Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive


In honor of Lauren Myracle's new book, TTYL (Talk to You Later), told completely through instant messaging, Brie Johnson, a rabid reader in eighth grade at Southside Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg, and I thought we'd have our book chat online. Both of us changed our s/n, but the chat's the same. Book Buzz can happen anywhere!

brandnew7 (Brie): Hey.

sfms7 (Atkins): Hi there. So _ what ya been reading lately?

brandnew7: First, What Daddy Did by Neal Shusterman, and then The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty.

sfms7: I was looking for my copy of What Daddy Did _ forgot I gave it to you. Have you finished it?

brandnew7: Yep.

sfms7: Thumbs up?

brandnew7: Yes.

sfms7: How did it compare to The Schwa?

brandnew7: It seemed really, really different, but after I thought about it, they related more than I thought they would _ they both had problems with teens & people my age, but the second book dealt with a more serious issue.

sfms7: What was that?

brandnew7: I've just realized something. . . . I was going to say the main character's father committed murder, but I saw that both of the characters had lost their mothers somehow.

sfms7: Interesting. I just finished Shusterman's Full Tilt _ a psychological/fantasy/thriller. Very good. I also seem to be reading a lot of books in verse.

brandnew7: Which would those be?

sfms7: The Realm of Possibilities by David Leviathan and Worlds Afire by Paul Janeczko _ one's about different kinds of love; the other's based on a real incident _ a tragic circus fire in Chicago in 1944.

brandnew7: Ooooh, they sound interesting. I'll have to check them out.

sfms7: Read any books told in poetic form before?

brandnew7: Mmmmm . . . actually I haven't.

sfms7: It's a different kind of reading if you're not used to it. Of course, you know how much I love "different" ;-)

brandnew7: Yes, yes.

sfms7: You like poetry, right?

brandnew7: But of course.

sfms7: Well, books in verse are "connected" poems that tell a story.

brandnew7: It sounds very cool.

brandnew7: That would be hard for me to do . . .

sfms7: Why?

brandnew7: It takes me forever to write a poem/song.

sfms7: I think it's the toughest form of writing _ such a "craft."

brandnew7: Indeed. I don't understand why it's so hard though. You know when you listened to Play Crack the Sky by Brand New, Jesse told a whole story in poetic form that lasted about six minutes.

sfms7: So fans of that kind of music (that tells a story) might want to check out these books in verse?

brandnew7: Absolutely.

sfms7: Well, ttyl _ I'm off for a run with my daughter.

brandnew7: Bye.

+ + +

Thanks to Michael Taylor's eighth-grade language arts students at Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg for flooding the Book Buzz mailbox. What a tough job it was to decide which book recommendations to print!

Dat Tran, 13, recommends The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.

The City of Ember is believed to be the only light in all the darkness _ so the citizens say. The builders of the City of Ember meant for the city to last only up to 200 years. Now the year is 241, long past the intended expiration date. Bad omens have begun showing up. Foods are getting scarce, power outages are frequent and all supplies are running low _ some are gone. But there is hope. The builders have left a note. The only problem is, the note is lost.

I enjoyed trying to decipher the ripped and half-bitten off note, which you will find later in the story. Also, I like the way the author foreshadows the event to come through the note, which made the story hard to put down. The funny antics of the characters trying to understand our common vocabulary is amusing. For example, one character thought through half a page trying to define candle and match. You should really give this book a try.

Lea Mijatovic, 14, recommends Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen.

Could this book have gotten any better? It was a great book to read. I was not planning to read it, but Flipped was on the Battle of the Books list. So I checked it out and started reading. At first I wasn't sure what this was going to be about because the title didn't give much information, but I decided to read it anyway.

The book begins when the new girl, Julianna, who raises chickens in her back yard, moves next door to Bryce. She immediately falls in love with Bryce, but he feels differently. He gets annoyed and starts avoiding her. As the years go by, Julianna's family starts to change her mind about liking him. Then Bryce has a change of heart, but you have to read the book to find out the rest of the story. Trust me _ you will like this book.

Shon Singh, 13, recommends Eye of the Beholder by Daniel Hayes.

Ever wonder if one day your art could become famous? Well, two eighth graders named Tyler and Lymie from Wakefield Middle were just in luck.

As the quiet little neighborhood of Wakefield was preparing for a celebration in honor of Badoglio (a famous sculptor who lived in the town many centuries ago), Tyler and Lymie were up to no good. The boys were making a sculpture of their own until Lymie accidentally chipped the rock sculpture into two pieces. So they then decided to play a prank on the neighborhood. They took the rocks and laid them next to Badoglio's old house. When people found out about these rocks, they thought they were very good and concluded they were Badoglio's missing sculptures.

The boys finally knew what beauty and meaning truly meant in the Eye of the Beholder. After the celebration, they finally confessed the truth about the sculptures. They were in a lot of trouble "but it was worth it," they said.

I would recommend this book to readers in eighth grade. The descriptions, the settings and the climax were all put together to make one big, humorous story that you could actually picture in your mind.

Linda Son, 13, recommends Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.

Imagine the Florida sun brutally beating down on you. The rays mercilessly attack you as you walk along the street. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a blur races past you, and then that blur is followed by a second blur. What was that? You're not seeing a race between two boys. You're seeing Roy chasing a strange, mysterious boy he saw from his bus window.

In Carl Hiaasen's first young adult book, Hoot, you follow Roy Eberhardt on a mission across Coconut Grove to unravel a mystery of the true identity of a mysterious, shoeless boy. And what will become of the burrowing owls that are still residing on a construction site?

Is the stranger friend or foe? Will the burrowing owls be killed or will they be saved before the bulldozers deliver their first blow? To find out what happens, read this Florida-based novel.

Holly Atkins teaches seventh-grade language arts at Southside Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg.