With Black History Month, I've had students request Civil Rights books, and I don't have anything spectacular in the library, aside from To Kill A Mockingbird and Spite Fences. Read Mary Ann Rodman's Yankee Girl (2004), and liked that. It was about a girl who moved from Chicago to the south with her family because her father was working with the FBI to help blacks register to vote. There is a black girl in her school whose father is working with Martin Luther King. They would like to become friends, but the social situation is obviously not conducive to that. I liked the book, and it was informative, but it left me wondering why most of the Civil Rights books for teens are written from the white perspective. Just have to look harder.
Other new books-- Dennis Foon's Skud (2003), which would be good for boys who liked The Outsiders because of the gangs and fighting. Four boys, all of different temperments, have problems-- one is being pushed in ice hockey and not doing well, so of course he bashes up the actor, who has the gang member defending him. Another boy was abused by his mother, loses his girlfriend, and jeopardizes his future by raping her. (The scene is delicately done, but obviously this is a book more for 8th graders than 6th.) Confusing at first, it was rather riveting, and the characters showed a lot of depth. I'm going to run it by some students today. I also liked this author's Double or Nothing, about gambling.
Looked at Joyce Carol Oates' Freaky Green Eyes(2003), but admit I was just waiting for some objectionable language so I didn't have to read the whole thing. Won't buy.
Also won't get Jacqueline Woodson't I hadn't meant to tell you this (1994). A girl is sexually abused by her father, and while it is delicately done, it's just too much. Also, it doesn't seem like the girls who want to read books about abuse would find it interesting. Too poetic, somehow, and from the point of view of a friend outside the situation. Racial situations are interesting, however.
Then plowed my way through three Magic Attic books (Magraw), which are only good for the really low level readers-- just not well written and too short to develop much plot. Read two of John MacClean's-- When the Mountain Sings(1992), which is about skiing in exquisitely boring detail, so I'll try to recommend it to students who ski and see what they think. His other book, Mac,(1987) is going to be pulled. It's about a boy who is raped by a doctor. Again, I was just waiting for some bad language to pull it-- it was not interesting AND offensive.
Kevin Major's Dear Bruce Springsteen (1987) was oddly intriguing. A boy whose parents are getting a divorce and who is trying to get up the nerve to date girls and start playing guitar works through his feelings by writing letters to the rock star. A bit contrived, but the letter writing aspect is not stressed and seems to work. I'll try to get that one in someone's hands today. I recently had a teacher who assigned romance books to the whole class, and the boys complained. Rightly so, not because they shouldn't read romance, but because there is so little for them to read. I did like Tucker Shaw's Flavor of the Week (2003), and have a copy of that on order.