Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks
Gary M. Salvner and Virginia R. Monseau, editors
Klause, Annette Curtis
Blood and Chocolate
Reviewed by Rebecca Barnhouse
Assistant Professor of English
Youngstown State University
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause Werewolves
Delacorte Press, 1997. 264 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-385-323-05-0
In Klause's first novel, The Silver Kiss, a girl falls in love with a vampire. Now Klause focuses on the supernatural character: Vivian, a sixteen-year-old werewolf who lives in contemporary America and who falls for a human boy. Vivian is a creature of strong canine appetites; blood, sweat, lust, and wild runs under the moon appeal to her. Can she reveal her identity to her boyfriend? What about her loyalty to the pack?
Life in the pack can be brutal. Biker bars are the werewolves' hangouts, and both males and females constantly vie for power, relying on sex and physical prowess. Vivian struggles to fit in with both her own kind and with humans.
This book will appeal to werewolf and horror fans who don't shy away from sex or violence.
The ALAN Review Rebecca Barnhouse
Spring 1997 Youngstown State University
Asylum for Nightface
Reviewed by Elizabeth Poe
Associate Professor of English
Asylum for Nightface by Bruce Brooks Religion/Fanaticism
HarperCollins, 1996. 137 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-06-027060-8
Fourteen-year-old Zimmerman's parents want to liberate him from his self-imposed spiritual morality. They want him not only to be a member of their family but also to accept their hip lifestyle and rigid unconventionality. Then they find their own religion while vacationing in Jamaica. Now Zim's goodness elevates him in his parents' eyes and makes Pastor Luke Mark John see him as the savior of teens who have been luring their parents away from his Faith of Faiths. Fortunately, before she became a found-again Christian, Zim's mother had provided him the key to the asylum he now seeks, and Zim's fate becomes inextricably bound to Nightface, a thirty-year-old superhero collectors' card.
Just as precocious Zim provides a multi-dimensional view of religious groups, so does Brooks' stylistically sophisticated novel present a multi-layered look at parents and teenagers, prodigies and superheroes, and power and manipulation. Thoughtful teens will find much to contemplate in this fascinating first-person account of a young man who wants only to love God and study the grand design of Creation.
The ALAN Review Elizabeth Poe
Spring 1997 Radford University
Reviewed by M. Jean Greenlaw
University of North Texas
by Garth Nix High Fantasy/Necromancers
HarperCollins, 1966. 292 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-06-027323-2
The juxtaposition of a prologue that sets the scene in a fantasy world where Sabriel is born dead and brought back to life by her necromancer father and the first chapter, set in an obviously modern world, gains the reader's immediate attention. Sabriel comes from the Old Kingdom and is drawn back into it when her father dies. Her quest is to rescue him from the river of death, as he is a special necromancer, the Abhorsen, whose task is to lay the undead back to rest. Sabriel and two companions struggle with the legions of evil until it becomes obvious what her fate is: She is the new Abhorsen and her companion Touchstone is the last of the royal line. The story is rife with the trappings of fantasy, including magical bells and swords, and cats and other creatures that are more than they seem.
Nix is a new and welcome voice in the fold of those who write high fantasy. He creates a believable setting and peoples it with characters who are fascinating and about whom one cares. The adventure is dramatic enough to make a reader lose a night's sleep, because the book cannot be put down.
The ALAN Review M. Jean Greenlaw
Spring 1997 University of North Texas
Napoli, Donna Jo
Reviewed by Laura M. Zaidman
Professor of Education
University of South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli Fantasy/Rapunzel Variant
Dutton, 1996. 227 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-45612-0
This enchanting tale transforms Rapunzel into an intriguing psychological drama of love and its denial. When thirteen-year-old Zel (Rapunzel) goes with Mother beyond their isolated mid-16th century Swiss Alps home to shop in town, the innocent child-woman captures the heart of Count Konrad and enchants his mare Meta. Though sharing the same birthday, he and Zel seem doomed as star-crossed lovers because their parents have other plans for their destinies.
Bursting with evocative sensory images of stolen rapunzel (lettuce), ripening melons, moon blood, and secret seeds, Zel resonates with passionate energy. The story's familiar motif of Rapunzel letting down her golden hair twists around themes of awakening sexuality, teens' struggle against parental control, love, betrayal, loss, and renewal. If readers suspend disbelief upon entering this fantasy world, they will delight in the way Napoli skillfully weaves narrative threads into a rich tapestry of the timeless fairytale metamorphosized.
The ALAN Review Laura M. Zaidman
Spring 1997 University of South Carolina
Avi Beyond the Western Sea--Book Two: Lord Kirkle's Money
Reviewed by Donald R. Gallo
Central Connecticut State University
West Hartford, Connecticut
Beyond the Western Sea--Book Two: Lord Kirkle's Money Adventure/Prejudice by Avi
Orchard Books, 1996. 380 pp. $18.95 ISBN: 0-531-09520-7
Adventure on the high seas, intrigue on the back streets, and a motley cast of characters propel this second half of Avi's lengthy two-part story focusing on poor Irish immigrants seeking a better life in the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1851 and the prejudice that greets them there. If "yer be" attracted by novels like Pullman's Ruby in the Smoke and Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, then Beyond the Western Sea will suit "yer fancy." The books are filled with mysterious doings, with villains aplenty, and enough historical details to make the 1850s come alive for readers of any age. Although there is enough action in Book Two to carry it on its own, interested readers should start with Book One to fully understand the motivations of the characters, young and old, and the value of Lord Kirkle's money. (Another clue is that Book Two begins with chapter 75.)
The ALAN ReviewDonald R. Gallo
Spring 1997 Central Connecticut State University
There Will Be Wolves
Reviewed by Jennifer Monseau
There Will Be Wolves by Karleen Bradford Historical Fiction Lodestar Books, 1992. 195 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-525-67539-6
Bradford skillfully draws readers into this historical account of the People's Crusade of 1096 and the many injustices that occurred. The heroine, Ursula, is a young girl struggling to find her place in a male-dominated society. Ursala is determined to use her talents as a healer to help others, but many people view this as wrong because women should not have special healing powers. When she is accused of being a witch, the only way her father can save her from death is by agreeing that they will both accompany others on the People's Crusade. On this holy pilgrimage, Ursala and her companions witness many brutal attacks on innocent people all in the name of God. The brutality they are exposed to leads them to question the validity of the Crusade and the mentality of their fellow crusaders. Bradford's tale provides a realistic and disturbing view of the Crusades and leaves readers questioning how so many people could view murder, theft, and brutality as acceptable in God's eyes.
The ALAN Review Jennifer Monseau
Spring 1997 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa
Reviewed by Bonnie Erickson
Professor of Secondary Education
California State University, Northridge
No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa Post-Apartheid South Africa by Beverly Naidoo
HarperCollins, 1995. 189 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 06-0275057
Those who know Naidoo's 1985 Journey to Jo'Burg will not be disappointed with this grimly realistic yet ultimately hopeful depiction of post-apartheid South Africa. Because of his stepfather's beatings, Sipho runs away from his home in a camp of shacks to live on the streets of Johannesburg. There he joins one of the many gangs of young adolescents who eke out an existence by begging or carrying groceries for tips. It's a dangerous life, and not only because of gnawing hunger and the need for shelter. At one point, plain-clothed police round up Sipho and his street friends in the middle of an intensely cold night and throw them all into a lake. Sipho survives and eventually seeks out a shelter for children where he will be safe and can attend school.
Based on true stories from young South Africans at a real shelter, this compelling story will help student readers experience, through Sipho, a country's struggle to achieve, for all its people, peace and the opportunity to dream.
The ALAN Review Bonnie Erickson
Spring 1997 California State University, Northridge
Reviewed by Nancy E. Zuwiyya
Binghamton High School
Binghamton, New York
Little Sisterby Kara Dalkey Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 196 pp. $17.00 ISBN: 0-15-201392-x
The beautiful cover of this book introduces a story about a young girl's courageous quest for the soul of her brother-in-law and the sanity of her sister. Living in 12th century Japan, Fujiwara no Mitsuko tells of the events surrounding a great tragedy that happend to her noble family. They had to flee the city because of attacks by warrior monks. The large estates of the rich were being burned. Later they suffered further degradation. It is at this point that little Mitsuko, who always thought of herself as merely the little sister, takes things into her own hands. She leaves her family and steps into the world of fantasy when she meets Goranu, a shape shifter who will fly her throughout the kingdom until they find the answers to her questions. Although the fantasy element might catch the reader off guard at first, it is handled well and fits into the historical events. Strong use of a female protagonist in the closed society of an earlier period in Japanese history is a plus.
The ALAN ReviewNancy E. Zuwiyya
Spring 1997 Binghamton, New York
Reviewed by Connie S. Zitlow
Associate Professor of Education
Ohio Wesleyan University
True North by Kathryn Lasky Abolitionists/Fugitive Slaves Scholastic Press, 1996. 267 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-20523-4
It is 1858 and two young women are guided by the North Star: 14-year-old Lucy as she sails in Boston Harbor with her beloved grandfather "Pap" and Afrika as she runs to freedom. Before they meet unexpectedly in an Underground Railroad station, their contrsting stories are told in Lasky's intriguing adventure that blends fictitious and actual persons and historical events. Having been sexually exploited by her master, Afrika carries her dying baby as she is sent on her way by Harriet Tubman. Bored with the planning and social events surrounding her sister's wedding and the disgusting beaus of her other sisters, Lucy prefers to be bird-watching or sailing with Pap, who she later discovers is an abolitionist. Surrounded by anti- and pro-slavery factions, Lucy observes mysterious events in the houses and alleys of Beacon Street while Afrika faces the grim realities of survival. Even though not all circumstances will be believable to some readers, Lasky has written another appealing story, as in her book Beyond the Burning Time, that brings to life intelligent and tough female protagonists during a complex and often-sanitized time in history. She has blended careful research with knowledge of the setting around her Cambridge home in a book recommended for middle and high school readers.
The ALAN Review Connie S. Zitlow
Spring 1997 Ohio Wesleyan University
Jip: His Story
Reviewed by Diana Mitchell
Jip: His Story by Katherine Paterson Identity/Fugitive Slaves
Lodestar Books, 1996. 180 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-67543-4
Jip, a young boy who lives on the town poor farm in Vermont in the 1850s, works hard, loves to take care of the animals, and expects little from life. After all, what can a child expect who fell from a moving wagon and never was claimed? As Jip and the lunatic, Put, become fast friends, a stranger begins to lurk around the town asking questions about Jip's background. In a rush of events, Jip finds himself pursued and in danger, finds out about his background, and finds out how many people really care about him. In this moving story about outcasts and acceptance, readers come face to face with the realities of the fugitive slave law and the treatment of the poor and insane. Readers of Paterson's Lyddie will be happy to know that Lyddie is one of the characters in this thoughful, compelling book.
The ALAN Review Diana Mitchell
Spring 1997 Williamston, Michigan
Reviewed by Nicholas J. Karolides
Professor of English
University of Wisconsin
River Falls, Wisconsin
Echohawk by Lynda Durrant Native American Fiction
Clarion Books, 1996. 181 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-395-74430-x
This cross cultural story provides insights about the life and values of the Mohican tribe through the eyes of Echohawk, a white boy who had been abducted/rescued during a destructive raid on his birth family's frontier homestead to replace Glickihigan's son, who had died. As an adolescent facing rejection by some, having become a capable hunter, he completes his vision quest. Echohawk is sent with his brother to Saratoga-on-the-Hudson; an English education is to equip them for a changing world. Responding to the white culture through Mohican eyes, he endures hostility, but he learns. Occasional flashes stir his forgotten memory of the past. When Echohawk overhears that he is to be sent to Boston, the two boys make a daring escape. Glickihigan meets them and helps Echohawk to remember the traumatic incident that changed his life. Echohawk, acknowledging who he has become, follows his father westward to Ohio country. This is an effective story for young adolescents, representing cultural tension on an individual level.
The ALAN Review Nicholas J. Karolides
Spring 1997 University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Keep Smiling Through
Reviewed by Judy Beckman
Professor of Education
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa
Keep Smiling Through by Ann Rinaldi German Americans/WWII
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 188 pp. $11.00 ISBN: 0-15-200768-7
Kay is ten. She believes that the ideals of loyalty to country, truth, and respect espoused by radio program heroes will make everything go right, even in the midst of WWII. She keeps "smiling through," yearning for bacon, sugar, and Mary Jane shoes - all rationed. America and its soldiers come first. Hero's platitudes seem clear, but Kay struggles, puzzled, as she watches "Amazing Grace" - her pregnant, pampered, and fit-pitching stepmother - nourish her unborn child and feed her own selfishness while the family does without. Clear truth vanishes altogether when Kay's German grandfather is dubbed a "Nazi traitor." Kay speaks out - after she realizes that loyalty to family and country demands courage.
Rinaldi's well-researched story and vivid characters will hook and hold readers from grades 7 - 10 and provide an excellent companion piece to history units.
The ALAN Review Judy Beckman
Spring 1997 University of Northern Iowa
Reviewed by Connie Russell
Eau Claire School District
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
by Kazumi Yumoto Friendship/Dying
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996. 170 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 0-374-32460-3
Set in Japan, this translated story by a Japanese author begins with three friends - Kiyama, Kawabe, and Yamashita - who become curious about dying, following the death of Yamashita's grandmother. Determined to learn more, they choose an old man from their neighborhood to watch. Believing they will see death first-hand if they continually watch him, they set out to do just that and neglect their studies. Yumoto skillfully shows the transition of the boys and the crotchety and lonely old man as they become friends. The friends learn valuable lessons about both living and dying as the story and friendship with the old man comes to an end. This excellent novel gives middle school readers a first-hand look at Japanese education and culture as well as a heartwarming story about friendship and compassion.
The ALAN Review Connie Russell
Spring 1997 Eau Claire School District, Wisconsin
Reviewed by Joanne Peters
Kelvin High School
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Johnny Voodoo by Dakota Lane Romance/Family/Moving
Delacorte Press, 1996. 199 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-385-32230-5
After her mother's death, 16-year-old Deirdre's family moves to Charmette, Louisiana. Bayou country is geographically and culturally distant from Manhattan. Still, wherever you live, coping with "Cliquesville" at your new high school, enduring your family's unique craziness, and obsessing about the mysterious guy who appears in your life, as if by magic - those experiences are universal. What makes this book different from your standard story of teenage trouble? Johnny Vouchamp (a.k.a. Johnny Voodoo). Is he a stalker? A vagrant? An evil presence? Or is he just another tough-seeming but vulnerable kid, reaching to Deirdre for connection in his painful existence? Once the mystery is revealed, its power and mystique vanishes. Too many contrivances are worked in towards the end of the story. Still, Deirdre's voice is authentic - aching with pain and longing, frustrated with her family, and ecstatic at every moment spent with Johnny. Language and situations make this appropriate for older readers.
The ALAN Review Joanne Peters
Spring 1997 Kelvin High School, Winnipeg, Canada
The Library Card
Reviewed by William R. Mollineaux
Teacher of English
Sedgwick Middle School
West Hartford, Connecticut
The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli Short Stories/Teen Problems
Scholastic Press, 1997. 148 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-5909-46731-x
What possibilities are offered by a small blue library card? With his usual humor blended with heartbreaking seriousness, Spinelli provides middle school readers with several answers in four separate, fast-paced, magical stories connected only by a library card. Mongoose appears doomed to shoplifting and vandalism until a blue card opens up the world of natural science. Brenda, starting to resemble Shel Silverstein's "Jimmy Jet" as she suffers through the first days of the Great TV Turn-Off, is saved by a dream-like trip to the biography section of her local library. Sonseray, a boy whose unruly behavior has caused the uncle he lives with to leave several towns, realizes a library offers more than books, quiet, and air-conditioning. And April discovers in a hi-jacked bookmobile that her old New York City library card can provide something we all need: friendship.
The ALAN Review William R. Mollineaux
Spring 1997 Sedgwick Middle School, West Hartford, CT
Get It While It's Hot, or Not
Reviewed by Judy Stoffel
Professor of English
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana
Get It While It's Hot, or Not by Valerie Hobbs Teen Pregnancy
Orchard Books, 1996. 182 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-531-08890-1
This novel chronicles several months in the lives of four 16-year-old California girls who have vowed to be "friends to the end." Kit is in the last stages of a difficult pregnancy, forced to stay in bed. Her unreliable, bar-keep mother is not available to help, so the friends step in, taking shifts to keep Kit company and do housework, while trying to maintain their own relationships and schoolwork. Things do not run smoothly. Megan, the narrator, is a super-responsible teen whose mother is the opposite of Kit's and whom Megan has labeled "the General." The book tries to give both sides of the sex education/condom-distribution controversy by making Megan a reporter on the school paper, doing a teen pregnancy story. She interviews bewildered peers and opinionated adults on the topic, but the question remains open to continued debate. Teen readers will recognize familiar and trying situations in this book, which tries to support responsible teen sexual behavior without being preachy.
