Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

After reading Maniac Magee and Stargirl, my daughter and I decided to read another Jerry Spinelli book, Loser. We enjoyed it, but it was very Spinelli. I guess that's what we wanted.

Donald Zinkoff is different, something that becomes more evident as he gets into middle school. Other students consider him invisible, a nothing, but he seems to be in his own world, insulated from their harsh comments by the unwavering love of his parents. Zinkoff, however, has something that other kids do not seem to have, compassion. It is this quality that others come to recognize in him and that begins to awaken his peers.

We found that the message in Loser is not as straight-forward and easily understood as in Maniac Magee. The ending was also a bit abrupt and probably has left many an 8 - 12 year old scratching their head or missing its true significance in the context of the story. The book overall is an easy read with a message for preteens, and we recommend it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Proposed Flamingnet Content Rating System

The Flamingnet Content Rating (FCR)

Flamingnet feels that it is beneficial for readers, and those selecting and recommending books to preteens, teens and young adults, to have some idea about the sexual, drug and violent content of the books they are considering. Flamingnet Book Reviews, besides rating each book on a 1 – 10 scale depending on how our reviewer enjoyed a book, also rates each book on content. Our content rating helps people determine the appropriateness of a particular book for a particular reader or group of readers. Our content rating system does not deal with the reading level of the book, just the content of the book.

A smiley face stands for general readers, for any age. Book with this designation contain nothing that would be considered offensive. These books are generally absent of violence, sex, drugs, swearing, and crude comments.

A frowning smiley face rating means that we recommend adult guidance when considering this book. These books may contain some profanity, sexual comments, and can also deal with the issue of drugs and alcohol. Parents, teachers and librarians may want to read these books before recommending it to a student.

Books rated with a pirate smiley face rating are suggested for mature readers only, and contain material that is deemed unsuitable for children to young teens. These books can contain, sexual situations, extreme profanity, and extreme violence.

Understandably, our content rating is somewhat subjective, placed on books by our reviewers. We value your comments if you disagree with the rating of a particular book.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hi/Lo Books

As many parents, teachers, and librarians know, not all children are good readers or even care to read. Some even have learning disabilites and reading difficulties that have made it painful and a chore to read. Hi/Lo books are written with these children in mind and are books that are intended to stimulate a high interest but are written for a lower reading level. Vocabulary, text print and page layouts in these books are usually crafted to appeal to children and young adults who usually do not like to read for various reasons.

It has not been easy to find good lists of Hi/Lo books for young adults and teens on the Internet. Some of the best sites I found are:

I would be interested in learning of any other good Hi/Lo sites or lists on the Internet.

Monday, November 15, 2004


I just finished reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli to my daughter (12 1/2 years old). He has also written one of our favorites, Maniac Magee, as well as Milkweed, Wringer, Crash, and My Daddy and Me. Stargirl is very simiar to Maniac Magee, in a sense. This book is about a teenager who is quite different from her peers. She has a very carefree, natural, sincere and caring nature all her own. Her differences eventually lead to her being shunned by her classmates who have trouble understanding and accepting her. When she tries to be like them she is still ostracized and eventually returns to herself, only to finally win them over.
We liked Stargirl and it was amazing how many people in my daughter's class at school were similar to some of the characters in the book. This provided for interesting discussions about school friends and how they act. Even though the ending was somewhat predictable, Spinelli's Stargirl makes the reader think about differences in people and how we react to them. I think it is a book best read aloud to lower and middle school students so they will get the most out of the story. Older readers who read it alone will enjoy it as a quick, fun read with a message.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Tom Sawyer

Tonight I finished reading to my daughter The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was the original text. She is in seventh grade and had been assignd to read it by herself. A truly great book but given the writing style I felt it was best if we read it together. I also introduced her to Spark Notes. We enjoyed it but I feel she would have gotten more out of it if she had been assigned the Penguin Classic edition where the language and writing has been modified to make it easier to understand and read. The original text seems a real challenge even for advanced readers in her age group.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Flamingnet Student Book Reviewers

Over the past year, we have been lucky to have some excellent middle and upper school students read and review many of the new and advance books sent to Flamingnet. Recently we also extended an invitation to review books for Flamingnet to college students either to fullfill an English course requirement or in order to advance their portfolios (especially if they are interested in doing reviews of books, magazines, and movies as a career). The response has been excellent and these reviews should be appearing soon on Flamingnet. If you are a school teacher or college professor who would like to offer this opportunity to your students, or a student who would like to review books for Flamingnet, please email us at webmaster@flamingnet.com. As Flamingnet has grown so have the requests we receive for book reviews. We, therefore, will appreciate your help.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


I had heard several librarians on the YALSA listserv praise Double Helix by Nancy Werlin. This is supposedly a preteen contemporary mystery. I read it this summer to my own kids who are both in middle school and was shocked at the sexual references in the book. We have had several preteen and young adult books sent to Flamingnet for review this past year that have also been sexually explicit. I feel all of these books are inappropriate for my 12 and 13 year old kids, yet this is the age group their publishers and authors are targeting. But, like movies, shouldn't authors and publishers be encouraged to use some sort of rating system to tell parents and young readers if the book includes references to sex, violence and drugs? I think a publisher that voluntarily adopts such a system would become very popular with parents, teachers and librarians interested in making appropriate reading recommendations to their preteens and young adults.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Today we were very excited to learn that The McDonogh School in Baltimore, Maryland has purchased and distributed 150 copies of UNDER THE SUN to its seventh grade. The students have been encouraged to read this book prior to Mr. Dorros' visit to the school in November. Flamingnet had brought this book to the middle school librarians' attention. After reading it and seeing our student reviews, they recognized it as a new and important book about ethnic diversity.


This is the first post on our new blog. Welcome to the Flamingnet Book Blog where "Dad of Flamingnet" can add his two cents about the books my son and his friends have reviewed for our site and about books that I have read to my kids. I will also be commenting on other books we have been sent that we have elected not to review.