Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some Middle School Reads

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Red Pyramid is the first book in Rick Riordan's new adolescent series Kane Chronicles.  Carter and Sadie Kane are brother and sister who have been raised in different homes since their mother's death.  Carter has been accompanying his Egyptologist father around the world, while Sadie lives with their mother's parents in England.  Each teenager wishes they had the life the other has.  Carter and Sadie are reunited when their father takes them to the British Museum where he causes an explosion and disappears.  The two are questioned by the authorities about their role in the explosion and the disappearance of the Rosetta Stone.  They are rescued by their uncle Amos who divulges a family secret.  Carter and Sadie are direct blood descendants of the last Egyptian pharaohs, and they have an important task:  prevent the ancient god Set from destroying North America.  The book catapults the two protagonists across time and space to ancient Egypt, the Egyptian House of Life, and to modern America.  It's full of suspense, magic, Egyptology, and lots of action to please most middle school boys.  There's some romance too, to please the girls.  I had a hard time with this book.  I wanted to really, really like it, the same way I loved the Percy Jackson series.  But I just couldn't get into this.  I think it was partly because of the dual narration.  I think it's also hard to write the same great story twice.  Teenagers who are part ancient gods who have to save the world has been done by Riordan already.  I know it appeals to my middle school readers though.

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And this one is not only terrific reading, but it's a wonderful resource for modeling good writing!

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the best pieces of nonfiction writing for young people I've ever read.  In Chasing Lincoln's Killer James Swanson paints a vivid, engrossing picture of the Lincoln's assassination and manhunt for James Wilkes Booth.  His description of the actual assassination pulls the reader right into the scene.  My middle school boys especially are glued to the book.  The research is meticulous and my readers are fascinated by the sepia toned pictures of Lincoln, the conspirators, and the newspaper accounts.  One young man even asked if I had a magnifying glass so he could see all the fine print in a newspaper clipping pictured.  Swanson has written an adult book Manhunt about the same subject.  Both are riveting.

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