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Archive for January, 2010

Escape Under the Forever Sky

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

escapeBy Eve Yohalem  220 pages  Grades 5-8

Wouldn’t it be exciting to be the daughter of American ambassador to Ethiopia?  Thirteen year-old Lucy Hoffman dreams of staying out overnight in the bush watching the animals or just visiting the marketplace and exploring with friends, but instead she spends her days at school or stuck inside their home within their walled community in the capital city of Addis Ababa.  When she and a friend sneak out and go to the city, Lucy is kidnapped.  When it looks like rescue isn’t coming, she has to decide whether escaping into the Ethiopian bush is going to improve her odds of survival.

Connection:  For other survival tales set in Ethiopia, try reading The Return by Sonia Levitin or The Storyteller’s Beads by Jane Kurtz.  To read about Eve Yohalem’s inspiration for writing this book, check out her website.

Nation

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Terry_Pratchett_NationBy Terry Pratchett  367 pages  Grades 7-10

The tsunami seemingly washed away their distinctly different worlds and left them both stranded.  After the wave, Mau returns by dugout canoe from his coming of age quest to his village (the Nation) gone, and the trail of destruction leads him to the grounded wreck of the Sweet Judy, the ship that was to bring Daphne from her home in Victorian England to join her father in the “South Pelagic.”  With supplies from the wrecked ship and Mau’s knowledge of the land, the two start to rebuild the Nation as wounded survivors start arriving from other islands and as Daphne holds out hope that her father will come find her.  Daphne (known as the ghost girl), with her curious customs, strange clothes and white skin, struggles to communicate and fit in with her new community while Mau, the very young chief of this new Nation, is called the demon boy for having no soul without the completion of his manhood ceremony.  As this group struggles to survive, they live in fear of the inevitable arrival of the Raiders.

Connections:  For other tales of shipwrecks or deserted island survival, try reading Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, Overboard by Elizabeth Fama or Seaborn by Craig Moodie.  For more background on the book and the process of writing it, watch this video interview with the Terry Pratchett.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Friday, January 29th, 2010

claudette-colvin-twice-toward-justice-phillip-hoose-book-cover-artby Phillip Hoose   p. 104  Grades 6-8

I bet you know who Rosa Parks is and what she’s famous for, but have you ever  heard of Claudette Colvin?  She was a fifteen year old girl who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks became famous for the same thing.

On March 2, 1955, fifteen year-old Claudette Colvin courageously refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white woman.  Two white police officers came onto the bus and ordered her to give up her seat.  When she refused, stating that it was her Constitutional right to sit there, they dragged  her off the bus, shoved her into a police car and handcuffed her.  On the way to the police station, they called her names and made disparaging comments about her as Claudette sat terrified in the backseat next to one of the officers.  She was charged with violating the segregation  law, disturbing the peace, and assaulting the policemen who had pulled her off the bus.

Why is it that Rosa Parks became the symbol of the Montgomery bus boycott and  is considered one of the people who started the Civil Rights Movement, but most of us have never heard of Claudette Colvin?  At first she was a heroine to the Black community for standing up to the unfair practice of segregated seating, but then she became viewed as a troublemaker, and even her classmates shunned her.   Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement felt it was too risky to have a teenager represent them.   Hurt and isolated, Claudette still summoned the courage to testify at the trial that ended bus segregation in Montgomery.

Connections:  Other good nonfiction books about teenagers active in the Civil Rights Movement include Marching for Freedom : Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge, Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, and Freedom’s Children : Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Monday, January 25th, 2010

bloodontheriverby Elisa Carbone    p. 224   Grades 5-8

Barely escaping the gallows in London, orphan Sam Collier finds himself the page to Captain John Smith and on his way to the New World to help settle the Jamestown colony.  Smith believes the survival skills Sam has honed on the streets of London and even his violent temper will make him a successful settler in this challenging new frontier.  Captain Smith faces challenges of his own.  Although he has a good relationship with the Powhatan, the British aristocrats resent the leadership role he’s taken and do everything in their power to undermine and even arrest him.  This is gripping historical fiction, based on primary source documents, that presents the Indian perspective as well as the colonial.

Connections:  The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac, A Pickpocket’s Tale by Karen Schwabach, and The light in the Forest by Conrad Richter are other good novels about the Colonial Period in America.

The Rock and the River

Monday, January 25th, 2010

rockriverby Kekla Magoon   p. 283   Grades:  7-10

Fourteen-year-old Sam is caught between a rock and a hard place.  It’s Chicago 1968.  His father, a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s,  is a lawyer and Civil Rights leader who has been organizing nonviolent protests and demonstrations most of Sam’s life.  His seventeen-year-old brother Stick is impatient with the nonviolent approach, and after King’s assassination, joins the militant Black Panther Party.  Sam’s life is thrown into further turmoil when he witnesses the brutal police beating and arrest of an innocent Black teenager and finds a gun hidden in the bedroom he shares with his brother.  This wrenching story propels the reader along with Sam toward his ultimate decision:  will he be the rock or the river? Through Sam’s personal story, the reader comes to understand how 1968 was the year that the Civil Rights Movement changed course.

Connections:  Freedom Songs by Yvette Moore is another novel about the Civil Rights Movement.  Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe tells the infamous story of Emmett Till, a fourteen year-old African American boy from Chicago who was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi.  Our library owns many nonfiction books about the Civil Rights Movement.  One of special interest is Freedom’s Children : Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine.

Flygirl

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

flygirlby Sherri L. Smith  p. 271  Grades 6-8

It’s World War II, and the Japanese and Germans aren’t the only enemies.  On the homefront, Ida Mae Jones is fighting racism and sexism.  All she wants to do is become a pilot and to help in the war effort.  The U.S. government has formed the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), but they won’t accept African Americans (“colored”) into what was still the segregated armed services.  Risking her life and disappointing her family, Ida Mae decides to pass for white by joining up and reporting for training in Texas, where enforcement of Jim Crow laws was especially harsh.  To avoid the constant threat of danger, Ida Mae must skillfully maneuver not only her airplane but also her relationships so that her true identity is not discovered.

Connections:  To learn more about women pilots in World War II, read Yankee Doodle Gals:   Women Pilots of World War II by Amy Nathan.

Keeping Corner

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Keeping Cornerby Kashmira Sheth    p. 272  Grades: 6-8

Twelve-year-old Leela, betrothed at age two and married at age nine,  suddenly becomes a widow when the husband whom she’s never lived with dies in a tragic accident.

It’s 1918 in Gujarat, India, and widows are not allowed to remarry nor to participate in community celebrations or activities.  They are viewed as bad luck and must shave their heads and spend the first year in their parents’  home “keeping corner.”  Life seems over for Leela until a tutor arrives to help her get an education.  Gandhi is not only working toward freeing India from British rule but also for women’s rights, especially rights for young widows.  This compelling story shows a young, self-absorbed girl growing into an accomplished, confident young woman against the backdrop of  India’s independence movement.

Connections:  Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelen also tells the story of a teenage widow, but in contemporary India.  Neela by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tells the story of Gandhi and the Independence Movement.   Kashmira Sheth’s other novels are also excellent:  Blue Jasmine and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

39-clues-coverby Rick Riordan  p. 220    Grades: 5-8

If you were offered a million dollars or the the first clue of 39 in a race to discover the most powerful secret treasure of the most powerful family in human history, which would you choose?  When Amy and Dan Cahill’s grandmother dies, they must make this decision.  They give up the million and choose the clue . . .  but so do a bunch of their backstabbing relatives.  So begins an action-packed, dangerous adventure that takes Dan and Amy and their teenage babysitter halfway around the world.  Warning:  This is the first of ten books to be written by different authors.  This book ends with a cliff hanger.

Connections:  Other good puzzle mysteries are The Westing Game and Chasing Vermeer.

Wild Girl

Monday, January 18th, 2010

wild girlBy Patricia Reilly Giff, 147 pages.  Grades 4-7

Who is Wild Girl?  Is she the skittish filly from South Carolina or Lidie, the twelve year-old girl from Brazil.  After being raised by her aunt and uncle for the past five years, Lidie moves  to New York to join her father and brother, who train race horses for a living.  Her dad and brother are expecting the pink and Disney loving seven year-old that they remember from back home in Brazil, and Lidie is having a hard time showing them the strong, capable young woman that she has become.  While Lidie struggles with her new life in a new home, new country, new school and new language, the filly is also having a hard time getting comfortable in her new home.

Connections:  For other stories sharing the immigrant experience, try reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan,  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, or Nory Ryan’s Song also by Giff.  For other horse stories, try reading Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan, The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley, or Season of Ponies by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Operation Redwood

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

operation redwoodBy S. Terrell French, 353 pages.  Grades 5-7

While forced to stay with his wealthy, manners-obsessed aunt and uncle so  his mother can photograph temples in China, twelve year-old Julian Carter-Li discovers emails describing his uncle’s plan to level an old growth redwood forest and the even more horrifying plan to ship Julian off to math camp for the summer.  With the help of his buddy Danny and a new email buddy, Julian creates Operation Redwood in the hopes of foiling both plans.

Connections:  For other eco-minded adventure stories, try reading Gloria Skurzynski’s National Park Mystery series or Hoot or Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

All About Sleep from A to Zzzz

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

about sleepBy Elaine Scott, 58 pages.  Grades 5-8

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel like you are falling as you go to sleep and wake with a jerk?  Did you ever wonder what would happen to you if you didn’t sleep?  Or, why we have nightmares?  The author explores the science behind sleep walking, dreams, sleeping disorders and the stages of sleep in this nonfiction title.

Connections:  For other books on sleep, try reading Sleep:  The Mysterious Third of Your Life by Jonathon Kastner, Dead on Their Feet:  Teen Sleep Deprivation and Its Consequences by Joan Esherick, and Sleep and Dreams by Alvin Silverstein.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Omnivores-Dilemma-coverBy Michael Pollan and adapted by Richie Chevat, 298 pages.  Grades 6-10

Here is some food for thought. . .

The omnivore’s dilemma in the past: Since we can eat almost anything, how do we know what is safe to eat?

The modern omnivore’s dilemma: We have thousands of choices of food in our supermarkets, but we don’t really know what is in our food or where it comes from.  How do we decide what to have for dinner?

Richie Chevat has taken Michael Pollan’s 415 page answer to the modern question (The Omnivore’s Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals) and cut it down to more bite-sized pieces without losing any of the flavor.  To help us omnivores decide what to eat, the book shows us food production from four points of view:  industrial (think McDonald’s), industrial organic (think Whole Foods), local sustainable (think farmer’s market), and hunter-gatherer (think hunting and gathering).  After you ingest this mouthful, you might never look at food the same way again.

Connections:  For other examinations of the food industry try reading Fast Food Nation or the young adult version called Chew on This by Eric Schlosser.  For a look at the horrors of the early nineteenth century meat packing business that  led to the first regulations in the food industry, read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.