36. The Life and Times of Victoria by Dorothy Marshall (224 pages)
37. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (202 pages)
38. The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (189 pages)
39. Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? by Jerry Spinelli (220 pages)
40. There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar (195 pages)
Bold: read it now! It’s great
Italics: run away! It’s awful
Plain Text = various degrees of OK
36. The Life and Times of Victoria by Dorothy Marshall (224 pages) Queen Victoria was perhaps the world's first career woman: a devoted wife and mother that also worked. That job just happened to be helping to run a country. This fascinating, passionate and emotional, yet Victorian, woman reigned a growing empire during the industrial revolution, during one of history's greatest period of change. With her passionate devotion to her family and husband, the Prince Consort Albert, her interest in the sciences, arts, and laboring movements, she defined the era that bears her name. A well-written biography of her life--both personal and professional--and her times, this book's one weakness is its brevity. Grade: A-
"It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say."
"What did he say? I didn't answer. I didn't know. I didn't speak."
37. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (202 pages) Something awful happened at a party, which caused Melinda to call the cops. Now, her friends won't talk to her and she is a social outcast. Melinda slowly begins to slip into depression and muteness. Because she once didn't speak when it mattered, she refuses to speak, to express herself, to speak up for herself. Her struggle against her internal and external worlds (and to make them one) is one of the most beautifully captured stories ever written. Along with S.E. Hinton's seminal classic The Outsiders, this book should be required reading for every high school freshman. Melinda's voice is so frightening, so funny, so sad, so upsetting, so refreshing, and so very, very real that you want to reach through the pages to her, and it is a very rare young adult novel that can so perfectly move you to complete pathos. Amazing book that reaches absolute perfection. Grade: A+
38. The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (189 pages) (reread for teaching)
39. Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? by Jerry Spinelli (220 pages) Greg and Megin are arch-enemies, and also happen to be brother and sister. Megin is a future professional hockey player who works for donuts to bring to her elderly best friend. Greg is bulking up for the love of his life, Jennifer. But when Jennifer moves away, he finds himself with her friend Sara. Will brother and sister ever be able to get along? This very early Spinelli work lacks much of his unique style, original character and plotting, characteristic wit and complexity of theme of his later works. Its ending is quite contrived and lacks the sophistication of his subtle, deep, and beautiful later books. A disappointment, but a decent young adult novel. Grade: C+
40. There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar (195 pages) Bradley is a bad kid. He never does his homework, he doesn't play well with others. Then a new, young guidance councilor, Carla, sees the good in Bradley and helps him to make friends with the new student, Jeff. Sachar's child-like prose helps to capture the difficult world of childhood and being an outsider. A good middle grade read that doesn't quite move beyond average, though it does jerk a few tears. Grade: B-