→Spoiler alert: This review may include information revealed in the Harry Potter books 1 through 6. ←
Plot Summary: In this, the last book of the wildly popular Harry Potter Series, Harry, now 17, must seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Each of the books in the series has gotten more dark, Harry’s journeys more dangerous, and this one is no exception. Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort is more harrowing and challenging than ever. This book contains bravery and triumph, in addition to heartbreak, sorrow and devastating loss. In the midst of trying to save the wizarding world from unimaginable evil and to keep himself alive, Harry is transitioning from Hogwarts school boy to a full-fledged wizard and a grown man. This is one coming of age story readers will not want to miss, full of drama, danger, friendship and love. Harry’s last book will not disappoint his fans one bit. The only problem is, it leaves us wanting just one more…
Critical Evaluation: In this nearly 800 page finale, Rowling, astoundingly, does it again. The elaborate, magnificent fantasy world she created in the first Harry Potter book comes alive again, with enough of the familiar to satisfy and comfort and enough new elements to thrill and engage. This is gripping reading at its finest. The characters are charismatic, unique, and multidimensional. The story is riveting and unpredictable. The book mixes the fantastical with, realistic young adult story lines of friendship and love, family and loyalty. This mix keeps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows grounded and believable, even as unbelievable as many of the elements are. This is a great book for boys and girls, reluctant and eager readers alike, and, of course, fans of fantasy.
Of note, is that this book and the entire Harry Potter series are excellent choices for audio books. The audio books are unabridged, so they take many hours to listen to, but the reader, Jim Dale is himself magical in his ability to act out each role as if a different person were performing. Highly recommended.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was named the best book of 2007, by Newsweek‘s Malcolm Jones, was on Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2007 list, and was on the 2008 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list, among many other honors and awards.
Reader’s Annotation: Harry Potter, now 17, must take a dangerous and circuitous journey to seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.
Information about the Author: J. K. Rowling started writing stories as a young child. The idea for Harry Potter came to her while she was on a train. She did not have a pen, so she spent the four-hour train ride just dreaming up Harry and his magical world. She says “I think that perhaps if I had had to slow down the ideas so that I could capture them on paper I might have stifled some of them.” (Rowling, 2011).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final book in a seven-book series, books one through six are: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,
Subgenre/Theme: Fantasy: Magic
Curriculum Ties: n/a
- How would it feel to be the only person who can save your world from evil and destruction?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 9 – 18
Challenge Issues: There are those who claim the books promote the occult and witchcraft. In fact, the Harry Potter series is number one on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, some are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? The great popularity of the Harry Potter series makes it a natural choice for a young adult collection. Also, I really enjoyed the audio books of books one through six, so I was thrilled to get to listen to number seven.
Rowling, J.K. (2011). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.jkrowling.com/en/
Plot Summary: “She wished something would happen. Something good. To her. Looking at the bright fuzzy picture in the magazine, she thought, Something like that. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn’t too late, she thought the word SOON.” Young teen Debbie, keeps hoping something will happen. Hector, Debbie’s childhood friend “felt unfinished, still in process.” Debbie, Hector, and a group of their childhood friends are all going through the complex and circuitous journey of growing up. Periodically, throughout the book, the friends gather on Saturdays to listen to Criss Cross, “the kind of radio show you would like if you liked Mad Magazine. Which they all did, or had, a few years ago.” Also, running throughout the book is the story of a necklace, that Debbie loses, that gets passed from one character to the next in a series of interesting coincidences. Will the teens find the clarity that they are searching for? Will they become who they think they will be? Who will they become, and how will they get there?
Critical Evaluation: Eclectic and creative, the writing in Criss Cross is mostly from Debbie’s or Hector’s perspective. Told in a series of interrelated vignettes, poetry, questions and answers, with illustrations and a few photographs, this book is clever, witty and provides an honest portrayal of the inner thoughts and feelings of its characters. Criss Cross is a coming of age story uniquely presented and rendered, and, though it takes place in the 1970’s, the issues and feelings that arise for the teens in the novel are fully relevant for today’s teens. As the main characters are young teens, the book is probably best suited for the younger end of teens, ages 14-16. The compelling story, accessible writing, and interesting presentation make the book a good choice for reluctant readers or teens reading a bit below grade level. Poetic and charming, Criss Cross ponders some of life’s most common questions with grace, insight and wit. Criss Cross won the 2006 Newberry Medal and is on the 2006 ALA Best Books for Young Adults list.
Reader’s Annotation: Debbie, Hector and their friends are at a crossroads. They are growing up, trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be, and searching, always searching.