The ALAN Review Judy Stoffel
Spring 1997 St. Mary-of-the-Woods College
Orphan of Ellis Island
Reviewed by Tracy Babiasz
Durham County Library
Durham, North Carolina
Orphan of Ellis Island by Elvira Woodruff Immigration/Time-travel
Scholastic Press, 1997. 192 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-590-482459
"Many, many people have walked through these halls feeling frightened and alone. Coming to a new country is like being adopted into a new family." Thus Elvira Woodruff launches a parallel between sailing to a new country and walking into the love of a family. Orphan of Ellis Island chronicles the journeys of Dominic Cantori: one to 1908 Italy and one a personal journey in which a lonely orphan learns what it is like to be part of a family. When he is left behind on a school trip to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Dominic finds himself transported to a time and place where he feels more alone than ever. With the help of his self-appointed family, he finds that he too can enjoy a family's love. Woodruff's well-researched novel beautifully describes the similarities between an orphan and an immigrant's search for a home. Appealing to younger teenagers, the map, glossary, and pronunciation guide will add to the enjoyment of Dominic's adventure.
The ALAN Review Tracy Babiasz
Spring 1997 Durham County Library, North Carolina
Reviewed by Margaret J. Ford
Campbell Memorial High School
Zoe Rising by Pam Conrad Time-travel/Mothers and Daughters
HarperCollins, 1996. 131 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 0-06-027217-1
In her sequel to Stonewords, the late Pam Conrad continues the adventures of Zoe as she masters the art of "ghost walking," leaving her body and traveling to other places and times. This mysterious power enables her to intervene in the enigmatic childhood of her mysterious mother Ñ the mother whom she describes as a "blown-out egg." She moves back and forth in time with the help of her friend Jedidiah Seger "like a rubberband" to the Grandma and PopPop who have raised her.
In addition to exploring the fantasy of time travel and the paranormal, Conrad delicately examines the relationship between Zoe and the mother who, due to her delicate mental health, has never been a part of her life. It is a testament to adolescent self-reliance and coping skills.
The ALAN Review Margaret J. Ford
Spring 1997 Campbell Memorial High School, Ohio
Schmidt, Gary D.
The Sin Eater
Reviewed by Joan Nast
The Sin Eater by Gary D. Schmidt Parents' Death
Lodestar Books,1996. 184 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-6775418
For young (and older) adult readers, Gary Schmidt's first novel about ninth-grader Cole Hallet is notably full of well-drawn characters. Foremost are his cantankerous Grandpa Emerson and spirited Grandma; his fishing, swimming, and school friends Will and Peter; and other people of Albion, New Hampshire, both living and dead, like the long-ago "Sin Eater" of the title. The legend of this man provides the theme: he was a healer, eating bread into which people had baked their sins and leaving them free to love. Cole struggles to cope with the death of his mother two years earlier and his father's decline into depression. Schmidt integrates family stories and includes cyclic scenes of farm life: splitting wood, canning tomatoes (with humorous results), weeding the graveyard, attending church and the county fair. Mature readers will find The Sin Eater to be a sensitive tale of death and the continuity of life.
The ALAN Review Joan Nast
Spring 1997 Auburn University
Bridgers, Sue Ellen
All We Know of Heaven
Reviewed by Ted Hipple
Professor of Education
University of Tennessee
All We Know of Heaven by Sue Ellen Bridgers Family Tragedy Banks Channel Books, 1996. 212 pp. $22.00 ISBN: 0-9635967-8
A dark and troubling book, this: complex, compelling, multi-dimensional (thirteen different first-person narrators no less), imaginatively and insightfully written (as one expects from Bridgers) Ñ in sum, a novel well worth your attention. During the Depression in rural North Carolina, sixteen-year-old Bethany is hellbent to marry ne'er-do-well Joel despite the objections from their dysfunctional families, and does so with tragic consequences that, even if a tad predictable, are emotionally wrenching. I found myself riveted to the story Bridgers tells, one that I Ñ and I believe, most other readers Ñ will not soon forget, largely because of her large and finely drawn cast of adult and teen characters and their anguished lives. Yet, given the novel's time, place, and plot, the responses of teenagers may be less enthusiastic. Certainly, however, it is a novel they should be urged to read and judge for themselves.
The ALAN Review Ted Hipple
Spring 1997 University of Tennessee
Lee, Marie G.
Reviewed by Alan McLeod
Professor of English Education
Virginia Commonwealth University
Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee Sports/Korean American HarperCollins, 1996. 228 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-06-025124-7
Moving from Los Angeles to a small town in northern Minnesota at the start of the twins' junior year in high school is a challenging experience for the Kim family. To the twins, Chan and his sister Young, everything seems different and making friends difficult. Chan takes his soccer skills to the football team, and Young plays her flute in the band. They make friends, yet Chan has to deal not only with necessary roughness on and off the field but also with family tragedy. In the process he ponders his Korean roots and family values.
Adolescent readers will find the story moving, entertaining, and painful. They will gain some modest insight into an Asian-American family and see that, no matter the culture, there are more similarities than differences in relationships. Lee's storytelling is compelling. The ALAN Review Alan McLeod
Spring 1997 Virginia Commonwealth University
Reviewed by Lisa J. McClure
Associate Professor, Department of English
Southern Illinois University
The Maestro by Tim Wynne-Jones Coming-of-Age/Canada
Orchard Books, 1996. $16.95 ISBN: 0-531-09544-4
Fourteen-year-old Burt Crow stepped out of the wilderness into the sunlight, his father's words still echoing in his ears: "You steal everything!" Ironically, Burt steps into another wilderness when he enters the world of Nathaniel Orlando Gow, a.k.a. The Maestro. This new wilderness, however, offers Burt something in return Ñ a chance at a life he had never imagined existed; but he must "steal" to keep this one.
Canadian children's author Wynne-Jones's first attempt at adolescent fiction hits the mark. The Maestro is an imaginative (albeit at times, improbable) coming-of-age story that explores issues of parenthood, self-reliance, fear, and honesty. Although Burt's behavior will be problematic for some, he is a likeable young man whose resilience and perseverance are remarkable. Most impressive is Wynne-Jones's ability to present Burt's story in metaphorical images that add great depth to the timeless story of a young man's search for his place in the world.
The ALAN Review Lisa J. McClure
Spring 1997 Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Reviewed by Lisa Wroble
Pulse by Joe Cardillo Relationships
Dutton, 1996. 200 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-45068-8
Pulse is a story about relationships of many types. Kris and Jason are high school seniors, best of friends, and in love. They also love nature and having a special place where kids can hang out. When their haven is proposed as the future site of a major mall, they organize the local kids into an environmental group called Pulse to oppose the plans. They soon learn that profit is behind the city's motivation, and it has gripped Kris's mother as well as their school principal. Conflict with a group of punkers adds an extra plot twist.
The events are told from Jason's perspective in a light conversational tone. As he relates the story, he ponders boyfriend-girlfriend, parent-child, man-nature, and mind-spirit relationships, among others. The outcome is realistic, having no pat answers or magical endings. Pulse reverberates with topics for class discussion.
The ALAN Review Lisa Wroble
Spring 1997 Plymouth, Michigan
A Girl Named Disaster
Reviewed by Teri S. Lesesne
Assistant Professor, Department of Library Science
Sam Houston State University
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer Adventure/Survival
Orchard Books, 1996. 309 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 0-531-09539-8
When a cholera epidemic rampages through her village, Nhamo feels partly to blame. After all, a girl whose name translates as "disaster" must have drawn the sickness. Nhamo's family pledges her in marriage to assuage the evil spirits that have caused the illness. Hers will be a loveless marriage: her husband-to-be is more than twice Nhamo's twelve years of age, and so Nhamo flees, seeking refuge with her long-lost father in Zimbabwe. Her trip is fraught with perils, though her adventure serves to strengthen her resolve to become an independent woman. This absorbing tale provides a satisfying knowledge of the culture and customs of Africa in much the same way as Farmer did in The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. This Newbery Honor book and semifinalist for the National Book Award would pair well with Call It Courage and other such stories.
The ALAN Review Teri S. Lesesne
Spring 1997 Sam Houston State University
Desetta, Al, ed.
