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Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Summary: Rodman Philbrick is one of my favorite YA/Children’s authors.  Freak the Mighty has been a can’t-miss go-to book for me when it comes to reluctant readers for years, so I was excited to see a Philbrick title on this year’s Sunshine State Young Readers list. It’s another winner. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is definitely a must-read.
Twelve-year-old Homer and his older brother, Harold are orphans being raised by their mean uncle, Squinton Leach in a small town in Maine.  Squint gives them as little as possible while making them both work hard to keep his farm running.  When Homer gets caught eating from the pigs’ scraps, Harold stands up to Squint to protect him and finds himself sold into the army and sent away to fight in the Civil War.
Homer is determined to find Harold and save him from the war.  Harold’s enlistment wasn’t even legal – he isn’t old enough to sign up, and the draft hasn’t officially started yet.  So Homer steals away into the night and his adventures begin.  Along the way, Homer will meet up with bounty-hunters, a kindly abolitionist Quaker, a pair of con-men, and a travelling medicine show.  He goes from being an orphan on the run to “The Amazing Pig Boy” to a suspected spy. But along the way, he never forgets his brother and uses his wits and a lot of luck to keep moving on his quest.
Homer’s journey takes him to the Battle of Gettysburg, but will he be too late to save Harold? 

Age Appropriateness:
11 and up

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: none
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence: mild

Note:  I have created a novel guide for The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. It is available on  Information is below.
Novel Unit for The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg ISBN-13: 978-1478204985
This novel unit contains everything you need to teach the novel
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.
Includes vocabulary, comprehension and discussion questions for each chapter, vocabulary practice exercises, pre, during, and post reading activities, and essay topics. Also contains tests, additional activity and research activities, a list of suggested further reading (both fiction & nonfiction), and a listing of the 6-12 Common Core Anchor Standards of Language Arts covered in the novel.

Wonderland by Joanna Nadin

Summary: Wonderland by Joanna Nadin left me feeling unsettled, listless, and full of “what if” wonderings. I haven’t read a book that had such an impact on me in a long time.  Although I figured out the twist in the story before it was revealed, it didn’t lessen the impact.  In fact, it was a relief to know I was right.
Jude wants nothing more than to escape the small town where she has grown up, the school where she doesn’t fit in, and the home that is haunted by the ghost of her mother and by her father’s misery. Her only chance is the Lab in London, a prestigious acting school.  But Jude isn’t confident enough to try. 
Until Stella returns.  Stella, Jude’s childhood best friend; the girl who can do and say anything, who is cooler than cool and a force of nature. Stella’s return pushes Jude to try for her goals. But Stella’s influence isn’t all positive.  Soon Jude and Stella are doing all the things that Jude never had the courage to do before; taking on the popular girls at school, flirting with the cutest boys, drinking, smoking,  and more drinking. 
Will Jude have the strength to walk away from Stella?  Is it even possible for Jude to exist without her?  Is Stella all that makes Jude truly alive?
From the prologue, which sets up the novel’s ending, I was hooked.  Why are she & Stella sitting in a car getting ready to roll it off a cliff and into the sea?  Jumping into the first chapter, set three months before the prologue, I was drawn into Jude’s world.  It is not a pretty place.  There are no fairy tales in this story – just a harsh reality that made me sad for Jude  but also hopeful that she can be more than she was, without Stella’s destructive guidance.

Growing Up
Mental Illness

Age Appropriateness:
15 and up

Areas of concern (content):

Foul Language: moderate
Nudity/Adult Content: moderate
Violence: moderate