Blog Archives

Show and Prove

sofiaquintero-showandproveSHOW AND PROVE is a powerful, gritty book that is told from two different perspectives — Smiles’ and Nike’s, two teens in the South Bronx in 1983. While some big changes are going on in the world, the two best friends are seeing changes come to their own lives. Not only is Smiles involved in a summer camp counselor rivalry with Cookie, but he is also thinking about joining the Five Percenters. Nike has struggles of his own — he likes Sara, a sweet new camp counselor, plus he wants to win the breakdancing competition and has to face his own ignorance. As the summer wears on, the two find purpose in their lives as they overcome struggles and rethink their assumptions about people in their community.

Author Sofia Quintero knows her characters and the world of 1983 Bronx through and through. She jumps right into the characters’ slang and voices, and I initially had read it especially slowly and carefully to anchor myself in their world. After a few chapters though, it became easy to picture Nike and Smiles — and what vibrant, unique and flawed characters they are. Readers can’t but help love them for who they are, even with their multiple shortcomings. The way that Nike and Smiles transform throughout the book is incredibly rewarding to experience; the characters feel so real that I feel pride for how much they’ve grown.

Though the novel is set more than three decades ago, the story feels like it could happen today. Perhaps with the turbulent world we live in today, the themes of friendship, respect, passion, compassion and countering prejudice are all the more important and relevant. SHOW AND PROVE is an instant classic with all the staying power and youthful vigor of hip-hop for generations to come.

First Published @Teenreads


Favorites of 2011

The year went by so fast and I’m surprised at the number of books that I read: too few for my liking. Here are some of my favorite books for ages 11-16 that I read or reread in 2011. Check out my reviews for Anne of Green Gable , Gifted Hands, The Throne of Fire, Little Women & Little Men, The Hunger Games, Century for Young People, and The Bronze Bow Leave a comment about your favorites of 2011!

Little Women and Little Men

Ignore the fact that’s it’s considered a classic and let me tell you something: Read it for fun. Hey, don’t look at me that way, I do that. My friend looked at me kinda funny when I said, “I’m going to take a break,” and took out Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. OK, I admit, it’s idealistic – the characters are perfect and their flaws are perfectly perfect – but it’s the earnest sincerity, purity, and innocence that really tell the story. In the Little Women, the first book, we follow the lives of the four poor but happy and contented March sisters. In the Little Men, we look at Plumfield, an experimental school for boys, where the scholars are brought up not by harsh words or raps to the knuckles, but brought up with love. I look up to the little women as my role models, and all the boys in this world should have the little men as their role models. I was touched at the children’s unconditional love for others, and what the book doesn’t have in terms of depth, makes up in terms of arresting optimism. They are human angels we can all take life lessons from. Now I will always try to heap coals of fire on my enemies’ heads by giving a kiss for a blow, and when people are mean, though I have a right to be hurt, I don’t intend to show it. Thank you, March sisters for all that you’ve taught me, and thank you wild Dan, ragged orphan Nat, and all the rest of the little men for showing me around Plumfield, a heaven on earth.

The Hunger Games Creates Flaming Path

The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Age range: 12+

Do me a favor and before you navigate to another website, read the following sentence:

The Hunger Games is NOT another Twilight.

OK, let me back up. The Hunger Games is set in the future Panem in what used to be North America. The harsh and cruel Capitol is surrounded by the 12 districts. Because of an uprising, the Hunger Games was born. Each district is forced to send in a tribute, one boy and one girl, to compete in the annual Hunger Games – a fight to the death. The last person standing is the victor. To make it not only torturous but also humiliating, the citizens must treat it as a festive as well.

When 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps up to volunteer when her sister is chosen, Katniss figures she’ll never see District 12 again. But as the Hunger Games go on, she realizes she has a chance of returning home as victor. And like the Hunger Games cover synopsis states: “But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”

Just by the synopsis, the Hunger Games makes it clear that it is a bloody and intense principle. There are some scary parallels between their futuristic world and ours at the moment. It is dark, and I don’t recommend it for those below 12.

Perhaps it is the way Suzanne Collins presents everything in a straightforward manner, or that the characters are so tangible and real in a far, far away realm. Maybe it’s the comparison of the Capitol and District 12, or the fact that readers simply love the action, heroism, and romance. Whatever it is, the fan base has stretched out to include both Harry Potter and Twilight fans, along with critics, who prefer Katniss over Bella from Twilight.

Going back to my statement about Hunger Games vs. Twilight, yes, there is romance, but it is a secondary plot line. Heroism comes first. Katniss is a tough tomboyish girl who won’t go down without a fight, whereas Bella… I won’t compare them here. A love triangle forms between Katniss, her life-long friend Gale, and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Her romance with Peeta becomes essential to their survival in the arena, and she soon becomes a figure of rebellion, starting a spark that will never be quenched.

