The Alan Review
Editors:
Wendy Glenn, Senior Editor
Ricki Ginsberg, Assistant Editor
Danielle King, Assistant Editor
alan-review@uconn.edu
Volume 24, Number 1
Fall 1996


DLA Ejournal Home | ALAN Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search ALAN and other ejournals

Clip and File Reviews of
Short Story Collections and Nonfiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Jennings, Paul
Uncovered!

Reviewed by Joan F. Kaywell
Associate Professor of English Education
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

Uncovered! by Paul Jennings
Short Stories
Viking, 1995. 134 pp. $14.99

ISBN: 0-670-86856-6

Like a good book of poetry, Jennings' Uncovered! Weird, Weird Stories uses just a few words to get readers thinking and feeling. Unlike what the title suggests, however, there are only two stories that are really weird: "Picked Bones" and "Backward Step." These stories are just weird enough to offer readers an opportunity to talk about strange "what-ifs." Readers who prefer contemplation will enjoy "Forever" and its treatment of brotherly love manifested by fetishes of toilet paper and snow, and "Listen Ear," where a boy realizes how a single lie can ruin one's credibility with parents. For readers who just want a "feel-good" story, "Too Many Rabbits" with its many spoonerisms will surely delight. "Just Like Me" satisfies as only a first love can. And "Ringing Wet" evens the score when an older girl's bedwetting gets the best of a neighbor and brother. Finally, students wanting a good laugh will do just that while reading "A Mouthful," where a father's practical joke goes awry and "Pubic Hare" - enough said.

The ALAN Review
Joan F. Kaywell
Fall 1996
University of South Florida

Wilson, Budge
Mothers and Other Strangers
Reviewed by John Noell Moore
Assistant Professor of English and Curriculum and
Instruction
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana


Mothers and Other Strangers: Stories by Budge Wilson
Self/Crises
Harcourt Brace and Company, 1996. 194 pp. $16.00
ISBN: 0-15-200312-6

Nova Scotian Budge Wilson creates nine psychological landscapes, the best of them as provocative for close reading, discussion, and writing as her earlier collection, The Leaving. Here "mothers" and "other strangers" tell stories of adult conflicts born of unresolved, often traumatic, adolescent experiences: identity crises, unrequited love, sibling rivalry, domineering fathers, submissive mothers. They successfully address their conflicts, but Wilson resists easy closure, opening up each story to readers' imaginations. In "Mrs. MacIntosh," Alfreda discovers her classist, domineering mother-in-law's decades-old secret. "The House on High Street" reveals human nature's darkest side when Virginia finally understands the tragic consequences of family infidelities. Two fine stories investigate writing as self-discovery: "Eliot's Daughter" and "The Diary." Others deal with unlikely romances, the pleasure of gentle, sweet revenge, and mothers who learn to forgive their mothers. Highly recommended for secondary school students, their teachers, and for all adults.

The ALAN Review
John Noell Moore
Fall 1996
Purdue University

McKissack, Patricia C. and Frederick L. McKissack
Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts

Reviewed by Lisa J. McClure
Associate Professor of English
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois


Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts
by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack
American History/
Slave Revolts
Scholastic, 1996. 177 pp. $14.95
ISBN: 0-590-45735-7

"Arise! Arise! Shake off your chains!" Twenty-four-year-old slave Gabriel Prosser, "armed with literacy and a gift for speaking," encouraged other slaves to rise up against their masters and to fight for freedom. Prosser was one of many slaves who instigated revolts during the 300+ years of chattel slavery in the Americas. The stories of abolitionists have oft been told, but not so the stories of the leaders of slave revolts: their stories have been ignored, sometimes deliberately concealed, by historians. Familiar leaders, such as Nat Turner, and unfamiliar ones, such as Toussaint Louverture, appear in this historic look at the role slaves played in their battle to abolish slavery.

Carefully researched and well-written - and sometimes painfully detailed in its depiction of the resulting violence - Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts provides a supplement to our history books, which fail to tell the whole story of the emancipation of the Africans who had been brought to this country as slaves.

The ALAN Review
Lisa J. McClure
Fall 1996
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Morey, Janet Nomura and Wendy Dunn
Famous Hispanic Americans

Reviewed by Alan M. McLeod
Professor of English Education
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia


Famous Hispanic Americans by Janet Nomura
Morey and Wendy Dunn
Biography
Cobblehill Books, 1996. 190 pp. $15.99
ISBN: 0-525-65190-X

This book presents portraits of fourteen Hispanic (Latino) Americans from varying fields of endeavor: the arts (Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia, Lourdes Lopez, Paul Rodriguez), sports (Felipe Alou, Gigi Fernandez), the professions and business (Jaime Escalante, Roberto Goizueta, Carolina Herrera, Antonia Novella), politics (Frederico Pena, Matt Rodriguez, Ileana Ros-Lehitinen), and NASA (Ellen Ocha).

Younger adolescents will be stimulated to learn more about Hispanics born abroad or in the United States who have succeeded in the arts, in the U.S. Congress, in police work, in the President's Cabinet, as Surgeon General, as presidents of major U.S. corporations, and as athletes. Each portrait is compelling, with one on mathematics-educator Jaime Escalante particularly so. Multiple photographs accompany each sketch.

The ALAN Review
Alan M. McLeod
Fall 1996
Virginia Commonwealth University

Clip and File Reviews
of New Fiction Paperbacks and Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors


Lynch, Chris
Mick
Reviewed by Jim Brewbaker
Chair, Curriculum and Instruction
Columbus College
Columbus, Georgia
Mick by Chris Lynch Family
Relations/Urban Ethnicity
HarperCollins Trophy, 1996. 144 pp. $4.95
ISBN: 0064471217

In Mick, Chris Lynch turns an unblinking eye toward American ethnicity at its worst. Mick is a Bostonian, a fifteen-year-old Irish Catholic. His friends are bigots and heavy drinkers. They settle their disputes violently. Their houses smell of sweat, beer, urine, and worse.

Mick's neighborhood is changing; Blacks and Asians live nearby. Cambodians and Gays march in the St. Patrick's Day parade, which provokes violence from Mick's brother and his roughneck friends. Described by Lynch, the scene is terrifying. Mick, influenced by Toy and the intelligent, straight-talking Evelyn, Hispanic school friends, wants to break out of the neighborhood mold. This turns out to be easier said than done.

Chris Lynch, a new voice among realistic YA writers, has a winner in Mick, the first of three titles in the Blue-Eyed Son series, which concludes with Blood Relations and Dog Eat Dog.

The ALAN Review
Jim Brewbaker
Fall 1996
Columbus College

Strasser, Todd
The Boys in the Band

Reviewed by Margaret J. Ford Library/Media Specialist Memorial High School Campbell, Ohio
The Boys in the Band by Todd Strasser
Comedy/Romance
HarperPaperbacks, 1996. 192 pp. $3.50
ISBN: 0-06-106255-3

Frank Stone and Eddie Falco would do anything to make it big in the music scene and leave the small-town street of Clotsburg behind - even if anything means donning make-up and wigs and impersonating females to land a gig with Sam Zuckert's all-girl band. Complications arise when Sharkbait Joe, the town tough, falls for Eddie "Ellie" Falco and Frank "Frankie" Strone falls in love with Sabrina, a singer with the Femme Brigade.

This light novel, while not very deep in character development, provides just enough plot twists to provide some situational humor. Even though the female-male roles are rather stereotypical, it provides a plausible link to the kinds of mistaken- and switched-identity plots found in many of Shakespeare's comedies. Middle-school-age students would find this novel fun as recreational reading while teachers might find a bridge to other classic tales of reversed identities.

The ALAN Review
Margaret J. Ford
Fall 1996
Campbell-Memorial High School

Hobbs, Will
Far North

Reviewed by William R. Mollineaux English Teacher Sedgwick Middle School West Hartford, Connecticut
Far North by Will Hobbs
Survival/Adventure/Native Americans/Friendship
Morrow Junior Books, 1996. 226 pp. $15.00
ISBN: 0-688-14192-7

When Clint, their bush pilot, promised that he was going to give them a sightseeing tour they'd never forget, fifteen-year olds Gabe Rogers and Raymond Providence had no idea that it was going to include a five-month survival struggle in Canada's Northwest Territories. After the destruction of their plane and Clint's death, Gabe and Raymond learn to survive through the help of Johnny Raven, Raymond's elderly great-uncle, a Native American. More important, they come to appreciate and understand Johnny's last words: "…take care of the land, take care of yourself, take care of each other."

Readers who enjoyed Paulsen's Brian's Winter will find Hobbs's tale equally satisfying, as two boys from different cultures forge a bond and come to understand why tribal elders believe that young people must possess knowledge of the past in order to survive in the future.

The ALAN Review
William R. Mollineaux
Fall 1996
Sedgwick Middle School

Wallace, Rich
Wrestling Sturbridge

Reviewed by Donald R. Gallo Professor of English Central Connecticut State University New Britain, Connecticut
Wrestling Sturbridge by Rich Wallace
Sports/Identity
Knopf, 1996. 133 pp. $16.00
ISBN: 0-679-87803-3

With this first novel, Rich Wallace has earned himself a top ranking among the best writers of young adult sports novels. This relatively short book is filled with vivid action scenes along with thoughtful introspective musings by the vulnerable narrator, a high-school senior who has been the second-best wrestler in his weight class in a small-town Pennsylvania high school. Ben wants to be state champion as much as the first-best wrestler, his friend Al. But does he have enough courage to challenge - and beat - Al? And if he doesn't beat Al and go on to college, will Ben remain stuck in Sturbridge for the rest of his life, working in the cinderblock factory like his dad and all the others? You don't have to like wrestling to appreciate this novel, though sports-minded males will likely be this book's most appreciative readers.

The ALAN Review
Donald R. Gallo
Fall 1996
Central Connecticut State University

Clip and File Reviews of
Short Story Collections and Other Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Yolen, Jane
Here There Be Witches
Reviewed by M. Jean Greenlaw
Regents Professor
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas
Here There Be Witches by Jane Yolen
Witches and Magic
Harcourt Brace, 1995. 115 pp. $17.00
ISBN: 0-15-200311-8

Yolen has written an amazing melange of stories and poems about witches over the years, and this collection of her work is a companion to Here There Be Dragons and Here There Be Unicorns (also published by Harcourt). Yolen's skill at storytelling is evident in this collection, making it a great choice for reading aloud to middle- and high-school classes. Her way with words falls deftly on the ear and will guarantee a chorus of "just one more." Each selection is introduced by Yolen's musings on the motivation for writing the piece and gives the reader a pleasant insight into her personality and writing style, as well as her research and vast knowledge of the field. The book is a natural in a writing class because it does answer the question, "Where do you get your ideas?" Don't let the content scare you - witches are a part of our mythology!

The ALAN Review
M. Jean Greenlaw
Fall 1996
University of North Texas

Wrede, Patricia Book of Enchantments

Reviewed by Anne Shaughnessy
English Teacher
Fort Clarke Middle School
Gainesville, Florida
Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede
Fantasy
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 234 pp. $17.00
ISBN: 0-152-01255-9

In this first collection of enchanted tales, Wrede provides high entertainment for readers by giving amusing and witty twists to the conventions of fantasy. Among these are step-sisters who are neither jealous of each other nor despised by their step-mother, a prince charming who needs an old woodcutter to kiss awake a sleeping beauty, and a charmed kitchen implement which, when held in the right hands, becomes the Frying Pan of Doom.

Fantasy's more somber themes are skillfully explored in two retold tales when Wrede changes the point of view. To an old Scottish folk song of fatal sibling rivalry, Wrede adds the perspective of a middle sister, and in retelling the story of the New Testament's prodigal, Wrede gives voice to the older and resentful sibling. This is a collection to delight fans of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and certain to win Wrede new readers.

The ALAN Review
Anne Shaughnessy
Fall 1996
Fort Clarke Middle School

Aiken, Joan
Cold Shoulder Road
Reviewed by Joyce C. Lackie
Professor of English
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado
Cold Shoulder Road by Joan Aiken
Adventure/Suspense/Fantasy
Delacorte, 1995. 283 pp. $15.95
ISBN: 0-385-32182-1

For a rollicking good read, start here. Joan Aiken, not well known enough to American readers, has written a quick-paced, fantastic adventure for middle schools in Cold Shoulder Road. The heroine of Aiken's Wolves Chronicles, "Is" Twite, and her cousin Arun have come from northern England to Kent to find Arun's mother, a member of a silent sect. What they find instead is a ring of smugglers terrorizing the countryside. Inexperienced readers may have trouble with Aiken's eye dialect and idiomatic expressions, but an eerie, foreboding mood is set early on and suspense builds quickly. From the cunning, slippery villains to Arun's insightful mother and the will child Pye, the characters intrigue and delight. In addition, the plot includes extrasensory communication, secret caves, kidnappings, buried treasure, and ferocious spiders the size of cats. Not only are evil foiled and order restored, but Arun learns that parents who love their children do not make decisions just to please them.

The ALAN Review
Joyce C. Lackie
Fall 1996
University of Northern Colorado

Whitcher, Susan
Enchanter's Glass
Reviewed by Teri S. Lesesne
Assistant Professor, Library Science
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, Texas
Enchanter's Glass by Susan Whitcher
Fantasy
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 198 pp. $17.00
ISBN: 0-15-201245-1


Phoebe has much troubling her. Her father seems to have withdrawn from the world following a stroke; her mother is consumed with her music. School is not even a safe haven now that her best friend seems more concerned with make-up than with make-believe. Wishing for some means of escape, Phoebe finds it in a glass shard and the almost-mirror-image world she sees reflected in it.

Phoebe's young age notwithstanding, this book is real gem for teachers in middle and high school. Phoebe's adventures in her mirror world are similar to those experienced by the characters in one of her father's favorite works: The Fairie Queen by Spenser. Each chapter opens with a passage from Spenser's work, and the events of that chapter relate in some way to the quotation. This conceit of an allegory within an allegory is perfectly perpetuated throughout this adventure fantasy. Phoebe learns to look through the poetic images to the true reality in her life.

The ALAN Review
Teri S. Lesesne
Fall 1996
Sam Houston State University

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Schnur, Steven
Beyond Providence
Reviewed by Judy Stoffel
Professor of English
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana
Beyond Providence by Steven Schnur
Farm Life/Relationships
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 242 pp. $12.00
ISBN: 0-15-200982-5 
Set on a Hudson River valley farm around the turn of the century, this novel takes well-worn plot elements and makes them fresh and readable. The twelve-year-old boy, left motherless by a mysterious accident, faces life with a bitter father, a rebellious older brother with artistic talent, and a dilapidated farm. The dismal situation is lightened by several likeable characters, especially the "spinster" relation who comes to keep house; however, the author successfully sustains the oppressive, mud-covered feel of hard farm life for most of the novel. Readers of "coming-of-age" novels will not be surprised to see another "will-the-boy-be-able-to-shoot-the-buck" subplot. More unusual (and somewhat far-fetched) is a sojourn into the New York City art world. Overall, middle-school readers, and perhaps older ones, should find the trials and triumphs of this family - both physical and emotional - engaging and relevant to their own lives.
The ALAN Review
Judy Stoffel
Fall 1996
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Mead, Alice
Adem's Cross
Reviewed by Rick Williams
English Teacher
Hubbard High School
Hubbard, Ohio
Adem's Cross by Alice Mead
Yugoslav War
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996. 144 pp. $15.00
ISBN: 0-374-30057-7 

For fourteen-year-old Adem, the internal conflicts of adolescence are exacerbated by the external conflicts of the current crisis in his native Kosovo, a province of the former Yugoslavia. Through Adem, Mead tells a turbulent tale that illustrates the complexities of the Balkan tragedy and examines active versus passive resistance to oppression. Young adult readers will identify with the teenage characters who sip Coke, absorb MTV, disagree with elders, and preen before mirrors. However, readers will be shocked by the atrocities that these characters endure as they hope beyond hope that the world will rescue them. Adem suffers the loss of friends and family before he himself is victimized by the thugs who rule his land. In the struggle to survive, Adem must compromise his conscience; pray to three Gods - Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox - avoid the very publicity that could rouse the world's attention; and bear his cross.

The ALAN Review
Rick Williams
Fall 1996
Hubbard High School

Paulsen, Gary
Brian's Winter
Reviewed by Gary M. Salvner
Professor of English Education
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio
Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen
Adventure/Survival
Delacorte, 1996. 133 pp. $15.95
ISBN: 0-385-32198-8

This "alternative sequel" explores what might have happened had thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson not been rescued at the end of Paulsen's noted Hatchet and instead had to survive a frigid winter alone in the northern Canadian wilderness. In this book the cold is the primary enemy, and Brian again learns that survival depends upon first observing closely his environment and then living according to its laws.

A veteran winter survivalist, Paulsen fills Brian's Winter with the same vivid details that made the earlier Hatchet and The River so believable. And here he adds an extra dimension: like Russell Suskit in Paulsen's Dogsong, Brian survives this time by returning to the "old ways" - fashioning flint arrowheads to hunt large game and even painting on cave walls to record important events. Finally, Paulsen has brought his lively humor to this work. His character Betty the skunk is certainly literature's most entertaining animal thief since E. B. White's Templeton!

Lovers of Gary Paulsen's survival stories will love this work also. This is terrific outdoor adventure writing.

The ALAN Review
Gary M. Salvner
Fall 1996
Youngstown State University

Meyer, Carolyn
Gideon's People
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kaplan
Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida
Gideon's People by Carolyn Meyer
Religious Differences
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 297 pp. $12.00 I
ISBN: 0-15-200303-7

Now here's a switch. Twelve-year-old Isaac Litvak, an Orthodox Jew, wakes up after a wagon accident in the home of an Amish family. Really. After all, how many stories have you read where the two conflicting cultures are Orthodox Jews and the Amish? The novelty of this unique clash of cultures makes for a most interesting and provocative read.

Trouble begins when Gideon, the sixteen-year-old son in this kind Amish family, announces to his new-found friend, Isaac, that he is secretly planning to run away. Gideon is rebelling from his traditional Amish responsibilities - preparing for his baptism, getting married, and settling down. Gideon's sister Annie, however, begs Isaac to help her prevent Gideon from running away. If Gideon leaves, Annie explains, his Amish family will have to shun him. Isaac, an Orthodox Jew, knows all too well the rigors of rituals as he struggles to come to grips with the need to balance family traditions and personal freedoms.

The ALAN Review
Jeffrey Kaplan
Fall 1996
University of Central Florida

Clip and File Reviews of
New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Klein, Robin
The Sky in Silver Lace
Reviewed by Connie Russell
K-12 Reading/Language Arts Coordinator
Eau Claire Area School District
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
The Sky in Silver Lace by Robin Klein
Poverty/Siblings
Viking, 1995. 178 pp. $13.99
ISBN: 0-670-86692-X

Vivienne, Cathy, Heather, and Grace move from a small country town to the city where their mother grew up. Poverty forces them to move in temporarily with a crotchety man and a stern aunt until they are able to move to a low-income flat. The sisters begin to understand each other better as they deal with sibling rivalry, competition with other girls who don't have to buy their clothes at a second-hand store, and a mother who is desperately trying to make ends meet. This story, focusing mainly on well-developed characters rather than plot, has a flavor not unlike Little Women and The Five Little Peppers. Its appeal will be to adolescent girls who are avid readers.

The ALAN Review
Connie Russell
Fall 1996
Eau Claire Area School District

Byalick, Marcia
It's a Matter of Trust
Reviewed by Hugh Agee
Professor, English Education
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia
It's a Matter of Trust by Marcia Byalick
Fathers and Daughters/
Political Corruption
Harcourt Brace, 1995. 247 pp. $11.00
ISBN: 0-15-276660-X

When sixteen-year-old Erika Gresham's father, a state education official, is charged with extortion, Erika's world seems to fall apart. The media hounds the family, and some of Erika's classmates are most unkind. The family moves in with her mother's parents for privacy. Erika and her brother, who is away at college, struggle with their feelings about their father's humiliating acts. When Erika wins a tennis tournament by calling a ball out of bounds that isn't, she rationalizes her own dishonesty as a way of punishing her father, who is watching. Erika details the events leading up to the trial and the resolution of the case. With the support of her best friend, Allison, and Greg, a co-worker at the summer camp where she works, Erika can finally come to terms with herself, her tennis coach, and especially her father, who faces a two-year prison term.

Through first-person narrative and media clips, Marcia Byalick keeps the focus on Erika, making this a good first novel that will interest female readers in grades 7-10.

The ALAN Review
Hugh Agee
Fall 1996
University of Georgia

Rosenberg, Liz
Heart and Soul
Reviewed by Gretchen Schwarz
Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Heart and Soul by Liz Rosenberg
Prejudice/Depression
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 213 pp. $11.00
ISBN: 0-15-201270-2 

Depressed over her passive mother and continually absent father, and creatively blocked in her music, seventeen-year-old Willie finally takes charge of her own future and feelings. This book requires reflection. The characters are vivid but complex, especially the awkward, ironic Willie, the narrator, and her outrageous friend Malachi Gelb. Descriptions are thought-provoking: "All that spring our house felt like a doctor's waiting room…." The plot is never predictable; whether or not Willie's salesman father will come home is unclear until the end. Central to the story is a satirical portrayal of anti-semitism in Richmond, Virginia, where Willie lives. The coming-out party at which Willie and Malachi are misfits is funny as well as poignant.

This book is for older students ready to struggle a bit. The issues of depression, dealing with parents, and facing prejudice are engaging but not simply resolved. This book stays with you like a lingering melody.

The ALAN Review
Gretchen Schwarz
Fall 1996
Oklahoma State University

Nolan, Han
Send Me Down a Miracle
Reviewed by Lisa Wroble
Plymouth, Michigan
Send Me Down a Miracle by Han Nolan
Relationships/Power of Hope
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 250 pp. $12.00
ISBN: 0-15-200979-5

Fourteen-year-old Charity's summer vacation is anything but boring when Adrienne Dabney comes to town. An artist, Adrienne is conducting a sensory-deprivation experiment to heighten her creativity. Locking herself in her family home for a month, she emerges, claiming to have been visited by Jesus.

Send Me Down a Miracle is about relationships among family, among friends, and among members of a small town. It is also about the power of hope and faith, in self and in others. Torn between being the good little preacher's daughter and her adoration of Adrienne's free spirit, Charity grows to see her father, whom she idolizes, as fallible. The glamour Charity at first saw in Adrienne fades as she realizes apparent caring and encouragement may have selfish undertones.

Han Nolan uses dialect and characterization to lighten the tone of Charity's discoveries. The use of first person, as if Charity is recalling the past event, is face-paced and rarely falters.

The ALAN Review
Lisa Wroble
Fall 1996
Plymouth, Michigan

Clip and File Reviews of
New Fiction Hardbacks

Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Voigt, Cynthia
Bad Girls
Reviewed by Connie S. Zitlow
Director of Secondary Education
Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, Ohio
Bad Girls by Cynthia Voigt
Friendship/School
Scholastic, 1996. 256 pp. $16.95
ISBN: 0-590-60134-2

"ME" stands for Margalo Epps and Michelle ("Mikey") Elsinger, two new students who meet on the first day of fifth grade. In this episodic story, set in an elementary school and told primarily in dialogue, the ME girls are as mean as possible. Mikey is aggressive, changes the all-male soccer team, and is in constant battle with Louis Caselli. Margalo seems sweet but is the instigator of malicious gossip and gross tricks.

It is difficult to say who will read this book, because the only thing that drives the story is wondering what the girls will do next or guessing who changed the contents of Rhonda's lunch box. The stereotypical descriptions of the teacher and the students (bullies, Gap girls, and nerds) are disturbing and the figurative language ineffective, even if done to convey a certain perspective. Bad Girls is not among the better stories that Voigt has written. Readers expecting powerful language, strong characterization, and an interesting plot will be disappointed.

The ALAN Review
Connie S. Zitlow
Fall 1996
Ohio Wesleyan University

Willey, Margaret
Facing the Music
Reviewed by Jeanne M. McGlinn
Assistant Professor of Education
University of North Carolina-Asheville
Asheville, North Carolina
Facing the Music by Margaret Willey
Death/Family/Coming of Age
Delacorte, 1996. 184 pp. $14.95
ISBN: 0-385-32104-X

The chance to become lead singer in her brother's band sets the stage for sixteen-year-old Lisa Franklin to grow emotionally. For the first time in four years, she is able to talk about her dead mother to Danny, her brother's friend. But she also realizes that her romantic attachment to Danny is one-sided.

The story centers on the changes in Lisa, but Mark, her older brother, also expresses his confusion, resentment, and grief - mostly in separate chapters. Lisa's coming of age coincides with her family's renewal as they learn how important it is to feel - not just sadness - but also love, accomplishment, and friendship. For Lisa this learning comes when she realizes that she is gifted in her singing, that she is capable of accomplishing things on her own, and that she needs her friends and family. Renewal comes when she and her family can also face how things end.

The ALAN Review
Jeanne M. McGlinn
Fall 1996
University of North Carolina-Asheville

Rodowsky, Colby
Remembering Mog
Reviewed by Hannah Pickworth
Librarian
Friends School of Baltimore
Baltimore, Maryland
Remembering Mog by Colby Rodowsky
Grief
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996. 136 pp. $14.00
ISBN: 0-374-34663-1

As the Fitzhugh family approaches the two-year anniversary date of the murder of their oldest daughter, Mog, all are still painfully living in slow motion. Younger sister and narrator, Annie, finds herself unable to move ahead of where Mog's life stopped. With the support of various characters, including a therapist, Annie begins the healing process, which she hopes will eventually include the rest of the family.

While some readers may not want to read about Mog's violent death, they will be able to join Annie's struggle as each family member experiences pain, isolation, and grief, and moves toward healing. A large part of Annie's healing process is learning to be accepted for herself and not as a replacement for her older sister. Readers will appreciate the Fitzhughs, who struggle with problems that have no easy answers.

The ALAN Review
Hannah Pickworth
Fall 1996
Friends School of Baltimore

Hewett, Lorri
Soulfire
Reviewed by Elizabeth Poe
Associate Professor of English
Radford University
Radford, Virginia
Soulfire by Lorri Hewett
Coming of Age/Gangs
Dutton, 1996. 231 pp. $15.99
ISBN: 0-525-45559-0 

Set in contemporary Denver, Soulfire describes sixteen-year-old Todd Williams' search for self-understanding amid the complexities of his black community. Having spent most of his life observing the behavior of his headstrong cousin and best friend Ezekiel, Todd is now angered by Zeke's smug, self-righteous attitude and lack of appreciation for the love and concern that his father, the Reverend Washington, holds for him. Todd's anger and frustration escalate as life becomes increasingly confusing with family members fighting each other as well as members of a rival Hispanic gang. The gang-related death of his cousin Tommy serves as a rite of passage for Todd who gathers bits of insight into the meaning of manhood from all the males he knows and finally allows himself to recognize the love and strength both his mother and Leandrea, the girl he loves, have to offer.

Although there are graphic descriptions of fight scenes, the action in this insightful story is primarily internal as Todd grows from an uncertain boy into a more self-assured young man.

The ALAN Review
Elizabeth Poe
Fall 1996
Radford University

Clip and File Reviews of
New Historical Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Lester, Jim
Fallout
Reviewed by Gary D. Schmidt
Chair, Department of English
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Fallout by Jim Lester
Fathers and Sons/
Vietnam War
Delacorte, 1996. 212 pp. $15.95
ISBN: 0-385-32168-6

Living in the shadow of his father's extraordinary reputation, Kenny Francis can do nothing but screw up. Where his father was a football hero and died saving his entire platoon in Vietnam, Kenny just seems to be flunking out in school, in life. When he arrives at Bedford Academy to straighten himself out in this, his junior year, he confronts the unreal ghosts of his father's past. In the greatest crisis of his life, he finds the courage to do what needs to be done, as well as the courage to admit a mistake - an admission that leads to freedom from the terrible burden of his father's reputation. A raw, sometimes funny, sometimes painful first-person narrative of an adolescent filled with anger, this novel focuses on legacies of loss, as well as the pain of concealing the mistakes of the past.

The ALAN Review
Gary D. Schmidt
Fall 1996
Calvin College

White, Ruth
Belle Prater's Boy
Reviewed by Joyce A. Litton
Library Associate
Ohio University
Athens, Ohio
Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White
Loss/Identity
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996. 196 pp. $16.00
ISBN: 0-374-30668-0

Ruth White has a strong sense of place in her depiction of Appalachian Coal Station, Virginia, in 1954. Her main theme, the loss of a parent, is a somber one, but she leavens it with humor. Twelve-year-old Woodrow Prater tells fanciful stories about his mother's disappearance a year earlier to silence the curious and to comfort himself. His sixth-grade cousin, Gypsy Leemaster, must come to grips with the reality that she has repressed her father's suicide (when she was five years old) and her discovery of the body. To show her anger at her father, she chops off her waist-length hair which had been his pride. Once Gypsy accepts her loss, Woodrow is able to tell her the truth about his mother. This novel should help young adults who are grieving over a parent.

The ALAN Review
Joyce A. Litton
Fall 1996
Ohio University Library

Bunting, Eve
SOS Titanic
Reviewed by Nancy E. Zuwiyya
English Teacher
Binghamton City School District
Binghamton, New York
SOS Titanicby Eve Bunting
Shipwreck/Historical Fiction
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996. 246 pp. $12.00
ISBN: 0-15-201305-9

Bunting combines historical accounts of the sinking of the Titanic with the story of a fifteen-year-old Irish boy leaving home and grandparents to join his parents in America. It is April, 1912, and Barry O'Neill has mixed feelings about his departure from Ireland, especially when he learns that local ruffians with a grudge against his family are sailing in the steerage. Bunting weaves together the stories of Barry's girlfriend in the steerage, first-class companions, and inexorably the story of the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Careful attention to historical detail adds interest to this fast-paced novel, but the emphasis is definitely on narrative as the suspense builds. Bunting tells the story well, but her ability to set the scene, both in the beginning and at the end, when she describes the death of the ship itself, carries this fine novel beyond mere narrative into an unforgettable scene of death and survival.

The ALAN Review
Nancy E. Zuwiyya
Fall 1996
Binghamton City School District

Walter, Mildred Pitts
Second Daughter: The Story of a Slave Girl
Reviewed by Barbara G. Samuels
Associate Professor of Education
University of Houston Clear Lake
Houston, Texas
Second Daughter: The Story of a Slave Girl
by Mildred Pitts Walter
Slavery
Scholastic, 1996. 211 pp. $15.95
ISBN: 0-590-48282-3 

Contrary to popular belief, not all slaves in the colonies lived in the South. In 1781 Mum Bett sued for her freedom under the Massachusetts Constitution. Walter skillfully weaves a fictional story around the known facts about Bett, as seen by her feisty younger sister Aissa. Born slaves in New York, the sisters accompany their mistress to Massachusetts when she marries. Mistress Ashley is a demanding woman who expects backbreaking work, refuses to allow Bett to marry, and often loses her temper. While serving visiting men who discuss issues of the day, including the Declaration of Independence and the Boston Tea Party, Bett learns about a bill of rights which states that all men are born equal with rights under the Constitution. When Mistress Ashley viciously loses her temper, Bett finds a lawyer to help. Recounting a little-known part of American history, Walter effectively captures the voice of a slave who longs for freedom.

The ALAN Review
Barbara G. Samuels
Fall 1996
University of Houston Clear Lake

Clip and File Reviews of
New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Cooney, Caroline B.
Out of Time
Reviewed by Diana Mitchell
Williamson, Michigan
Out of Time by Caroline B. Cooney
Time Travel/1890s
Delacorte, 1996. 200 pp. $10.95
ISBN: 0-385-32226-7

In this sequel to Both Sides of Time, Annie Lockwood and her brother are entangled in the mess of their parents' separation when a quick remembrance of moving through time invades Annie's brain and reminds her of her strong desire to return to the 19th century.

Although she feels the pull to remain with her brother, she can't resist the tug to go back in time to see her beloved, Strat, and resolve her unanswered questions. Scenes quickly unfold - Strat being physically restrained in an insane asylum, his powerless sister Delonny being manipulated by a man of evil intentions, his fiancee, Harriet, wasting away from consumption in a cold sanitarium. Into these disastrous situations comes Annie, determined to help her beloved and his family.

This fast-paced thriller has it all - characters we care about, a plot that twists and turns every which way, and writing strong enough to keep the reader involved. I learned a lot about life 100 years ago and can't wait for the sequel, Prisoner of Time.

The ALAN Review Diana Mitchell

Fall 1996 Williamston, Michigan


McCaffrey, Anne
Black Horses for the King
Reviewed by Jennifer B. Monseau
Cincinnati, Ohio
Black Horses for the King
by Anne McCaffrey
Arthurian Legend/
Adventure
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996. 223 pp. $16.00
ISBN: 0-15-227322-0

Ann McCaffrey's latest young adult novel leads readers through an exciting time in history and a time of coming of age for a young man. McCaffrey chooses to focus on a fascinating aspect of Arthurian legend that is usually overlooked: how King Arthur and his army came to own the majestic black stallions that helped them win many victories in battle.

McCaffrey's hero, young Galwyn, is an intelligent boy searching for a father figure he can look up to and for someone who will see him for the honest, intelligent, and capable person that he is. Readers will cheer Galwyn on as he breaks free from his oppressive uncle and becomes a loyal servant of Lord Artos, later known as King Arthur. Galwyn goes from being a quiet, timid boy to a confident young man who will protect Lord Artos' Libyan horses at all costs. This novel will leave readers wanting to hear more of Galwyn's adventures in the future.

The ALAN Review
Jennifer B. Monseau
Fall 1996
Cincinnati, Ohio

Hunter, Mollie
The Walking Stones
Reviewed by Laura M. Zaidman
Professor of English
University of South Carolina, Sumter
Sumter, South Carolina
The Walking Stones by Mollie Hunter
Supernatural/Scotland
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 168 pp. $5.00
ISBN: 0-15-200995-7

First published as The Bodach in Britain in 1970, this fast-paced tale juxtaposes ancient Celtic folklore with society's demand for progress. The Bodach ("old man" in Gaelic) delights ten-year-old Donald with Scottish Highland legends: strange, shadowy Otherworld beings and heroes of brave battles. Besides entertaining his young friend, the old silver-tongued storyteller shares his secrets - seeing into the future with Second Sight and creating a Co-Walker. Donald protects the mysterious walking stones from imminent destruction, as a hydro-electric company prepares to flood the glen. The stones come alive to perform their centennial ritual, and Donald witnesses the great circle of stones merging with ancient priests for one final miracle before supernatural power yields to electrical power. Universal themes of friendship, responsibility, social change, death, and hope make this story relevant to readers today. Hunter creates magic with her graceful style and suspenseful plot. Like the walking stones, her book has re-awakened to charm another generation.

The ALAN Review
Laura M. Zaidman
Fall 1996
University of South Carolina, Sumter

McDaniel, Lurlene
Saving Jessica
Reviewed by Anne Sherrill
Professor of English
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee
Saving Jessica by Lurlene McDaniel
Illness
Bantam, 1996. 191 pp. $3.99
ISBN: 0-553-56721-7 

Seventeen-year-old Jessica and sixteen-year-old Jeremy are contented high-school sweethearts. Then comes the diagnosis of Jessica's kidney disease. When dialysis fails, a transplant becomes the only hope for living a normal life. When found to be a matchable donor, Jeremy determines to give Jessica one of his kidneys, even if it means taking his parents to court to win the right to do so against their wishes.

Written in a readable if unremarkable style, the book presents teenagers who think and behave as adults and educated, loving parents who want what is best for their only children. Parents and educators sensitive to language or sex will find nothing objectionable. A twelve- to fifteen-year-old reader will gain knowledge about kidney disease, witness dedicated and idealized teen love, and go away with a strong message that faith and determination can win over adversity.

The ALAN Review
Anne Sherrill
Fall 1996
East Tennessee State University

DLA Ejournal Home | ALAN Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search ALAN and other ejournals