The Alan Review
Editors:
Wendy Glenn, Senior Editor
Ricki Ginsberg, Assistant Editor
Danielle King, Assistant Editor
alan-review@uconn.edu
Volume 26, Number 1
Fall 1998


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

Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Democracy by John B. Severance
Clarion Books, 1998. 192 pp. $18.00
ISBN: 0-395-84513-0
Reviewed by Gregory Stanley, Berry College, Mt. Berry, Georgia

Few figures in American history have reached the iconographic stature of Thomas Jefferson. Unfortunately, Jefferson also happens to be one of the most misunderstood characters in history, despite the preponderance of writings about him. John Severance's fact-crammed and rambling presentation of the quiet philosopher Jefferson succeeds only in diluting this fascinating man to a point well beyond diminishing returns. The meandering descriptions of the statesman's family life give him a much needed aura of humanity, but Severance's attempts to integrate this narrative with the major political and social events of the time jar badly.

Serious students of Jefferson-- even at the high school level-- will find little of interest in this volume, though middle schoolers might enjoy the presentation of Jefferson's non-political activities. Better books about Jefferson are on the market.

The Mercy Seat by Rilla Askew
Faulknerean novel
New York, Penguin Books, 1998. 420 pp. $13.95
ISBN: 0-14-02.6515-5
Reviewed by Edmund J. Farrell, The University of Texas at Austin

Rilla Askew's novel The Mercy Seat will challenge the most sophisticated adolescent reader. (For those not up on their Bible, the Mercy Seat "is both the place of atonement and the place within the Ark of the Covenant from which God speaks...") Written in a style deservedly termed Faulknerean--one sentence runs to 239 words; many exceed 150--Askew recounts the tale of the Lodi brothers, John and Lafayette, and of their families' flight from Kentucky to the Indian Territory of what is now Oklahoma, then part of the Choctaw Nation. Once relocated, the taciturn John, much to Lafayette's perturbation, renounces gun making, a profession that had prompted the Lodis' hasty departure from their homeland, and takes up the more legally acceptable trade of black smithing; the loquacious and alcoholic Lafayette, in contrast, quickly establishes himself as a bootlegger and seller of illegal guns. Enmity inexorably grows between the two brothers and their respective offspring, enmity that culminates at book's end in Cain-and-Abel violence and, with it, any hope of a return to the Eden-like Kentucky from which the families had fled.

Divided into four books and told from multiple points of view, most pointedly that of Mattie, John's young daughter, the novel is complex not only structurally but thematically, containing as it does Biblical motifs, elements of mysticism, conflict between the roles of fate and free will, and cultural tensions and misunderstandings between whites and whites, whites and Blacks, whites and Choctaws. To assist the reader with those complexities, the editors furnish a thought-provoking fourteen-question guide as an addendum.

Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville
Cults/ Adventure
Harcourt Brace & Co., 1998. 275 pages. $17.00
ISBN: 0-15-201767-4
Reviewed by Coleen A. Baines, Rome, Georgia.

A teenage girl and boy, both from broken families, find themselves trapped in the armed mountain encampment of a millennial cult where they are to prepare themselves to be among the prophesied 144 survivors who will become the new Adams and Eves after the rest of the world is destroyed. During their ordeal they struggle with issues of faith, loyalty, loss, and new love as the days tick off toward the cult leader's predicted date of Armageddon.

Excluded from the camp by electrified fences and armed guards under the belief that one more or less than the prophesied 144 people will jeopardize the survival of the true 'Believers', latecomers finally break into the compound during the violent climax. Marina leads children caught in the bloody struggle to safety, hiding them in a mountain cave. Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the point of view of two teenagers, Marina and Jed. This is a very readable and exciting novel, but teachers should be aware of material some individuals might find controversial, including adulterous parents who desert their families, non-mainstream religious views, and violence. Recommended.

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
Change / Parental separation
Penguin Books, 1995. 282 pages. $10.95
ISBN: 0-14-02.3390-3
Reviewed by Anthony J. Kunkel, Rome High School, Rome, Georgia

Paddy Clarke is a powerful story of childhood, loss, and frustration. Told in a very unconventional and disjointed first person narrative, Patrick (Paddy) Clarke takes the reader through a brutal and tumultuous year in the life of a 10-year-old boy living in Northern Ireland. Paddy and his friends play and explore in their village, where everything that has always been is suddenly changing with the times. A "corporation" buys much of the surrounding land, and the community continues to urbanize as old families move out and new families are moved in. The book offers an unflinching portrayal of the sometimes horrific process of growing up, but also manages some very touching and sensitive moments. The style is hard to follow at first, but well worth the trouble once into the book. Eventually, through ten year-old PaddyÕs eyes, the reader begins to understand that PaddyÕs parents are having problems and heÕs terrified of their possible separation. PaddyÕs life begins to change as he struggles to deal with his fears and concerns over his family.

There is some tough language in the book, though it is mostly young boys cursing for the first time in experimental fashion. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is an excellent novel, but not an easy read. Recommended strongly for the avid reader and mature student.

Art Attack (a short cultural history of the avant-garde) by Marc Aronson
Art history
Clarion Books, 1998. 166 pages. $20.00
ISBN: 0-395-79729-2
Reviewed by Anthony J. Kunkel, Rome High School, Rome, Georgia

Art Attack is a well organized book that introduces the novice to the avant-garde, then chronologically presents its brief history. While the progression towards avant-garde art might be somewhat interesting, the descriptions of the underlying political and cultural movements that influence the creation and appreciation of avant-garde art are what makes the book worthwhile. In order to give the reader a genuine flavor of avant-garde art, Aronson focuses on a few well known specific works as well as some commentary on specific movements within the avant-garde style. The book is amply illustrated and will entice some even art-resistant students to peruse its contents.

Art Attack would make an excellent resource for the secondary level student who might be interested in exploring some creative outlets or as a catalyst for discussions about aesthetics, expression, or contemporary lifestyles.

Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris
Fairy tale/ Satire
Harcourt Brace, 1998. 228 pages.
ISBN: 0-15-201590-6
Reviewed by Patti Cleary, Woodridge Middle School, Peninsula, OH

Love Among the Walnuts is a modern day fairy tale told in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The protagonist, Alexander Huntington-Ackerman is a wealthy, handsome, but sheltered young man who must save his parents from his homicidal uncles. Along the way, Alexander, or Sandy as he is called, finds the outside world, love, and himself. As Sandy tries to save his parents and return to his utopian world, he meets several characters who seem to embody every insecurity any adolescent could ever have.

The evil uncles are just down-right bad through and through. At first glance this story may seem rather corny and simplistic, but Jean Ferris creates a charming allegory while managing to portray the rites of passage of one young man from doubt to self-confidence. Teens will have no problem identifying with the problems of the characters in this book and will have fun with this "happily ever after" spoof.

Step Lightly: Poems for the Journey collected by Nancy Willard
Poetry
Harcourt Brace, 1998. 100 pages.
ISBN: 0-15-201849-2
Reviewed by Patti Cleary, Woodridge Middle School, Peninsula, OH

Nancy Willard's Step Lightly is a diverse collection of poems which follows a dawn to dark motif. She begins her book with Emily Dickinson poem; "Will There Really be a 'Morning,'?" and finishes with "Who is the East?" Throughout this collection the reader can find complex and fascinating poetry from some of the world's greatest poets, including William Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Denise Levertov, and Wallace Stevens.

The fifty-six poems featured in Step Lightly are not easy reading, but might interest upper level high school students. This collection could also be used as a model for students to assemble and publish their own aggregation of favorite poems.

The Luckiest Girl in the World by Steven Levenkron
Self-mutilation
Penguin, 1998. 189 pages. $9.95
ISBN: 0-14-026625-9
Reviewed by Amy Maupin, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Katie Roskova has a secret, and nobody must find out. If any of her peers, her coach, her English teacher, or God forbid, her overbearing mother, were to discover that she finds relief in cutting herself, well, they would think that she is crazy. But when she has the episode, the truth comes out, and it gets ugly. Real ugly.

The Luckiest Girl in the World is a tale of a young girl's battle with self-mutilation, a disorder more common than most would believe in adolescents, especially among those who deal with low self- esteem, anxieties, and pressure to succeed. And Katie Roskova, a champion ice skater, faces all that and more. The absence of her father, the absence of friends, and the presence of her demanding mother lead her to self destruction and self hatred. She can't cope with mental anguish, so she cuts herself with scissors to feel the physical pain. It's an escape. Luckily, Katie gets help and learns to cope with her illness. Her struggle is one from which all young readers can learn. Learning to love herself is the answer to her problem, and finding it makes for a compassionate story.

For Mike by Shelley Sykes
Friendship/ Death
Delacorte Press, 1998. 197 pages. $15.95
ISBN: 0- 385-32337-9
Reviewed by Alan Perry, Chatooga High School, Summerville, Georgia.

Mike, a missing teen, appears bloody and disheveled to his best friend, Jeff Owens, in a series of frightening dreams, pleading for help. Following Mike's instructions, Jeff tries to enlist the aid of a mutual friend, Kirby, who seems reluctant to help. Jeff finally turns to an old friend, Berry, who becomes a source of comfort as she helps him solve the mystery of his missing friend. Along the way, Jeff experiences tension in his relationship with his father, a cop who is investigating Mike's disappearance. He also must contend with a nagging suspicion of Kirby, his own budding romance with Berry, and a longing for the spiritual comfort Mike enjoyed through his faith in God.

The first half of this novel is a slow read, but after the discovery of Mike's body, the plot races to its conclusion. Teen readers, especially boys, will enjoy this novel's blend of psychic fright, mystery, inner turmoil and awakening feelings of love. However, it does deal with a very sensitive issueÑteen murderÑwhich could be overwhelming for younger readers.

Jungle Dogs by Graham Salisbury
Family/ Multicultural
Delacorte Press, 1998. 183 pages. $15.95. US/ $21.95 Can.
ISBN: 0-385- 32187-2
Reviewed by Sam David Gill, Ohio University

Boy Regis wears glasses, draws superheroes, delivers papers, and is afraid that his family is falling apart. His brother, Damon, is the leader of a gang on a collision course with trouble. His father is a blue-collar landscaper too busy and too angry at Damon's behavior to give his sons much attention. Damon wants Boy to stop being a "sissy": Boy wants Damon to stop being a tough guy who disrespects everyone, including their father.

While trying to end his family's strife, Boy must also confront his obsessive fear of the wild "jungle dogs" that roam the island. With Jungle Dogs, Salisbury immerses the reader in an exotic Hawaiian locale, using lush images and poetic descriptions to reveal its seldom-explored ethnic Polynesian culture. The novel boasts a compelling narrative voice, a sympathetic protagonist, and throws in enough drama to bring the story to a satisfying end. This is most definitely a "guy" book.

In a Dark Wood by Michael Cadnum
Robin Hood
Orchard Books, 1998. 246 pages. $17.95
ISBN: 0-531-30071-4
Reviewed by Alan Perry, Chattooga High School, Summerville, Georgia.

Forget Robin Hood! The Sheriff of Nottingham is the more fascinating character, at least in this novel. The villainous sheriff is a philanderer who tortures and executes prisoners, but deep-down it seems he has a conscience. His first encounter with the outlaw of Sherwood is an epiphany, showing him the value of life. When Robin rescues him from the jaws of a bear, the sheriff reforms his ways.

Complicated by too many plot threads involving loyal squire Hugh, bumbling deputy Henry, the mute court fool, and an amorous abbess, In a Dark Wood can be a tedious read. Due to some mature content, I wouldn't recommend this novel for younger teens, and I doubt that any but the most avid of older teen readers or fans of the Robin Hood legends would find it of interest.


The Chinquapin Tree by Jerry Kimble Holcomb Families/ foster care/ adventure
Cavendish Children's Books. 1998. 192 pages. $14.95
ISBN: 0-7614-5028-9
Reviewed by Mary Outlaw, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia.

Jessie and her younger siblings, Allie and Toady, struggle with the possibility that they may have to leave the foster home they now adore. Theirs is a story of different fathers, abuse, and the ups and downs that come with being moved from one foster home to another.

At last, when they are settled in a place where they truly feel at home, the people from the Children's Services come for the third time in two weeks. The uncertainty of the situation builds and Jessie decides to deal with it directly. The events that unfold are punctuated with adventure as the children learn about themselves and the strengths they possess. This story goes beyond survival as it reveals the determination of children, their resourcefulness and the ability to understand difficult circumstances.

Memories of Clason Point by Kelly Sonnenfeld
Growing up/ Great Depression
Dutton Books, 1998. 165 pages. $16.99
ISBN: 0-525-45961-8
Reviewed by Mary Outlaw, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia.

This memoir grasps the essence of immigrants seeking the American dream in the years preceding and during the Great Depression. Told by a Kelly, Jewish girl living with her family in the Bronx, the events of daily life during that era are captured as the author recounts her early years. The family proudly buys their home in a nice neighborhood, where other immigrants are also seeking to realize the American dream. When the depression reaches their community families are torn between accepting government aid and somehow remaining self-sufficient. The jobs become even more scarce and Kelly's father turns to bootlegging to support his family. With her mother opposed to bootlegging, and her father determined to succeed, Kelly wrestles with right and wrong, survival and keeping dreams alive.

Sonnefeld has provided wonderful context as she told this story of her youth. This is a must read for students studying the 1920s and 1930s in American history.

The Major, the Poacher, and the Wonderful One-Trout River by Dayton O. Hyde
American children's stories/ Fly-fishing
Boyds Mill Press, 1998. 152 pages. $9.95
ISBN: 1-56397-691-9
Reviewed by Mary Outlaw, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia.

Proclaimed by Sports Illustrated as the "King of the Flycasters," the Major has fished the rivers of America that are worth fishing, and has turned loose more trophies than most fishermen have seen. Yet, his greatest challenge comes from a 14-year-old boy who shares a similar passion for fishing. The young boy's innocence and determination help him develop the skill that eventually earns the respect of the Major.

Humor and adventure keep the reader in suspense as the story unfolds. This is a good book for any young (or old) fisherman, especially if there is an interest in fly-fishing.

The Beaded Moccasins by Lynda Durrant
Historical fiction
Clarion Books, 1998. 177 pages. $15.00
ISBN: 0395853982
Reviewed by Kay Baines, Dallas, Texas

A delightful history, The Beaded Moccasins by Lynda Durrant, is based on the true life story of Mary Campbell, the daughter of Pennsylvania settlers. Mary was a normal twelve year-old girl of 1759. She was a bit self centered, miffed that her father had moved the family from Connecticut to the isolation of Pennsylvania; annoyed with the numerous domestic chores assigned by her mother; and jealous of her older brother's reading lessons, hunting forays, and masculine freedoms. One day while Mary was gathering wild strawberries, Delaware Indians burned the Stewarts (neighbors) farm and kidnaped Mrs. Stewart, her baby, and Mary. The Delaware leader selected Mary to replaced a dead granddaughter (a prehistoric custom). During her six-year experience, she changes, developing into a courageous and altruistic adult beloved by her Indian captors.

The Beaded Moccasins is an outstanding book for adolescents, presenting history in an interesting way. Indian legends are retold and their lifestyle is accurately portrayed. The story also presents many challenging philosophical questions: why do many people fail to appreciate their families, homes, and friends until they are suddenly gone? What is strength of character? How do children develop a sense of self and community? How does the community influence an individual's development?

The Beaded Moccasins would lend itself to a variety of student-involved writing and discussion projects. It is a most fascinating book.

Floricanto Si: A Collection of Latina Poetry, edited by Bryce Milligan, Mary Guerrero Milligan, and Angela De Hoyos
Latina Poetry
Penguin Books, 1998. 310 pages. $14.95
ISBN 0-14-058893-0
Reviewed by Edmund J. Farrell, The University of Texas at Austin.

Floricanto Si further undermines the fading assumption that teachers and students have unavailable to them literature of merit written by Latina and Latino authors. Featuring the work of nearly fifty Latina poets living in the United States but whose families come from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Spain, Floricanto Si presents a rich variety of poems, most in English; some in Spanish followed by translation, often by the poet herself; and some in both English and Spanish ("code switching"). Themes presented treat a wide spectrum of concernsÑ self identity, exploitation and human rights, alienation and estrangement, mythology and religion, family relationships, and love. Given the range of concerns, one should not be surprised that a few poems among over one hundred presented include four-letter words that may offend some readers' sensibilities.

Floricanto Si contains a number of helpful editorial aides: a twenty-eight page introduction by Bryce Milligan that places the development of Latina literature into historical perspective and presents criteria for including poems in the anthology; a glossary of Spanish terms and phrases found in the selections; notes on historical and mythological characters common to Latina literature; and short biographies of contributors. Poems are presented in alphabetical order by author rather than by theme, thereby leaving teachers to be creative in rearranging contents.

Samuel Adams. The Father of American Independence by Dennis Fradin
Biography/ History
Clarion Books, 1998. 182 pages
ISBN: 0-395-82510-5
Reviewed by Gregory Stanley, Berry College, Mount Berry Georgia

Fradin presents his subject, patriot leader Samuel Adams, very well as a character few people "have more than a foggy idea as to his identity." Yet without him, there might not have been a United States. He was the first prominent colonial to favor independence and the person who did more than any other to promote the concept. Fradin explains well why this Firebrand of Liberty was critically important. He also chronicles how Adams faded into historical obscurity. Such historical neglect is something about which Adams would have been the last to complain.

The author makes Adams accessible and relevant without making him an icon or embellishing him with anachronistic qualities. Without being condescending, Fradin notes that for various reasons, Adams failed at nearly every job he had outside of the political arena.

What emerges is a clearly written and plainly told narrative that would work wonders in history or interdisciplinary classes across a broad age group. Samuel Adams would be especially valuable at the middle school level.

Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Softball/ Prejudice
Scholastic Press, 1998. 228 pages
ISBN: 0-590-89799-3
Reviewed by Ted Hipple, University of Tennessee

Though not as good as her Make Lemonade (few YA novels are), Wolff's Bat 6 will keep readers turning pages. Set in 1949, this many-voiced story (20 different narrators) describes the 50th annual girls' softball game between the schools at Bear Creek Ridge and Barlow Road. Tinging this anniversary event are two new players, a Japanese girl recently returned to Bear Creek Ridge after spending World War II in a relocation camp, and Shazam for Barlow Road, whose father was killed at Pearl Harbor, and whose prejudice erupts violently at the game.

Wolff's finely crafted work explores a time unfamiliar to many adolescents and infuses it with issues important then and still significant today. Highly recommended.

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
Illustrated by Sue Porter
Dutton, 1994. 231 pages
ISBN: 0-525-45929-4
Reviewed by Merrill Davies, Armuchee High School, Armuchee, Georgia.

Young fantasy lovers will enjoy this mix of magic and reality as well as adventure in the suspenseful story of Odge Gribble, a young hag, an old wizard, a gentle fey, and a giant ogre. As the action alternates between the magical island of these characters and the city of London, they try to rescue the young son of their King and Queen, who was kidnapped as a tiny baby by a Londoner. The plot is complicated by the fact that passage between the island and London is only possible when the door opens for nine days every nine years.

Amid the fantasy and comic character of the book, subtle themes of class prejudice and family loyalty give the story depth and make it worthwhile fiction. Upper elementary and middle school students should enjoy this as much as they did Ibbotson's Which Witch?

Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett
Weight gain/ Family
Delacorte Press, 1998. 260 pages
ISBN: 0-385-32274-7
Reviewed by Merrill Davies, Armuchee High School, Armuchee, Georgia.

Midway through her junior year in high school, sixteen-year-old Lara Ardeche was "Miss Teen Pride of the South," the new homecoming queen and the envy of all of her classmates. Twelve months later, she was an extremely obese senior trying to adjust to a new school and her parents' divorce. Although Lara sees herself as different from other overweight girls because of a medical condition, she learns that former friends, complete strangers, and even her image- conscious family often see only "a fat girl." Lara becomes a different person as she confronts realities about herself and her family.

Although BennettÕs fiction does not reflect literary genius, young teens should be able to identify with the issues of body image and broken family relationships that are addressed in Life in the Fat Lane.

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
Atheneum, 1998. 219 pages.
ISBN: 0-689-81852-1
Reviewed by Terrell Young, Washington State University.

Fletcher skillfully draws readers into this account of the legendary Sharazad and how she saved the lives of so many women through her storytelling abilities. Each chapter begins with boxed "Lessons for Life and Storytelling" that both illustrate language's power and facilitate the story's engaging plot. Marjan, a cripple who was maimed by the mother, enter the Sultan's palace to sell wares to the harem women. While there, her storytelling abilities become known to Shrazad. Marjan becomes Sharazad's handmaiden and is given the task of ferreting out new tales for Sharazad to tell the Sultan. Marjan's new role introduces her to the intrigues of the harem and the peculiar and menacing women who live there. Each day brings her new challenges and new dangers. As she risks her life to save Sharazad, Marjan gains a better understanding of her dead mother, herself, and the nature of being human.

Pictures. 1918 by Jeanette Ingold
Historical fiction
Harcourt Brace, 1998. 155 pages
ISBN: 0-15-201809-3
Reviewed by Angela M. Feree, Western Illinois University

Fire! Who set the fire that destroyed the chicken house? The horrifying opening scene grabs the reader while the identity of the mysterious arsonist hovers provocatively throughout this novel, set in rural Texas during the final months of World War I. Although the battles of that conflict rage far from Dust Crossing, Texas, their influence penetrates local lives and events that year. Against this background, fifteen-year-old Asia comes of age. Grieving for her lost pet and pestered by her younger siblings, Asia discovers a goal when she spies the beautiful Kodak Autographic in the drugstore window. She earns enough to buy the camera, Mr. Riley teachers her to use it, and with her "pictures" she realizes success. These snapshots capture the essence of the story, the nurturing devotion of Grandma, the budding romance with Nick, and the personal anguish that a remote war can cause.

Ingold's well-written novel, narrated in the first person, evokes nostalgia and a sense of the simplicity of life. Yet with vivid language, the short episodic chapters move the plot briskly forward. This is absorbing fiction that will hold the interest of any reader, even the most reluctant.

The Pirate's Son by Geraldin McCaughrean
Adventure
Scholastic Press, 1998. 294 pages
ISBN: 0-590-20344-4
Reviewed by Rob Linne, The University of Texas at Austin

Orphaned as young adolescents, Nathan Gull and his younger sister Maud, accept the offer of Nathan's schoolmate Tamo White -- estranged son of an infamous pirate -- to set sail for Madagascar and new lives. Together, the three youth overcome the usual elements of a sea-faring adventure: seedy port towns, treacherous pirates, and violent tropical storms. However, it is "Mousey Maud" who grabs the role of heroine by the story's end through her remarkable courage and cunning. Her strong characterization revises the traditional pirate tale told only through male voices save the occasional female victim.

The cross-cultural exchanges the British-educated youth experience while living among the "savages" of a peaceful fishing village will encourage young readers to examine the assumptions structuring their values and prejudices. However, too many improbable plot twists and narrow escapes, as well as overwrought descriptions of the action, may leave more sophisticated readers feeling as if they have enjoyed a campy parody of the genre rather than a serious revision.

Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life, by Russell Freedman
Biography
Clarion Books, 1998. 175 pages. $18.00
ISBN: 0-395-74655-8
Reviewed by Rob Linne, The University of Texas at Austin

Martha Graham "invented a new way of moving" according to biographer Russell Freedman. Her innovative choreography and style sparked the modern dance movement that recreated the performance world in the 1920s and 1930s. Graham's radically new dance form eschewed the escapist tales of classical ballet in order to explore serious themes and express social protest. Because of her pioneering work in composing a new "language of dance," Graham has often been compared to other influential modernist artists such as Picasso and Stravinsky.

Freedman's retelling of Graham's life and accomplishments offers a colorful portrait of one of this century's most important artists. Readers of A Dancer's Life will learn much about modernism in general and modern dance in particular, but perhaps most importantly, they will learn much about life from a remarkable woman's story.

Joyride by Gretchen Olson
Adventure/ Rural life
Boyd Mills Press. 1998. 200 pages.
ISBN: 1-56397-687-0
Reviewed by Floyd Fishel, Berry College, Mount Berry Georgia.

When two opposing worlds crash together, it is a truly definitive moment of life. Olson contrasts the stark simplicity of rural Salem with the stereotypical beliefs of high society. As these worlds collide, Jeff inadvertently chooses to have an awakening of the soul. With a fleeting carefree thought, he finds himself in the middle of a berry field with a dented car and a broken irrigation pump. This joyride costs Jeff a summer of tennis tournaments and partying with his friends. In turn, he must help cultivate the very fields he damaged. Given this unexpected twist, Jeff's narrow view of life becomes expanded through many days of hard work, a country girl named Alexia, and the chance to walk in the shoes of others. Eventually, Jeff comes to understand the imperfections and arrogance of his sheltered suburban lifestyle. Olson makes her points through vivid character interactions and timely transitions. This book will engage the attention of most readers, male or female.

Sharp Horns on the Moon by Carol Crowe
Fantasy
Boyd Mills Press, 1998. 112 pages.
ISBN: 1-56397-671-4
Reviewed by Floyd Fishel, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia

In this mystical tale of bouncing shadows, Crowe gives the reader an intimate look into the mind of a young girl. With the constant crashing of the waves in her mind, Ivy (the narrator) must deal with the lingering, yet clouded memory of her mother's death. During her daily ritual of swimming in the reef, she comes face to face with a young ghost. The ghost, Eleanor Mudpenny, is pebble skimming on the still pond of Ivy's isolation. Ivy's new friend gives her the strength and courage to seek the truth surrounding her mother's death. With each day, Ivy and Eleanor become closer as friends and even go through the eventual highs and lows that come with the territory.

Crowe paints a magical canvas with vivid imagery and moments of surreal introspection. She handles the painstaking experiences of losing a mother and a best friend through the wisdom of enchanting maternal instinct. This book will challenge the imaginations of young girls in middle school.

Cast Two Shadows by Ann Rinaldi
Historical fiction
Harcourt Brace, 1998. 280 pages
ISBN: 0-15-200881-0
Reviewed by Angela M. Ferre, Western Illinois University

The year is 1780 and the American Revolution is sweeping through the Carolinas with particular violence. Fourteen-year-old Caroline Whitaker has already witnessed its horrors firsthand. She, her mother, and sister are confined to an upstairs chamber as British Colonel Francis Rawdon and his troops occupy their plantation home. Caroline's father has been imprisoned for disloyalty to the King and her brother Johnny is away fighting for the Loyalists. When news arrives that Johnny is injured, it is Caroline who begs permission to fetch him home. Accompanied by her grandmother, Miz Melindy, she undertakes the perilous journey, one in which Caroline discovers her heritage and her courage with the realization that she'll "know what to do when the time comes." Climatic events test this courage to the limit.

Rinaldi reminds us that war takes a terrible toll on people; that this conflict disrupted the accepted social order; and that the fundamental right to freedom cannot be denied. The "Author's Notes" indicated her detailed knowledge of specific events and historical figures, both Loyalists and Patriots, while the particular nuances of the war in the South all combine to create an authentic setting, realistic dialogue, and believable characters in a suspenseful novel that is difficult to put down.

War and the Pity of War by Neil Philip
Poetry/ War
Clarion Book, 1998. 96 pp. $20.00
ISBN: 0-395-84982-9
Reviewed by Bill Mollineaux, Sedgwick Middle School, West Hartford, CT

Although pre-World War I poetry "counted the cost" of war, Philip contends that it "did celebrate war and warriors." Choosing World War I as the turning point, PhilipÑ in his introduction and the poemsÑ shows how most poets no longer found honor and glory in war. Instead, they saw its cruelty, waste, futility, and horror. However, this did not prevent them from recounting the bravery, dignity, sacrifice, and humanity of soldiers and civilians. And the similarities of war and soldiering throughout history are striking. Although over two-thirds of the seventy-two poems are from this century, in order to "set our century's story in the wider context of human history and human suffering," there are poems from ancient China, ancient Greece, and the major wars of the nineteenth century. Poets include Sandburg, Crane, Yeats, Brecht, Auden, Owen, Tennyson, Whitman, Melville, Sassoon, Kipling, and Kinnell.

These poems are powerful and their length (fifty-nine are one page or less) will hold the attention of middle school and high school readers, who will be equally captivated by Michael McCurdy's scratchboard drawings.

Reference Citation: Baines, Lawrence. (1998). "Young Adult Books in Review: Recently Published Titles 'Clip & File'." The ALAN Review, Volume 26, Number 1.


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