I, personally, love the Hunger Games, and I’d recommend it for any teen. The humor, suspense, philosophy, adventure and romance certainly pave a flaming path towards a Harry Potter-like success.

First Published @

Book Review: The Throne of Fire

The Throne of Fire

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Age range: 8 – 12

By Cassandra Hsiao

Author Rick Riordan has done it again, weaving together a tale of magic in this second installment of the Kane Chronicles. The Kanes are back in “The Throne of Fire”, and this time they have to save the world from the Chaos snake, Apophis. Following up the Kanes’ adventures in “The Red Pyramid”, Rick Riordan inserts Egyptian gods and myths into modern times.

Narrated by two different voices, Sadie and Carter Kane, “The Throne of Fire” tells of the Kanes’ journey down the rivers of self-discovery and friendship. To defeat Apophis, they must awaken the sun god Ra by searching for three different scrolls hidden all over the world. Speaking the spell to awaken Ra while battling the first and third most powerful magicians would be a feat no magician has ever attempted.

“The Throne of Fire” will whisk you along with the Kanes on their adventures through the rivers of the Duat, or the magical realms. Along with introducing an unforgettable cast of new characters, Riordan spins humor and adventure into one fantastic ride. Perfectly paced, the story moved me into tears and laughter as well. Readers are advised to read “The Red Pyramid” before “The Throne of Fire” to gain a better understanding of Egyptian mythology and history. Riordan’s novels are based on mythological stories and historical facts, embroidered with fictional characters and events.

In Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, we see Percy and his friends grow up and mature after every adventure. Yet in “The Throne of Fire,” Sadie is only 13 years old, and she has crushes in the modern and mythical world. Although Carter is 14 years old, he still seems a bit young to go on a quest to find his love. If the Kane siblings were older, it would make much more sense.

This novel will strike a fire in readers’ hearts, capturing their minds with a net and never letting go. Fans will no doubt read and reread the Kane Chronicles until the third book of this trilogy is released in Spring 2012. Filled with heart, action, and jocularity, “The Throne of Fire” will transform even the most hesitant readers into voracious devotees of Riordan.

The Century for Young People

I love history. But in most textbooks for kids, you don’t find continuous chronological chapters of one whole exciting century with firsthand experiences from ordinary people who were a part of history in the making. But I let my imagination just soar as I experienced the 20th century through the eyes of the people who lived it in the book called The Century for Young People, by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster, who were both on the staff of ABC News.

I think these two authors chose the twentieth century because it is a time of tremendous change. Ordinary people – adults and children – relate their thrilling – and most terrifying – experiences during a specific time of history. This book reveals the Wright brothers’ airplane and first-hand experiences in World War I. It shows how the country went from “Boom to Bust” during the Great Depression. I learned about many great leaders from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Martin Luther King Jr. I read about some horrible experiences of the Holocaust, and the anger and resentment the Jews held against Hitler. The explosion of the Challenger unfolded before my eyes and the 7 astronauts were honored for their bravery . From Jackson Robinson to Princess Diana, this book spun me back in time. I had trouble putting down this wonderful book, filled with over 200 exquisitely reproduced photographs with an astonishing power to entertain and educate me. It is the story of the past 100 years of history from 1900 – until the year when I was born – 1999.


          This is history through the eyes of ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times. Premier journalist Peter Jennings has woven together top-notch reporting and compelling first-hand accounts to form an incomparable world history. A profusion of photographs helps bring to life the events that shaped this century. A must-read for both serious and casual history students.This is history as it was lived, and as it will be remembered for the next hundred years.Here are the voices of ordinary people–children and adults–expressing their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears, as they watched history being made.

This book is suitable for readers ages 11 and up.


Peter Jennings is the anchor and senior editor of ABC’s World News Tonight. In more than thirty-five years as a broadcast journalist, he has worked in most parts of the world, from the American South to Southern Africa, from the Middle East to eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Among the hundreds of programs he has been a part of, he treasures those he has done with and for the young. Young people, he says, ask questions their parents are too embarrassed to ask.

Todd Brewster was the senior editorial producer of ABC’s The Century television series. In more than twenty years as a journalist, he has covered the American national political scene and the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe, both for Life, where he was a writer and editor. He was also the editor of Life’s special issues on historical themes. Todd Brewster is now on the staff of ABC News.

The Bronze Bow

      Some Jews, like Daniel, hate Romans because they killed his parents. Most Jews are submissive to the Romans. Daniel cannot understand this. He grappels with his hatred and want for vengeance, so he joins in the brutal raids of the outlaws living in the hills. His grandmother’s death forces him to move home and care for his sister, who is possesed of demons. He continues his dangerous life by leading a group of boys in spying and plotting, waiting to force the Romans out of Israel.

       Daniel hears of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, but turns away again and again, confused by his lack of action towards the Romans. Jesus teaches him that vengeance cannot conquer vengeance, but love can. The loyalty of Daniel’s friend Joel, the love of Joel’s sister, Thacia (Malthace), and the innocent needs of Daniel’s own sister, Leah, helps him realize that a sword for a sword will take not his own life but another’s, but love for vengeance can conquer.

       I, personally, loved this book. I actually cried at the end, and when you read this, it feels like meeting Jesus face to face. You feel for Daniel, who’s surge of hatred is so strong, he cannot bear the sight of a Roman, just like he cannot understand Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan (Jews and Samaritans hated each other). Daniel is a very well-rounded character with depth and meaning. As protagonist, we not only want to hear his story but feel with him as he struggles to understand love. All the characters have depth and meaning.

       The characters vividly real, the story gripping, and plus, it takes place in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.This is a five-star book and needs to be read right now. If you are looking for a book with depth and meaning, this is the perfect book for you.

Ben Carson – Gifted Hands

Let me tell you about Ben Carson. He was raised in the ghettos of Detroit by a single mother who had a third-grade education. He lacked motivation, had terrible grades and his explosive temper almost landed him in jail. So how did this African American boy end up graduating from Yale, becoming the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Maryland and gaining worldwide recognition for separating Siamese twins joined at the back of the head?

I’ll tell you how. By his relentless faith in God.

Sonya Carson constantly encouraged her son by saying, “Bennie, you can do it. Don’t you stop believing that for one second. You just ask the Lord, and He’ll help you.”

I know it’s like a cliche to most of you, but this book really inspired me to actually believe in that. After I read the book, I realized that whatever I want to do or to be I can ask God, and if it glorifies Him, He will give it to me.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” – Matthew 21:22

“and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” – 1 John 3:22

See what I mean? It’s all in God’s hands. Tell God whatever you want to tell Him. I used to wonder why do we need to tell God how we feel and what we really want if God knows our every thought.

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” – Psalm 139:2

Here’s the way I imagine it: God is our Father. If you are a parent and you know what your child wants for his or her birthday, you would want your child to come and tell you what he or she wants. The child will be delighted that you have listend to his or her request on their birthday.

God also wants you to tell him. In one incident, Ben Carson was about to fail his chemestry test in Yale. He prayed to God. “I need help,” he prayed. “Being a doctor is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and now it looks like I can’t. And, Lord, I’ve always had the impression You wanted me to be a doctor. I’ve worked hard and focused my life that way, assuming that’s what I was going to do. But if I fail chemistry I’m going to have to find something else to do.”

God didn’t want him to fail. That night, he dreamed that a figure wrote down the problems and solutions on the blackboard. When he woke up, he quickly wrote down the notes from his dream. The problems that the figure had shown him was on that chemistry test. God answered Ben’s prayer.

Ben expressed his thanks to God. “It’s clear that You want me to be a doctor. I’m going to do everything within my power to be one. I’m going to learn to study.”

See? Everything will work according to God’s plan.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

God has already marked our calenders. It’s just a matter of time.

PS – Read the book. Watch the movie. Very touching

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery is a classic book. It is about a young girl named Anne(“Ann with an e”) Shirley. She was orphaned at a very young age and lived in several foster homes and orphanages.  

Beginning of the stories …………………………………

Anne Shirley’s parents died of fever when she was just 3 years old. Mrs. Thomas, a woman that knew Anne’s parents well, took her in, even though she was poor and had a drunken husband. Anne lived with them until she was eight. She helped look after the Thomas children, which took a lot of looking after. Even though the work was hard, Anne still found time to imagine and wander in the woods, always with a book in her hand. I admire her way of using her imagination to make reality seem more appealing or attractive. Her famous quote :”Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.”

Anne Shirley waited patiently with all her might and main at the station…………..

Matthew Cuthbert is Surprised…………….

“I suppose you are Mr.Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables?” she said in a peculiarly clear, sweet voice. “I’m very glad to see you,I was beginning to be afraid you weren’t coming for me and I was imagining all the things that might have happened to prevent you.”

Shy Matthew Cuthbert was so astounded to find a chatty out-going girl waiting for him at the train station, when he was sent to pick up a boy! But alas, he could not leave a child at a train station anyhow, no matter what mistake had been made, so all questions and explanations might as well be deferred until he was safely back at Green Gables.

“Isn’t that beautiful? What did that tree, leaning out from the bank, all white and lacy, make you think of?” she asked.

         “Well now, I dunno,” said Matthew.

          “Why, a bride, of course—a bride all in white with a lovely misty veil.”

Anne was such an imaginative girl! I adore her, and I think if anyone was such an optimistic girl with such an imagination, they would be perfectly happy. Anne talked and talked about the scenery and about many different subjects until I thought her tongue must be hinged in the middle. They reached the Avenue, which its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. Passing Barry’s pond, Anne gave it a new name- the Lake of Shining Waters. Finally Anne realized they had reached the Green Gables and followed Matthew into the house.

Marilla Cuthbert was Matthew’s practical sister. “Matthew Cuthbert, who’s that?” She ejaculated. “Where is the boy?”    “There wasn’t any boy,” said Matthew wretchedly. “There was only her.” Suddenly Anne grasped the full meaning of what had been said.

“You don’t want me!” she cried. “You don’t want me because I’m not a boy! Oh, this is the most tragical thing that ever happened to me! My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” I like the way she always uses big words to describe what is on her mind.

Marilla asks her what her real name is. “Anne Shirley is such an unromantic name. But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an e.” Then Anne explains that when you hear a name pronounced you can always see it in your mind. A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. I burst out into laughter when Marilla said, “Well, Anne with an e…..” I can tell she is a very stubborn girl because she insists on being called “Anne spelled with an e.”

Anne first met Gilbert………………….

Why, Anne was so indignant she picked up Gilbert’s slate and smashed it over his head! I roared with laughter at this. Serves him right, I thought. Anne felt that she should never forgive Gilbert. Even when Gilbert apologized to Anne at the end of class, the girl acted like Gilbert didn’t exist. This incident also shows that Anne is a stubborn and sensitive girl.


Anne felt so ashamed of her red hair that she tried to dye her hair black, but instead her hair turned green! “I thought anything would be better than red hair,” she explained to Marilla, “But green is ten times worse!” Marilla tried to help her wash her hair, but nothing would work. Anne was devastated when she had to get her hair cut short. She promised herself she would never look at her hair until it has grown long again. I thought with her hair short and curly, she looked lovely.

When she returned to school with her hair grown long again, the teacher placed her next to Gilbert Blythe just for being late. But there were many others that were late too, and Anne felt just so unfair! I just wanted to scream at the unfairness of the situation—why didn’t the teacher pick on them? Anne still treated Gilbert as if she were higher and better than him—holding her chin high and ignoring him for the rest of class. It was hilarious how Gilbert tried to get her attention.


Diana is invited to Tea with Tragic Results………………………………..

Diana Barry was Anne’s bosom friend. She went everywhere with Anne, both of them letting their imagination run wild. One day Diana was invited to tea at Anne’s. Anne accidently gave Diana a wrong beverage, which they both thought was raspberry cordial. But no, Diana had drunk three cups of wine! When Mrs. Barry found her daughter stupidly stumbling back home drunk, she was indignant and wrongly accused Anne of being a disgraceful, wicked girl! Their friendship was severed and Anne was devastated. My heart ached for Anne and Diana.

Anne to the Rescue………………………………

Marilla went out of town one wintery night. Anne and Matthew’s one-sided conversation was interrupted by Diana bursting through the front door, her eyes wide with fear. Her little sister was down with a terribly hot fever, and her parents were out of town. Anne rushed to her house and fed her doses of medicine. The fever began to subside, and Mrs. Barry was so grateful. Anne and Diana could continue their friendship again .

 The most memorable conversation :

Diana : I wish I were rich, and I could spend the whole summer at a hotel, eating ice cream and chicken salad.

Anne Shirley : You know something, Diana ? We are rich. We have sixteen years to our credit, and we both have wonderful imaginations. We should be as happy as queens.

The Glory and the Dream

Anne worked hard at her school. Somebody called out: “Three cheers for Miss Shirley, winner of the Avery!” She found herself among a midst of happy, cheering friends. She had worked diligently in class and beat Gilbert to getting a scholarship! I felt so happy for her.

When Matthew is dying……………………

Anne Shirley : Please, Matthew. You need help. We’ve got to get a doctor.

Matthew Cuthbert: I’ve worked hard all my life. I’d rather just drop in the harness. I got old; I never noticed.

Anne Shirley : If I’d been the boy you sent for, I could have spared you in so many ways.

Matthew Cuthbert : I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.

This part really touched my heart ……….My eyes were filled with tears

After Matthew’s funeral, Marilla finds Anne crying ………………………..

Anne Shirley : Tears don’t hurt like the ache does.

Anne knew if she accepted the scholarship, Marilla would be left alone almost blind. Marilla almost sold Green Gables, but Anne told her she would give up her scholarship to Redmond. She planned to teach at the local school, but Marilla insisted she should take the scholarship. Anne replied, “I’m sixteen and a half, and I’m just as stubborn as you are.”


%d bloggers like this: