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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.

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.

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