Welcome to the Book Reviews page! 

This page is dedicated to sharing books that are both new and old favorites.  We will highlight authors and their work through traditional book review formats as well as through book trailers and other technology-inspired methods. 

Please let us know if there is a book that you would like to review or if there is one that you are interested in having reviewed.  You may contact Melissa Comer, the book review editor, via email at the link below. 

Reviewer:  Melissa Comer

Vince Vawter’s debut novel, Paper Boy (2013) tells the story of Little Man (readers don’t discover his name until the end) and his journey through summer. In this coming of age tale in segregated Memphis, Tennessee during 1959, readers feel for Little Man and the difficulties he faces. With a very pronounced stutter, Little Man compensates by focusing on being the best baseball player he can be. When he takes on the responsibility of a paper route, Little Man is forced to face more than just his fear of speaking to strangers. He realizes, as the summer unfolds, that sometimes making a choice to take a stand for what is right may mean doing something that is wrong.

Vawter’s tale presents Civil Rights issues, i.e. violence, separation of whites and blacks on buses, and the abhorrence of the “N” word, through the eyes of an 11 year old boy. His words, his thoughts, unfold through the s-s-s-s-s-stutters and through the typed words that he is unable to say. Told in a poignant manner, readers realize that relationships, regardless of skin color or blood ties, are founded on mutual respect, sacrifice, and love.

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Set in the Carolina Mountains, author Peggy McLain shares the story of 12 year old John Lequire's journey with the Shadow Dogs and the Cheraw Indians.  Dealing with past regrets and their impact on his future, John learns that "The past is like a dream. You cannot change your past, no more than you can change a dream as you sleep."  This very past is what shapes and makes him a man.  On the advice of the Cheraw Holy Man, John is told to face his past with no regrets.

Check out Wendy Picarella's book trailer (to the right) and review of The Shadow Dogs in the October 31, 2014 edition of Visions & Revisions (available soon on the Publications of the TCTE website).

You may contact the author, Peggy McLain, via email at

Reviewer:  Melissa Comer

Christened as America’s pastime, readers explore the early days of baseball in Barbara Gregorich’s verse novel, Jack and Larry: Jack Graney and Larry, the Cleveland Baseball Dog (2012). The story opens in 1912 and follows the career of Jack Graney, his love of the game, his pursuit of the pennant, and his devotion to Larry, his bull terrier. Coming up short, Graney faces disappointment as he watches other teams win the pennant, teams that aren’t his, the Cleveland Naps (later known as the Cleveland Indians). Through it all, Jack’s friendship with Larry grows. He teaches the bull terrier tricks, and Larry, in turn, teaches Jack what it means not to give up on a dream. More than that, perhaps, is that Larry also teaches the Cleveland Naps what it means to be a team, a team that has “togetherness.” In a tale of firsts (first team to wear numbers on their uniforms, first batter to swing against Babe Ruth, first team to have a dog as a mascot), Jack and Larry reminds readers “that life is a tornado that swoops us up, slaps us around, and drops us, black and blue but still standing.”

Gregorich pulls readers in, those who are fans of the game and those who aren’t. The reader is able to form an emotional connection with both Jack and Larry, experiencing the ups and downs of the world of major league baseball as Jack faces disappointment, joy, and heartache. The verse format of the story is offset with historical facts, written in prose, which results in a unique reading experience. In place of chapters, Gregorich uses poem titles for each section of the novel. The titles entice reading and set the stage for the content of that particular part, each poem building on the previous one. Jack and Larry is more than a story about baseball and a man and his best friend; it is a life-lesson in pursuing dreams, in never giving up, and in putting it all on the line for the love of the game.  

Book trailer creator, Mallory Wallace Pippin, reviews Jay Asher's 2011 release Thirteen Reasons Why.  In this gritty novel, readers discover why Hannah commits suicide while learning important lessons about how to treat others.  An excellent novel to use in a bibliotherapy setting!

God Went to Beauty School

Reviewer:  Melissa Comer

Author Cynthia Rylant (2003), paints a picture of God as someone experiencing human things.  Told through poetic form, readers are able to visualize God as an individual involved in the mundane things of the world.

Three Rivers Rising

Reviewer:  Melissa Comer

Readers explore the Johnstown Flood of 1889 in Jame Richards’ verse novel Three Rivers Rising (2010).  The historical significance of the flood comes alive as the story of the natural disaster and social class barriers take center stage.  Combating the rising waters and parental and societal disapproval, main characters Celestia and Peter find love and solace in each other making the devastation of the historical flood that much more poignant.  

Wicked Girls

Reviewer:  Toni Szabo

This Printz Award winning author spins a tale of what ifs in this historical based verse novel. With the use of real life characters, the author gives us a glimpse into what might have been the driving force behind the government, and church, sanctioned killings of 19 Salem residents in 1692. Based on factual events, this novel paints a picture of greed, jealousy, and revenge through the eyes of the town's "afflicted" young girls. Written from the perspective of three of the girls involved, today's young adults will find many parrellels to their own struggles and emotions. With archaic language and interesting abstract theories of a time few actual facts are known, this book is a great companion for teaching this infantile era of America's history.