Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Characters from War Torn Countries

Volponi, Paul. The Final Four.
The Michigan State Spartans and the Troy Trojans meet up at the Final Four tournament in New Orleans. Malcolm, a boy from the inner city whose sister was killed in a drive by shooting and who is only looking out for himself, and MJ (Michael Jordan, an unfortunate name for a boy who likes to play basketball!), who is trying to do well in school and make a better life for himself, play for MSU. Roko, a boy whose journalist uncle was killed in Croatia, and Crispin, who is from who is from Louisiana and engaged to a popular cheerleader, are on the Trojan side. Tempers flare as the competition heats up, and drama unfolds behind the scenes as well as on the court. Play-by-plays and basketball commentary abound, and the minutiae of player recruitment is well covered. There is a lot of discussion about the financial hardships placed on the families of players who are getting an education, but may not have a lot of money for living expenses, a concern that has had long ranging implications at The Ohio State University! In particular, Malcolm runs into problems that may impact the success of his entire team, even though his goal is to leave college without graduating and go pro.
Strengths: There is such a desperate shortage of basketball books that I will no doubt buy two copies of this titles. Thankfully, even though this involves college players, there is very little bad language, and no sex or drugs. Whew. Louisiana and engaged to a popular cheerleader, are on the Trojan side. Tempers flare as the competition heats up, and drama unfolds behind the scenes as well as on the court. Play-by-plays and basketball commentary abound, and the minutiae of player recruitment is well covered. There is a lot of discussion about the financial hardships placed on the families of players who are getting an education, but may not have a lot of money for living expenses, a concern that has had long ranging implications at The Ohio State University! In particular, Malcolm runs into problems that may impact the success of his entire team, even though his goal is to leave college without graduating and go pro.
Weaknesses: The narrative is a bit fragmented and hard to follow at times. My sports readers are sometimes ones who struggle, and this may prove a challenging title for them.


I've loaned the ARC to a couple of readers; one brought the book back unread, but two others read it very quickly. Think I'll buy two copies.


Farish, Terry. The Good Braider.
Publication date 1 May 2012
Viola and her mother are doing their best to survive in their small town of Juba in the Sudan, but food is scarce and the soldiers make life difficult for everyone. After Viola is raped, the family escapes to Cairo, where Viola's brother dies. Viola and her mother sleep in the courtyard of a church, clean houses, and try to contact relatives in the US to sponsor them. Viola makes a good friend who helps her to study English, knowing that the only way she can earn money will be to get an education. The two finally make it to Maine, where Catholic Charities helps them get an apartment and navigate life in the US. Viola goes to high school, but also works in a food factory. She makes friends, but her mother is unhappy when she shows an interest in Andrew, an American boy who teaches her how to drive a car. Her mother burns Viola's hand over her offense of dating the boy, and social services are called in. Through this all, Viola tries to remember the wisdom of her grandmother, and her cultural heritage, which she expresses in her ability to braid hair in intricate African designs.
Strengths: This is an important book to help people understand not only how difficult life is for people in the Sudan, but also how difficult it is for students who immigrate from countries where their life is in turmoil, and whose family and cultural background deal with situations differently than those who have lived in this country for a long time might. This was a very powerful book.
Weaknesses: While is is clear that Viola is raped, the scene where it happened was not graphic, and the conversation that discusses what happened is matter-of-fact, not detailed, and handled well. I was reading this title on an E Reader and did not even realize that it was "in verse", because the lines were not cut up in a verse-like way.

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