|Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky||Historical Fiction|
|Scholastic, 1999. 237 pp., $10.95||ISBN; 0500684841|
|Reviewed by Julie Hughey, Student Teacher, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia|
As the daughter of a supposed witch, Princess Elizabeth - the future Queen of England - lives her live in turmoil. Surrounded by a loving father and step-mother, yet often exiled because of her antics, Elizabeth spends her life traveling from one castle to another, year in and year out. Along the way, she develops wonderful relationships with her brother, Prince Edward and her governess, Kat.
We discover too the mysteries surrounding the deaths of King Henry VIII's wives; the close brush the current Queen, Catherine Parr has with death; Elizabeth's dislike of her sister Princess Mary; and Princess Elizabeth's dream to one to be queen herself. Told as a "diary," Kathryn Lasky brings her readers the biography of Queen Elizabeth, rounding out her text with smart charts and illustrations. A wonderful and fairly accurate read for children ages 9-12.
|A Face in Every Window by Han Nolan||Family Life|
|Harcourt Brace, 1999, 264 pp., $16.00||ISBN: 0-15-201915-4|
|Reviewed by Laura M. Zaidman, Professor of English, University of South Carolina, Sumter, South Carolina|
James Patrick O'Brien (JP) cannot cope with the unraveling of his well-ordered life. Changes rock the serenity of his world of being a straight-A average in all honors courses and his dream of becoming class valedictorian and attending Princeton. His father is out of control and his mother is in a fit of depression. To add more unexpected pleasure, Grandma Mary wins a farmhouse in a contest, and the family moves in, along with a series of teenage misfits that JP's depressed mother invites to live with them on whim. And then to add company to misery, his mother runs off with the family doctor leaving JP to wonder "why can't I live a normal life?"
Teetering on the edge of chaos, JP comes to terms with his crazy family, learning to blend logic and compassion and to see the inner beauty of a "crazy extended family."
|Summer 1990, by Firyal Alshalabi||Gulf War, Coming of Age|
|Aunt Strawberry Books, 142 pp., $6.99||ISBN: 0-9669988-04|
|Reviewed by John H. Bushman, Professor, University of Kansas|
Thirteen-year-old Danah - spoiled but happy - looks forward to her visit with her uncle in New York. She has never left her home in Kuwait but she believes her New York adventure will be very exciting. Little does she know how exciting her life will become. While in New York, Danah learns of the Iraqi mission. Having left her family under less than the best relationship, Danah feels she must return home.
With help from a friend and other family members living in Saudi Arabia, Danah stealthily returns to make amends with her family and to help liberate her country. This is a good read to help introduce young readers to a world crisis in their own time.
|Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville||Fantasy/Adventure|
|Scholastic, 1999, 330 pp., $16.95||ISBN: 0-590-45953-8|
|Reviewed by Peter E. Morgan, Professor, State University of West Georgia|
Perfect for young readers, this is a smartly crafted story about the world of unicorns and dragons. This is a second book in the series entitled The Unicorn Chronicles , told in chapters that beg to be read aloud.
Cara is a young teenage heroine who has denied her family heritage as a Hunter, returns to earth at the bidding of the dying unicorn queen. Cara's mission, rescue her grandmother, the Wanderer.
Cara's quick-witted heroism and her bond of strong female characters make for a strong and appealing read. The novel's strength, though, lies in Cara's vibrant search to find herself in her quest to rediscover her parents; this subtext provides a quiet depth to this simple adventure narrative.
|Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile by Kristina Gregory||Historical Fiction|
|Scholastic, 1999, 222 pp., $10.95||ISBN: 0-590-81975-5|
|Reviewed by Lisa A Wroble, Children's Services, Redford Twp. District Library|
Part of the Royal Diaries series, Cleopatra writes of the snake that nearly killed her father, sending him into hiding. Her sister has taken over the throne of Egypt and Cleopatra now also fears for her own life.
With the help of friends, Cleopatra travels with her father to Rome, seeking help Reclaiming the throne. When she meets Caesar, Cicero and Marc Antony, Cleopatra's gift for foreign languages and her growing diplomatic skills come in handy. By the time Cleopatra and her father return to Egypt two years later, she is a young woman -prepared to rule Egypt more effectively than her father or her sisters.
The writing is lively. Vivid description allows the reader to smell the streets of Rome, feel Cleopatra's homesickness, and be inspired by her indomitable strength. Unlike a real diary, historical details are explained - though without slowing the story. Historical notes, photographs, and a family tree provide further details.
|Time Capsule edited by Donald R. Gallo||Historical Fiction|
|Delacorte Press, 1999, 222 pp.||ISBN: 0-385-32675-0|
|Reviewed by Monica Murphy, Castleton State College, Castleton, Vermont|
We've come along way baby! Don Gallo has pieced together a collection of short stories, which reflect the prominent events of the 20th century.
Beginning with a visit to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, we are treated to stories of a teenager's life during the years of the Great Depression, prohibition, segregation, World War I and II, The Cold War, the sixties, and today's highly technological age. Before each short story is a short sketch, detailing highlights of each decade.
Gallo's sharp introduction is an inspiring introduction about how we have entered the modern world and realized its wonderful and ingenious inventions.
|The Captain's Dog by Roland Smith||Adventure/History|
|Harcourt Brace, 1999, 281 pp., 17.00,||ISBN: 0-15-201989-8|
|Reviewed by J. Elaine White, University of Oklahoma, Norman|
Here's a delightful twist. The story of Lewis and Clark's search for the Northwest Passage is told from the viewpoint of Seaman, Captain Lewis' dog.
The story begins with the reunion of five members of Louis and Clark's famous group, plus Seaman. As they gather around the fire the night of their reunion, one of their members, Watkuweis, reveals a pleasant surprise - the red leather bound journal of Captain Merriweather Lewis. From there, this fascinating tale of sacrifice and courage is told through the vivid written accounts of their long ago journey across the country to the Pacific Ocean.
The travelers retell tales of surviving raging rivers, attacking grizzly bears, invading tribes, raging hunger, and bitter cold. Through all, the reader is introduced to Native American history and American folklore. Especially fascinating is when Lewis and Clark greet native tribes with messages of peace and goodwill from their Great White Father, President Thomas Jefferson.
Although lengthy, this novel is geared for young adults because this adventurous tale of loss and hope is told through the eyes of Lewis and Clark's trusty dog. An excellent addition to a history unit about America's pioneer beginnings.
|Perfectionism: What Bad About Being Too Good? by Miriam Aderholt and Jan Goldberg||Nonfiction/Self-Help|
|Free Spirit Press, 1999, 129 pp., $12.95||ISBN: 1-57542-062- 7|
|Reviewed by Ed Sullivan, Senior Project Librarian, The New York Public Library|
There's nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, but that desire can sometimes turn into an unhealthy obsession.
This book examines how teens can fall easily into the trap of perfectionism. The authors address several issues: how and why people become perfectionists; how perfectionism can adversely affect one's mental and physical health; and how perfectionism can harm relationships with peers, parents and siblings. There is also a lot of sound, practical advice to help perfectionist teens. The authors offer good tips like how to set reasonable standards for oneself, how to enjoy success, and how to praise oneself and accept it from others.
Written in straightforward, jargon-free prose and in a conversational, engaging tone, the authors are obviously cognizant of their audience. The layout of their book is attractive, with lists, sidebars, and occasional black-and-white illustrations serving as a good complement to the lively text. Following each chapter, the authors recommend books and web sites for readers interested in further researching the subject. Perfectionism is a thorough, useful self-help book for teens.
|Pondfire by Bill Maynard||Adventure|
|G.P. Putnam, 2000 86 pp., $14.99||ISBN: 0-399-23439- x|
|Reviewed by June Harris, Assistant Professor, University of Arizona-South|
Jed is in trouble. His dad is chief of the volunteer fire department in their small town, and Jed, trying to learn to put out fires like his dad, does, accidentally burning down the family's garage. After the garage fire, a series of blazes breaks out, and Jed is the number one suspect. He hasn't set the fires, and his friends from the sixth grade, know that he's innocent. Still, suspicion focuses on him.
Then the unthinkable happens. Jed's father is injured in one of the fires, and is in a coma. Jed decides that the only way to prove his own innocence is to find out who is really setting the fires. He, Pete, and Megan set out to find the arsonist, and find themselves in great danger.
This is a fast-paced adventure story aimed at younger YA readers. The fire scenes are particularly well done, and the characters are well drawn and appealing.
|Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin||Psychological Thriller|
|Delacorte Press, 2000, 259 pp., $15.95||ISBN: 0-385-32700-5|
|Reviewed by Harold M. Foster, Professor of Literacy and English Education, University of Akron, Ohio|
Marnie Skydedottir, 16 years old, is worth $235.27 million, and it is all hers on her twenty-first birthday. Meanwhile, though, Marnie is miserable in her boarding school - friendless and flunking everything, except math. She finds solace in her computer games where she competes against an online adversary named Elf.
Locked Inside is an account of Marnie's amazing external journey through bizarre kidnapping that leads to an internal realization about her place in the world. Slowly, Marnie uncovers secrets about her own life - the background of her deceased mother and the real identify of her online nemesis, Elf.
This is a complicated novel with a troubled character whose sense of vulnerability and loneliness will appeal to adolescents who know too well the pain of growing-up.
|What Janie Found by Caroline B. Cooney||Mystery/Identity|
|Delacorte Press, 2000, 180 pp., $15.95||ISBN: 0-385-32611-4|
|Reviewed by Anne Sherri, Professor of English, East Tennessee State University|
Seventeen-year-old Janie Johnson, also known as Jennie Springs, has been at war for months with many things - her boyfriend Reeve; the mysterious Hannah Jevenson, who kidnapped her as a baby; and herself as she tries to decide how badly she wants to pursue her search to learn more about the woman who made her a famous "kidnapee."
Janie's two families - that of her birth parents and her adopted family,- get along well, but the siblings come with their own troubles. Younger brother Brian must accept a useless twin brother. Older brother Stephen is finding his own life in Colorado. And Miranda Johnson stays by her own husband's side as he battles for his life after a devastating stroke.
Numerous characters dance in and out of this novel, a smart sequel to several other books about Janie. Using multiple viewpoints to express character perceptions, this easy to read mystery will appeal to adolescents who like intriguing human relationship stories.
|Left Carmichael Has a Fit by Don Trembath||Disabilities/Epilespsy|
|Orca Book Publishers, 1999, 215 pp., $6.95||ISBN: 1-55143-166-1|
|Reviewed by Lisa A. Spiegel, University of South Dakota|
Fifteen-year-old Lefty Carmichael awakens in a hospital only to discover he has epilepsy. Like many with a serious illness, Lefty must deal with fear, the honest reactions of family and friends, and how to control and live with his new problem.
Passing through these stages proves to be difficult, but Lefty receives support from his family, girlfriend, and best friend, Rueben. Turning to his first passion, Lefty channels his raw feelings of hurt and rejection into perceptively written poems. By the book's end, Lefty transforms himself from a frightened teenager to a self-sufficient young adult.
This is a humorous book filled with many eccentric characters and genuine compassion for often-overlooked disease, epilepsy. The title of this book does not do justice to the seriousness of the topic and the sincere attempt to heighten awareness about dealing with epilepsy.
|The Diary of Nellie Lee Love by Patricia McKissack||Historical Fiction/Race|
|Scholastic, 2000, 218 pp., $10.95||ISBN: 0-590-51159-9|
|Reviewed by Michele L. Gable, Elementary teacher, Forest Hills, New York.|
Issues of race, class and prejudice on both a personal and institutional level are explored through the journal entries of a young African-American girl, eleven-year-old Nellie Lee Love, in this newest addition to the ever popular Dear America series.
The novel begins in a small Tennessee town in 1919 where the Loves have lived for several generations. After Nellie's uncle dies, the Loves move to Chicago where Nellie begins to see the world through a new set of eyes.
Up North, Nellie learns that life is much different in the big city. In addition to the hustle and bustle of Chicago, Nellie witnesses race riots and expressions of intolerance within her own African-American community. Saddened, Nellie longs to return to her native South until she remembers that life down home was filled with same kind of hate - except lynchings were the order of the day.
Complete with a rich resource of historical data about life for African-Americans in the early twentieth-Century, this novel shows that "hurt and hate" exist no matter where one lives.
|The Devil and His Boy by Anthony Horowitz||Historical Adventure|
|Philomel Books, 1998, 182 pp., $16.99||ISBN: 0-399-23432-2|
|Reviewed by Edna Earl Edwards, Professor Emerita of Education and English, University of West Georgia, Carrolton, Georgia|
Set in England in 1593, this adventure tale revolves around thirteen-year-old Tom Falconer, an orphan who works at an inn for his own keep.
