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Genre 6 Fictioon, Fantasy, and Young Adult Literature
Children's and Young Adult Literature Review
| Home | Genre 1 Picture Books | Genre 2 Traditional Literature | Genre Poetry | Genre 4 Nonfiction | Genre 5 Historical Fiction/Biography | Genre 6 Fictioon, Fantasy, and Young Adult Literature | Challenged Books - The Giver | Audio Book | New Page Title | Mem Fox

Rowing, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix. 2003. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 043935806x.

Harry Potter is frustrated. Isolated from the wizarding world at his summer residence with his non-magical aunt, uncle and cousin, he hides in flowerbeds so he can listen to the evening news and steals newspapers from trash bins, hoping for some sign of activity from Lord Voldemort. He barely has had contact with his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

A dementor attack, a cryptic Howler, and a rescue brigade bring Harry back to the magical world, to a place where a group of wizards has assembled with the mission to stop Voldemort. To Harry's, disgust, no one wants to tell him anything regarding the mission, no even when he begins to dream of a snake and a door at the end of a long, dark hallway that he recognizes as part of the Ministry of Magic. Things aren't much better at Hogwarts, where his dreams turn into visions of Voldemort's power, anger, an desire for domination.

It is a time of war in the magical world, but there are no clear lines of good and evil. The Ministry of Magic is so adamant in its beliefs that it refuses to acknowledge Harry's story of Voldemort's return. Harry is the butt of jokes in the Daily Prophet, and the only people who believe him are the ones the Ministry would discredit. According to, the Ministry, Albus Dumbledore is a dangerous fool, and anyone who follows him is not to be trusted. Co-workers, friends, and even families begin to divide according to whom they support. Spies and secrets feed a new era in wizarding history and lead to changes at Hogwarts, not all of them good. The students are as divided as the adults, and discord haunts the corridors.

Fifth year is the time for Ordinary Wizarding Level exams, or O.W.L.s, and Harry and the rest of the fifth-years find themselves working harder than ever to achieve top test results, which then dictate their careers. Spells are more complex, there's more homework, and the students have to work twice as hard as they did in previous years just to keep up. The only class that differs from this pattern is Defense Against the Dark Arts, taught by the deceptively sweet Dolores Umbridge, formerly Senior Undersecretary to Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic. Umbridge's lesson plans leave Harry and his friends worried and wanting more from their education.

Harry is also asked by Professor Dumbledore to study privately with Professor Snape, the hook-nosed, greasy-haired Potions professor who has done nothing but make Harry's Potions classes miserable since the day Harry first came to Hogwarts. In order to succeed and even survive, Harry must put his trust in those who hide the truth from him.

Intricate plots, maturing characters, and fast-paced action paint a picture of a magical world with a new veil of darkness. As Harry and his friends grow, they must face more adult issues and deal not only with a changing world, but also with their changing selves. Characters who have only served in the background of previous books become more important, and some of Harry's favorite people, like Remus Lupin, return. Never content to sit back and watch things happen, Harry and his friends take dangerous matters into their own hands, confronting evil and working as a team to stop it.

From page one this book's tone is completely different from the previous four: deeper and richer, with less humor and more detail. Rowling's inspire fear are different in this installation, too. The horror is psychological rather than physical, and there is less Quidditch and more magic. Harry is perfect and emotionally real as a typical teenage boy, confused and defiant about everything from girls to his friendships to his magical education. He has come to trust very few people, but those he takes into his confidence, like Ron and Hermione, complement him very well.

Smith, Greg Leitch Smith. Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. 2003. New York: Little Brown. ISBN 0316778540.

Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been a trio united against That Which Is The Peshtigo School. Suddenly it seems that sticking up for a best friend isn't as easy as it used to be. Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab. Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start "hearing" his ancestors. And Honoria, legal counsel extraordinaire, discovers that telling a best friend you like him, without actually telling him, is a lot harder than battling Goliath Reed or getting a piranha to become a vegetarian.

What three best friend find out about the Land of the Rising Sun, Pygocentrus nattereri, and Galileo's choice makes for a hilarious and intelligent read filled with wit, wisdom, and a little bit of science.

Greg Leitich Smith has a few things in common with Elias, Shohei, and Honoria. Like them, he grew up in Chicago and survived the science magnet school experience. In addition, Greg drew on his own Japanese-German American background in crafting Elias's and Shohei's families especially Shohei's. Like Shohei, Greg is adopted, and they both have one brother, although Shohei's is younger and Greg's is older

As for his life experience with all things ninja and spymaster & he refuses to comment, on the grounds that he might incriminate himself.

Wolf, Virginia E. True Believer.

True Believer is a book about a 15-year-old girl named Verna La Vaughn that lives in a not so good neighborhood. Her main goal in life is to go to college and make something of herself. La Vaughn's focus is only on school until an old childhood friend returns named Jody. She notices what a nice man Jody has turned out to be and soon falls in love with him. They even go to a school dance together. La Vaughn wants to tell Jody how she feels but can't because she is afraid of what he might say. Meanwhile her friends Myrtle and Annie are drifting away from her and La Vaughn feels left out or excluded. One day Jody becomes ill and La Vaughn brings him some cookies to help him feel better. When she peeks her head in the door she sees two boys talking then they lean in and kiss. She gets so scared and hurt that she goes home and cries for a really long time. La Vaughn wonders if her love is gay or straight. If he is gay how does she tell him that she knows?

This is the second book in The Make Lemonade Series by Virginia Wolfe.

Lowery, Lois. The Giver.1993. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0395645662.

The Giver is an amazing book. It's about the life of a boy named Jonas and the society in which he lives. Jonas lives in a world where they choose sameness over risk. Everyone has the same amount of people in their family. Everyone can only see black and white. Everyone follows rules exactly. No one can hear music. No one has individual birthdays, instead everyone is born in the same year and all become "ones" together, then "twos" together, then "threes". There is a ceremony for each year. At the ceremony for "nines," everyone receives the same birthday gift, a bicycle. This society does not know real death, does not know pain and does not know love. Everyone thinks the same and acts the same. They choose sameness over individuality because there are no risks. No one can get hurt. There are no problems.

At the ceremony of "12's," the kids get assigned jobs. Jonas is assigned to be the Receiver, a very honored job, but does not know what the Receiver does. As Jonas trained with the elderly Receiver, he learned that the receiver held all the people's memories of when there was pain, suffering, death and war. The Receiver also held all the memories of real love, true happiness and individuality. As the Receiver, Jonas learned of these emotions, as well as learned the existence of color and music. The Receiver kept all the memories away from the society to protect the people from suffering, but for years the Receiver had been trying to think of someway to allow society to share the memories, so the society could learn real pain and true love and get rid of sameness.

Once Jonas started his training, the Receiver became the Giver and Jonas became the Receiver. Together they came up with a plan for Jonas to run away to the true world which existed outside the boundaries of the community and as he ran the memories would be released into the community and sameness would be lost forever.
What is so interesting is that this story could take place in the past, present or future. Perhaps our society evolved from Jonas' society, from sameness to individuality. On the other hand, Jonas' society could exist in the present, existing as we speak. Or this society could take place in the future and we are the people from which the society of sameness evolved into individuality.

However, this is a mature book, even though it is a middle school reading level it deals with complicated situations and emotions, which some young readers may find upsetting and confusing. This doesn't mean it isn't a great book, but best for a mature young adult. A great discussion tool and definitely a book some kids will never forget.

Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. 2003. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689849222.

In THE FIRST PART LAST, the story of a teen father's growing love for his baby daughter, Angela Johnson turns the tables as she revisits a character from her award-winning novel, HEAVEN. Bobby is an ambitious young man. An aspiring artist with talented parents, he is poised to graduate early from high school. But when his girlfriend Nia surprises him on his sixteenth birthday with the news of her pregnancy, Bobby's whole world turns upside down.

This brief novel alternates chapters between "then" and "now." The "then" is the story of Nia's pregnancy, as Bobby and Nia struggle to decide whether to raise their child or cave to parental pressure and give her up for adoption. The "now" is Bobby's own struggle to do the right thing for his infant daughter Feather, as a tragedy surrounding her birth has left him to care for her alone. Bobby is lucky to have a good support system, including his mother and father, his buddies, and his caring older brother. All along, Bobby's voice, which narrates the story, wavers between great love for his daughter and panic at his situation, but the emotional heart of the story never falters.

In the end, the portrayal of Bobby's relationship with his daughter is a positive one, although some critical readers might get the impression that Johnson is providing the wrong kind of role model. Not to worry. Although she does depict Bobby as a genuinely caring father, she also provides a grim picture of the not-so-rosy realities of teen parenthood, as Bobby copes with daycare dilemmas and his own insecurities: "This little thing with the perfect face and hands doing nothing but counting on me. And me wanting nothing else but to run crying into my own mom's room and have her do the whole thing."

If this novel has one fault, it is that Bobby seems so wrapped up in his daughter that he doesn't take time to dwell on his grief over Nia's fate. Bobby is a caring person who seemed to truly love his girlfriend (even heading halfway across Manhattan to satisfy her pregnancy cravings), so his lack of reflection on the loss of this relationship doesn't ring true.

Overall, though, "The First Part Last" offers an all too-rare portrayal of a caring, nurturing young