The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson

Book Info
The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson
©2006 Sleuth Viking, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0670060085

Plot Summary
In the town of Silverton, Colorado, seventeen year-old Cammie is the daughter of the town Coroner. Cammie dreams of following in his footsteps to become a forensic pathologist and all but begs him to hire her as his assistant. Cammie’s father gives in, and ends up being very impressed by her observations and contributions to her first case and let’s her continue, but the next case is a little more serious. A serial killer is at work in Silverton, known as the Christopher Killer, and the latest victim is one of Cammie’s friends. Grieving her loss, Cammie dedicates herself to finding the killer, but must be careful to ensure that she doesn’t wind up the next victim.

Reader’s Annotation
Interested in a career in forensic pathology, Cammie is excited to finally be allowed to work as assistant to her father, the town coroner. But she may be in for more than she bargained for when she has to work on the case involving one of her friends who was murdered by a conniving serial killer known as the Christopher Killer. Will she be next?

Critical Evaluation
Gripping, suspenseful, and cleverly written, The Christopher Killer is like “CSI” for young adult literature. Ferguson’s writing keeps readers on the edge of their seats, searching their memories for clues and hints that might have been dropped and overlooked on previous pages. It is an interesting departure from your typical Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book and I hadn’t ever encountered a mystery of this kind. I was very impressed by the unique premise in comparison to other books that are popular right now. I picked it up out of curiosity, and then could not put it down until I reached the end. I found myself constantly attempting to predict what would happen next, only to be taken in a completely different and shocking direction as each clue is uncovered. Aside from being smart with her clues and twists, Ferguson is also very vivid in her detail of describing autopsy scenes and forensics for readers that would be otherwise unfamiliar.

Information about the Author
Alane Ferguson is an author who has won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery novel in 1990 for Show Me the Evidence. Ferguson was born in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1957. Her mother is children’s author Gloria Skurzynski.

Alane is the author of many novels and mysteries, including the Edgar Award winning Show Me The Evidence. She does very intensive research for her books by attending autopsies and interviewing forensic pathologists.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Mystery, Forensic Mystery, Crime, Drama

Curriculum Ties
Science

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss Cammie’s relationship with her father.

Cammie must work on a case involving the death of one of her friends. In this situation, would you be able to rise above the personal involvement to work on the case professionally?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Graphic imagery
  • Murder

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I came across this book while browsing books in the young adult section of my library, and found it to be a fairly unique concept and addition to the genre of mystery. I was eager to read it and see if it lived up to my hopeful expectation.

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Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Book Info
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
©1981 Atheneum Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0689858727

Plot Summary
Fifteen year-old Davey Wexler is mourning the loss of her father, who was tragically killed during a robbery at the Atlantic City 7-Eleven convenience store where he was employed. The surviving family includes Davey, her mother, and her younger brother Jason who are all left in complete shock. Davey’s mother decides it best for the family to have a change of scenery in order to heal and escape the constant reminders of the recent tragedy. The family sets off for Los Alamos, New Mexico to stay with Davey’s father’s relatives, her Aunt Bitsy and Uncle Walter. With the help of her mysterious new friend Wolf, and her volunteer job as a candy striper at a local hospital, Davey struggles to overcome her fears and learn how to deal with her grief and not blame herself for her father’s death. Can Davey and her family move on from their misfortune and start a new life?

Reader’s Annotation
In the wake of her father’s death, Davey and her family relocate to New Mexico to try to pick up the pieces of their lives. Can Davey overcome her fears and come to terms with her grief?

Critical Evaluation
Judy Blume has been one of the most prolific writers of children’s and young adult fiction since about 1970, with Tiger Eyes being one of her great works. The book masterfully tackles tough issues and really captures the feelings and transformations that take place in the grieving process. Davey’s father was brutally killed during a robbery when Davey was 15 and the book tells the story of the grieving and healing process for her and her family. Blume likes to write about real life and does not shy away from complex issues and for this reason is often the source of major controversy. Tiger Eyes is no exception as a regular on the ALA frequently challenged and banned books list. The reasons for challenge often stem from the book discussing suicide, alcoholism and violent behavior, but in my opinion it’s these controversial topics that make this book amazing.

Information about the Author
Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Judy received a B.S. in education from New York University in 1961, which named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996, the same year the American Library Association honored her with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. Other recognitions include the Library of Congress Living Legends Award and the 2004 National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Judy is a longtime advocate of intellectual freedom. Finding herself at the center of an organized book banning campaign in the 1980’s she began to reach out to other writers, as well as teachers and librarians, who were under fire. Since then, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read. She is the editor of Places I Never Meant To Be, Original Stories by Censored Writers.

From the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Drama

Curriculum Ties
English, Sociology

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss Davey’s loss and how she deals with her grief.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Violence
  • Death
  • Suicide
  • Alcoholism

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • As one of the most frequently challenged authors and books, there is a wealth of information on the internet regarding defense.

Why Included?
I am ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read much Judy Blume in my life, and while I was working on a term paper on Intellectual Freedom, Blume’s name came up often. Tiger Eyes in particular do to it being the only book Blume ever censored herself, prior to publishing. In the original version, there was a pivotal moment when Davey is finally escaping the numbness she felt since her father died and she masturbated to thoughts of Wolf. This scene was removed in favor of reaching a wider audience, but still piqued my interest to read it as a classic, and classically challenged book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Book Info
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
© 1960 HarperLuxe, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0061980268

Plot Summary
During the Great Depression in a small town in Alabama, Scout is six years old and lives with her older brother, Jem and her widowed father, Atticus. Every summer, a boy named Dill comes to town to live with his aunt and the three children spend their time together playing and being terrified but fascinated by the reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley. Atticus is a lawyer and agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who was falsely accused of raping a young white woman, even though it earns him the cruel nick name “nigger lover.” Scout and her friends become much invested in the trial, learning valuable lessons about innocence, understanding, justice, prejudice and bravery, sharing these valuable lessons with the reader as well.

Reader’s Annotation
The lauded classic To Kill a Mockingbird is a gripping tale of innocence, understanding, justice, prejudice and bravery, told from the point of view of a six year-old girl. Set in Alabama during the Great Depression, the lessons to be learned are timeless and powerful.

Critical Evaluation
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic piece of American literature that gives an inspiring, realistic and shocking look at Depression Era America. Segregation was still in full effect, allowing blatant racism to run rampant across the nation, especially in the South. Taking place in Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird showcases a moving example of racial injustice through the innocent eyes of a child. The main characters of the book are just young children but the subject matter and overall social commentary involved make this book incredibly deep with an older, more adult feel. Writing the book from this point of view, Lee is able to depict complex concepts by how they would be interpreted by children and show how the children mature and grow over the three years that pass through the course of the book.

Information about the Author
Harper Lee is an American writer, famous for her race relations novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. The book became an international bestseller and was adapted into screen in 1962. Lee was 34 when the work was published, and it has remained her only novel.

Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father was a former newspaper editor and proprietor, who had served as a state senator and practiced as a lawyer in Monroeville. Lee studied law at the University of Alabama from 1945 to 1949, and spent a year as an exchange student in Oxford University, Wellington Square. Six months before finishing her studies, she went to New York to pursue a literary career. During the 1950s, she worked as an airline reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and British Overseas Airways. In 1959 Lee accompanied Truman Capote to Holcombe, Kansas, as a research assistant for Capote’s classic ‘non-fiction’ novel In Cold Blood (1966).

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Crime, Mystery, Drama, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties
History, Sociology, English

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss how Tom is analogically the mockingbird.

Discuss the evolution of Scouts relationship with Boo.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Racism

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
This book is a timeless classic that appeals to a wide audience and is a poignant social commentary. I wanted to include at least one major classic, and this was my first choice.