The Heart Knows Something Different
Reviewed by C. Anne Webb
Buerkle Junior High School
St. Louis, Missouri
The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices Foster Care
from the Foster Care System, Al Desetta, ed. ISBN: 0-89255-218-2
Persea Books, 1996. 212 pp. $13.95
An authentic voice is all one can say about this collection of forty-one articles by teenagers from the foster care system. Since 1991 a magazine titled Foster Care Youth United has published articles by teenagers in foster care. Some full of hate. Some full of hope. Some to make one cry. All give the uninitiated a true picture of foster care with the myths left behind. What could easily be a downer makes one cheer for the resilience and tenacity of these kids who did not ask to be born but now demand a right to be heard. The collection is divided into four sections: "Family," "Living in the System," "Who Am I," and "Looking to the Future." There is a foreword written by Jonathan Kozol, and a glossary of slang helps. Also provided are resources with addresses and phone numbers and a subject guide. Suggested for the reference shelf.
The ALAN Review C. Anne Webb
Spring 1997 St. Louis, Missouri
Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers: Reflections on Being
Raised by a Pack of Sled Dogs
Reviewed by Richard F. Abrahamson
University of Houston
Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers: Reflections on Being Raised
by a Pack of Sled Dogs Biography by Gary Paulsen ISBN: 0-15-292881-2
with paintings by Ruth Wright Paulsen
Harcourt Brace, 1996. 81 pp. $15.00
Teen readers who know Paulsen's other books and his Iditarod adventures will curl up with an old friend here. Paulsen strings together a series of biographical essays that tell the story of his best lead dog, Cookie, her puppies, and the adventures shared by musher and dogs.
In Paulsen's signature prose, crisp and clean as a Minnesota winter night, he takes readers into the birthing room to see Cookie and the new pups. We are witnesses to a mother's stubborn determination not to give in to the death of a stillborn pup. Through Paulsen's eyes we see the different role each dog in the team plays as they all take a part in raising the pups. Whether Paulsen is describing the joyful chaos of thirty-six puppies in a small Minnesota house or detailing Cookie's nobility in the face of death, readers are handed a mirror to look at themselves and reflect on the lessons animals have to teach us about living life.
The ALAN Review Richard F. Abrahamson
Spring 1997 University of Houston
Fiery Vision: The Life and Death of John Brown
Reviewed by Hugh Agee
Professor of English Education
University of Georgia
Fiery Vision: The Life and Death of John Brown by Clinton Cox Biography
Scholastic Press, 1997. 240 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-5990-47574-6
John Brown's intense opposition to slavery culminated in his leading a group of his followers in the 1859 takeover of the armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, the state in which slavery in this country began. The ensuing battle with militia and U.S. Marines, followed by Brown's capture, trial, and hanging, are the highlights of Cox's well-documented biography of one of the notable figures during the years leading up to the Civil War. In earlier chapters, Cox traces the events in Brown's life that define his vision of freedom and racial equality for all. The prologue and epilogue frame this biography quite well, and the bibliography and index are useful tools. Black and white photographs enhance the text.
While it targets middle school readers, this biography offers much to high school students who want to know more about the social and political issues of nineteenth century America, some of which are still present in a nation of increasing diversity.
The ALAN Review Huge Agee
Spring 1997 University of Georgia
Zero at the Bone
Reviewed by Bruce C. Appleby
Southern Illinois University
Zero at the Bone by Michael Cadnum Family/Adventure
Viking/Penguin, 1996. 218 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-670-86725-0
Zero at the Bone is both mystery and adventure and is exceptionally well written. Michael Cadnum has created a brutally real world which seems unreal because of the tensions, the fears, and the horrors that are (or may be) surrounding the marvelously realized characters. When Cray's older sister fails to come home, Cray and his parents become increasingly aware of how they have grown apart. It would be unfair to reveal the surprise ending. It is fair to warn readers that this book is exciting and totaling captivating. I had to read it in a single sitting. Remember the name Michael Cadnum, who has already been labeled "Cormieresque." Cadnum's power of language and of character do remind one of early Cormier. This book indicates Cadnum has a bright future.
The ALAN Review Bruce C. Appleby
Spring 1997 Carbondale, Illinois
Good Moon Rising
Reviewed by Joan F. Kaywell
Associate Professor of English Education
University of South Florida
Good Moon Rising by Nancy Garden Lesbian Love
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996. 230 pp. $16.00 ISBN: 0-374-32746-7
Right-wing conservative censors will go crazy with this book, but it is definitely worth the challenge! There is no foul language, no explicit sex, no anti-parent propaganda, and no violence. This is, however, a beautiful story of love between two adolescent girls who meet and become romantically involved while rehearsing for their school play Ñ Arthur Miller's The Crucible. While Jan and Kerry, each other's first, struggle to go slowly with their feelings, "Proctor" ironically is quick to play judge and jury.
Using mostly their director's words to describe her reaction to the dress rehearsal, I think I can best describe the power this book had on me: Thank you...It is a beautiful novel, sad and noble Ñ such cruel misunderstandings, such evil, such courage, such ignorance Ñ and you (Nancy Garden) made it sing; you found it all, and showed all that's in it, and I am so very proud. Good Moon Rising is every bit as good, if not better than, Garden's Annie on My Mind, an ALA best of the Best Books for Young Adults, which also addresses lesbian love.
The ALAN Review Joan F. Kaywell
Spring 1997 University of South Florida
Reviewed by Jeffrey S. Kaplan
University of Central Florida
Bull Catcher by Alden Carter Baseball/High School Sports
Scholastic Press, 1997. 279 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-59050958-6
When I taught English, I was always looking for good books about high school sports. And I was at a loss. Literary anthologies had none, and libraries had few. Recent years, though, have brought an increase in teenage sports stories Ñ and Alden Carter's Bull Catcher is a worthy addition. Neil "Bull" Larsen is a ninth grader who loves baseball and hopes to turn pro. Well, as growing up goes, "stuff happens," and Bull must deal with his life on all playing fields. Bull's mother does not live with him; his ailing grandfather is his guardian; his love life is in turmoil; his best friend is being beaten by his father; and his dreams for turning pro are dashed by "not just enough natural talent." Carter traces a boy's growth from baseball fanaticism to athletic wisdom in a gritty story of teenage love and loss. Ah, at last, I found my sports book.
The ALAN Review Jeffrey S. Kaplan
Spring 1997 University of Central Florida
Becerra de Jenkins, Lyll
So Loud a Silence
Reviewed by Gretchen Schwarz
Assistant Professor of Education
Oklahoma State University
So Loud a Silence by Lyll Becerra de Jenkins Coming of Age/Multicultural
Lodestar Books, 1996. 154 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 0-525-67538-8
In simple language, sprinkled with a few Spanish words, Jenkins captures both the horrors of war-torn Columbia and the challenges all adolescents face growing up. Juan Guillermo is delighted to escape from the ugliness and struggles of his life in the city, Bogota, to the beauty and comfort of his grandmother's farm in the countryside. Juan has been embarrassed by his family, especially his seemingly passive father. In the country Juan learns that real heroes are not simply big talkers or fighters like the local guerrilla, Alberto, but quiet men who sacrifice for their families, like his father. Tragic first love, the importance of family, and the ability to see events from someone else's point of view are all part of this easy-to-read but deeply thoughtful story. Against a background of poverty, injustice and the cruelty of both the national army and the mountain guerrillas, seventeen-year-old Juan becomes a wiser man.
The ALAN Review Gretchen Schwarz
Spring 1997 Oklahoma State University
The Great Interactive Dream Machine Reviewed by Joyce A. Litton
Ohio University Library
The Great Interactive Dream Machine by Richard Peck Science Fiction/Humor Dial, 1996. 149 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-8037-1989-2
Richard Peck's The Great Interactive Dream Machine is science fiction with a humorous twist that will appeal to middle school readers of either sex. Josh Lewis's best friend, techno-nerd Aaron Zimmer, turns his computer into a wish-granting machine. However, the mechanism is not perfect. Transported in space and occasionally in time, the boys find themselves fulfilling the wishes of Aaron's family poodle and Josh's boy-crazy sister. They also have to discover how to return to current time and space. And they must catch "the Watcher," who knows their every move and who wants the machine for himself. One need not understand computers to like this book, although technical language provides added pleasure for the would-be hacker. The climax is poignant and slightly corny, but readers will approve. Even those who do not like science fiction will like this well-crafted story.
The ALAN Review Joyce A. Litton
Spring 1997 Ohio University