Life is idyllic for Tom until one day, an unfortunate series of events leaves Tom pursued by criminals. Frightened, he flees London, setting off on an adventure that changes his life forever. Encountering a number of street people - including a young female pickpocket and a mysterious Dr. Mobius, - Tom finds home, love and acceptance in a new and strange world. Dr. Mobius recruits Tom to perform in the play The Devil and His Boy . Tom joins hesitatingly, but soon learns that this play is to be performed before the Queen of England, Elizabeth I, and the bard himself, William Shakespeare. Both come to play a significant role in his young life.
Horowitz combines humor, mystery, and adventure in a delightful tale for middle school readers who want to learn more sixteenth-Century England.
|On the Trail of Elder Brother, Glous'Gap Stories of The Micmac Indians as retold by Michael B. Runningwolf and Patricia Clark Smith||Native American|
|Persea Books, 2000, 128 pp., $16.95||ISBN: 0-89255-248-4|
|Reviewed by Charles L. Duke, Appalachian State University|
The authors, both descendants from the Micmacs, one of the Wabanaki or Eastern Algonquin peoples, offers a series of 16 stories that recount the exploits of Glous'Gap, the Great Elder Brother who is responsible for the formation and protection of the area that stretches from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia to Maine.
Each of the short stories captures the elements of Glous'Gap's power and concern for his people and their surroundings. These are delightful humorous tales about life inside this natural wilderness, populated by giant eagles, rampant beavers, water monsters, and painted turtles. A glossary and a pronunciation guide, a map, suggestions for further readings, and 16 pen and ink illustrations add interest and information. Readers who like storytelling and Native American legends will enjoy this collection.
|Visiting Mss Caples by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel||Friendship|
|Dial Books, 2000, 168 pp., $16.99||ISBN: 0-837-2502-7|
|Reviewed by Merrill J. Davies, Language Arts Teacher, Armuchee High School|
Jenna, the thirteen-year-old narrator of Visiting Miss Caples reads to old Elspeth Caples as part of her eighth-grade social studies project. At first both she and Miss Caples are unhappy with the project, but when Jenna forgets her reading material one-day and begins to share her concerns about her parents and her conflict with her best friends, Liv, the relationship begins to change. The old lady opens up and shares some stories of her own.
Kimmel's well-written, fast-paced story addresses several issues pertinent to young teens, such as peer pressure, parent-child relationships, identity issues, and intergenerational conflicts Students in grades six through eight, who like realistic fiction, will find this book both informative and enjoyable.
|No Condition is Permanent by Cristina Kessler||Cultural Values|
|Philomel Books, 2000, 184 pp., $17.99||ISBN: 0-399-23486-1|
|Reviewed by Katherine Barr, Graduate Student, Florida State University|
Fourteen-year-old Jodie worries that she will not make friends when she accompanies her anthropologist mother to Sierra Leone. Fortunately, Khadi, who Jodie meets as soon as she arrives, is the answer to all Jodie's questions and fears.
Soon, Jodie speaks the language, dresses like the other women, and even carries bundles of firewood on her head. In return, Jodie teaches Khadi to read and write, skills which only boys learn in this culture. Still, it is not until Khadi and the other teenage girls disappear for days at a time, refusing to talk to Jodie about SANDE, their secret society, that Jodie realizes that she is still very much an outsider.
When Jodie learns that Khadi and the other village girls are preparing for a coming of age ceremony that includes female circumcision, Jodie sets out to save Khadi. The result is a clash of cultures that leaves both Jodie and her mother hurt dearly. This is a vivid picture of life in the native bush of Africa.
|The Legend of Luke by Brian Jacques||Fantasy/Friendship|
|Philomel Books, 1999, 374 pp., $22.95||ISBN: 0-399-23490-X|
|Reviewed by Susanne L. Johnston, Senior Lecture in English, University of Wisconsin - Stout|
Martin of Redwall, the warrior mouse, sets out in Brian Jacque's twelfth installment of the Tales from Redwall to find out what happened to his father, Luke the Warrior. Along the way he makes new beast friends that help in his quest, and he slays beast foes that threaten him and his traveling companion.
Jacques writes another marvelous tale of engaging and honorable heroes and vile and treacherous villains, from mice and moles and hedgehogs, to the evil and seagoing stoat, Vilu Daskar. For fans of the series, The Legend of Luke falls chronologically between Mossflower and Redwal . For readers new to the series, the book stands alone as an exciting adventure into Martin the Warrior's heritage of courage and integrity. Young readers should be cautioned about vengeful violence.
|Charlie's Run by Valerie Hobbs||Family Relationships|
|Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000, 166 pp., $16.00||ISBN: 0-37434994-0|
|Reviewed by Marjorie M. Kaiser, Professor of Secondary Education, University of Louisville|
As a Boy Scout who believes in his oath and his rules, Charlie's adventures in this novel bring him a new set of rules that are directly related to his own life experience, not predetermined for him.
Setting her narrative in rural California near Fresno, Hobbs creates a family that is falling apart and an eleven-year-old boy who runs away from the impending divorce. On his run, Charlie meets up with a fourteen-year-old Doo (Mary Louise Doolittle), and the story develops as the two alienated youths suffer hunger, loneliness, even serious danger. After a thoroughly frightening series of events, Charlie and Doo discover how much they generously care for each other and how much they have helped each other grow up.
Hobbs depends heavily on dialogue and interior monologue in this tale. Her description is appropriately sparse: simultaneously, she regularly selects the right detail to accent in every scene. Charlie's Run is a fast-paced adventure with truth for every middle school reader, regardless of gender.
|The Blue Lawn by William Taylor||Coming of Age/Sexuality|
|Alyson Books, 1999, 12 pp., $9.95||ISBN: 155834930|
|Reviewed by Teri S. Lesene, Associate Professor, Department of Library Science, Sam Houston State University|
The first encounter between David and Theo leads to a brawl. It seems unlikely that the two are destined to become friends. They live in two different worlds. David shares a home with his parents, an average middle class family. Theo is spending time with his grandfather in a lovely, expensive home. However, the initial hostility between the two boys masks their true feelings. An uneasy friendship develops as David helps Theo's grandmother tend the grounds of their estate. Both boys are at first unwilling to admit that there might be more than friendship between them.
Taylor tackles the sensitive topic of awakening sexual feelings between two boys with honesty. The novel does not complete the story of the relationship between the two. Instead, it leaves readers to wonder, to discuss, and to ask questions. The Blue Lawn , planted by Theo's grandmother, offers an interesting metaphor for the relationship that develops among all of the characters in this sensitive, mature novel.
|Changing Jareth by Elizabeth Wennick||Realistic Fiction|
|Polestar, 1999, 278 pp., $6.95||ISBN: 1-896095-97-6|
|Reviewed by Lisa Winkler, Maplewood, New Jersey|
Seventeen-year-old Jareth Gardner has little to be happy about. His mother drinks, he doesn't know his father, and his half-brother is ill. Jared is considered a troublemaker in school and for kicks, he's a cat burglar.
After his mother's drinking results in his brother's death, Jareth moves in with strangers and fends for himself. A turbulent few months takes him from meeting homeless, addicted teenagers and engaging in burglaries to finally becoming employed and recognized for his artistic talent.
Set in Toronto, Changing Jareth chronicles Jareth's turbulent evolution in three sections: Corruption, Redemption and Hope. Here's a fast-paced read about a troubled teen that changes his life. As Jareth says in his own words, "I guess it's up to us whether we want to be heroes or villains."
|Manuel and the Madman by Gerald Haslam and Janice Haslam||Bigotry/Sexuality|
|Devil Mountain Books, 1999, 200 pp., $9.95||ISBN: 0-915685-11-6|
|Reviewed by Patti Cleary, Language Arts Teacher, Woodridge Middle School, Peninsual, Ohio|
Manuel Ryan's heritage is a blend of Mexican and Irish, but what he wants to be called is just "American."
This is the story of a seventh grader who finds himself living with his Mexican born grandmother while his parents take off in separate directions in search of work. To his dismay, Manuel discovers that his Mexican grandmother has no tolerance for the American "madman" living next door. Manuel, though, becomes a friend with this new neighbor, Mr. Samuelian, and together, they learn about making new friends and dealing with parental conflicts and disappointment.
Manuel and the Madman is a stark and realistic portrait of life in a Mexian barrio, complete with frank talk about social ills and teen sexuality. Using the language of street grammar, the Haslams paint a vivid picture of what life is like in a somewhat neglected region of the literary world. A good resource for teaching middle school students about the virtues of tolerance.
|Scotty and the Gypsy Bandit by David Winkler||Death of Parent/Foster Children|
|Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000, 198 pp., 16.00||ISBN: 0-374-36420-6|
|Reviewed by Jennifer Moreland, Media Specialist, Redlands Middle School, Grand Junction, Colorado|
Scott and his father have never been close. His father's death, though, kicks off a chain of events that make Scott see life and relationships through new and unfiltered eyes.
The catalyst is Scott's quirky neighbor, McStew, whose overactive imagination provides a momentary escape from an abusive homelife. McStew fantasy life, though, takes on a new dimension when he mysteriously disappears - just before a dead body is discovered in his own backyard. Meanwhile, Scott wrestles with his newly widowed mother's budding romance and his own burgeoning crush on a cute girl in his class.
Scotty and the Gypsy Bandit is reminiscent of Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee . Scott's mundane life takes on new dimensions, as he becomes aware of his friend McStew's destructive parents. Middle school readers will enjoy this easy blending of mystery and fantasy and teachers will appreciate its frank look at what it means to be a good parent.
|Takedown by E.M. J. Benjamin||Sports/Disabilities|
|Banks Channel Books, 1999, 205, pp., $9.95||ISBN: 1889199044|
|Reviewed by David Gill, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina|
Jack Chapman is hardheaded in more ways than one.
As a star on the high school wrestling team, he uses the technique of slamming his head hard into an opponent's legs, thereby knocking them off balance. Once, though, Jack uses this technique and suddenly, notices a strong odor - like burnt cheese. Later, Jack has several seizures, and he is soon diagnosed with epilepsy.
Jack is crushed. This star senior wants to win a college athletic scholarship and of course, the state wrestling championship. Now, unable to compete, he wallows in self-pity, striking out in torment and anger at his family and girlfriend
E.M.J. Benjamin is the pseudonym of the award-winning author Ellyn Bache, and together, with her husband, they create an award-winning and realistic portrayal of a young man learning to live with a disability. Good books about the hardships of student athletes are hard to find. This one is a keeper.
|Smiling for Strangers by Gaye Hicyilmaz||War and War Refugees|
|Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000, 160 pp., $16.00||ISBN: 0-374-37081-8|
|Reviewed by Rob Linne', Assistant Professor, Adelphia University, Garden City, New York|
Through fourteen-year-old Nina Topic's eyes, we glimpse the horrors of war in former Yugoslavia.
Struggling to make lives for themselves in foreign lands, thousands of displaced youth set out across Yugoslavia's war-torn country in search of a welcoming home and face. This is the story of one such journey.
When Nina's only known surviving relative, her grandfather, is killed, she travels across her ravaged homeland, seeking a distant family friend in England. His name is Paul Fellows, and Nina knows of him only from the few letters and photos that she has found among the remnants of her mother's possessions.
Quickly, Nina learns that life can be both simultaneously cruel and kind. Relying on the goodness of strangers, she enters a strange netherworld where light and dark becomes delicately mixed. Not knowing who do trust, Nina grows into a fully developed human being as she comes to grips with the reality of greed and anger in the face of ultimate human devastation. Never once, though, does Nina lose her humanity.
This is an important and complex book and a must read for all young adults.
|My Bridges of Hope: Searching for Life and Love after Auschwitz by Livia Bitton Jackson||History|
|Simon and Schuster, 1999, 258 pp., $17.00||ISBN: 0-689-82026-7|
|Reviewed by MaryAnnelle Baker, University of Missouri|
My Bridges of Hope: Searching for Life and Love after Auschwitz is just as the title implies - a moving account a heroic family's attempt to rebuild a life after suffering the at the hands of the Nazis.
The story focuses on one young girl, Elli, who through her diligence and bravery leads her and her mother to find a new home in the United States. The struggle is not easy. First, Elli and her mother must survive difficult living conditions in the Slovakian mountains, all the while trying to secure a spot on the United States Emigration List.
Eventually, Elli and her mother are able to emigrate - but not without enduring the hardship of adolescence - winning and losing at love; coming to terms with one's identity; arguing with parents and authority alike - and the agony of a brutal life force outside to destroy all sense of human dignity.
