Thursday, April 22, 2010

Missing in Action by Dean Hughes

Hughes, Dean. Missing in Action.
Jay's half Native American father is in the navy during World War II, but his ship has been sunk, and all the crew listed as Missing In Action. He and his mother move from Salt Lake City to a small town to be with his grandparents, and he falls in with a group of boys who play baseball. Jay is not quite comfortable with them, because they refer to him as "chief" and he feels that they think less of him because of his father's heritage. When Jay has to work on his grandfather's farm with Ken, who is interned at the Topaz Japanese relocation center, he learns the importance of judging people by who they are and what they do, and not by their ethnicity. While not as front lines as Search and Destroy or Soldier Boys, this is an excellent that made even my most action-hungry WWII reader happy, and there were some moments that just sent chills down my spine. I loved how Hughes made the Japanese relocation movement seem very personal.

Frank, Lucy. The Homeschool Liberation League.
Katya (formerly Kaitlyn) decides not to go back to public middle school after a summer of nature study, in part because she doesn't want to face her former boyfriend, but also because she's tired of sitting in classrooms and being dictated to. She approaches her parents about homeschooling, and they agree, even though it will be difficult for them. Homeschooling is not what Katya wants-- her mother hunts down a curriculum, has Katya spending time in her hair salon in order to free up time for her to work with Katya, and puts a damper on the idea that homeschooling means NO schooling. I loved that the parents, neither of whom went to college, worked so hard to comply with the homeschooling requirements and made personal sacrifices so that Katya could be happy with her learning experience, but Katya was such a complete brat that I wanted to slap her. I got this copy at a Book Look, and it's gone out a couple of times. I just wish that at the end, Katya was a nicer person.

Erskine, Kathryn. Mockingbird.
Caitlin, who has Aspberger's syndrome, is reeling from the death of her brother in a school shooting, and having trouble dealing with her father, who is also suffering greatly. She decides that she needs closure so that she no longer feels so bad, but isn't quite sure how to obtain it. Caitlin's perspective is very apparent in the book, and we get many glimpses of her chewing on her shirt sleeve, trying to put emotions with facial expressions, etc. This was a sad book, and I am not quite sure what readers would like this. Baskin's Anything But Typical and Dowd's The London Eye Mystery deal with Asperger's with a little more humor and understanding, and are better choices for both students who want to see themselves reflected in the literature and for students who are trying to understand classmates who face this challenge.


Jennifer said...

Hmmm, I really liked Katya, but I can see where her attitude is annoying at some points. This is a pretty popular book at my library, and apart from the characters, I like it b/c it's one of the few books that have a sympathetic (and mostly realistic) view of alternative schooling.

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