This contemporary, coming-of-age book is the third in the "Becoming Beka" series by Sarah Anne Sumpolec and is published by Moody Publishers.
The Passage is written for kids ages 13 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness..
Beka struggles with her dad spending time with Gabby. However, that problem is pushed to the back of her mind as she goes to the purity retreat. Lori and Beka worry about what Gretchen will do to them when they get back from spring break, but Gretchen goes out of her way to be nice which confuses the girls. Mark starts spending more time with Beka. The two know the rules of dating set up by Beka's dad but do not seem to be able to follow them. Beka and Josh go to his formal. Mark is not happy about it and spends more time with Beka. Rumors fly that Beka and Mark are having sex. Mark starts to get more physical and Beka comes clean with her dad and breaks up with Mark. Gretchen tells her to come to her party at the beach to discuss all the rumors and the secret of Beka being in the psychiatric hospital. Paul and Josh come with her as she meets with Gretchen but before she can talk her out of telling everyone her secrets, she is attacked and cut with a knife. Paul and Josh find her and call the police and an ambulance. Beka celebrates her birthday with her family, Lori and Josh. She gets a guitar and lessons from her dad and stationery from Josh with a request to write to him when he is in college. On Beka's first day back to school since the attack she remembers who attacked her and eventually ends up telling the police. Josh takes Beka to the prom, Paul takes Tiffany and Lori and Brian go, too. Surprised, Beka is named Junior Queen. Gretchen is upset, and forgetting that she is wearing a microphone, Gretchen admits to orchestrating the attack at the beach. Gretchen gets detention all summer, and Randy goes to jail. Paul graduates and Beka looks forward to a busy summer and spending time with Josh.
Beka's Christianity is a struggle for her. Worry comes to her easier than turning to God, but she is slowly learning. After each bout of unbelief, she returns to God so her faith is increasing. Throughout the whole book, though, the constant theme is her desire for a closer walk with God. Mark claims to be a Christian but seems to see it only as a Sunday morning excuse. Beka's family, Josh and Nancy are portrayed as having a sound, firm belief in God. They admit to not knowing why God allows thing to happen but still choose to put their trust in Him.
Beka's dad is an example of a positive, godly authority in Beka's life. He does his best to trust her even though she continues to make bad choices. He is disappointed with her bad choices but still loves her. Mr. Madison always has time to talk to Beka. He is willing to drop what he is doing when she needs to talk. As Beka starts making wiser decisions, he is proud of her and lets her know.
Three young men attack Beka. As they talk amongst themselves, she realizes that they are only supposed to scare her. But one of the attackers gets angry with Beka and cuts her deeply on her side and then seems to want to rape her. Fortunately, those searching for her interrupt the scene.
Mark continually tries to push Beka into a more physical relationship than she is comfortable with. After a confrontation in which she tells Mark to back off, she leans over and kisses him on the cheek. Later in the story as Mark and Beka disobey their dating rules and meet in secret, Mark confesses his love for her and gives her a kiss. In school, Mark is constantly touching Beka, and at one point, kisses her. At another of their secret meetings, Mark kisses her and tries several times to put his hand up her shirt. Gretchen sees them do this and spreads a rumor that Mark and Beka have had sex. When Beka is upset by the rumor, a girl in her class asks why since everybody has sex. Later, three boys attack Beka, and it seems that at least one of them has the intention of raping her. Fortunately, Paul and Josh interrupt the attack, and all three run away. At the end of the book, Josh takes Beka to prom. Josh has made sure that Beka's dad approves of their date and is reluctant to hold Beka's hand. After Beka is voted Junior Queen, Josh gives her a kiss on the cheek.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
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This first humor, adventure book in the "Penderwicks" series by Jeanne Birdsall is published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Penderwick sisters Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty arrive at their summer rental cottage with their dad and discover it's on the grounds of a lush estate called Arundel. Although they quickly learn to avoid Arundel's owner — an arrogant heiress and single mother named Mrs. Tifton — they meet other kind employees of the estate, and even befriend Mrs. Tifton's son, Jeffery. The children enjoy ballgames and other adventures, all the while trying to stay out of Mrs. Tifton's way. When Mrs. Tifton reaches her wit's end with the kids, she and her obnoxious boyfriend, Dexter, decide to send Jeffery to military school. As the girls prepare to leave for home, they wage one final campaign to save Jeffery from this unwelcome fate.
Mr. Penderwick is a kind, involved father who encourages his girls in their individual activities and listens to their concerns, however silly they may seem. When Jeffery runs away and hides in the Penderwicks' cottage, Mr. Penderwick tries to facilitate conversation between Jeffery and his mother without belittling her authority. (However, one does ponder the whereabouts of Mr. Penderwick when little Batty nearly gets gored by a bull, wanders into the forest or roams the estate alone.) Mrs. Tifton and Dexter demonstrate consistently selfish and authoritarian parenting (although Mrs. Tifton softens a little in the end). Their haughty, nasty comments about the Penderwicks and their plot to send Jeffery away so they can get married make them poor — if not somewhat implausible — authority figures.
Characters use darn and heck a time or two.
Cagney, the gardener, kisses his girlfriend once, and no detail is provided. A few innocent "goodbye" kisses occur when the Penderwicks leave the cottage for their home.
National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature, The New York Times Best Seller List, Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
This drama by Natasha Friend is published by Milkweed Editions and is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Isabelle's mother thinks everything is "fine." The truth is, the death of Isabelle's dad has taken its toll on all of them — and it has manifested itself in Isabelle as an eating disorder. When her mother discovers Isabelle is bulimic, she sends her daughter to an eating disorder and body image therapy group. Isabelle bonds with Ashley Barnum, a girl from her school she has always admired. Rather than helping each other get well, the two binge and purge together. Ultimately, and after some one-on-one therapy, Isabelle realizes she wants to work through her problem, and she takes positive steps toward getting better.
Isabelle's counselor, Trish, is patient and respectful as she helps Isabelle come to terms with her grief and learn to overcome her eating disorder. Isabelle's Aunt Weezy checks in on her and her mother frequently.
Isabelle and her sister decide to celebrate Hanukkah — something they haven't done since their father died. At first, their mother is chagrined, but it proves to help her break through some of her grief.
God's name is used in vain.
Young Adult Winner of the Golden Sower Award, 2007; Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature, 2004
This first fantasy book in the "Princess Power" series by Suzanne Williams is published by HarperCollins Publishers
The Perfectly Proper Prince is written for kids ages 6 to 8. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Sewing, decorating and other princess duties bore Lysandra. She'd rather learn to fight with swords like her cousin, Owen. Lysandra cooks up a scheme to find friends to go on adventures with her: She invites other princesses to try out for a talent show at her palace. When she picks out the three girls she hopes will be her new friends (Fatima, Elena and Tansy), she tells the other princesses she has the plague and the talent show has been cancelled. With the boring girls out of the way, Lysandra, Fatima, Elena and Tansy explore their world and find a prince-turned-frog who has long loved Lysandra's decorous older sister, Gabriella. A royal wedding follows. Fatima, Elena and Tansy return home, vowing to reconvene for other escapades in the future.
Lysandra's mom and dad appear briefly. She asks them if she can host a talent show, and each parent says it's fine if the other approves. Gabriella attempts to keep Lysandra in line by checking up on her, spouting etiquette tips and referring to her favorite book, Courtly Manners and Duties.
Prince Jonathon studies magic under a wizard. Lysandra determines that with the magical abilities she and her new friends possess, their "princess power" will allow them to go anywhere and do anything.
Prince Jerome kisses Gabriella after she agrees to marry him.
This fantasy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson is published by Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, Disney Editions and is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
When the headmaster of St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys puts Peter and his mates on board a ship called the Never Land, the orphans expect bad food, seasickness and hard labor. They never anticipate meeting Molly, a young Starcatcher, or battling pirates in an effort to protect the magical "starstuff" from the wrong people. A vicious, foul-smelling pirate called Black Stache, his crew of savages and a greedy ship's captain all vie for a trunk filled with the powerful starstuff. Meanwhile, Peter helps Molly and her father retrieve the trunk, with the aid of porpoise Starcatchers, mermaids and a flying crocodile named Mr. Grin. This Peter Pan prequel explains how Peter's contact with too much starstuff changes his life forever.
When Molly's father says he prays that no ship can catch them, the captain says, "Praying will no doubt help . . . but so will good seamanship." After Alf (a sailor) saves Peter and his friends, they cheer in gratitude "to Alf and to the Almighty, in that order."
Most of the book's grown-ups — including Captains Slank and Stache, Molly's governess (Mrs. Bumbrake) and the headmaster of St. Norbert's — disdain children and treat them with disrespect and cruelty. Slank and Stache, both selfish treasure-hunters, are equally heartless to their crewmen, whom they consider expendable. Molly's father aims to teach his daughter the family trade of Starcatching, but he also attempts to protect her by putting her on a ship he considers safer than his own. As leader of the group of boys, Peter looks out for his mates and refuses to abandon them when they've been captured. There's mention of pirates drinking rum.
Starstuff — the material from some shooting stars — gives magical (often transforming) power to the people or animals who touch it. The power generally corrupts a person's character: Molly mentions the gods of Greek mythology and Attila the Hun as examples. Thus a secret group of Starcatchers, of which Molly and her father are part, must stop evil people known as The Others from misusing the starstuff. Molly indicates that the war between Starcatchers and The Others is not only being fought on earth. Looking to the heavens, she says there are other "forces out there." After the starstuff turns fish into mermaids, the head mermaid repeatedly refers to it as the "Creator," and she is able to speak telepathically to Peter. Using starstuff, Molly's father turns a bird into a fairy that will take care of Peter.
D---n" is used twice. Many action-packed battles take place, often involving bloodshed.
Peter overhears giggling, squealing and thumping noises made by Mr. Slank and Mrs. Bumbrake that suggest they may be doing something inappropriate. The sails of Stache's ship, known as The Ladies, are shaped like a giant "brassiere" (the book's sketch of the sails resembles a corset). After Peter saves the head mermaid, she kisses him.
The New York Times Best Seller List, 2004; Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, 2004; Publishers Weekly Children's Best Seller, October 2004 and more.
This humor book in the "Ready-to-Read" series by James Howe is published by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Books.
Pinky and Rex and the Double-Dad Weekend is written for kids ages 4 to 9. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Pinky, Rex and their dads can't wait to visit the big outdoors together. Unfortunately, it rains all weekend. The four have fun anyway: They visit a cave, puppet factory, railroad museum, miniature golf course and reptile museum. They also rearrange their hotel room so they can set up their brand new tent and sleep in their sleeping bags. Everyone has a great time, but Pinky and Rex decide the best part was being with their dads.
Pinky's and Rex's dads maintain positive attitudes and a sense of humor even though rain thwarts their campout. They come up with creative activities so they can still have fun with their kids. They also seek the opinions and suggestions of the children as they revise their plans.
This sports fiction book is seventh in the "Chip Hilton Sports" series by Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Clair Bee. It was published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1950, updated by Randall and Cynthia Bee Farley and republished by Broadman & Holman Publishers in 1999.
Pitcher's Duel is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Senior Chip Hilton and his friends on the Big Reds baseball team want to win the state championship — for themselves and for their beloved coach Henry Rockwell. But a manipulative group of community members is just as eager to see them fail and to see Coach Rockwell lose his job. Chip, the coach and the team stand strong against the constant razzing and trickery of their adversaries. During the season, Chip is elected mayor-for-a-day and tries to show some of the aforementioned community leaders the error of their ways. The team's relentless opposition fools Chip into signing an "autograph." They then show that his signature is on a contract, which makes him ineligible to play in the big game. Though the Big Reds lose at state and Rockwell is fired, he promptly receives a job coaching at the college where five of his players, including Chip, plan to study.
Chip gets dressed for church on Sunday morning.
Coach Rockwell, an admired leader by his team, exemplifies dignity and restraint despite constant harassment by a group of locals. Chip is a leader to his friends. His ethics, determination to put a college education ahead of a sports career, respect for his mother and coach, and his self-control on the ball field make him a laudable teenage hero. Chip's mother supports and encourages all of her son's undertakings, reminding him that his late father would have been proud of him. Several community authorities in the book, including the mayor, use their political clout to undermine Coach Rockwell and his team.
None for the book; however, the Chip Hilton Player of the Year Award honors a senior Division I men's player for demonstrating outstanding character, leadership and talent similar to the qualities evident in the 24-book Chip Hilton sports fiction series.
This action/thriller is the second book in the "Alex Rider" series by Anthony Horowitz and is published by the Penguin Group.
Point Blank is written for kids ages 12 to 16. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is an orphan. Three weeks prior to the opening of the first book in this series, Alex's uncle, who had been raising him, died in a car crash. Alex subsequently finds that his uncle had been a secret agent for M16, Britain's premier spy agency. M16 then forces Alex to take his uncle's place in a spy operation. That adventure constitutes the first book in this series.
Alex almost lost his life on his first spy mission, so he is now reluctant to work for M16 again. He wants to enjoy being a teenager. M16 convinces Alex to join them, however, and the young spy is immediately enrolled in an elite, international all-boy prep school called Point Blanc in France. The M16 director, Mr. Blunt, believes that the proprietors of the school, Dr. Grief and Mrs. Stellenbosch, are somehow involved with the mysterious deaths of two famous multi-millionaires.
Alex arrives at the boarding school in the Swiss Alps and realizes the small group of students already there — 14-year-old boys who are sons of wealthy, famous men around the world — are acting like robots. They talk, walk and act exactly the same. Alex finds the real boys locked in jail cells on a hidden floor of the school. The students roaming Point Blanc were cloned from Dr. Grief's DNA 14 years earlier and have been transformed into look-alikes of the real teenagers through plastic surgery. The clones are part of a complex plot to make Dr. Grief the world's ruler. Alex has the information he needs and contacts M16 to come and get him. At the last minute, M16 rescues Alex and helps him free the prisoners.
Alex's parents are dead. So is his uncle, the man who had been raising Alex and was a secret M16 spy. Alex mostly takes care of himself, though he does have a caretaker who is only briefly mentioned and never appears in the book. Also, Mrs. Jones, an older secretary at M16, mothers him as much as she is able. Alan Blunt, the director at M16, is half-heartedly kind to Alex when he wants Alex to go on a mission. Blunt doesn't care about Alex as a person; he only cares about what Alex can do for him. Throughout most of the book, Alex takes responsibility for what is happening around him and acts on his own authority. He is basically a 14-year-old living his life in one adult situation after another. Most, but not all, of the actual adults in this story are caricatures — blundering fools, bad guys or both.
Although there are no belief systems per se, the story is definitely about good vs. evil. While some of the good-guy characters have flaws, the bad-guy characters are evil.
The narrator, a base operator and M16 director Blunt use the word h--- a few times, and Alex uses the word d--n in his thoughts.
A maintenance man is described as lying at the bottom of the Hudson River with a knife in his back and a concrete block tied to his foot. A multi-millionaire businessman steps into a rigged elevator shaft and falls to his death. A group of teenagers on a hunting spree wound several animals and leave them to die. Alex is shot at with a shotgun by these same teens but not hit. In retaliation, Alex swings a shotgun and hits one of the boys in the back, knocking him to the ground. Dr. Grief shoots a plastic surgeon in the forehead with a handgun. Alex is viciously hit in the stomach by Dr. Grief's bodybuilding personal assistant, Mrs. Stellenbosch. Dr. Grief describes how he is going to kill Alex by dissecting him alive. Alex falls from the top of a moving train, bouncing twice on the ground and landing in a wire fence. Blood pours from a gash in his head. Guards are shot and killed during an escape attempt. Alex and Mrs. Stellenbosch pummel each other in a drawn-out fight. Mrs. Stellenbosch is shot and killed, and she crashes through a window. Alex throws himself off a snowmobile that flies from a ski jump and slams into a helicopter in which Dr. Grief is escaping. The helicopter blows up with Grief inside.
This first historical fantasy volume in "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation" series by M.T. Anderson is published by Candlewick Press, an imprint of Walker Books.
The Pox Party is written for kids 14 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
In pre-Revolutionary America, Octavian and his mother eat the best food and wear expensive clothes. He is receiving an excellent education and is trained in the arts. They live in a house (known as the Novanglian College of Lucidity) run by scientists who theorize and conduct wild experiments, some having to do with smallpox. One day, Octavian discovers that he and his mother are one of the experiments. The scientists intend to discover whether people of African descent, like Octavian and his mother, are a distinct species from humans. After Octavian's mother's death and brutal dissection, the boy flees his captors in an effort to discover the true nature of freedom.
The book contains many references to Christianity, the Bible and God. Sizeable passages from the books of Exodus, Daniel and Psalms appear, nearly all in relation to slavery and oppression. The College of Lucidity supposedly exists to glorify the Creator, and Octavian is trained in Christianity — but those who teach him are the scientists who fail to value his freedom and humanity. Octavian is forgiving of the injustices he suffers, and he prays for the men who tormented him and his mother, as well as for others. Octavian's friend, Pvt. Evidence Goring, demonstrates a genuine Christian lifestyle (including prayer and Scripture in his letters home) and deep compassion for Octavian.
Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe initially provide for the physical needs of Octavian and his mother. As soon as their experiment is jeopardized, however, the men grow hateful and torture their test subjects. Octavian's mother enjoys the admiration and attention of the scientists and generally seems only mildly interested in her own son. Only one older scientist, Dr. Tresusis, seems to respect Octavian as a person. He stealthily points out the injustices Octavian suffers and eventually puts his own life in jeopardy to help the boy escape the other scientists.
To keep their funding, some of the researchers conclude "scientifically" that blacks are an inferior species to whites.
S--- and d--n appear once. A customs inspector is tarred and feathered. A description is included of his burns, wounds and efforts to cover his exposed pubic area. The narrative also includes bloody descriptions of war and details the gruesome atrocities committed against Octavian and his mother.
Initially, Octavian's mother is a pregnant (unwed) slave girl. The scientists sketch her nude, when she is 16, for their research. They ogle her chest and vie for her attention, which she seems to enjoy. When a wealthy man who can support the struggling College of Lucidity begins lusting after her and wants to take her as his mistress, she realizes (ala My Fair Lady) that no one actually considers her anything more than a commodity. Octavian's friend Bono agrees to help Octavian if the boy will read to him from sexually explicit texts. (A bit of the content of these is included in the narrative.)
National Book Award Winner, 2006
Note: During a pox party, held by the scientists, guests stay for an extended period of time — dining, dancing and mingling. When guests arrive, they are injected with the small pox virus. The idea is to create an enjoyable experience so guests will linger, while exposing the body to the virus. By doing this, scientists hoped to avoid more serious outbreaks of the disease later.
This second futuristic fantasy book in the "Uglies" series by Scott Westerfeld is published by Thorndike Press, an imprint of Thomson-Gale.
Pretties is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
In Tally Youngblood's futuristic world, the society leaders provide everyone with surgery that makes them "pretty" when they turn 16. Tally contentedly parties with other attractive people until she realizes another component to prettiness: The surgery also alters people's minds by rendering them complacent and obedient. Friends from her past life as an Ugly smuggle her pills that will supposedly cure her of her mental fog, and she and her boyfriend, Zane, along with several other pretties, escape from Pretty Town. When Tally gets separated from her friends, she has to find her way back to them through the wilderness. Ultimately, an old friend of Tally's from Pretty Town — who now works for the leaders of their society — forces Tally to become a "Special" operative.
For whatever reason, parents are rarely part of the world in which Tally lives. The adults she encounters are either the enemy (special forces that keep everyone pretty and unaware) or clueless middle-age adults called "middle pretties." Because pretties are basically indestructible physically — and because they are simple and vain — there's no need for the Specials to keep them from drinking and partying to their hearts' content. Tally's childhood friend David had parents; they were protective of him and strove to find a cure for the "pretty" mind control.
The author clearly sends the message about the threat some types of technology and energy consumption may pose to the environment. A primitive tribe of people believes Tally is a god because of her beauty — beauty that was actually attained through surgery.
Profanities include p---ed, crap, d--n and what the h---.
Tally and Zane kiss a number of times. Although sex isn't mentioned, Tally seems to be sleeping at Zane's place for weeks or months at a time.
The Pretties frequently use alcohol. Tally's friend cuts herself in an effort to gain mental clarity. Zane has Tally take calorie purge pills to think more sharply. In light of these actions, parents may wish to discuss the abuse of substances or any unnatural behaviors that can alter the mind or body.
Note: The first book in this series, Uglies, won the New York Public Library's "Books for the Teen Age," 2005; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2005; the YALSA Best Books For Young Adults, 2006; and more.
This historical romance by Jane Austen is published by Penguin Group and is written for adults but is sometimes studied by high school classes.
Though she knows that 18th-century women must — above all else — marry well, Elizabeth Bennet is a spirited thinker put off by social conventions. She's happy when her sister Jane falls for the wealthy Mr. Bingley, but Elizabeth and Bingley's prideful friend, Darcy, clash. As the tale unfolds, several of Elizabeth's other sisters experience the highs and lows of relationships. Meanwhile, debates and misunderstandings fuel Elizabeth's distain for Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. When she finally learns the truth about Darcy's character and discovers that his actions have restored her family's honor, Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice against his pride and realizes she loves him.
Mr. Collins, a cousin who will inherit the Bennet estate after Mr. Bennet's death, is a self-important clergyman, clueless about the way he presents himself to others. Noblewoman Lady Catherine de Bourgh is his patron. After Lydia Bennet scandalously runs off with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins advises Mr. Bennet to forgive his daughter but never to see or speak of the couple. Mr. Bennet scoffs at Collins' view of "Christian forgiveness." Aside from the mention of some characters attending church, little is said about religion — though critics note that Pride and Prejudice focuses on issues important to Christians, including love and family relationships.
Mr. Bennet remains fairly detached from his family's goings-on. Some critics attribute Lydia's family-disgracing relationship with Mr. Wickham to Mr. Bennet's lack of attention to his daughters' activities. Mrs. Bennet is single-minded — she wants to see that her daughters marry well. In her efforts to accomplish this, she makes foolish remarks at every turn, frequently putting off the people she means to impress. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet's brother and sister-in-law, offer wisdom, comfort and companionship to the girls, playing the role of surrogate parents in many instances. Lady Catherine de Bourgh demonstrates her contempt for the lower-class Bennets by first criticizing the girls' upbringing and, later, hatefully confronting Elizabeth about marrying Darcy.
Most of the characters believe that nothing matters more than social class. Characters threaten, criticize, ostracize, flatter, marry, venerate and despise other characters, all for the sake of maintaining or elevating their status in society.
The Lord's name is used in vain several times.
When Lydia Bennet runs off with Mr. Wickham, she and her entire family face dishonor unless the couple are married. (Her indiscretion is assumed but never mentioned outright.)
Notes: In a 2003 BBC Big Read poll of the "UK's Best-loved Books," Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, was ranked No. 2 behind The Lord of the Rings.
Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review.
This modern fairy tale by Shannon Hale is published by Bloomsbury USA and is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Life is quiet in Miri's mining community until a delegate from the lowlands arrives and announces the prince will marry a girl from her region. Since the girls on Miri's mountain are considered rough and uncultured, the lowlanders establish a year-long preparatory princess academy, which every girl between ages 13 and 18 must attend. Initially, Miri and her friends are reluctant to go; the academy is located three hours from home and run by a harsh woman named Olana. But as Miri discovers the joy of learning, she begins to wonder what it might be like to be a princess. Amid events like sparring with her teacher, meeting the prince and surviving a bandit attack, Miri must decide whether she wants to become royalty or remain loyal to her mountain home.
None, though the mountain people believe in a "creator god."
Miri's affectionate father is extremely protective of her and won't let her work in the mines like the others. She later learns it is because Miri's mother died in a mining accident. The adults in town behave with a respectful, parental demeanor toward all the children. Olana initially provides harsh punishments for the academy girls, including hitting them and locking them in a rat-infested closet for hours. Although she softens a bit and earns the girls' respect, she ultimately admits that she lied to the girls (telling them the princess would get a fancy house for her family) to get them to work harder.
After days of fasting, the priests of the creator god perform a rite that helps them decide which region of the kingdom the future princess will come from.
Bandits hold the girls captive in the academy for days, tying them up and injuring those who rebel.
Peder kisses Miri on the cheek.
Newbery Honor Book, 2006; ALA Notable Children's Book, 2007; Beehive Award, 2007; New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing; Publishers Weekly Cuffie Awards, 2005; and more.
This fantasy adventure book by George MacDonald was originally published in 1872 by Strahan & Co. It currently is available online and is in the public domain so various publishers have re-published it.
The Princess and the Goblin is written for kids ages 8 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness..
