Tag Archives: young adult books

BOOK REVIEW: Bomb: The Race to Build-And Steal-The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb

by Andrew Palmer

While I do enjoy reading a great fiction book, I would much rather curl up with non-fiction book and learn something. I realize that not all readers are like that, and young adult readers are often very reluctant to read non-fiction texts. If more writers wrote non-fiction books like this one, more of you would want to join me, and more of our teens would be interested in history.

In the biography in the back of this book, it says that Steve Sheinkin “has dedicated his life to making up for his previous crimes by crafting gripping narratives of American history.” On the surface this is a humorous quip, the reality is this is a sad truth about American history textbooks. Frankly, most of them suck. They do not engage students in any meaningful way, and they never inspire kids to investigate more. Add in an uninspiring history teacher, and it is no wonder you have a society that is apathetic and knows very little about its own history. Sheinkin has another book out that has been fairly popular with some of my students, it is called The Notorious Benedict ArnoldBenedictArnold

In Bomb, Sheinkin takes three different story lines surrounding the development and building of the world’s most dangerous weapon and weaves them together. The first is the Americans trying to build the atomic bomb. The second is the Soviets and their attempts to steal the bomb through spies. I was fascinated with this part of the book. I was excited to see this written into a book for young adults. Sheinkin also includes a little information on the reality of who Stalin was. Young adults need to hear the truth on who the Soviets really were. Finally, the third story line was the Allies attempts to sabotage the German bomb program. This was really interesting, too. The details of these missions are sure to impress any reader.

Bomb is written in narrative non-fiction. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a genre that takes a historical event and tells it like a narrative story. It is such a valuable genre for getting readers to be interested in history. Those of us that are passionate about history know that it is best told in a story format. I wish more authors would write books in this manner for the young adult book market.

Bomb was a 2013 National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book for 2013, a winner of the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award from YALSA-ALA, and it won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for best informational text. Sheinkin should be applauded for his work in this text.

Consider buying a copy from our online store!

Sheinkin

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

BOOK REVIEW: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

EndersGameI read several of the Ender’s series in high school. I was excited to find out that Ender’s Game will come out as a movie on November 1, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit this book. Ender’s Game is a book that will satisfy many young adult readers. For the young reader that likes science fiction, this is a book that cannot be missed.

Ender’s Game is set in a dystopian future on earth. The world has already had one fierce battle with a race of aliens referred to as “buggers.” The world is scared. The International Fleet is created to draft and train the next generation of military leaders to fight the “buggers.”

Ender’s Game is a unique story because the new military leaders in this futuristic world are actually childhood geniuses. To an adult reader, this has an odd feel at times. The characters in this book, especially Ender, have knowledge and wisdom way beyond their years. I found myself trying to remember that this book was written for a young adult audience. The fact that this book was written for young adults is why it matters so much. For a teenager, a challenging part of adolescence is feeling like you don’t have a voice or are not respected by adults. Having a voice requires demonstrating that you actually deserve it. Ender is an intelligent, character-driven leader who shows teens what is required of them to be listened to by adults.

I love the themes in Ender’s Game! Much of this book is about leadership and Ender learning to be a leader. Ender is an advanced kid who is years beyond his peers. Because of this, he has to learn how to deal with bullying from those that are intimidated by his abilities. The discussions that Ender has with himself as he deals with his situations are very valuable to a young adult, especially a student that is “gifted”.

Another theme in the book is the development of the individual. As Ender grows he has to come to terms with the fact that he is a unique individual. Out of the struggles with the other students at battle school, Ender forms an identity that carries him through to his decisions during the climax and the resolution of the story.

Another positive of Ender’s Game is the political themes that run through the book. A reader will think about the relationship between the state, families, and individuals. Ender is a “third.” There are population laws in place. Only the first two children are provided an education. Parents are taxed as they have more children. Religion has been squelched by the international government. People that still practice religion are termed “non-compliant.”

Finally, a lot of the book deals with good versus evil. Ender and his brother, Peter, both walk a fine line between the two throughout the story. The plot events encourage the reader to think a lot about these two concepts and what they mean.

While the book has nothing to do with the topic, Orson Scott Card is an author religious conservatives should be aware of. He has taken much heat for being a defender of traditional marriage and the family. He is also a devout mormon. OrsonScottCard

Buy a copy in our online store!

2 Comments

Filed under Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

Book Review: Thin Wood Walls by David Patneaude

by Andrew Palmer 

ThinWoodWallsSadly, kids and young adults rarely get excited about history. Part of the reason is because history is often not taught to them in a way that engages them. It often comes off as a collection of meaningless dates and facts. As many of us know, history is usually filled with fascinating, engaging stories that illustrate the reality of human nature. I have often found that historical fiction is a way to get a kid to read something on history. David Patneaude should be applauded for his effort with this bookIt is an example of what historical fiction can and should be.

Thin Wood Walls tells the story of a Japanese-American family before and during America’s involvement in World War II. The story is told in the first-person narrative of Joe Hanada, the youngest of two sons in the Hanada family. Joe starts out the story as a normal eleven-year-old kid living in a town near Seattle, Washington. The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and suddenly his family is at the center of scorn of an entire nation.

A couple things stood out to me in this book. First, I loved the fact that it tells the truth about this ugly period of American history. The fact is, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the beloved progressive Democrat, through Executive Order and no congressional approval, tossed 120,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps in the Mountain West. The first-person narrative really drives the point home of how cruel this was. You really get angry reading this as this young person tells his perspective of what is happening to him and to his family. Not only does this family get put in a camp, but the father is sent to another camp away from his family for three years!

Second, whether intentional or not*, I love the theme of being fearful of your government. Joe’s Grandmother has no love for governments. She left Japan because of the government, and as events unfold, she has no faith that the American government can or should be trusted either. It seems to me that many young adults in America are being conditioned to have way too much trust in their government. This book shows just how dangerous governments can be. They are ran by human beings, and human beings can be quite fallible. Our constitution was designed to actually protect us from the government. FDR and other progressives violated the constitution and trampled the civil liberties of these American citizens during this period of American history.

Thin Wood Walls is appropriate for kids as young as upper elementary. The younger reader may need a little background on the subject matter of the text, but I think they could handle the book quite well.

Lexile=620

Buy a copy of Thin Wood Walls in our Amazon Store!

*By all appearances, the author of this book is not a conservative. You can check out his blog on the second amendment where he demonstrates he has absolutely no clue what he is talking about. Guns are a plague, and our founding fathers had many inappropriate ideas, and the second amendment has something to do with muskets. Oh, brother…. He also gave Rachel Maddow’s book 4-stars on Goodreads. I debated not putting this review up, but I decided against it. This book is a good read. It has its place in the young adult library. Unlike many on the left, we know our history.

Leave a comment

Filed under Young Adult Book Reviews

Book Review: Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen

12988089

This is the exciting follow-up to Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 from Glenn Beck‘s Mercury Ink. As I mentioned in my review of that book, I was disappointed with parts of it. With this follow-up I set my expectations low. I am happy to report that this book is everything I expected the first book to be!

When we left Michael in the first book, his mother had been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Hatch and the Elgen. This book is focused on Michael and the other members of the Electroclan going to free Michael’s mother.

One of the best parts of this book is the main character, Michael Vey. Michael is not your typical hero. He struggles with Tourette’s syndrome which often flairs up when he is under stress. At the end of the book, Michael is faced with a dilemma of certain death, or sell out his friends and values to save himself. Michael makes the right choice and faces certain death.

Some will say that Vey is not a believable character because he does not act like a real high school aged student. Maybe, but I tend to find that many teenagers would never make the character driven decisions that Vey makes in this book. We live in a society that seems to view immaturity as a positive. We are led to believe that kids like Michael never exist, or if they do, there is something wrong with them. So, maybe it is a good thing that Vey doesn’t exactly resemble the average high school teenager in America.

One of the things the first book struggled with was that it was poorly edited. Personally, I thought it was poorly written at times, too. This led to plot holes and a story that seemed choppy and forced. The dialogue in this book is still flat at points, but overall this book is a marked improvement from the first one.

I was interested in the science that Evans included in the book. Michael and his fellow Electroclan members all have special electric powers that were the result of a medical device that did not work properly. In this book Evans adds in even more science. The Elgen have figured out how to create genetically modified rats that create energy. It is definitely a unique form of renewable energy, and oddly, it seems to work quite well. The Elgen have these power plants where they put millions of these modified rats into this bowl that acts as a conductor. The feeding of the rats is, well, a little gross, especially when the evil Dr. Hatch tosses in a human.

Speaking of Hatch, Evans has done an excellent job of creating a very evil villain. Hatch seems very real, spooky real at times, and Evans has developed him nicely from the first book. In this one he is even more evil and dangerous than the first one.

I rated this book a five because it kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. The action sequences towards the end of the book are very engaging and entertaining. I enjoy good science fiction that seems believable. I also love a story that has a character that demonstrates integrity and leadership. Michael Vey should be in every middle school library in this country.

Lexile 610

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

Book Review: Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

51jOnun3xbL._SX106_

Before I get into my review (it is a little critical), I want to explain why I think this book series is so important. Michael Vey is published by Mercury Ink. For those of you that don’t know what Mercury Ink is, it is the book imprint of Glenn Beck‘s Mercury Radio Arts. Beck is one of the few conservatives that seem to grasp the connection between culture and politics. The exciting thing about this series is it is expected to be seven books long, and it’s not political at all. This means there is no reason that this book should not be in every middle school library in the country.

Because of the above, I had really high hopes for this book, but I ended up being a little disappointed by it. My biggest complaint would have to be the writing, it’s careless at times.

Michael Vey is a freshman who lives in Idaho with his single mother. Yes, Idaho, the state with the potatoes, and, well, not much else. Trust me, he is there for a good reason. Michael is not quite like the other kids, he has Tourette’s, and there is that peculiar issue of him being able to shock another person with about 1000 volts of electricity if he chooses to. Michael is one of 17 children that have special powers. You are probably wondering why Michael has these powers. Well, you’re going to have to read it to find out, but let’s just say it involves an evil corporation and a plan to take over the world. We’ll leave it at that.

There are some really good aspects of this text. To begin with, it is a really easy read. It has a Lexile level of 500. This makes it accessible to almost every reader at the middle school level and up. The text of the book is very dialogue rich, and that seems to advance the story quickly. Second, it is a new young adult series, and it is not vampires or fantasy!

The main conflict of the story presents the reader with a clear choice between good and evil, and you find yourself rooting for Michael and the other characters involved in the story. It’s about character, Michael is a great kid that lives in a loving single-family home. Finally, the science fiction part of the story is good science fiction, in other words, it seems plausible. It is not some weird alien story that is off-putting to readers that do not like science fiction.

As I said above, the text is sloppy at times. Plot events seem to advance at inappropriate speeds. There are a couple of specific events in the story that make no sense. The final conflict in the story did not add up to me either. It seemed too easy for the characters’ situation. It struck me as a book that was rushed to deadline, or had an editor that just was not very good.

I also struggled with the characters. They appeared a little immature for their age. I have had several students in my classroom (7th grade English) read this, and that does not seem to bother them. So, it is probably just my perception as an adult reader reading a young adult book. Many of my kids have given this book a five-star review.

All in all, this is a good first attempt at a new young adult series, it’s different, and in today’s young adult marketplace different is good. The good news is the second book is outstanding! I will have a review up for that one in the coming weeks.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

Reaching Young Minds Through Literature: Yes We Can!

by Andrew Palmer

Conservatives often wonder how they can make an impact on the youth of America. When it comes to the youth and political ideology conservatives tend to believe that it is inappropriate to force political viewpoints onto children and teens. As educators, we acknowledge it is both unethical and unprofessional to push a political agenda in the classroom (of course, this never stopped many of our college professors and teachers growing up).

Admittedly, all educators have political biases. At a fundamental level, some of these ideas are tied to who we are as people. It is impossible for biases to not bleed through at one point or another in our classrooms, that is human nature. I don’t expect perfection of any teacher, liberal or conservative. I do expect them to operate out of a character ethic that respects the development of the students in their classroom.

The question becomes, how do you expose teens to ideas that we would classify as conservative while still being ethical and professional? I have always believed that if you truly teach a child to think critically, to question with boldness, and to use logic and reason instead of emotion they will arrive at some point on the right side of the American political spectrum. The reality is that many educators in our schools do not teach children to think critically, to question with boldness, and to use logic and reason instead of emotion.

So, we are left with a bit of a quandary.

I have a solution, and one I think we, as conservative teachers, can play a large role in. It is an area I would like to see this website focus on. And it is an area that I am going to need your help with.

I think our solution lies in young-adult literature.

The left is successful in this country often because they prey on both the illiterate and alliterate. If you are wondering, alliteracy is the concept that people can read, they just chose not to. I believe that alliterate people are just as dangerous as illiterate people. At least illiterate people know they aren’t educated. Alliterate people often are arrogant know-it-alls that think they have all the solutions for life although they do not have one piece of evidence to back it up.

If you have ever truly examined a liberal argument, on most issues you will find that it is based upon emotion and feeling. Rarely, are their arguments based on statistics and deep study of an issue.

I have read voraciously my entire life. I probably consume somewhere between fifty and seventy-five books a year. I tend to read a wide range of books. As a middle school English teacher, I require myself to read at least thirty books during the school year and many of these books are the same books my middle school readers read.

It is my hope to turn Conservative Teachers of America into a site for some of the best book reviews for young adult literature in the country. Who are the conservative authors for young adults? What books promote the principles of freedom? What are the young-adult books that tell the American story, both good and bad? What are the books that challenge young adults to think? What are the books that encourage students to develop moral principles? I know they are out there because I have read some of them myself. Once we start to identify these books, we can do our part in our local communities to get these books into young-adult hands.

I need your help to do this. Please consider sending me an email at conservativeteachersofamerica@gmail.com with the subject line “YA Book Reviews” if you are interested in helping out with this project. It is my hope to get as many conservatives (teachers, homeschoolers, parents, high school students, etc.) out there to join in on this. The more reviews the better. You will start to see some of my reviews come up here over the next couple of weeks to get an idea of what I am looking for.

7 Comments

Filed under Young Adult Book Reviews

An interview with young adult author Andrew Klavan

by Andrew Palmer

Popular, young-adult author, Andrew Klavan, took time out of his busy schedule Monday night to answer a few questions. Conservatives must understand that we can no longer ignore popular culture. We can not continue to sit around and talk about just policy and expect people to “get it”. I have read Mr. Klavan’s The Last Thing I RememberIt is an outstanding book! Pro-American, pro-freedom values packaged in a fun, easy-to-read fictional book. If you still have some shopping to do this Christmas consider buying a copy or two of this book for the teens in your life.

Tell me a little bit about the new book that just came out If We Survive?

The book is about four kids who go down to a Central American country on a mercy mission to rebuild a school. Just as they are about to leave there is a violent Communist revolution. Suddenly the whole country is overrun by guys looking to kill Americans. Now faced with danger, these four kids have to find their way back to the border.

I noticed on Amazon.com that the book is listed as part of the Homelanders series. Is this right?

No,  If We Survive is a complete stand alone book. For some reason Amazon has it listed that way. I have tried to get them to fix it, but I have not had any luck.

I saw on your website that there is a chance of a Homelanders movie in the works, any update?

I went back and visited the producers that are doing the movie and they have a draft of the script. The script has been sent into the studio. This project is taking a longer time because there has been some unexpected delays. The writer that is working on this project has been called away to work on another movie that is currently in production. There is no idea on a release date for the film as of yet.

Will there be multiple movies that match up to each book in the series?

There may be multiple movies of the Homelanders. The plan right now appears to be to merge the first three books into one script and leave the fourth book in the series open for a sequel.

Where did your first spark or interest in writing come from?  How were you encouraged and what helped you develop as a writer?  Was it a particular class, teacher, author, parents?

My spark in writing came from the fact that I was a real daydreamer as a kid. I had a strange habit, probably a little different from most kids, I wanted my daydreams to actually make sense. As a result I ended up working on them very hard. Writing was always something I wanted to do. To be honest, I didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home. It was really just a burning passion within myself that kept me at it. When I look back on it I feel like I must have been out of my mind because this is such a tough business to break into.

Tell me some books and authors, other than yourself and your books, that you would recommend for today’s youth.

I wouldn’t want to say the top three books because I think there are is an excellent variety of good books to read. A book that really meant a lot to me when I was a kid was the western Shane by Jack Schaefer. That book was just a really good story about being a boy and the rules of manhood that you look for as you grow up. I was very impressed with the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. She really did an excellent job with those. I think she has an excellent imagination which I think is very rare among today’s writers. There are also a lot of great adventure novels that are great reads that many people have forgotten about. Books like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope that have absolutely outstanding stories. Modern books have gotten a little soft in some respects. Another modern series that I think kids would enjoy is the Rick Riordan series. Oh, and one other book that comes to mind is Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

In your opinion what does it mean to “be a conservative”?

Interestingly enough, I think in America it has a unique meaning because what we are trying to conserve is a revolutionary spirit which is kind of a contradiction in terms. In England when you are a conservative you are really trying to preserve ancient rites of nobleman and an elite class of people. You know, that’s just not true in America. In America, you are trying to preserve this spark of this revolutionary moment. It sort of declared that people have the right to decide their lives for themselves. This is the thing that is so hard to argue especially when you have a media that is on the other side.

Government can do a lot of good things for people, but it can’t do anything for people without compromising their freedom and their property. What you want is a world where nobody falls through the cracks, but you want to make sure that ultimately you can keep the sweat of your brow and you can make your own decisions. So when government starts to tell people what is good for them, they may be doing them a favor, but they are taking away more than they give. So for me, being a conservative in America means to preserve the right of the guy who disagrees with me. I think this is very difficult thing because humans have this instinct to tell one another what to do. A conservatives goal in America should be to “judge not, lest you be judged.”

Have you always been a conservative? If not, what caused the conversion?

No! I grew up in a very liberal household. My brother still doesn’t know what happened to me. The thing that really caused me to change was when the Berlin Wall came down. Only Ronald Reagan said that it would and had predicted that it would. His policies turned the economy around when everybody said they would not. He was constantly derided as a stupid man and a war mongerer. When it turned out that so much of what he said came true I started to reevaluate my positions. I was always a disgruntled liberal, but I didn’t really realize that the people I was taught were evil could actually have a point of view that made sense.

Why do you think conservatives struggle so much with popular culture?

Part of it may be built into our nature. Art tends to be wild and can go off into dark places that offends. Conservatives tend to draw back from that. I think the real truth is that conservatives have been kept out of the arts, almost blacklisted. When you go to the movies and find that your point of view has been derided and denigrated it tends to put you off. You start to think that the movies are not for me, and the books are not to me. So instead you would rather play a videogame or watch a football game.

Leave a comment

Filed under Young Adult Books

Andrew Klavan: Why Cronyism isn’t Capitalism @andrewklavan

Andrew Klavan is an author all conservatives and conservative teachers should be aware of. Why? Because he is a young adult author! His recent YA series, The Homelanders, is full of patriotic ideas and values. If we don’t start communicating to teens through culture, conservatism will die, and America will become something resembling Europe.

1 Comment

Filed under Videos, Young Adult Books

Free-Market Economics for the Young Reader

Tom Woods shared this through his Twitter feed and website last night. We wanted to share it with you. If you don’t know who Tom Woods is, you need to find out.

I get a lot of inquiries regarding books on economics that might be suitable for younger readers, say between sixth and ninth grade. The three titles I recommend are:

(1) Lessons for the Young Economist by Robert P. Murphy. You can read this book for free online, but your student will want a hardcopy. It’s a very attractive, large-size textbook on good-quality paper. Thorough in scope but basic and understandable in exposition.

(2) How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes by Peter D. Schiff (with Andrew J. Schiff). A very accessible book for young people, complete with illustrations and characterized throughout by the clear exposition for which Peter Schiff is well known.

(3) Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury.

Leave a comment

Filed under Economics, Young Adult Books