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Archive for June, 2009

Antsy Does Time

Monday, June 15th, 2009

antsy does timeBy Neal Shusterman, p. 247 – Grades 6-9. 

If you enjoyed meeting Antsy (Anthony Bonano) in the Schwa Was Here, you’ll love encountering him again in this humorous teen novel in which he gives Gunnar Umlaut a month of his life.  When classmate Gunnar tells Antsy that he only has six months to live, Antsy draws up a contract giving Gunnar a month of his life, which earns him the attention and a kiss from Gunnar’s gorgeous older sister.  Soon other kids and even the principal want to donate months of their lives to Gunnar.  Time passes, and Gunnar isn’t showing symptoms.  What’s up?

 

Connection:  Other humorous novels where schemes get out of hand are The Schwa Was Here by Neal Schusterman, The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian, and Peeled by Joan Bauer.

Hippie Chick

Monday, June 15th, 2009

 hippie chickBy Joseph Monninger, p. 156 – Grades 7-10.  

 Independent, free-spirited Lolly runs into serious trouble when she takes her little sailboat out one evening in the Florida Keys.  Her boat capsizes, and as the sun sets, she realizes that no one knows where she is and that her chances of survival are slim.  Terrified of sharks, she nearly freaks out when something smooth and large bumps up against her legs.  It turns out to be a manatee.  Clinging to its back, Lolly travels with the manatee and its companions to a mangrove swamp.

 

Connection:  Other novels about special human-animal relationships include The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse, Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allen Eckert, and Eva by Peter Dickison.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Best bad luckby Kristin Levine, p. 264 – Grades 6-9

While many of the townspeople in early 20th century Moundville, Alabama were shocked at the arrival of the new African-American postmaster, twelve-year old Dit was disappointed when he realized the postmaster’s child, Emma, was a girl rather than the playmate he had been hoping for.  Adventuresome Dit is sure that he will never enjoy spending time with bookish, refined Emma, but he grudgingly shows her around and eventually the two end up finding common ground in the digging of a fort in Dit’s favorite hill mound.  With the start of school in the fall, Dit comes to more fully understand the realities of the Jim Crow laws as Emma is forced to go to a different school and his buddies tease him about their friendship.  Racial tensions in the town really erupt when the the town’s African American barber is charged with a crime against the overtly racist sheriff, and as witnesses to the crime, Dit and Emma can’t help but get involved.

Connection:  For another story about a friendship challenged by racism, read Tony Johnston’s Bone by Bone by Bone.

Alligator Bayou

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

alligator bayouby Donna Jo Napoli, p. 280 – Grades 7-10

Fourteen year-old Calogero lives with his four uncles and one cousin in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana at the end of the 19th century.  He has left his four year-old brother behind in Sicily after the disappearance of his father and the death of his mother.  At a time of strong anti-immigrant sentiment and Jim Crow laws, the Sicilians are being forced to keep separate from not only the white but also the black members of the community.  Calo’s secret crush on an African American girl, Patricia, and the success of the family’s produce market provide the fuel to feed the flames of racism in this small town.

Connection:  The King of Mulberry Street is another novel, by Donna Jo Napoli,  that describes the experience of Italian American immigrants (in New York City).

Thirteenth Child

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Thirteenth-Childby Patricia C. Wrede, p. 344 – Grades 6 & Up

Eff and her twin brother Lan live in a magical, alternative version of the the western frontier.  Eff is born the thirteenth child, a position that is thought to bring bad luck to the family, while her brother is lucky 14 and the 7th son of the 7th son, a position that brings extraordinary magical power.  The family moves from the civilized and secure east  to the western frontier where a magical border keeps dangerous creatures like the dreaded steam dragons away from the settlements.  Despite her difficulties learning and controlling magic, Eff’s teacher Miss Ochiba teaches her not only Avrupan magic but also the Hijero-Cathayan and Aphrikan styles.  An expedition to the settlements outside the Great Barrier Magic tests her magical skills.

Connection:  For another story that brings a magical alternative to a historical setting, try reading The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer.