Thursday, March 27, 2008
It's 1957 in Little Rock Arkansas and Central High School admits only white students. Students at the black high schools in town are hearing that this is the year to integrate the schools. They only want to take exemplary students who are smart, motivated, good leaders, and committed to nonviolence. Sylvia's teachers see that she is something special and recommend her for "the list." But Sylvia isn't sure she can give up her friends, boyfriend, and safety to change the world. There are a lot of surprises and complex issues in this book—I was definitely shocked by two of the plot twists toward the end. The most vivid part to me was the depiction of the outright racism and cruelty of many of the white citizens of the town. It bothered me that frequently the dialog between Sylvia and her friends seems stilted and formal, which took me out of the story. It just didn't sound like teenagers talking to each other. I recommend this book to people interested in understanding what life was like during the Civil Rights Movement.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
This is a unique book. It's told entirely in things--things like post it notes, report cards, school assignments, prescriptions, instant messages, bottle caps, and bank statements. Amazingly, you get a pretty good picture of Ginny's 7th grade year as she struggles with her mom's new marriage, a troubled brother, a former best friend. Luckily she also has a good friend and a grandpa who always come through for her. The design of the book is great--very colorful and full of fun things like animal crackers and refrigerator magnets. This is a fun book that's easy to read. I think it would be most appreciated by pre-middle school girls or 6th graders.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Can you imagine what it would be like to live with an abusive mother? Matthew and his sisters don't have to imagine—it's happening to them. Their mom, Nicki, can be lighthearted and kind one minute, then turn on them the next. She cuts Matthew with a knife, drives into oncoming traffic, and dangles the sister over a steep cliff. However, she never does anything quite bad enough to get herself in trouble with the law. This is Matthew's story, told years later, as he recalls the years of physical and emotional abuse and how he and his sister Callie try to protect their younger sister Emmy from the mother who is out of control. Luckily for these kids, they find three adults who eventually realize that these kids need help. It's a gripping book—a little on the mature side because of the abuse and the kind of person their mother is—that will grab middle school readers who like suspense, family problems, and books about abuse.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
If you like fast-paced historical fiction, you'll like this book. It's 1849 and 13-year-old John Huffam has a mystery to solve. His father is thrown into debtor's prison and people are after some secrets that only his father knows. Someone is a traitor and John doesn't know who to trust. You, the reader, don't know who to trust either. It's a fun book with some similarities to the style of Charles Dickens, a famous English writer who also lived during that time period. This book would be best for kids who are good readers and are able to read books with some unfamiliar vocabulary words.