Railsback, Lisa. Betti on the High Wire
Babo lives in an abandoned circus camp with several other "leftover kids" and Auntie Moo, who tries to take care of them and keep them safe from the ravages of war. Babo is sure that her parents, whom she does not remember but about whom she has created lots of stories, will return to claim her. When people from the United States want to adopt her, Babo is not happy to leave. She and her friend George make their way to their new families in the US. Babo, now called Betti, finds it difficult to adjust to the new home, her new sister, and many other facets of life, but after difficulties learns to adjust.
Strengths: Railsback has worked with children in war torn countries and lends an immediacy to a story that has not been often told. It is a little surprising that there are not more novels with main characters who were adopted from foreign countries.
Weaknesses: While Railsback gives a convincing explanation in the back why she chose not to name Babo's country of origin, it makes the story seem less real. Also, while I realize that Babo would have trouble with the vocabulary and concepts of language, for me it detracted from the seriousness of the story to refer to people from the US as "melons" and to interpret words like "spooogetti- skinny broken-eyed snakes". I can see what Railsback is trying to do, but this still makes for difficult reading.
Ryan, Pam Munoz and Sis, Peter. The Dreamer.
Neftali, a frequently ill and day dreaming child, has difficulty dealing with his overbearing father, his older brother, and his step mother. Told in short anecdotes about experiences Neftali has, I didn't know until the end (I must have read it but forgot) that this was a fictionalized account of Pablo Neruda's life. This is in the teen section of my local library (probably for that reason) but seems like a very, very young book, with whole pages devoted to the sounds of dripping water. While this might be interesting to people who are devoted to Neruda's work, not a lot happens in this book, and I cannot see students picking it up. It's sort of like The Little Prince-- very vague and existential.
And it looks like I read and reviewed 68 books in January. Sometime in May people start blogging numbers of things they have read, and counting seems like too much work, so I'll try to keep on top of it this year.