Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water.
In 1985, eleven-year-old Salva Dut finds himself in the middle of the war in the Sudan. Fighting breaks out when he is in school, and the teacher tells the class to run out to the bush. Salva gets caught up in a wave of people going to Ethiopia; some are of his tribe, the Dinka, and take him along, since there is no going back to his village.
The story of Salva's survival is interspersed with the story of Nya, who in 2008 walks 8 miles every day to get water for her family, which she carries back, barefoot, on her head. Fighting still mars her world, but her family has been lucky. Her life is changed when a well is drilled and her community is able to build a school, since the children no longer must spend their days providing water for their families.
The man behind building the well is Salva Dut, who managed to survive years in refugee camps and was brought to the US with the "lost boys". This is based on a true story.
Strengths: This is a slim volume that all middle school students in the US should read. Like Sheth's Boys Without Names or Schroder's Saraswati's Way, it is a powerful story of how difficult is for young people in other countries.
Weaknesses: I try very hard not to complain, and fully realize how lucky I am to be where I am, so this book made me feel like I need to quit my job and raise money for Water for Sudan full time. This is a very powerful book; really no weaknesses!
Buyea, Rob. Because of Mr. Terupt.
A class of diverse students are glad that they have a new teacher; he's funnier, more aware, and more creative than the "mean old farts" that have been teaching long enough to be wise to the kids' tricks. Classroom dramas unfold; the mean girl, Alexis, tries to start a "girl war"; students have family problems; the class reads Summer of the Swans (which Mr. Terupt says is not an exciting book, but a good one that will make them think) and works with a Collaborative Classroom on several projects. Things are going well until an accident changes all of their lives, and the students need to figure out how to go on despite it.
Strengths: This is a very well-written book; many clever lines, good characterization, enough interest to keep students reading even though, like in Summer of the Swans, nothing really exciting happens. I cried. I rarely cry.
Weaknesses: This is a teacher book. We all like to think that we're going to have some huge impact on students. I'm an old fart who knows I won't no matter how hard I work. Like Frindle, this will be picked up by teachers everywhere and they'll love it. Sixth graders? A few. Seventh graders? Doubtful. I'm going to see if Mr. Buxton will read this and opine.
What I REALLY, REALLY want Mr. Buyea to do is write a book about wrestling!!! That's what we really need. There's such a dearth of wrestling books that he can even put in some stuff about a coach that influences his wrestlers, and students will still read it.