into means giving up everything in your current life, your family, your friends, and even your name. Beatrice is now 16 and she must choose her future.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 7 and up
Review: In a futuristic world where Chicago is split into 5 distinct factions, Beatrice is at the age where she must choose which faction to be a part of. Written in the first person viewpoint, Beatrice, finds her life filled with action, excitement and danger. Leaving her old life behind she begins her journey to find out who she really is. Roth has no regard for her characters and is ruthless enough that readers should not get attached to any one character. This dystopian novel will attract attention of The Hunger Games fans.
Readers’ annotation: She gave up her name, her family, her friends to be somebody else. Does she know who she is? Who is she really?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book can be used by teens to fight their fears. It covers several aspects that will give them perspective and understanding into their fears that are taking place in their lives. Having a character that is able to persevere even in hard times will encourage teens to continue to persevere in their lives. Also, Tris had to decide for herself what she was going to do with her life and when young adults read this book they will be able to understand that they are reaching the age where they are going to have to choose for themselves as well. Going off to college, picking a career, etc.
Issues present:There is a good amount of violence and the casual use of guns that people might object to. But people have to understand that there is violence and the casual use of guns in the real world. This book is giving them exposure so that they are not as surprised or frightened.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Beatrice’s “Tris” character.
Five factions, one choice.
Pg. 47 starting with “Marcus offers me my knife…” until the end of the page. – her choice is made.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian
Readalikes:  The Hunger Game, The Maze Runner, The Line, The Giver, Delirium, Ship Breaker, Matched, Possession, Bumped
Author’s website:
Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book of 2011 and for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2011), ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012), Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee for Teen Choice Book of the Year (2012), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), DABWAHA (Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hella Authors) for Best Young Adult Romance (2012)
Reviews: Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: Everybody told me to read this, so I did. They said that is was a great dystopian book and I am inclined to believe them.

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The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One

Bibliographic information: The Chosen One. Carol Lynch Williams. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009. $16.95. 213p. ISBN-13:  9780312555115.
Summary: Kyra is a 13-year-old girl who lives in a polygamist community, she has three mothers, one is her biological mother and the other two are considered sister mothers, they are her father’s other wives. Among the three mothers they have produced 20 brothers and sisters for Kyra. Kyra loves her family very much, and is one of the few things holding her back from leaving. Joshua, a friend from another family, has taken an interest in Kyra, who in turn starts to like Joshua. However, the Prophet, who views himself as the son of God, has “seen” Kyra and her Uncle Hyrum getting married, and so they shall. Kyra does not wish to marry her 60-year-old uncle who already has six wives. Joshua says he will marry her instead, but he is kicked out of the community and left to fend for himself out in the desert. Kyra discovers a bookmobile, owned by Patrick, that drives by the community and has taken to reading forbidden books to help her cope and gain a little enjoyment out of life. Finally fed up with her situation Patrick attempts to help Kyra escape the community and her fate of marrying her much older uncle. There escape fails, Kyra is sent back to the community to be punished and Patrick goes missing. In the night Kyra is finally able to escape and is helped by the local authorities from the nearby town.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 7 and up
Review: Written through the first person viewpoint of Kyra, the protagonist, this book tells a story that of a little girl’s life in a polygamist community. We get to see her life in the present with occasional flashbacks into her past to help support her story and give the reader an understanding of why she feels she needs to leave the community. Williams wonderfully expresses her characters so that they feel real enough to be your friend. Unlike a lot of books on cults Williams paints a picture that portrays many aspects of the cult community, rather than stating it is bad. A lot of research went into creating this title. A great read that will leave you wanting more.
Readers’ annotation: Forced to marry her 60-year-old uncle, Kyra has decided it is time to try to escape her community. With the help of the trusty Bookmobile, will she make it?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: Williams does a great job of highlighting Kyra’s feelings and portraying her character so that you can feel what she is going through. This helps the reader to understand that they are not alone in their problems and that there are out there facing the same issues. Having somebody else tell their story will bring light and encourage others to tell their stories.  Also, teens in an analogous situation would be able to relate to Kyra’s situation and not feel so isolated. They will understand that other teens are living with the same harsh conditions and this might encourage them to speak out about their own situation and seek help.
Issues present: This title lends insight into the many aspects that can be found in polygamist communities. A lot of the time you will hear only about the bad that comes with being in such a community, but they are not always just bad. A lot of the time they have a fear of leaving, they don’t want to leave their families that they love, they feel guilt over sinning, and they have a wish to belong. We all have one or more of these feelings in any place of living. This could lead to a great discussion on tolerance and different lifestyles. This book provides  the reader background to a difference in opinion when it comes to religious views. Not everybody practices the same beliefs and it is important to understand that there are many religious views out there, even if some may be more extreme than others.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Kyra’s character.
Pg. 1 the first line. Really catches the reader’s attention.
Pg. 26 second section, the full one – describes the marriage situations.
Genre or subject: Realistic fiction: religion, polygamy, manipulation
Readalikes:  Wither, Sister Wife, Keep Sweet, The Rag and Bone Shop
Author’s website:
Awards: An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2010), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011), TAYSHAS High School Reading List (2010), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2009), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2010) Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)
Reviews: School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: I have never read a book about polygamy before and find the topic quite interesting so I thought I would give this book a go.

