Tanita S. Davis' Mare's War is not about the fighting in World War II, but was a terrific book about a little known facet of that time-- not only the Women's Army Corps, but the participation of African American women in it. Told in chapters that alternate between a cross country road trip with Tali and Octavia and their grandmother, Mare, this story unfolds in an intriguing manner. I wasn't so sure about the road trip part at first, but the juxtaposition between the attitudes of the modern granddaughters and the deprivation of the grandmother make this story more accessible to students today. Mare's experiences as a young girl in Alabama and her career in the WAC are well researched and compelling. It is great to see some history of WWII that covers stories that are not often told. This was very deserving of both a Coretta Scott King honor and inclusion on Best Books for Young Adults 2010.
I did not feel the same way about Courtney Summer's Cracked Up to Be, which won the Cybils Award for Best Young Adult fiction. I wanted to read it, but there was only one copy, in paperback, in the entire state of Ohio. This is what happens when a book starts out in a vulgar manner and then continues that way. I was grateful for the f-bomb on page 1. It's not appropriate for middle school, so I stopped reading. It would be nice if "best" YA books could be appropriate for middle school.
I read Erin Hunter's Fire and Ice in the same way I made it through The Silmarillion; I looked at every word on every page, but got little meaning out of them. Fireheart, the former kittypet turned warrior, is with his new clan as they try to find new territory where they can have food but also not fight with other clans. There's also a secret about ...another cat who didn't die but ran off after a fight. The reason I had such trouble with this was that just about every page had at least six different cat names on it, and I just could not keep them all straight because they were so similar. Students love these.
Goofed off and spent several days indulging in Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. It was such a dense and informative book about history I lived through but didn't understand that I was enthralled. Young girls today don't know about this history (unless they have a mother like me who is constantly barraging them with quotes from books such as these), and I would love to see Collins' come out with a 100 page distillation of this for young readers. Karen Blumenthal's 2005 Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, the Law that Changed the Future of Girls in America covers some of this story, but not enough of it.