Who Killed Mr. Chippendale by Mel Glenn

WhoKilledMrChippendaleWho killed Mr. Chippendale? by Mel Glenn

Someon shoots and kills Mr. Chippendale, an English teacher at Tower High School, while he’s running early morning on the school track. Told in free verse by students, staff and police investigating, the poems give insight into Mr. Chippendale’s impact on staff and students, ass well as the characters themselves. The guidance counselor comes up with a plan to lure the murderer out into the open. An epilogue tells what the main characters are doing thirteen years later. Multiple poems of several characters speaking in their own voices make them distinct personalities.

This is a fast read with an intriguing plot.

Review by Ellie Goldstein Erickson



Burned by Ellen Hopkins


Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Hopkins is known for taking on controversial topics: drug addiction, teen prostitutes teen mental illness and more.  This time she’s taking a close look at an abusive family, which happens to be Mormon and lives in Nevada.  Our protagonist is Pattyn Von Stratten, yes, she and all her sisters are named after military generals.  Clearly her father keeps hoping for a son.  He has an abusive  relationship with alcohol, that Pattyn calls his Johnnie WB (after Johnnie Walker Black, a type of whiskey.  The dad usually starts drinking on Friday afternoon after work, and continues throughout the weekend unless he loses his temper and beats on his wife.  Pattyn spends most of her time taking care of her six younger sisters and the house, since her mom has retired to the couch and daytime television.  Although Pattyn’s not allowed to date, she sneaks how with hot Justin from school.  Sadly, she eventually get’s caught and is sent to live for the summer with her Aunt Jeanette in a small town in rural Nevada.  Surprisingly, Aunt J turns out to be pretty nice, and there are no Mormon rules to follow and no babies to look after.  For Pattyn, it’s almost like a vacation.  Although she’s been sent there to “straighten up and fly right,” she learns how to be independent, how to be responsible and maybe she even learns how to be with a respectful boy who is definitely NOT Mormon.

I listened to this novel in verse on an audio CD, and felt it lost a little in the translation.  Ellen Hopkins’ free verse poetry creates various meanings depending on how you read it.  When its read, its more  like prose which does tell the story, but is not the same.  Nonetheless I would recommend this title to Ellen Hopkins fans and readers who like strong, emotional stories.  If you’ve liked her other books, this one will not disappoint.

impulse          identical          fallout

Click on the book titles for our reviews.



Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This beautiful and lyrical memoir is written in verse by one of our finest Young Adult writers.  In it, Woodson vividly recollects her upbringing both in New York’s Brooklyn and the deep south.  Both of these homes informed her childhood, where she was raised by a loving family and experienced a huge sense of community in South Carolina.  Born in 1963, the author lived through the Civil Rights movement as a child and young adult, and her personal insights into the politics of the time are compelling.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it both YA and adult readers looking for a memoir of a self-aware young woman who grew up as an African-American in the 60’s, both in rural and urban environments.  This would be the perfect title for any of our Berkeley High students in the Short Story course and are looking for a great memoir.  Woodson has written many, many books for young adults.  I’ve loved all the ones I’ve read, finding them realistic and poignant.  That they’re usually less than 200 pages makes them a quick read, which is sometimes just what I’m looking for.  She has also written some thoughtful picture books, which are illustrated with beautiful water color images.  Ask either of the librarians for advice if you’re just starting out reading Jacqueline Woodson.

miracles boys          beneath          i hadn't meant          each kindness


Walking on Glass by Alma Fullerton

walking on glass

Walking on Glass  by Alma Fullerton

Told in verse, a 17 year old boy recounts in a journal how his mother’s attempted suicide has left her in a coma. He has started the journal under protest, at the suggestion of a psychiatrist, believing “only girls and wusses” keep diaries. As he writes, he explores his feelings about his mother and his memories of her before she became mentally ill. He also writes about his best friend, who is becoming someone whose increasingly violent behavior turns him into someone whom the boy does not want as a friend. He’s also met a girl he really likes, who is sensitive to his feelings. The doctors tell his father and him that his mother will not recover from the coma; they suggest unplugging the life support machines and donating her organs after her death. How he and his father deal with the need to decide this emotion-laden issue forms the climax of the book.

I could not stop reading this book once I started! The poetry format makes it a fast read, and I really wanted to know what happened to the boy, his family and friends. The author treats the subject with sensitivity without evading the life and death issues involved. I admire the way she covers the subject without becoming overly sentimental or matter of fact. This book gives the reader much to consider.


Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Girl Coming in For a Landing by April Halprin Wayland

girl coming

Girl Coming in For a Landing by April Halprin Wayland

Told in verse and divided by seasons, the teenage girl narrator tells her feelings, hopes and what’s happening with her family, friends, school, crushes, and other events in her life over the course of the school year. The  author uses the poetry format to zero in on topics with no extraneous words. The narrator covers a wide variety of occurrences including her attraction to two completely opposite boys, having a poem accepted for publication and her fondness and admiration for her older sister.

I was amazed at how much I felt I knew about the main character by the end of the book. The poems vary in length, but each conveys a surprising amount of information, as if the book had been written in full sentences and chapters. The format also makes this a fast read; I read the whole book in one afternoon.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt

my book of life

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt

This realistically painful novel in verse will be loved by Ellen Hopkins fans and other readers of gritty, first person narratives.  The novel is taken from the incidents in Vancouver, Canada, wich began in 1983.  Prostitutes started disappearing, but the police showed little concern and little was done to find the killer(s).  Leavitt tells the story of the fictional Angel, an unhappy sixteen year old who is more interested in stealing shoes from the mall than listening to her grieving father talk about about her mother who died of bone cancer.  She meets Call at the local mall, who is kind to her, becomes her boyfriend, gives her a drug she’s nicknamed “Candy,” and eventually turns her out as a prostitute in the city’s notorious Downtown Eastside.  After nine months, Angel’s best friend Serena stops showing up on her corner one night.  Angel knows something is wrong when she finds Serena’s “running away” money still stashed under her mattress.  Call seems unconcerned, and even brings the eleven-year-old Melli to their apartment to take Angel’s place if she does not want to “earn” for him anymore.  Angel’s single-minded goal to keep Melli safe is what begins to change her life.

Readers looking for this type of story will love this book.  It’s written in the form of a journal that Angel keeps for herself, and while it is explicit about her life, it won’t leave readers feeling like Peeping Toms. I highly recommend it to Ellen Hopkins fans and readers who like books like Go Ask Alice and A Child Called It.

impulse     crank     identical

Click HERE for our reviews of some of Ellen Hopkins’ books.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

In this gripping novel in verse, Hopkins tells what happens to three suicidal teenagers who meet in a clinic for “troubled youth” in Nevada.  First there’s Conner, who seems to have the perfect life if you don’t look too closely.  He lives in a mansion in an exclusive part of town and is very popular at school. Along with this, however, he has parents with impossibly high expectations who are always comparing him to his “perfect” twin sister Cara.  Then we meet Tony, a street kid who’s been in the juvenile detention system since he was a young child, but readers won’t learn why until much later in the book.  We just find out that he’s gay and been a prostitute on and off just to survive.  Lastly is Vanessa, the beautiful girl with a secret so dark the only way she believes she can relieve her pain is by cutting herself.  These three patients slowly become friends as they find they have more and more in common with each other.  Sharing their pasts is excruciating, but carefully they reveal their darkest mysteries to each other, learning to trust and love in the process.

This book is full of bleak topics: sexual abuse, self-mutilation, drug abuse, parental neglect, mental illness and suicide. Like all of Hopkins’ books, the author has done her research, and presents her characters in a realistic, if depressing fashion.  I found this book engaging, yet sad.  It didn’t really matter that I read it after I read Perfect, as there was only one character in common.  I would highly recommend this to teen readers who like realistic fiction and fans of Hopkins’ other titles.

Click HERE to see the review of the companion novel Perfect.