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Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List

Bibliographic information: Hate List. Jennifer Brown. Little, Brown and Co, 2009. $16.99. 408p. ISBN-13:  9780316041447.
Summary: Valerie created a Hate List. On the Hate List was the names of all the thing she disliked: people, homework projects, situations, etc. Her boyfriend, Nick decided to help with the Hate List and added the things he hated to it as well. After meeting a new friend, Nick started acting weird and decided to take action to end some of the things he hated with a gun. Valerie was just as surprised as everybody else and to stop Nick from hurting anybody else she threw herself on top of him and, consequently, was shot in the leg. He proceeded to shoot himself in the head. Now that school has started up again and Valerie must go back, she is apprehensive about the reaction she is going to get from her fellow classmates since some see her as a suspect int he shooting, some as a victim, and some as a hero.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 8 and up IL: age 15 and up
Review: This riveting title will hook you from page one and move you to tears. This story is heart-breakingly sad, but has just the right amount of hope thrown in to keep the reader interested. Brown has captured the tragedy of a school shooting accurately and well. Written in the first person view-point of our protagonist, Valerie, this book jumps from the present to the past and is sprinkled with article clippings to add to the real-life effect. The characters are real and young adults will be able to relate to both the characters and the situation. Highly recommended to parents, teachers, and students alike.
Readers’ annotation: The Hate List has the names of everything and everybody that Valerie hated. Her boyfriend decided to bring a gun to school to end some of those names.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book will be able to lend support for any young adult who went through a similar situation. They will know that they are not alone. Even if somebody did not directly go through the same situation, teens will be able to use this book as a tool to show them the effects of bullying and how much others are hurt by it.
Issues present: There is a school shooting that takes place in this novel and people might object to it because they do not want young adults to read this book and either be afraid that it could happen to them or be exposed to the violent nature of it and get any ideas about duplicating the situation. However, people need to realize that this is a very real situation and it will help teens better understand such issues, it will not encourage them to take such actions. The message of the book is pretty clean that shooting up a school is not the way to solve your problems.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Valerie’s character.
Pg. 97 to end of first paragraph on 98. – describes start of shooting.
Pg. 103 starting with “Oh my God, I thought…” to end of first paragraph on 104. – describes Valerie’s heroics.
Passages from pages 97-105 – describes the shooting.
Genre or subject:Realistic fiction: school shooting, death
Readalikes: Give a Boy a Gun, Endgame, Shooter, Just Another Hero
Author’s website:
Awards: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award (2010), The White Ravens (2010), Voya Perfect Ten (2009), ALA Best Books for Young Adults. for Young Adults Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), Louisiana Teen Readers Choice Award, Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award (2012)
Reviews: Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Review:
Why I chose it: I was still in grade school when the Columbine school shooting happened and I thought it would be interesting to read about a school shooting.

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