This book, a sequel to Livia Bitton-Jackon's I Have Lived A Thousand Years is an excellent sourcebook for learning about the realities of life after the Second World War.
|Kite by Melvin Burgess||Environment/Hunting|
|Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000, 192 pp., $16.00||ISBN: 0-374-34228-0|
|Reviewed by Edgar H. Thompson, Professor of Education, Emory and Henry College|
Taylor Mase lives on a game preserve in England, and his father, Tom, is the gamekeeper. Reg Harris, the game preserve's landowner, requires Tom to kill vermin or animals of prey to keep the pheasant population large enough for the hunting season. Selling pheasants for meat can be quite profitable.
While hunting one day, Taylor finds the egg of a rare bird, the Red Kite. Together with his buddy Alan, he takes care of his new prize, waiting eagerly for its hatching. Soon, the bird is born and before long, the bird is ready is to fly off on its own. As fate would have it, though, landowner Reg Harris discovers the rare bird's existence, and naturally, he tries to kill it. Seeing dollar signs, Harris ignores the fact that not only caring teenagers, but also the law protect this species as well.
Harris nearly succeeds, but Tom Mase stops him. Reg Harris is then - in a rare turn around of events - is held accountable for his actions.
Like the award-winning novel Shiloh , this good book makes the case for the rights of both hunters and the ethical treatment of animals. A smart choice for middle school readers.
|The Likes of Me by Randall Beth Platt||Coming of Age|
|Delacorte, 2000, 244 pp., $15.95||ISBN: 0-385-32692-0|
|Reviewed by Joyce A. Litton, Senior Library Associate, Retired, Ohio University, Athens|
Cordelia Lu Hankins has more problems than the average teenager. She is an albino who is half Chinese, living in a logging camp in the Pacific Northwest with her distant father and her stepmother, Babe.
In the summer of 1918, she is fourteen years old and she receives her first kiss from Squirl, a seventeen-year-old logger. Her father, though, disapproves of Squirl's attention to his daughter, and fires him flat out. Angered by her father's rash move, Cordelia sets out to find her "older man" who has left in a disgusted huff.
Romancers and adventurers will enjoy this harshly realistic and well-written story of Cordelia's escape to Seattle to find Squirl. On the way, she becomes involved in a carnival act and learns inadvertently that her stepmother is wanted for the death of her first husband. Eventually, she finds Squirl, only to be disappointed by his opportunistic behavior. Disappointed Cordelia treks on home, hoping to be reunited with her disappointed and worried father.
Readers will revel in this true-to-life adventure story and the eventual reconciliation of father and daughter.
|145th Street Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers||Inner City/Street life|
|Delacorte Press, 2000, 151 pp., $15.95||ISBN: 0-385-32137-6|
|Reviewed by Angela M. Ferree, Associate Professor, Western Illinois University|
The scene is New York City and specifically, 145th Street.
In the heart of the community known as Harlem, 145h Street is the street where, as Walter Dean Myers says, if ordinary people, "had a good chance, they would be okay." Yet, anger and despair too often mar the lives of the people living there.
The ten short stories in this remarkable volume are about the tragic twists and turns of the residents of 145th Street. We meet the fighter, the dreamer, lover, the loser, and the survivors in this haunting collection of life inside America's premiere inner city renaissance of good and evil.
Walter Dean Myers knows 145th Street. He knows Harlem's locals, language, culture, traditions, clothing, food, and above all, rhythm. Using his consummate writing skill, he brings the reader into his short stories, holding us spellbound as he weaves his tales of intrigue, despair and hope. An excellent compliment to his many award-winning novels.
|The Fool Reversed by Susan Whitcher||Relationships|
|Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000, 192 pp., $16.00||ISBN: 0-374-32446- 8|
|Reviewed by Wendy H. Bell, ESL Teacher, Buncombe County Schools|
The Fool Reversed is a well-written, unsentimental examination of relationships. The surface narrative centers on fifteen-year-old Anna Pavelk who is caught between her affair with an older man and her friendship with a boy her own age.
This is also a story about manipulation, loss of innocence, and the gaining of wisdom. Whitcher skillfully uses tarot cards as a motif that weaves together the story's varied strands. As Anna's affair with her older man evolves, she begins to see through the "prism of reversed mirrors" where she has been and where she must eventually go. The resolution is satisfying and credible.
The Fool Reversed , to be sure, is for mature readers only. The sexuality is realistic, but not gratuitous and the characters' voices are honest, but not sensational.