Information about the Author: Author and artist Lynne Rae Perkins has written and illustrated several picture books and young adult novels. I did not know this when I read it, but Criss Cross is the second novel that Perkins has written with the character of Debbie in it. The first novel is called All Alone in the Universe and is about Debbie when she is thirteen years old.
In addition to words, Perkins uses art to express herself, thus, she adds a unique element to her novels. A quote from Perkins’ website made me smile: “’Books are ideas with meat on their bones.’ I have that written down but I don’t know who said it. It might have been me, but probably not” (Perkins, n.d.)
Genre: Contemporary Life, Realistic Fiction
Category: Contemporary Life: Coming of Age
Curriculum Ties: A twist on the classic coming of age novel, this novel could be compared to other more traditional coming of age novels. Perkins also provides a few ideas for teachers interested in teaching the book here.
- Do you ever wish something, anything would happen?
- Do you think we are ever finished? Complete?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 16
Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.
Why is this book included? It won the Newberry Medal and was on YALSA’s 2006 Best Books for Young Adults list.
Perkins, L.R. (n.d.) Activities for All Alone in the Universe. Retrieved from http://www.lynneraeperkins.com/all_alone_in_the_universe_activities.htm
Plot/Content Summary: Sometimes a person does not realize that he is making a huge mistake until it is too late. Sometimes a person forgets to think about the consequences of his actions. Jack Gantos, now an accomplished author of books for pre-teens (including the Joey Pigza series), was in his late teens when he made a mistake that would change his life. In the early 1970’s $10,000 could buy even more than it can now, and that it what Gantos was promised as a payment if he could help a man sail a boat full of hashish from The Caribbean island of St. Croix to New York City. “I didn’t think of the danger involved with braking the law. I didn’t even consider that I had no idea how to sail a large boat…that anything bad could possible happen.” But we know something bad did happen, because Gantos opens the book with a discussion of his time in prison and the fear of random violence he lived with every moment of every day. Always interested in becoming a writer, but never following through, Gantos also started writing in earnest while he was in prison. This memoir was not his first or even second book, it was published over 30 years after he started his life in prison, but his words describe his past life as if the visceral memories or not, in any way, forgotten.
Critical Evaluation: Gantos’ voice is honest and frank. He manages to tell his story with a careful balance to the point of almost being objective. He’s not self-aggrandizing or egomaniacal nor is he overly self-deprecating, all traps into which memoir writers can fall. Gantos’ story is compelling, and though, as mentioned above, readers know from the start (the front cover shows his mugs hot) that Gantos will end up in prison, the path to get there take enough twists and turns that the story is still suspenseful and engaging. There are parts of the story that could probably have been edited a bit to speed up the pace, it felt a little long at times, but overall this book is well worth the read. There are many episodes from Gantos’ life that could inspire interesting and exciting class, book group, or family discussions. There are lessons to be learned from Gantos, not because he preaches and not because he feels sorry for himself, but because he earns his readers’ respect through sometimes brutal honesty and his willingness to make himself vulnerable and open for to truly see him and learn from his mistakes.
Reader’s Annotation: In the early 1970’s, Jack in Gantos was an aspiring writer who didn’t have the money he needed to attend college, and he was in a job he hated. So, when he was offered $10,000 to help sail a shipment of drugs from the Caribbean to New York City he said, “Count me in.”
Information about the Author: Jack Gantos is an award-winning author of children’s, tween young adult, and adult books. As a child he wanted to become a writer, in fact, according to his website, “The seeds for Jack Gantos’ writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could.”
It was in college that Gantos published his first children’s book; he received a BA and an MA from Emerson College in Boston. At Emerson he became an instructor in children’s book writing and eventually created a masters program in children’s book writing. Gantos also taught at Vermont College in the M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. “He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking.” (Jack Gantos’ Bio & Photos)
Genre/Category: Non-Fiction, Coming of Age, Suspense, Crime
Topics Covered: Drug Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, Illegal Activities, Incarceration, Growing Up, Coming of Age
Curriculum Ties: Health, Responsible Decision Making, Drug Abuse, Alcohol Abuse
- The immense and intense fear Gantos felt in prison
- Can one mistake ruin your whole life?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 and up
Challenge Issues: Drug Use, Alcohol Abuse, Drug Selling, Illegal Activities.
Why is this book included? Hole in my Life won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert honors; it is a compelling and moving story of a young man facing himself and not liking what he sees sometimes. It is non-fiction with all of the drama of fiction and the emotional honesty only a memoir can provide. In other words, it’s a great book, and a great addition to a non-fiction section for young adults.
Gantos, J. (n.d.). Jack Gantos’ Bio & Photos. Retrieved from http://www.jackgantos.com.vhost.zerolag.com/bio-photos/