Eight-year-old Princess Irene lives in a society of sun dwellers (those who live above the ground) and goblins (those who live underground). Although they are all people, those who live underground have evolved into hideous looking individuals because of the lack of sun. The goblins sleep during the day and only come out at night. Because of this, sun dwellers make sure their doors are locked and they are safely inside by night. After Princess Irene meets her great-great-great grandmother (called her grandmother), she learns that few others can see her relative and most don't believe she's real even when looking at her. Princess Irene meets a 12-year-old miner named Curdie, when he rescues her from goblins after Irene and her nurse stay out on the mountain after dark. Princess Irene returns the favor and rescues Curdie after he is captured by goblins by following an almost invisible thread her grandmother made for her. Yet when Irene tries to introduce Curdie to her grandmother, Curdie cannot see her. When Curdie's parents talk to him about the incident, he feels ashamed and realizes that even if he can't see something, it doesn't mean someone else can't see it. In time, Curdie figures out that the goblins intend to kidnap Irene and force her to marry their goblin prince. Unable to warn Irene of the impending danger, Curdie, with the help of Irene's grandmother, defeats the attacking hordes and finds Irene safe in his mother's arms. He no longer doubts Irene's stories.
Although not overt, Christian principles are throughout this book. For example, the invisible thread that Irene's grandmother gives Irene helps her to walk forward in confidence at her grandmother's bidding. This is akin to the way the Holy Spirit asks us to trust His direction as we move forward in each aspect of our lives. Also, Irene's grandmother allows herself to be seen only by those who have a strong enough faith to believe that she does exist. Many spiritual applications on topics such as faith, lack of faith and belief are laced throughout the story.
The king is a wise and knowing father and ruler. He spends his time in defense of his people because he loves them and his daughter. He knows about Irene's grandmother and believes in her. Irene's nurse, Lootie, loves the princess, but she does not believe Irene's stories. Lootie is guided only by what she can see. Eventually, Irene must confront Lootie about this and threaten to tell her father. The gentlemen-at-arms are fully devoted to the king and are thus completely devoted to the princess. They live their lives to serve the royal family.
Irene's nurse believes only in what she can see, but that is not perceived as the correct way to live life. The goblins believe in promoting themselves and getting back the respect they feel they deserve from others, by force if necessary. The weaker they are, the stronger they think they are; they also feel that everyone is inferior to them. The author lets the reader see that this materialistic way of thinking about life is not the best way to live life.
The mother goblins stomps her child's foot as a discipline measure, which causes the child to scream. In fights with the goblins, Curdie learns that their feet are soft, but the rest of their bodies are too strong to hurt them. Goblins attack and scare people, and Curdie battles them with rhymes and by stomping their feet. The goblins plan to murder the miners by flooding the mine. The gentlemen-at-arms shoot Curdie in the leg with an arrow when they think he is one of the goblins' pets.
Princess Irene gives Curdie a kiss in thanks for his protection and bravery. The kiss is innocent and watched by her father.
This first pre-teen/teen chick-lit book in the "Princess Diaries" by Meg Cabot is published by HarperCollins Publishers.
The Princess Diaries is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Mia Thermopolis is a high school freshman, content living in Manhattan, N.Y., with her artist mother. Then her European playboy father and aristocratic Grandmére reveal a shocking secret: Mia is the princess of a country called Genovia. As Mia struggles to maintain her friendships, deal with her mom's relationship with her algebra teacher and get the attention of Josh Richter, Grandmére and Mia's father insist upon turning her into royalty by giving princess lessons. The reluctant princess garners attention from the media and Josh, but learns she must balance her old life with her new royal responsibilities.
Mia prays once, "Oh God, if You really do exist . . ." She refuses to go to church and "pray to a God who would allow rain forests to be destroyed." Mia also mentions admiring Madonna because she's not afraid to offend Christians, the pope or other people who are "not open-minded."
Mia's mom is a stereotypical flighty artist. Mia has to handle responsibilities like paying bills and buying groceries. Her mom lies to her about aspects of her relationship with Mr. Gianini, and Mia's philandering father seems to have little patience with Mia's emotions and personal desires. He's angry and temperamental, and Grandmére has him on a short leash. Although Grandmére is demanding and authoritarian toward everyone, she becomes something of an ally for Mia in the end.
Mia is a staunch vegetarian and Greenpeace supporter with many liberal political views, those of her mother and friend Lilly. She notes that her mom has been stressed since her last boyfriend turned out to be a Republican. Mia's mom has a collection of wooden fertility goddesses.
Mia frequently uses God's name in vain. A few other profanities (a-- and d--n) also appear once.
Mia's mom is sleeping with Mia's teacher, and Mia and Lilly discuss the conditions under which they would "put out" for Josh. Mia acknowledges the seriousness of losing her virginity but doesn't have qualms about premarital sex. She is obsessed with her small chest size, says she wishes Josh would sexually harass her and is disappointed that the only guy who has ever "felt her up" was a blind guy. Josh kisses Mia for the media's sake, and Mia frequently mentions how Mr. Gianini is probably putting his tongue in her mother's mouth. Lilly's parents attend a fundraiser for homosexual children of holocaust survivors, and Mia wonders what Grandmére will do when she encounters the homosexuals in Mia's neighborhood.
IRA/CBC Young Adult Choice, ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and more.
Note: The film adaptation (which received a favorable review from Plugged In) should not be confused with the more "mature" content of the book.
This chick lit mystery is the first book in the "Scandia" series by Kirsten Boie and is published by Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
The Princess Plot is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
When 14-year-old Jenna auditions for a movie, she's amazed to win the role as the princess of a country called Scandia. She's even more surprised when she texts her mom — an over-protective etiquette instructor who finds most movies "vulgar" — and her mom urges her to leave with the producers right away. The producers fly Jenna to Scandia, where she's housed in a palace. She's instructed to test her acting skills by standing in for Scandia's real princess, Malena, at a birthday party. Seeing a picture of the princess, Jenna discovers she looks surprisingly like the royal girl, who has just lost her father, the king, to an unexpected heart attack.
Jenna meets the royal uncle, Norlin, and the movie "director," Bolstrom, and soon realizes something isn't right. Not only is there no movie, but she's been brought to Scandia to stand in for the princess so the country won't realize Malena has run away. When Scandian rebels (including Malena) kidnap Jenna, she learns that Norlin and Bolstrom are plotting to produce conflict, if not war, between the wealthy southern Scandians and the poor northerners. The king had been working for peace and equality between the two regions, so the girls begin to suspect foul play concerning the king's death.
During her time with the rebels, Jenna learns why she so strongly resembles the princess. The king had a twin sister who was married to Norlin. She ran away from Scandia because Norlin's political agenda frightened her, and she wasn't permitted to divorce him. The twin was Jenna's mom, and Norlin is Jenna's father.
Melena and the other rebels convince Jenna that she alone can save Scandia by returning to Norlin and pretending she's terrified by the rebels and their actions. They believe Jenna may be able to learn where the king — whom they're convinced is alive — is hidden. Though Norlin's staff discovers Jenna's plan, she's able to escape and help the rebels find the king. Norlin and his people flee the country, and the reunited royal family vows to bring peace and prosperity to Scandia.
A minor character who is afraid she'll be killed offers up a prayer. Mom says, "Thank God!" when she thinks she's found Jenna.
Jenna's mother shows little affection toward her daughter and allows her little freedom. Jenna later learns Mom is hiding them from the Scandian government. Mom left the country when she saw how ambition had changed her husband and she realized he'd only married her because she was a princess. Norlin, a northern Scandian once sympathetic to the rebels, allowed wealth and power to alter his politics. He still doesn't want to kill people, but he supports war so he won't lose his status. He loves his daughter (Jenna) and eventually allows her to escape. The king cares about the impoverished, hard-working northerners and tries to bring equal rights to all Scandians.
An onlooker at the king's funeral says the royal family has nothing but bad luck, and she suspects there's a curse on the family. Her husband replies that when people encounter trouble, they've generally brought it on themselves. A rebel says the king's death was bad luck for the north, but good luck for the prosperous south because it would now be able to retain all their wealth. Nahira, the rebel leader, says it would take a huge stroke of luck to find the kidnapped king. Jenna remembers learning how the dinosaurs were wiped out when a meteorite struck the earth millions of years ago.
The words d--nation, heck, butt and OMG appear a time or two. The angry northern Scandians often shout obscenities at TV cameras, but no actual curse words appear in the text.
The rebels concoct a story for Jenna to tell Norlin about her escape from them. She's supposed to say that one of the young rebels pulled her out of bed, kissed her and tore at her clothes, at which point she was able to run out through an open door and flee into the forest.
Alcohol use: After mom has some wine, she accidentally offers Jenna information about Norlin. Norlin deals with his many conflicting feeling and opinions by drinking a lot of cognac. Norlin's adviser, Bolstrom, drinks wine with a meal.
Lying: Most of the characters lie extensively to cover up their plots to save or destroy Scandia. Jenna prides herself on honesty throughout most of the book. The exception is when she concocts a family tree for a class project because she knows nothing about her real family. In the end, the only way Scandia can avoid war is if Jenna can convincingly lie to her father about being held against her will and hurt by the rebels.
Smoking: A farmer pulls out some tobacco and rolls himself a cigarette. One of the rebels helping Jenna and Malena smokes a cigarette.
This supernatural thriller is the first book in the "Watchers Chronicles" series by Dawn Miller and is published by Zondervan.
The Prophecy is written for teens ages 15 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Seven years have passed since Sam, his adopted brother, Jonah, Carly, Jeremiah (nicknamed J) and Jenna were close friends in middle school. At 19, Sam now lives in St. Louis. Jonah is trying to become a musician in the same city, but is caught in the party scene. Jenna returns to St. Louis as a single parent of 5-year-old Mikey; J is a hired gun in Chicago and takes a "job" in St. Louis; and Carly leaves Miami to return home to St. Louis to visit her dad.
They each have been having nightmares and memory flashes about rescuing Jonah from a trash dumpster and other situations they shared when they were younger. Some are attacked by life-threatening encounters arranged by evil angels (MazziKim) but are spared when good angels (Irinim) intervene. The five friends are able to physically hear, see and even smell an alternate dimension around them, in which the battle between the forces of good and evil is raging. As they make decisions or remember the past, they hear both the good and the evil voices speaking into their minds, trying to urge them to do things.
A group called the Resistance, made up of spiritual people, study ancient texts, watch strange weather patterns and monitor developments around the world. All of the signs point to increased spiritual activity converging on St. Louis. They sense that, according to a prophecy, the Watchers — the five friends converging on St. Louis — will be key players in the coming battle between good and evil.
Nick Corsa wants to harness the Watchers' powers for his own ambitious plan. He is the one who had a job for J. J is supposed to betray his friends to help Corsa's cause. While this is unfolding, Corsa captures and murders Sam.
Jonah tries to figure out what happened to his brother and suspects Corsa, but first he must battle his addictions. To get away from his drugs, Jonah throws them out the car window. A policeman sees what he did, and Jonah is taken to jail. Then Corsa's organization captures Jenna and her son, Mikey.
When a good angel helps Jonah break his addictive behavior, Jonah realizes that this angel has helped him before. He prays for a miracle, something he hasn't done since he was 10. Professor Kinney, part of the Resistance, posts Jonah's bail. He and another Resistance member help Jonah and Carly decipher the symbols, doors and inscribed letters on paintings Sam made before he died. As they do this, the Resistance members share about the ongoing battle between good and evil, the Irinim and the MazziKim. They show Jonah several leather-bound journals written by people just like Jonah, who have been Watchers throughout the centuries.
J thinks Corsa is framing him when he is asked to "clean up another mess." J arrives at the dock and discovers his grandmother lying between two crates. Thinking she is dead, he admits that he can't do things his way anymore. He hears a voice that says he was created to do something better and accepts that he is a Watcher.
As the Resistance asks God to guide the Watchers, Jonah, Carly and J rescue Jenna and Mikey. In the end, Carly believes that Jonah is the key to the prophecy about the Watchers and that faith plays a major role what is about the happen.
The five main characters are strong in their faith when they are in middle school, but at the book's opening, they are involved in the things of the world. Although there are some references to Christianity throughout the story, these references come mainly through the words that the good warrior angels speak into the minds of the Watchers or through members of the Resistance. The members of the Resistance explain what has been foretold in the Bible and what has been recorded about momentous events in history. They also interpret what is taking place spiritually. By the end of the story, the remaining Watchers realize that they have forgotten much of what they knew as children. Still, their faith has sustained them amid spiritual warfare.
Sam is the leader of the five friends, and each looks to him for guidance and direction. Professor Garrett Kinney, TJ Levine and Carly's father, Chaplain Hagan, help the Watchers understand who they are and guide them to understand how the prophecy is being fulfilled through them.
When the Watchers were young, they spent most of their time together. One year at Mardi Gras, they visited a fortuneteller who gave them a prophecy that Sam would be a warrior who is powerless, Carly a child who is motherless, J a friend who betrays, Jenna a mother who is childless, and Jonah a brother who is brotherless.
The Grigori are fallen angels whose agenda is to destroy all of humanity by killing the Watchers, and the MazziKim are evil spirits that have come from the union of Grigori with human women. Nick Corsa carries a copy of the book Die Geheime Lehre, which is based on Aztec mythology. It includes mantras and incantations, and written on the title page are the names "Adolph" and "Dietrich Eckart" along with a faded sketch of a pentagram. A deck of tarot cards is spread across a coffee table at Corsa's house with the one card lying face-up. This reminds Carly of something from one of Sam's paintings.
A few times the phrase, "what the…" is used (with the final word left out). A mild word, freaking, is also used, as is the term Village-of-the-
The descriptions of the fallen angels, the Grigori and MazziKim, are graphic as these creatures morph into other forms that appear to be alien — with shimmering or scaly skin, glowing eyes and heights of 10 feet or more.
Sam and his girlfriend kiss, as do Jonah and Carly.
This play by George Bernard Shaw is published by Penguin Group and is written for adults but sometimes studied by high school classes.
Henry Higgins, professor of phonetics, judges the people he meets by their dialect. Along with colleague Colonel Pickering, Henry takes in a lower-class flower girl (Eliza Doolittle) and bets he can pass her off as a duchess after several months of intense language training. The colonel and the professor successfully transform Eliza's speech and mannerisms, but inside, Liza is undergoing a transformation of her own. When the bet is won and the project is complete, the men are surprised to find that Liza is a human being with feelings, emotional needs and concerns about her future. As she prepares to take her leave, Liza informs Henry that what makes a flower girl a duchess is not how she's taught to behave, but the way she's treated.
None. There is some discussion of class morality, but it is never related to spirituality.
Professor Higgins, whose distaste for propriety is evident, focuses on projects, not people. He embarrasses his mother in front of her friends because he lacks manners, and his impersonal nature causes him to bully and emotionally wound Eliza. Colonel Pickering, though somewhat oblivious to the fact that his game with Henry may damage someone else, at least treats Eliza with some dignity and acknowledges her womanhood. Henry's mother steps in and defends Eliza when Henry's and Pickering's disregard drives the girl to run away. Eliza's father, Mr. Doolittle, takes little responsibility for his daughter — or any aspect of life but drinking — until money "forces" him to become a responsible citizen.
Professor Higgins uses variations of d--n a dozen times. He also uses the words a-- and slut.
Henry's maid, Eliza's father and others feel it's improper for Henry to keep an unmarried girl in his home because of what people will think. When Henry first invites Eliza to stay, she rejects what she believes to be an inappropriate suggestion by saying, "I'm a good girl, I am!" In reality, no sexual impropriety is present.
Note: Shaw won the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature.