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Posts Tagged «multicultural»

The Sun Is Also a Star

Friday, January 27th, 2017

28763485by Yoon, 348 pages, Grades 8 and up

Natasha, Daniel and the Universe all come together to tell this story. Natasha is having a bad day; her parents brought her to the United States from Jamaica when she was just 8. They immigrated illegally and now it looks like they are being deported. The thing is, Natasha can’t remember anything but being American, and she has goals and aspirations that she has worked hard to put in place here in the U.S. She didn’t choose to move without the proper authority, and she has no idea what being Jamaican even looks like. Daniel has always been the good son; his brother is the trouble-maker. His family appreciates the fact that he studies hard and follows the rules, but his family also has plans for his future that don’t fit with Daniel’s own dreams for himself. How can he reconcile these two sides of himself: the good kid and the passionate artist?  He is a poet and a dreamer; Natasha is a scientist and a realist. It would seem like their two life paths are too separate to ever intersect, but the Universe has another plan in mind.

 

If you enjoy realistic fiction books about teens you might also like The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, or I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, or Every Day, by David Levithan.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

51+6PD7wcQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Katherine Rundell, 248 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Will (Wilhelmina) is growing up free to roam and run wildly on the farm her father manages in Zimbabwe. She is happy and healthy and life has never been better until the day her father dies and she cannot stay on the farm anymore.  Will is sent to boarding school in England and her life abruptly makes a complete about face. The boarding school is nothing but rules, the students make fun of Will for being uneducated and not properly groomed, the clothes required are uncomfortable and confining, and the weather, food and people are cold, awful and mean. Will cannot stand it, and no one understands her or even seems to want to. She decides she will make her way back to Zimbabwe somehow; she can live in the wild around the farm where she grew up, after all, she knows people there; her first step is escaping the school.

 

If you like stories taking place in countries other than the U.S. you might also like: A Time to Dance, by Padma Venkatraman, Words in the Dust, by Trent Reedy, or A Million Shades of Gray, by Cynthia Kadohata, Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

18079754by Brenda Woods, 222 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Violet is happy; she loves her family. She even loves her perfect sister, though she is a bit envious. Her sister is gorgeous and talented and fits in perfectly at home and in public; no one ever questions how she is a part of their family. Violet’s father was African American and her mom is white. Now that her dad is dead, she is growing up as the only person of color in a white family and just being seen as part of the family out in the world is not simple. No one can just see that she belongs, and even though she is close to her mom and sister she longs for somewhere to fit it without anyone questioning it. Her father’s mother is an artist and is doing a show nearby. Violet is determined to go to the show and convince her grandmother to be a part of her life; since her father died her grandmother has not contacted their family out of both grief and anger. It is time Violet finds a connection to the rest of her personal identity and her father’s family, but is this angry grandmother the way to find it?

If you like stories about personal identity you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, or My Name is Mina, by David Almond.

One Man Guy

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

onemanguyby Michael Barakiva, 255 pages, Grades 6-10

 

Alex Khederian’s parents lied to him. They promised him he could go to tennis camp and instead he is going to summer school! This seems bad enough, but then his best friend and constant confident, Becky, decides to kiss him. Because he is not attracted to her, the whole thing goes badly; Alex unintentionally hurts Becky’s feelings. Has he lost his best friend too? Things are adding up to the worst summer ever when Alex meets a boy named Josh in his summer school class. Josh and Alex are very different in many ways; Josh is an expert about cool places in the city and Alex is a specialist of everything Armenian (having grown up in a very proud Armenian family). The boys relationship turns into something more than friendship.  Now, Alex needs a friend to talk to more than ever; he knows Becky could help him explain his relationship with Josh to his seemingly old-world parents, but will she ever forgive him for rejecting her?

 

If you like books about identity, you may also enjoy Every Day, by David Levithan, or Totally Joe, by James Howe, or The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

ToAllTheBoysI_veLovedBefore_FinalCoverby Jenny Han, 255 pages, Grades 7-12

Lara Jean and her sisters call themselves the Song Girls after their mother’s last name. When their mother dies that special bond and their loving daddy helps them keep them all close, but it is her big sister Margot that takes over all the big family responsibilities and the mommy role especially for their younger sister, Kitty. When Margot leaves for college Lara Jean finds herself stepping into some pretty big shoes; she is having a hard time measuring up. Lara Jean has never really had a boyfriend, but she has fallen in love before and she keeps a secret box of love letters written to her former crushes. In the midst of juggling school, finding her way socially, and all the new jobs she is taking over from Margot, somehow her secret letters are winding up in the hands of the boys she wrote them to! How did this happen? Could anything be more embarrassing? How can she recover from this, and keep things at home going in Margot’s absence?

If you enjoy realistic fiction about fitting in at school you might also like: The Misfits, Totally Joe, or Addie on the Inside by James Howe. If you like teen romance stories you might also like The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Ghost Hawk

Monday, March 31st, 2014

ghost hawkby Susan Cooper, 328 pages, Grades 6-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

It is time for Little Hawk to transition from a boy to a man so he must venture out into the wilderness and survive for a few months bringing along only his tomahawk, bow and arrow, and a knife. This harrowing survival story is only the beginning. When Little Hawk returns to his village ready to rest and visit with his family he finds his village empty; plague has taken everyone but his grandmother. Little Hawk’s life is an inspiration to a young white boy named John Wakely who suffers challenges of his own; his life would not follow the path it does without the influence of Little Hawk, and Little Hawk’s life is forever changed as well. Even though this is fiction, the story includes a historical timeline of the true events at the end of the book.

If you enjoy historical fiction that takes place in early American history you might also like: Sofia’s War, by Avi, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

So B. It

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

sobitby Sarah Weeks, 245 pages, Grades 6-9

Lucky for Heidi and her mom their neighbor Bernadette helped raise Heidi and take care of her mother as well since Heidi was a tiny baby. Heidi’s mother loves her, but she really could not have taken care of Heidi by herself; she is mentally disabled to the point that she only has about 27 words in her vocabulary. One of those words, “soof,” drives Heidi crazy because she cannot figure out what it means! Heidi, at 12, is becoming more and more curious about her past; she wants to understand who she is and where she fits in the world. When an old camera turns up in the back of the closet and provides some photographic clues Heidi is off, determined to find herself and her past without any help from anyone!

If you enjoy books about kids who persevere and triumph despite the odds, you might also enjoy Counting by7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Zeitoun

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Zeitoun_loresby David Eggers, 337 pages, adult biography

Zeitoun is the biography of a man living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina.  His full name is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, but everyone calls him Zeitoun for short.  He and his wife Kathy have been living in New Orleans for years raising their four kids and running their business, so when the threats of the hurricane come in at first they think the reports are exaggerated and that they will remain in the city and ride it out.  Eventually, though, they decide that Kathy will leave with the children for a few days, just to be safe.  Zeitoun wants to remain behind so that he can watch after all the different properties they own, and try to minimize the damage.

The hurricane, of course, does more damage than anyone can imagine and Zeitoun uses his canoe to row around the city helping those he can and keeping an eye on his property.  At least he does this until the Homeland Security police scoop him up and unlawfully throw him into a prison.  He is not given a call, or a lawyer and his family does not even know where he is. This frustrating and harrowing story reads like an adventure even though it is a true account of this family’s ordeal.

If you enjoy biographical adventure stories you might also like:  Into The Wild, by Krakauer, or Three Cups of Tea, by Mortenson, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Ralston.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Hold Fast

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

by Blue Balliett, 274 pages, Grades 6-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2016

Early lives with her father, Dash, her mother, Summer, and her little brother, Jubilation.  They are a happy family hoping to live in a cute little house one day.  They play word games, and read books together in their little apartment while Dash tries to save up enough money for their dream house. To make extra money he has a new night job sorting books; his day job is at the local library.  He and Al go through boxes of old books to send to a second-hand bookseller somewhere.  The job seems a little strange to Early, but she never expected it to be dangerous.  One day her father goes missing and the next their apartment is invaded and ransacked and they are out on the street.  The little family of three struggles to “hold fast” living in a shelter while they wait for Dash to return, but when the police prove less than helpful Early is compelled to solve the mystery behind her father’s disappearance herself.

 

Blue Balliett has written a lot of terrific mysteries:  Chasing Vermeer, The Wright Three, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box; if you enjoy Hold Fast, you might like those as well.

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Russell Freedman, 119 pages, Grades 5-9

“‘He was the architect of his own fortune, a self-made man,’ Douglass wrote of Lincoln.  He had ‘ascended high but with hard hands and honest work build the ladder on which he climbed’ –  words that Douglass, as he was aware, could easily have applied to himself” (Freedman 103).

 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a lot in common:  they both grew up poor and uneducated, they both taught themselves because they greatly desired knowledge, and they both wanted to end the practice of slavery in the United States.  They were also very different men: Douglass was born a slave, Lincoln was born free, Douglass had to spend the first part of his life tortured and enslaved, and though Lincoln’s family was poor and he had to work hard he was never tortured.  Douglass and Lincoln also had different approaches to the problem of slavery, but they respected one another greatly even when they did not agree.

 

Freedman’s book is not only interesting, but also an easy read; you feel compelled to continue reading every word as though it were a suspenseful novel keeping you on the edge of your seat.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction, you might also like other books by Russell Freedman like:  The War to End All Wars, Who Was First:  Discovering the Americas, or The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Outcasts United

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Warren St. John, 226 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is a book of many true stories beginning with Luma Mufleh.  She is a Jordanian exchange student and avid soccer player, who decided to remain in the United States after completing her education at Smith University in Massachusetts.  She made her way to the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia and stumbled upon a very interesting city called Clarkston.  

The U.S. government had been relocating refugees since the 1980s and this little town had become extremely cosmopolitan.  People fleeing wars in their homelands of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Ethiopia and many other countries all ended up thrown together in the town of Clarkston.  Mufleh was drawn to the place when she noticed their grocery store carried food she missed from home, but the thing that really grabbed her attention was the groups of young boys playing soccer on every available field she saw.  All of them were playing in bare feet, but they showed more passion for the game than any of the kids she was coaching in the suburbs.  She decided to bring a soccer program to Clarkston.  Mufleh coaches three teams of boys called the Fugees; this book is a collection of their stories and the teams’ stories.  

To watch a video about the team go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItUYQhQ_CHg#!

 

 

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

mantepieceby Annabel Pitcher, 211 pages, Grades 7-10

Jamie is an optimistic soul whose life is crumbling around him.  Five years ago one of his twin sisters was killed in a terrorist attack in London.  Her ashes are a constant reminder of the family’s loss.  Jamie was only five when this happened, so he has no real memories of this sister alive and does not understand the reason the urn is such a central part of their current lives. Their father gives the urn offerings of food, and they string up a stocking for it at Christmas time.  

Jamie and his other sister, Jas, are trying to get by on their own as each of their parents falls into despair.  Their mother abandons them, and their father moves them to the country to try to start again, but can’t pull himself together to get to work, or even to put the beer down, get off the couch and take care of his children.  

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is a harrowing story of a troubled family trying to move forward in the wake of great disaster, but it is also the story of personal courage, friendship, and love that breaks all the rules and helps us carry on.

If you enjoy sad stories you might also like:  See You at Harry’s, by Jo Knowles, or Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine.  

If you appreciate books whose main characters have a challenging parental situation, you might also like Guitar Boy, by M.C. Auchs, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

The Great Unexpected

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

great unexpectedby Sharon Creech, 226 pages, Grades 6-7

Naomi and Lizzie are two orphan girls living in a small American town with many albeit distant connections to Ireland.  One day boy called Finn falls out of a tree practically onto Naomi’s head, and this begins the magical mystery.  Who is “this Finn boy” and who is the Dingle Dangle man who has been seen around town, and what do they have to do with the orphan girls?   The girls’ story is told alternating with a tale of others who live across the ocean in the old country, and, of course, they are somehow all connected.  

The Great Unexpected reads like a modern Irish fairy tale; if you enjoy fairy tales, or realistic fantasy you might also like:  A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews or My Name is Mina and I Love the Night, by David Almond.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

A World Away

Monday, September 17th, 2012

world awayby Nancy Grossman, 394 pages, Grades 7 and up

Eliza has lived her whole life sheltered from modern technology, and she has also lived a life free of modern problems like materialism, consumerism and deceit.  Eliza and her family are Amish and she has never left the Amish community where they do not have telephones, movie theatres, or shopping malls.  They do not listen to music, and the girls do not wear pants.  

Once in their lives Amish adolescents are offered an opportunity to see what it is like to live among “the English” – as they call people living outside the Amish community. During this important year, called Rumspringa, Amish teens are allowed to explore the world outside and decide which life they prefer.  Once they promise themselves to the Amish, they cannot leave without shame, so the decision is made very thoughtfully.  

A World Away is the story of Eliza’s Rumspringa year.  The magic of technology in all its forms is exciting, but there are things about her home she misses terribly.  Which life will she choose?

If you enjoy reading about adolescents challenged to make difficult decisions, you might also like reading:  The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Chol, or Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Looking For Me

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

looking.for.meby Betsy R. Rosentahl, 165 pages, Grades 6-8

 
Edith is number four in a family with 12 children. They call her the good little mother because everyone counts on her to take care of the smaller children, but she is not sure this label really fits her. The novel is written in verse, each poem illustrating a piece of Edith’s life and coming together to form a complete coming-of-age story full of challenges.  She has to overcome bigoted teasing, her family’s financial hardships, and personal loss as she learns to understand who she among the chaotic comings and goings in this big huge family.
 
If you enjoy stories of kids who overcome against the odds you might also like: Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Small Acts of Amaing Courage, by Gloria Whelan, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.
 

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

small actsby Gloria Whelan, 209 pages, Grades 6 and up

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Rosalind, an English girl growing up in India, prefers to spend her days exploring the city streets and bazaar with her friend Isha, but her parents don’t know that.  Her father is away at war and her mother is still grieving over Rosalind’s brother who died while he was away at school in England.  It is her brother’s death that made it possible for Rosalind to remain in India – her mother cannot bare to part with her only child now even though most British children are educated in England – but her father is becoming concerned about Rosalind’s education and behavior; her disobedient, unconventional ways might get her sent to England after all, and just as she is becoming interested in Indian politics, in particular a dynamic leader working for India’s independence through peaceful protest named Ghandi.

If you enjoy this book you may also like other titles by Gloria Whelan including:  Parade of Shadows, Homeless Bird, or Angel on the Square.  They are all historical fiction novels with strong female characters.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
alongwalktowaterby Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8
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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

This novel is based on the true life of Salva Dut who now lives in the United States and has started an organization that digs wells to help people in the country where he grew up.

Salva Dut’s website:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/salvas-story/

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy stories about ingenuity and survival you might also like the biography by William Kamkwamba called:  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Elijah of Buxton

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

elijahofbuxtonby Christopher Paul Curtis,  341 pages,   Grades 6-8

Elijah wishes he was not quite so fragile.  He can take off running when he sees a snake, or might feel like crying when someone tells the sad story of escaping from slavery in America.  His parents worry that his fragile nature might make his life difficult, but it is that very nature that turns him into a hero.

Buxton was a real town established in 1849 by an American abolitionist who hoped to give people escaping American slavery a place to live as free human beings. The story of Elijah is fictional, but things that happen are realistic for the time and place.

Even though his family thinks he is a delicate soul, Elijah finds courage deep inside himself and takes a lot of risks to do the right thing.  It is a dangerous time to be African American; Elijah’s adventure is truly heroic.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Connections:  Christopher Paul Curtis is gifted at creating exciting stories that happen to be set in realistic times in history.  If you like Elijah of Buxton, you might also like Bud Not Buddy, or The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, both by Curtis as well.

One Crazy Summer

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

one crazy summerby Rita Williams-Garcia  p. 218  Grades:  5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

It’s the summer of 1968, and eleven-year-old Delphine flies from New York to Oakland with her two younger sisters to spend the summer, uninvited, with the mother who walked out on them when Delphine was seven and Fern was just a few days old.  Her father feels the girls need to get to know their mother, but that does not make Cecile any more welcoming.  In fact, she won’t even let the girls into her kitchen.  Dinners are take-out food on the living room floor and breakfast is at the Black Panther summer camp.   The girls are on their own, but each comes into her  own that summer.   Told from Delphine’s perspective, this is a lively, often humorous, story of resilience with characters you will come to know and love.

Connections:  A novel about the Black Panther Party for older readers  is The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.  Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers is set during the Harlem Renaissance, another significant period in African American history, and tells the story of another crazy summer.

Totally Joe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

totallyjoeBy James Howe, 189 pages  Grades 6-8

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>“Being who you are isn’t a choice.”Although he had always lived this life lesson, it wasn’t until his favorite aunt gave him a button printed with these words that thirteen, year-old Joe really thought about what it meant for him, as a gay 7th grader, as well as for his schoolmates.Joe’s family and friends have always encouraged him to be himself (including dressing-up in dresses, playing with Barbies and cooking in an Easy-Bake oven) and he has always embraced his originality even when it led to teasing. Through an alphabiography project for his teacher, Joe shares his growing awareness of himself and his friends.

Connection:  Joe and the other characters were first introduced in Howe’s novel, The Misfits.  For other stories where characters share their life experiences through school writing assignments, try reading Love That Dog or Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge, or Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

Imperfections

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

imperfection_by_lynda_durrantBy Lynda Durrant   p. 171   Grades 5-8

What is perfection?  When Rosemary Elizabeth arrives at the Shaker community of Pleasant Hill, she has plenty of delicious food to eat, spotlessly clean, white clothes to wear and beautiful surroundings.  She also gets to leave her drunk, abusive father and knows that her younger brother and sister are safe, too.  But, can Rosemary Elizabeth live up to the Shaker ideal of perfection with all of the rules about eating, sleeping, dressing, working, praying and talking?  Even if she can, does she want to?

Connections – Other stories that depict the impact of the Civil War on the youth is Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

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 London Eye Mystery

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

londoneyeby Siobhan Dowd,  p. 323  Grades 5-8

Ted loves the weather, listening to forecasts and tracking changes, but he wasn’t sure that he was going to like having his aunt (called Hurricane Glo by his father) and his cousin come for a visit.When Ted’s cousin, Salim, disappeared from the ferris wheel-like London Eye, Ted initially came up with 8 theories about what could have happened to him, including the more mundane, we missed him getting out, to the outrageous possibilities of a time-warp or Salim spontaneously combusting (Ted’s favorite).Salim’s mother and Ted’s parents are frantic with worry, and don’t listen to Ted’s ideas about where he could have gone.His older sister, Kat, does listen, and together they try to use the available clues (pictures in Salim’s camera and a souvenir photo) to solve the mystery.

Connections:  Other books that have characters with Asperger’s syndrome or Autism include:  Rules by Cynthia Lord, The Very ordered existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley, and Al Capone does my shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

One-Handed Catch

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

one-handed-catch-mary-jane-auch-paperback-cover-artby M. J. Auch  p. 246  Grades: 5-8

The summer before sixth grade,  Norm loses his left hand when it gets caught in a meat grinder.  Poor kid!  His mom’s not cutting him any slack, and his dreams of making the baseball team seem hopeless–until he hears about a one-handed major league baseball player and a customer gives him a right-handed baseball mitt.  Now it’s up to Norm.

Connections:  Here’s some other great baseball fiction:  Hang Tough Paul Mather by Alfred Slote;  Some Kind of Pride by Maria Testa; Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter; High Heat by Carl Deuker; and Hard Ball byWill Weaver.  Browse 796.357 for baseball nonfiction and search baseball biography in the catalog for famous players.

Child of Dandelions

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

child of dandelionsby Shenaaz Nanji, p. 210  Grades: 7-10

What do you do when your whole world seems to be falling down around you?  Do you deny that it is happening?  In 1972, when President Idi Amin of Uganda gave all foreign Indians 90 days to leave the country, fifteen year-old Sabine didn’t think that included her family, as they were all Ugandan citizens.  When her uncle disappears mysteriously, she convinces herself that he will turn up soon.  When her best friend, Zena turns against her, Sabine hopes she will come around eventually.  But, when the soldiers come looking for her father . . .

Connections:  Some other stories that deal with conflict between different groups within one country include Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Zen and the Art of Faking It

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

zen and the art of faking itby Jordan Sonnenblick.   p. 264   Grades 6-8

It’s tough being the new kid especially in January of the eighth grade.  San Lee has moved around and changed schools a lot, and this time it’s because his dad has gone to prison for fraud.  His mom’s short on money because of his dad’s legal fees, and even though it’s the middle of the winter in Pennsylvania, San heads off for his new middle school in sandals and the light windbreaker that were fine in Texas.  Adopted from China as a baby, San is the only Asian American at his new school.  When he discovers that his social studies class is studying Buddhism, which he studied last year, he pretends to be  a Zen master.   This deception wins him the attention of a beautiful girl but spins out of control in both serious and comical ways as more and more kids believe he’s the real thing.

Connections:  Books where a new kid makes a big impact on the other students in a school are Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Gypsies Never Came by Stephen Roos, Schooled by Gordon Korman and, for mature readers, Jake Reinvented by Gordon Korman as well as Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner.  If you’d like to know more about Zen Buddhism, try browsing the 294.3 section of the library.

Anything but Typical

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL JACKET COVERBy Nora Raleigh Baskin, p. 195 – Grades 4-7

Twelve year-old Jason, a creative writing whiz, is easily able to point out the differences between his “neurotypical” peers and autistic self but struggles with filtering out the noises, sensations and smells that distract him and make it hard to behave the way people expect him to.  He is most comfortable when logged into his favorite story sharing website, Storyboard.  Through the site, Jason starts a friendship with a girl, Rebecca, who admired one of his stories.  He even goes so far as to describe her as his girlfriend.  Jason gets the opportunity of a lifetime when his father offers to take him to the Storyboard conference but panics when he realizes that he might meet Rebecca in person.

Connection:  For other stories with a protagonists on the autism spectrum, try reading Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery or Suzanne Crowley’s The Very Ordered Existence Merilee Marvelous.

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).

Freefall

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

freefallby Anna Levine, p. 250 – Grades 8 & Up

As Israel and Lebanon engage in battle, eighteen year-old Aggie is simultaneously preparing for high school graduation and her two year, compulsory service in the Israeli army.  Thoughts of kisses and crushes compete with concerns over inadequacies.  She thinks she wants to be a member of the elite, women’s combat unit rather than be stuck in a desk job, but members of her family are making her question her capabilities.  Her best friend’s older brother, Noah (a combat soldier) is showing particular interest in her trials at the physically and mentally challenging boot camp.  Aggie gets a taste of the front line when she goes north to help one of her buddies from boot camp.

Connection:  Another love story with war as the backdrop (in this case the Civil War) is Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells.

Rules

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Rulesby Cynthia Lord, p. 200 – Grades 4-7

Twelve-year-old Catherine’s brother (David) has autism and regularly does things that embarrass her, so she creates more and more rules for him to live by.  She also fiercely defends David from bullies like Ryan who lives on their street.  During the summer Catherine goes to her brother’s speech therapy appointments and meets Jason, a boy with cerebral palsy who uses a book of words and pictures to communicate.  Catherine’s friendship with Jason grows as she adds new (hip) words and pictures to his book.  A new girl, Kristi, moves in next-door, opening up the possibility of a new special friendship, but Catherine is not sure whether or not to trust her new friend when Kristi shows an interest in the bully, Ryan.

Connection:  The main character in Gennifer Choldenko’s novel Al Capone Does My Shirts also has a sibling with autism. — CRW

Hitler’s Canary

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

hitler's canaryby Sandy Toksvig, p. 191 – Grades 5-8

Bamse, just 10 when the Germans invaded Denmark, is coming of age during the occupation.  He must decide whether to follow his brother in working with the Danish Resistance or listen to his father and stay out of trouble.  His mother’s acting career and her theatrics provide the structure for the story as well as drama and comic relief.  Bamse comes to realize that not all German’s are bad nor all Danish good, and why his friend Anton’s participation in the resistance is particularly dangerous/courageous.  The author’s note explains what parts of this work of fiction come from her own family’s experiences.

Connection:  This book might appeal to those who enjoyed Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  –CRW

The Porcupine Year

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Porcupine Yearby Louise Erdrich, p. 193 – Grades 5-8

This third book in the series that started with the Birchbark House can stand alone.  Omakayas is twelve as her family is forced,  by increasing numbers of white settlers, to move westward through northern Minnesota from their original home on Madeline Island.  The story picks up quickly with Omakayas and her younger brother being swept far down river through raging rapids.  The family faces many dangers (human, nature and animal) while Omakayas moves through the uncharted territory of womanhood (changing relationships, responsibilities and romance).

Connection:  Another story of personal growth along with voyages and travel is Sharon Creech’s Ruby Holler.  –CRW

Peace, Locomotion

Monday, April 27th, 2009

peace locomotionby Jacqueline Woodson, p. 136 – Grades 4-7

In this companion to Locomotion, Lonnie Collins Motion (aka Locomotion) helps his sister Lili remember life before their separate foster care placements by sending her letters filled with memories of the past triggered by his day to day experiences.  Both Locomotion and Lili are happy with their foster care families, but miss their parents and being together.  The letters start to focus on the importance of peace and the realities of war as Locomotion becomes more aware of his foster brother who is in the army.

Connection:  This quick read might appeal to those who like Shooting the Moon by O’Rourke.  –CRW

Highlight:  Watch this great interview (from Reading Rockets) with Jacqueline Woodson talking about her life and her books.