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Archive for May, 2010

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

firefly lettersBy Margarita Engle, 151 pages  Grades 6 Up

In this novel-in-verse told in three voices, inspired by the diaries and letters of 19th century suffragette, Frederika Bremer, we learn about the many barriers women faced in Cuba.  Frederika visits Cuba from Sweden and stays with a wealthy family whose daughter, Elena seems more confined by her society’s expectations for women than the family’s slave, Cecilia who travels with Frederika as her interpreter.

Connections:  For other novels in verse, try reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech or Out of the Dust or Witness by Karen Hesse.

Salt

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

salt-maurice-gee-book-cover-artBy Maurice Gee, 252 pages  Grades 7-10

When Hari’s father is captured by soldiers from the Company and sent to Deep Salt as punishment, Hari vows to save him even though no one ever returns from these dangerous mines.  Simultaneously, Pearl, the daughter in a high-ranking Company family escapes her arranged marriage by fleeing with her maid, Tealeaf, a mystical Dweller.  Both Hari and Pearl have the ability to communicate telepathically, and they work together to try and save Hari’s father and their world from the dangerous weapon found in the mine.

Connections:  Another fantasy title where the main character is helped by her ability to communicate with animals is Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.  For other mature titles where male and female characters fight to save their community from evil, try reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Blessing’s Bead

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

blessings-bead-debby-dahl-edwardson-book-cover-artBy Debby Dahl Edwardson, 178 pages  Grades 6-9

The mysterious blue bead in her grandmother’s sewing basket and the stories of her Inupiaq ancestors provide the grounding Blessing needs when she is forced to live with her grandmother in a remote village in northern Alaska while her alcoholic mother is in treatment.  This novel, in two parts, starts in 1917 with the story of Blessing’s great-grandmother’s experiences with the arrival of Siberian traders and survival of the Spanish influenza epidemic.

Connections:  Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is another story of a girl caught between worlds in Alaska.  For a story that focuses on the effect of influenza on a small Alaskan village, read The Great Death byJohn Smelcer.

The Doom Machine

Monday, May 17th, 2010

doom machineBy Mark Teague, 376 pages.  Grades 5-7

When Isadora Shumway and her mother get stuck in a small town after their car breaks down, the last thing they expect is to be abducted by aliens.  Soon logical, studious Isadora finds herself allied with the local juvenile delinquent, Jack, in an interstellar fight to keep the spider-like alien Skreeps from finding and using the space travel machine that Jack’s uncle invented.

Connections:  For other titles with space/time traveling students, try reading Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel M. Pinkwater or I was a Sixth Grade Alien by Bruce Coville.

Flawed Dogs

Friday, May 7th, 2010

flawed-dogs-book-cover-01by Berkeley Breathed  p. 216  Grades 6-8

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County and Opus fame has now written a very dark but funny novel and illustrated it with pictures as bizarre as the premise of his story.  After fourteen-year-old Heidi McCloud liberates a highly prized breed of dachsund from his crate at the airport, she takes him to live with her at her uncle’s estate and names him Sam the Lion.  Soon a jealous poodle in the household frames Sam and leaves  him for dead, but Sam survives this ordeal plus a stint in an abusive animal laboratory.  Then he and a group of disabled and disfigured mutts from the National Last Ditch Dog Depository come up with a hilarious plan to get revenge on the prestigious Westminster kennel club dog show.  Lots of slapstick humor.

Connections:  Other humorous dog stories include Uncle Boris in the Yukon : and Other Shaggy Dog Stories by Daniel Pinkwater, Wanted.. Mud Blossom by Betsy Byars, Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, and My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen.