The Alan Review
Current Editors
Steven Bickmore sbick@lsu.edu
Jacqueline Bach jbach@lsu.edu
Melanie Hundley melanie.hundley@vanderbilt.edu
Volume 21, Number 3
Spring 1994


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

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks

Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors

Lowry, Lois
The Giver
Reviewed by Laura M. Zaidman
Professor of English
University of South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina

McGowen, Tom
A Trial of Magic
Reviewed by Joanne Peters
Teacher-Librarian
Sisler High School
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Williams, Tad and
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Child of an Ancient City
Reviewed by M. Jean Greenlaw
Regents Professor
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas

Tarr, Judith
His Majesty's Elephant
Reviewed by Anne Sherrill
Professor of English
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee

The Giver by Lois Lowry Fantasy/Dystopia
Houghton Mifflin, 1993. 180 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-395-64566-2
Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, Lowry's thought-provoking fantasy challenges adolescents to explore important social and political issues. The Giver trains twelve-year-old Jonas as the next Receiver of Memory, the community's receptacle of past memories. This seemingly utopian society (without pain, poverty, unemployment, or disorder) is actually a body- and mind-controlling dystopia (without love, colors, sexual feelings, or memories of the past). In an exciting plot twist, Jonas courageously resolves his moral dilemma and affirms the human spirit's power to prevail, to celebrate love, and to transmit memories. From the book jacket's evocative photographic images -- The Giver in black and white; trees in blazing color -- to the suspenseful conclusion, this book is first-rate. Just as Lowry's Number the Stars (which received the 1990 Newbery Medal) portrays the Danish people's triumph over Nazi persecution, The Giver engages the reader in an equally inspiring victory over totalitarian inhumanity.
The ALAN Review Laura M. Zaidman
Spring 1994 University of South Carolina

Child of an Ancient City by Tad Williams and Nina Kiriki Hoffman Fantasy
Atheneum/Byron Preiss, 1992. 137 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-689-31577-5
In a take-off on the Ali Babba stories, a man of ancient Baghdad spins a tale of his youth. He tells of a dangerous caravan journey in which he and his companions are forced to flee into the mountains to escape bandits. As they continue on their journey, they are stalked by a vampyr, who, after killing off most of them, offers the survivors a contest. If one of their number can tella tale sadder than the vampyr's, they all go free. Obviously, they succeed, as the tale is being told.
There is a sense of comradeship in the introduction of the story, and the tale proceeds apace until the survivors begin to reveal their sad tales to the vampyr. Unfortunately, these tales are flat, and provide little interest. The story picks up again when we learn why the vampyr lets them go free, and the ending is witty. This would be an appropriate book to use to compare to the ancient tales of Ali Babba.
The ALAN Review M. Jean Greenlaw
Spring 1994 University of North Texas

A Trial of Magic by Tom McGowen Fantasy
Dutton, 1992. 148 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 0-525-67376-8
It is 30,000 BC, a time when Dragons, Little People, mages, and ordinary men live together on Earth, the Atlan Domain. Then, as now, peaceful co-existence is a dream, and the future is threatened by a vision of impending destruction. Creatures from outside the Earth will bring about this "Earth doom," unless the magicians of the Atlan Domain can unite their power and avert this apocalypse. Lithim, twelve-year-old son of the mage Mulng, together with his companions Gra-kwo and Alglinnadorn, find their will and magical powers tested, as they aid Mulng and the other mages in finding the mage-traitor who is conspiring against the plan to save the Earth. The second book in the Age of Magic trilogy, A Trial of Magic offers a suspenseful read for younger readers(grades 6-9) of fantastic fiction.
The ALAN Review Joanne Peters
Spring 1994 Sisler High School, Winnipeg, Manitoba

His Majesty's Elephant by Judith Tarr Fantasy
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993. 192 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-15-200737-7
Rowan is a princess who, like her sisters, is seldom allowed out of the sight of her father, the Emperor Charlemagne. Like many adolescents, she worries that she is not pretty. In her world, men fight and women tend the wounded. But all of that changes when she meets Kerrec, a Frankish witch and descendent of Roland. The wily Michael Phokias is out to destroy Rowan's father, whose kingdom is a threat to Byzantium. Rowan determines to use her own sorcery against the sorcerer.
Magic, demons, witches, a talisman -- these classic ingredients of fantasy --will enchant dedicated fans in early or middle adolescence. Though not essential, familiarity with historic characters and civilization is helpful. One wishes the elephant played a greater part and that the plot was more tightly knit. However, the author, a medieval scholar, presents a likable and strong female protagonist.
The ALAN Review Anne Sherrill
Spring 1994 East Tennessee State University

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Zindel, Paul
David and Della
Reviewed by Kay Parks Bushman
English Teacher
Ottawa High School
Ottawa, Kansas

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds
The Girls Get Even
Reviewed by Jennifer Moreland
English Teacher
Redlands Middle School
Grand Junction, Colorado

Bauer, Marion Dane
A Question of Trust
Reviewed by Gary D. Schmidt
Professor of English
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Delffs, Dudley
Forgiving August
Reviewed by Ruth K. J. Cline
Professor Emerita
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado

David & Della by Paul Zindel Relationships
Harper Collins, 1993. 169 pp. $14.00 ISBN: 0-06-023353-2
With his parents off to Budapest, David Mahooley is left behind suffering from two things: the knowledge that he drove his girl friend crazy and writer's block while working on his story about cannibal children who invite their math teacher for dinner. Then, through a school bulletin board ad, he meets Della Jones, a troubled actress who inspires David to write a play full of passion, starring Della herself. In the meantime, however, the two must deal with their own up-and-down relationship as they learn each others' secrets in their own world of struggles.
This is another hilarious Zindel plot with two zany characters with whom students will be able to connect in a fun yet thought-provoking way.
The ALAN Review Kay Parks Bushman
Spring 1994 Ottawa High School, Ottawa, Kansas

The Girls Get Even by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Brothers and Sisters
Delacorte, 1993. 129 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-385-31029-3
In this sequel to The Boys Start the War, the feuding Hatford brothers and Malloy sisters continue to plot to get the best of each other. The annual Halloween costume parade provides the opportunity for a bet, in which the losing team will become the winners' slaves for a month. This leads to a flurry of spying, creative costume designing, and sabotage.
The tone of this book is lighthearted and humorous. One gets the impression that both parties in the feud are thoroughly enjoying themselves, though neither would admit it. With a reading level of 4.7 and characters aged 11 and under, this book is best suited for younger readers, but sixth or seventh graders may give it a try if they are looking for a short, funny book.
The ALAN Review Jennifer Moreland
Spring 1994 Redlands Middle School, Grand Junction, Colorado

A Question of Trust by Marion Dane Bauer Family Separation
Scholastic, 1994. 130 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-590-47915-6
Marion Bauer, author of the Newbery Honor-winning On My Honor, tells a story with a simple and familiar premise: two young children find and adopt a cat and her kittens, knowing full well that their father will disapprove once he finds out. But what saves the story from cliché are the complex connections between this situation and the divorce of the boys' parents. Brad and Charlie, living with their father, feel enormous anger at their mother's willingness to leave them. The mother cat, in a way, becomes an image of the good mother for them until she apparently kills one of the kittens. The boys release all of their anger on this mother, chasing her off and raising the remaining kitten themselves. The mother cat comes back secretly, until Charlie hurts it and suddenly the boys realize that they have tried to stop her from being the mother she wants to be. The result is a powerful reconciliation with their own mother. A quickly-paced narrative with a sensitive exploration of the pain of divorce, this is a fine read for middle grades.
The ALAN Review Gary D. Schmidt
Spring 1994 Calvin College

Forgiving August by Dudley J. Delffs Coming of Age/Relationships
Pinion Press, 1993. 254 pp. $10.00 ISBN: 0-89109-747-3
The opening sentence, "I was eighteen years old before I ever defied my father," is surely going to grab the adolescent reader. Bounty McGraw is eighteen, and this story of the summer between high school graduation and college in the fall is realistic and poignant. As the only child in a dysfunctional family, Bounty watches his father fall back into his alcoholic pattern, including leaving home for a period of time. Bounty is the pawn in his parents' relationship, and he longs to go to the University of Tennessee rather than stay at home and go to the community college. He needs a study loan to do this, and the banker whom he admired so much at first makes demands of Bounty that he is unwilling to meet. The novel includes the complexities of Bounty's family relationships: the father's authoritarian attitudes and the dependency of his mother, all mixed in with the politics of a small Tennessee town. Bounty is likable and the reader is caught up in his coming-of-age story. There is much to discuss in the novel, but most importantly, it is enjoyable and easy to read.
The ALAN Review Ruth K. J. Cline
Spring 1994 Boulder, Colorado

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Taylor, Theodore
Timothy of the Cay
Reviewed by Margaret J. Ford
Library/Media Specialist
Campbell-Memorial High School
Campbell, Ohio

Wolff, Virginia Euwer
Make Lemonade
Reviewed by Joyce C. Lackie
Professor of English
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado

Kaye, Marilyn
Real Heroes
Reviewed by Jim Brewbaker
Professor of Education
Columbus College
Columbus, Georgia

Asch, Frank
Hands Around Lincoln School
Reviewed by Christy Hammer
Teacher
Mickle Junior High School
Lincoln, Nebraska

Timothy of the Cay by Theodore Taylor Survival/Shipwrecks/Handicaps
Harcourt Brace, 1993. 161 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-15-288358-4
The Caribbean cadences of Timothy's "pidgin Engleesh" blend with Phillip Enright's sightless reminiscences in the prequel-sequel to Taylor's acclaimedThe Cay. Taylor recreates Timothy's childhood on St. Thomas with his adopted aunt, Tante Hannah Gumb, and his life on the sea and juxtaposes the story with the life of Phillip Enright after he is rescued from the cay -- thus a prequel-sequel. The two points of view are distinct yet appear to merge as Timothy's resolve and determination to one day own his own ship runs in counterpoint to Phillip's determination to regain his sight and see his cay once again, even though the surgery might leave him paralyzed or dead.
Taylor weaves a compelling tale of prejudice, Caribbean slavery and seaport life, and the stresses of World War II. His characterization and mastery of Caribbean dialect create an unforgettable portrait of the determination of youth and the wisdom of age.
The ALAN Review Margaret J. Ford
Spring 1994 Campbell-Memorial High School, Campbell, Ohio

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff Self-Esteem/Responsibility
Henry Holt, 1993. 200 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 0-8050-2228-7
Trying to raise money for college and a better life, fourteen-year-old LaVaughn babysits for Jolly, a single mother, in her squalid apartment. Seventeen and almost illiterate, Jolly has two children and works nights in a factory. LaVaughn, drawn into Jolly's problems, begins babysitting for free and seeing her grades suffer. She ultimately coaxes an unwilling Jolly into a Moms Up Program, where Jolly begins to turn her life around.
Wolff's lyrical style appears like poetry on the page, the lines of text broken into natural phrases. Told from LaVaughn's point of view, the narrative captures the poignant relationship between LaVaughn and Jolly's dirty but charming children, creating a sensitive and caring heroine. The book's strongest appeal will be to junior high girls. In an age of music videos demeaning to young women, Make Lemonade presents a strong message on survival skills and how to develop them.
The ALAN Review Joyce C. Lackie
Spring 1994 University of Northern Colorado

Real Heroes by Marilyn Kaye Social issues
HBJ Brace Gulliver, 1993. 144 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-15-200563-3
In Real Heroes, Marilyn Kaye takes a hard look at what can happen when a popular teacher tests HIV-positive. Kevin Delaney and his father, a small-town law enforcement officer, have survived -- just barely -- the departure of Kevin's mother. Life is complicated already, but when Jeffrey Logan, Kevin's PE teacher, admits that he carries the AIDS virus, the Delaneys' delicate balance is jeopardized. Kevin's father leads a move to have Logan fired; Kevin quietly sympathizes with those who defend him.
Real Heroes, aimed at middle schoolers, provides straightforward information about AIDS, about how it is transmitted, and about the fears that too many -- adults and adolescents alike -- give into. Kaye's plotting is believable; her characters, though, are sketchy. Though not a memorable book,Real Heroes will find a deserved readership among curious and concerned upper-elementary and younger teenagers.
The ALAN Review Jim Brewbaker
Spring 1994 Columbus College

Hands Around Lincoln School by Frank Asch Problem Novel
Scholastic, 1994. 217 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-590-44149-3
Although the plot centers on a plan by some sixth-grade students to shock classmates into being environmentally aware, Hands Around Lincoln School addresses many other issues, including friendship, shyness, cliques, stage fright, problem solving, and responsibility. As the novel progresses, Amy, the main character, becomes more aware of her own beliefs and gains the courage to stand up for them, even temporarily alienating her best friend Lindsay.
At first, Save the Earth Club seems to be the "right" kind of thing to do, but Amy internalizes the ideals of the club. She identifies with the young girl in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and devises a plan to involve students in the entire school to join hands, symbolizing holding hands around the earth, committing themselves to helping create a better a world.
Believable characters, realistic dialogue, and a fast-moving plot will maintain the interest of many fifth- and sixth-grade students.
The ALAN Review Christy Hammer
Spring 1994 Mickle Junior High School, Lincoln, Nebraska

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Rylant, Cynthia
I Had Seen Castles
Reviewed by Mike Angelotti
Professor of Education
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma

Clark, Clara Gillow
Annie's Choice
Reviewed by Joan Nist
Professor Emerita of Educational Media
Auburn University
Auburn, Alabama

Mazer, Harry
Who Is Eddie Leonard?
Reviewed by Wendy H. Bell
English Teacher
Enka High School
Asheville, North Carolina

Derby, Pat
Grams, Her Boyfriend, My Family, and Me
Reviewed by Edna Earl Edwards
Professor of Education and English
West Georgia College
Carrollton, Georgia

I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant World War II Fiction/Youth and War
Harcourt Brace, 1993. 97 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 0-15-238003-5
This is a powerful, powerful book -- one that no one should put off reading. Yes, it is a love story, and it is a loss-of-innocence story. But most dramatically, it is the story of one seventeen-year old's loss of the romanticized outlook on war typical of youth. This story of World War II, which is to me more powerful of its time period than The Red Badge of Courage  is of the Civil War. What makes it so compelling is its art, the weaving of a richly colored poetic fiber into its beautifully crafted fiction -- a book as close to poetic fiction as I have read: "I could not stay in America because America had not suffered. I needed to be with those whose eyes looked like my own, who had covered their faces and lain in the darkness as bombs fell" (p.95). The book works. Read it. Bring it to your eleventh and twelfth graders.
The ALAN Review Mike Angelotti
Spring 1994 University of Oklahoma

Who Is Eddie Leonard? by Harry Mazer Identity
Delacorte Press, 1993. 188 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-385-31136-2
After his verbally abusive (yet somehow endearing) grandmother dies, twelve-year-old Eddie Leonard searches for his "real" family. Although he has been told of a mother and father he has never seen as well as a footloose Uncle Stew, he feels as if he isn't connected to these people. Seeing his own face on an old "missing children" poster, he sets out to reunite himself with that family, confident that he will be "home" at last.
Wrong. Many problems exist, and how Harry Mazer leads Eddie to the realization that what you should look for and cherish when you find it is friendship. "If you don't have a family, you can always have friends" gives this novel value. The characters and conflicts are reasonably credible, and Eddie's personal toughness is very appealing.
Easy to read and fast-paced, this novel has merit for middle school/junior high"identity" units.
The ALAN Review Wendy H. Bell
Spring 1994 Enka High School, Asheville, North Carolina

Annie's Choice by Clara Gillow Clark Family
Boyds Mills Press, 1993. 196 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-56397-053-8
Fourteen-year-old Annie Lucas, living in rural upstate New York in the 1920s, dreams of going on to high school. But she makes the painful choice to stay home to care for her younger siblings and for her mother, weakened after a difficult childbirth. For today's young adults, who take secondary schooling for granted, Clara Gillow Clark presents a realistic look at the obstacles many young people faced in gaining education just a few generations ago. Stylistic touches paint scenes of the time: clothes that were homemade or ordered through a Sears catalog, and a Prohibition-era atmosphere in which the preacher sought to ban Treasure Island as sinful. The story includes many vivid characters, such as Annie's older carefree sister, Mae; her gentle younger sister, Grace; and Miss Osborne, the young city-bred teacher who encourages Annie. Annie herself, reliable, responsible, and eager to learn, is a strong figure.
The ALAN Review Joan Nist
Spring 1994 Auburn University

Grams, Her Boyfriend, My Family, and Me by Pat Derby Family Relationships
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994. 195 pp. $16.00 ISBN: 0-374-38131-3
Fifteen-year-old Andy keeps a low profile to deal with the hassles of living with his parents, four sisters -- including five-year-old twins -- and a dog. His mother's decision to go to work adds complications, for the older children become responsible for chores and partial care of the twins. After a fire in her house, Grams comes to live with them, making the home more crowded and life more complex. To everyone's surprise and her son's consternation, Grams becomes serious about a boyfriend.
In addition to coping with all these problems, Andy resists interest in girls but reluctantly becomes involved in dating. In the generation gaps, the father strongly opposes, but the children support, Grams's romantic involvement.
By weaving these modern-day realities with touches of humor into a first-person account, Pat Derby creates a worthwhile novel. A number of teenagers will be able to identify with one or more of the situations.
The ALAN Review Edna Earl Edwards
Spring 1994 West Georgia College

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Weaver-Gelzer, Charlotte
In the Time of Trouble
Reviewed by Joan F. Kaywell
Associate Professor of English Education
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

Meyer, Carolyn
White Lilacs
Reviewed by Michaeline Chance-Reay
Columbus State Community College
Columbus, Ohio

Voigt, Cynthia
The Wings of a Falcon
Reviewed by Suzanne Reid
Radford University
Radford, Virginia

Rinaldi, Ann
In My Father's House
Reviewed by Barbara G. Samuels
Associate Professor of Language Arts and Reading
University of Houston Clear Lake
Houston, Texas

In the Time of Trouble by Charlotte Weaver-Gelzer Historical Fiction/Liberty
Dutton Children's Books, 1993. 275 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-44973-6
Reuben Um Nyobe, an African leader from the Bassa tribe of Cameroun, was instrumental in ending French colonial control in Africa. On November 13, 1958, the French assassinated Um Nyobe and exhibited his body in an attempt to thwart Cameroun's quest for independence. Using actual eyewitness accounts in writing this historical fiction, the author tells a coming-of-age story of a young girl growing up "in a time of trouble."
Jessie Howells, an eighth grader at Hope School in Cameroun, is the daughter of American missionaries. She has a twin brother, Joshua, and a pesky little sister, Cassie. Jessie is primarily concerned about her upcoming travel plans to Egypt, which will offer Jessie her independence from her parents and sister-- at last. Her travel plans are suddenly thwarted when both of her parents are accidentally abducted by the Maquis, the African resistance. Through her African friend, Mendômô, and her parents' abduction, Jessie learns about the price of independence and the value of family.
Readers interested in African history or stories involving family dynamics will find this a good read.
The ALAN Review Joan F. Kaywell
Spring 1994 University of South Florida

The Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt Historical Fiction
Scholastic, 1993. 467 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-46712-3
Hardened by a life of slavery on Damall's Island, fourteen-year-old Oriel and his loyal companion Griff flee to the mainland where they experience the various hardships of war and struggle for power in medieval Europe. These range from the pathetic madness of the old woman Mary, to the ridiculous argument over colored neckerchiefs, to the brutal captivity under the Wolfer marauders. In the end, Oriel becomes a contender for the title of Earl of Sutherland in the kingdom previously described in Voigt's Jackaroo and On Fortune's Wheel.
Recommended for older adolescents who wish to explore the psychological effects of violence and war where only the strong survive and loyalty is tested by omnipresent danger, this difficult and profound novel could be used to address the complex nature of modern societies where such atrocities are committed.
The ALAN Review Suzanne Reid
Spring 1994 Radford University

White Lilacs by Carolyn Meyer Historical Fiction/African-American
Harcourt Brace -- Gulliver, 1993. 242 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 0-15-200641-9
Carolyn Meyer has taken a kernel of history and imagined a most moving elaboration and yet another memorable female protagonist. Rose Lee Jefferson draws each house in Freedom town, including her grandfather's, which contains the extraordinary garden where the rare white lilacs grow, to create an illustrated historical record before the town is literally moved away. During the 1920s, the residents of Denton, Texas -- the white, voting residents, that is -- actually did move an African-American community to make room for a city park. The novel contrasts the lives of Rose Lee and her relatives with those of the white family for whom they work. This is a realistic portrayal of the precarious existence of African-Americans in the South and how their sense of community and faith helps them survive. Varying attitudes towards segregation are reflected in the actions of both segments of the town, and unlikely heroes emerge. Meyer gives us believable characters and a good story which will give middle school and high school readers a greater understanding of the human drama in American history.
The ALAN Review Michaeline Chance-Reay
Spring 1994 Columbus State Community College

In My Father's House by Ann Rinaldi Historical Fiction
Scholastic, 1993. 303 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-590-44730-0
Oscie resents her mother's marriage to Will McLean and hates the changes he makes in her family. He hires a Yankee tutor for his stepdaughters, takes over management of the plantation, and pushes Oscie to become a strong decision-maker and thinker. Oscie's spirit and intelligence help her through changes in the Old South, a misguided romance, the dangers of war, and the family's move from Manassas to Appomattox. Based on events in the lives of Wilmer McLean on whose property the Civil War started and ended, the novel is rich in detail. Rinaldi has researched the period thoroughly and includes details such as lessons a tutor would have taught, arguments about the John Brown massacre, and debates on Lincoln's election. But the essence of the book is the compelling character and story of Oscie McLean, the girl who grows from child to woman during the years from 1852 to 1865.
The ALAN Review Barbara G. Samuels
Spring 1994 University of Houston, Clear Lake

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Bauer, Joan
Squashed
Reviewed by Connie S. Zitlow
Assistant Professor of Education
Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, Ohio

Peck, Richard
Bel-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats
Reviewed by John H. Bushman
Professor of English Education
University of Kansas
Ottawa, Kansas

Weaver, Will
Striking Out
Reviewed by Chris Crowe
Associate Professor of English
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah

Garland, Sherry
Shadow of the Dragon
Reviewed by Donald R. Gallo
Professor of English
Central Connecticut State University
West Hartford, Connecticut

Squashed by Joan Bauer Humor/Identity
Delacorte Press, 1992. 194 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 0-385-30793-4
It requires constant vigilance to grow the biggest pumpkin in Iowa, but sixteen-year-old Ellie is determined to be the first teen to win in the adult growing division. Her secret booster solution of buttermilk and Orange Crush is one way to help Max reach 611 pounds in time for the Rock River Pumpkin Weigh-in. She must also compete with frost, bugs, fungus, pumpkin thieves, and the disgusting, old Cyril Pool. Ellie misses her deceased mother, tolerates her father's motivational speeches, shares her gourmet creations with cousin Richard, tries to lose weight, and hopes her new boyfriend, a former agricultural club president, is not stolen by sweet corn coquette contestants. But she can always depend on Nana, who loves the soil, too.
Funny and fast-paced, Squashed, winner of the Delacorte Press Prize fora first young adult novel, would be a delight to read aloud.
The ALAN Review Connie S. Zitlow
Spring 1994 Ohio Wesleyan University

Striking Out by Will Weaver Father-Son Relationships/Baseball
Harper Collins, 1993. 272 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 0-06-023346-X
Will Weaver's first YA novel, Striking Out, is a home run, a grand slam in his first at-bat. Though it will likely be pegged a sports book, it's much more than that: it presents a variety of interesting characters and deals sensitively with human relationships. Under the thumb of his hard-driving father, thirteen-year-old Billy Baggs, a sinewy Minnesotan, has known only farm life and hard work. Billy and his mother both long for something beyond farm drudgery: for Billy, the town baseball team; for his mother, a receptionist's job. Weaver also weaves into the book pertinent subplots that broaden Billy's character and add suspense: oily Dale Schwarz's sexual involvement with a girl Billy likes; tension among Billy's town teammates who resent his countriness and superior ability; and conflict between Billy's parents as they struggle to maintain a relationship that is changing. Weaver has combined artful language and powerful storytelling in a book that will surely appeal to male and female readers in high school and beyond.
The ALAN Review Chris Crowe
Spring 1994 Brigham Young University

Bell-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats by Richard Peck Schools/Gangs/Humor/Satire
Delacorte Press, 1993. 181 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-385-30823-X
To the Babcock siblings -- Buffie, Bambi, and Brick -- moving from Bel-Air to Hickory Fork is like going from night to day. The three, along with their parents, leave California "in a hurry" and end up in the middle of nowhere. They soon realize all is not right in Hickory Fork. The mall has been closed; the school is run by the Mall Rats, a gang, headed by Tanya and beefy Jeeter; and the town lives in fear of these down-home teenage gangs. Bambi decides that if they are going to have to stay here, things will have to change. She, along with her show-biz family, sets out to take the school back and make the town livable again. Peck's delightful language -- it's a very funny book -- and his vivid description make for a very enjoyable read. More sophisticated readers may enjoy the more subtle commentaries on gangs, schools, and various types of family values.
The ALAN Review John H. Bushman
Spring 1994 University of Kansas

Shadow of the Dragon by Sherry Garland Vietnamese Immigrants/Gangs/
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993. 314 pp. $10.95 Skinheads/Interracial Dating
ISBN: 0-15-273530-5
Readers will find interesting descriptions of customs and attitudes of Vietnamese Americans throughout this contemporary multicultural story. Unfortunately, this novel tries to deal with too many issues. The sixteen-year-old main character, Danny Vo, has a difficult life in Houston, trying to balance school work, a job, and family obligations. Then his cousin Sang Le, recently arrived from Vietnam after years in a communist re-education center, gets involved with a Vietnamese gang that has been terrorizing local businesses. Meanwhile, Danny starts dating Tiffany Schultz, whose younger brother is confined to a wheelchair and whose older brother Frank is a Nazis kin head who hates "gooks." Danny also has a black best friend and a younger sister who misbehaves a lot and then runs away, neither of which make any difference in the outcome of the novel. Good conflicts, but fewer would have been better.
The ALAN Review Donald R. Gallo
Spring 1994 Central Connecticut State University

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Williams, Michael
Into the Valley
Reviewed by Jeffrey S. Kaplan
Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

Sleator, William
Others See Us
Reviewed by Hazel K. Davis
Athens, Ohio

Slepian, Jan
Back to Before
Reviewed by Lisa A. Wroble
Plymouth, Michigan

Greene, Constance
Nora, Maybe a Ghost Story
Reviewed by Connie Russell
K-12 Reading/Language Arts Coordinator
Eau Claire Area School District
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Into the Valley by Michael Williams Social Issues
Philomel Books, 1993. 194 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-399-22516-1
Into the Valley is based on a true incident that occurred in Shongweni Valley in South Africa in 1989. Michael Williams has changed the names and places, but the story's thrust, a sixteen-year-old boy's search for self-discovery, is powerful.
Written simply, Williams creates a tale of how one young man copes with the accidental death of his brother, a soldier in the South African Defense Force. Distraught, he sets out on a journey to answer important questions: "Why is the world so cruel? To him? His brother? South African blacks?" His travels take him to a seventeen-year-old black rebel leader, the self-named General Biko, and with him, he learns more than he ever imagined.
This is a good read, with enough action and commentary for adolescents who want to know more about contemporary Africa.
The ALAN Review Jeffrey S. Kaplan
Spring 1994 University of Central Florida, Orlando

Back to Before by Jan Slepian Time Travel/Relationships
Philomel Books, 1993. 170 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-399-22011-9
Everyone wishes, at one point or another, for a chance to relive an event to correct mistakes. In Back to Before, this wish becomes reality for Linny and his cousin Hillary. Linny struggles with guilt that he should have been home when his mother passed away, and Hillary feels anger toward her mother over her parents' separation. They relive last summer, learning that love is unconditional and that sometimes it is so strong it can blind one's perception.
Slepian plots an intriguing adventure by engaging the mysteries of time and space. Linny and Hillary must deal with how they got into the past, and how they will get home. Slepian masterfully places anchors between the current summer and the summer before, creating credibility. Did they really go back in time, or could there be another explanation? Only Linny holds the clues to reality.
The ALAN Review Lisa A. Wroble
Spring 1994 Plymouth, Michigan

Others See Us by William Sleator Science Fiction
Dutton Children's Books, 1993. 163 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-525-45104-8
Others See Us is told by sixteen-year-old journal-keeping Jared on summer vacation with his extended family. The story involves an industrial toxic waste dump, a blackmailing grandmother who has stolen a great deal of money, a sexually attractive egomaniacal female cousin, and super powers gained through immersion in or swallowing toxic waste.
Sleator uses toxic waste as a device to change his characters from ordinary to simple mind-readers or to ruthless, amoral, power-wielders. Spiders and spiderwebs appear throughout as symbols of the grandmother as she weaves her web of influence over her family and beyond. Sleator leads the reader and his characters to think about whether or not the end justifies the means, which could lead to interesting classroom discussions. Typical of Sleator, the story is not over on the last page. Young people should enjoy this one.
The ALAN Review Hazel K. Davis
Spring 1994 Athens, Ohio

Nora, Maybe a Ghost Story by Constance Greene Fantasy/Family
Brown deer Press, 1993. 202 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 0-15-277696-6
Readers expecting a scary ghost story will be somewhat disappointed withNora. This book is about Nora, 13, and her younger sister Patsy who are coping with their mother's death, their father's impending marriage to a woman they have nicknamed "The Tooth," and first love. While Nora does believe her mother is returning to give her messages, she feels no fear -- home will soon be shared by someone else. As the oldest, Nora is a surrogate mother and, at the same time, competes with her sister for the attention of the new boy in town. Young readers will relate to Nora's insecurity as she copes with adolescence and family situations. Greene has written an honest novel in which changes take place within the main character as she adapts to unwelcome changes in her world.
The ALAN Review Connie Russell
Spring 1994 Eau Claire Area School District, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction and Nonfiction Hardbacks and Short Story Collections
Virginia R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner, editors
Cox, Clinton
The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers
Reviewed by Jeanne Marcum Gerlach
Associate Professor of English Education
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia

Myers, Walter Dean
Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary
Reviewed by Richard F. Abrahamson
Professor
University of Houston
Houston, Texas

Gallo, Donald R., ed.
Join In: Multiethnic Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults
Reviewed by Elizabeth Poe
Associate Professor of English
Radford University
Radford, Virginia

Paulsen, Gary
Harris and Me
Reviewed by Charles R. Duke
Dean, College of Education and Human Services
Clarion University
Clarion, Pennsylvania

The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the African-American History
Buffalo Soldiers by Clinton Cox ISBN: 0-590-45121-9
Scholastic, 1993. 174 pp. $14.95
This book contains historical truths about the black cavalrymen who were recruited in the late 1800s by the United States Government to help open up the West. Cox uses factual information and archival photographs to tell the story of how these men who protected settlers, carried the mail, and fought battles against Native Americans came to be known as Buffalo Soldiers.
Through a mature narrative technique, Cox explains to the reader how many African-Americans enlisted in the cavalry after the Civil War because there were still few civilian opportunities for them. The irony is that while they joined hoping to find new freedoms, they took freedom away from others --Native Americans.
Young readers, who are often unfamiliar with the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, should find the book both informative and moving.
The ALAN Review Jeanne Marcum Gerlach
Spring 1994 West Virginia University

Join In: Multiethnic Short Stories by Outstanding Short Stories/Ethnic Diversity
Writers for Young Adults, edited by Donald R. Gallo ISBN:0-385-31083-3
Delacorte, 1993. 258 pp. $15.95
The characters in these 17 stories are Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Cambodian, Japanese, Cuban, Lebanese, Chinese, Black, Laotian, Chicano, and Pueblo Indian. Although essentially influenced by their various ethnic backgrounds, their stories cluster around the expectations, friendships, dilemmas, connections, and confrontations they experience as teenagers in America. Some of the authors-- Rita Williams-Garcia, Lensey Namioka, Rudolfo Anaya, Brenda Wilkinson, Julius Lester, Sharon Bell Mathis, T. Ernesto Bethancourt, Danny Romero, Kleya Forte-Escamilla -- write of their own ethnic groups. Others -- Jean Davies Okimoto, Barbara Beasley Murphy, Gloria Gonzalez, Linda Crew, Alden R. Carter, Maureen Crane Wartski, Elsa Marston, Minfong Ho -- write from close association with ethnic groups other than their own. The stories combine in this superb collection to highlight the brilliant array of ethnicity that distinguishes America.
The ALAN Review Elizabeth Poe
Spring 1994 Radford University

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary by Walter Dean Myers Biography
Scholastic, 1993. 212 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-590-46484-1
Myers traces Malcolm Little's life from his childhood experience. Pivotal in those early years was an incident when Malcolm confided in a favorite junior high teacher that he hoped to be a lawyer someday. When the teacher suggested such a goal was not realistic for a black man and that, perhaps, a carpenter would be a better choice, Malcolm "simply gave up on the American dream."
What follows is a gripping story of a young, angry man searching for himself and something to believe in. He finds both in the Nation of Islam and the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm Little becomes Malcolm X -- gifted orator, organizer, and a leader of the Black Muslims.
Myers does a terrific job of contrasting Malcolm X's "by any means necessary"message and style with Martin Luther King's advocacy of nonviolent protest. In the process, the reader gets an inside look at the Civil Rights movement in America during the 1960s.
The ALAN Review Richard F. Abrahamson
Spring 1994 University of Houston

Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen Nonfiction/Humor
Harcourt Brace and Company, 1993. 157 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-15-292877-4
Harris is one of a kind. His city cousin spends the summer with Harris, and finds farm life holds many surprises when your mentor is eleven years old and primed to try anything from fighting chickens and tackling pigs, to imitating Tarzan. Paulsen has an excellent eye for the slightly off-beat details, from the hired hand who never seems to take a bath and the rooster who lies in ambush for human prey, to Buzzer the killer cat. The life of Harris and his family on the hardscrabble farm could be unmercifully grim if it were not for Harris' exuberance for living life fully. The book contains some swearing, but Paulsen makes this one of Harris' traits that constantly gets him in trouble. This book is guaranteed not to stay on the shelf for long, once junior highboys discover it.
The ALAN Review Charles R. Duke
Spring 1994 Clarion University


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