When fifteen-year-old Noah's pacifist parents die of the smallpox in Texas, he is sent to Camp Hale, Colorado to stay with his uncle James Shelley whom he has never met. James is part of a rough-and-tumble mountain skiing unit, and the commanding officer is less than pleased that Noah is there, so he and his uncle agree that he will train with the unit. Noah has never skied, and believes that war and fighting are bad, but he bonds with his uncle and the other men, and learns about what is going on in Germany under Hitler. Training is rough, and it comes out that Noah is not quite old enough to train, but when he turns 16, he enlists with his uncle's permission. When the unit (the Tenth Mountain unit, or the Phantoms) ships out to Italy, Noah gets a taste of fighting and war, but realizes that helping people who have been suffering under the German occupation is worth it, even when he loses several friends.
Strengths: Excellent story of a different facet of WWII. Noah's family story is intriguing as well, and the character development of him not wanting to fight but seeing the need to is interesting. He never loses his humanity, though, and decides to take up medical training.
Plenty of action, though, which is what the boys want.
Weaknesses: Very few. Perhaps a tad altruistic, but an excellent book! I'm definitely buying a copy and recommending that my public library does as well.
Carlton, Susan. Love and Haight.
This book is definitely YA, but a couple of years ago I had a student who really wanted to read about hippies in the 60s and 70s, and I still pick up books thinking about her! From a social history perspective, this was very interesting-- Chloe is pregnant, and abortion is legal in San Francisco in 1971 as long as certain procedures are followed. Chloe and her friend MJ go to spend Christmas break with Chloe's aunt while Chloe is going to all the appointments and getting all the paperwork in order for her abortion. Of course, they also investigate the hippie and drug culture during that time.
Strengths: Considering how big an issue abortion is in the presidential campaigns, it is interesting to get an idea of what it was like when abortion was not legal everywhere. The whole issue is handled very well-- Chloe doesn't treat this lightly, but knows that she doesn't have much of an option otherwise.
Weaknesses: This is always a controversial topic, so some people will disagree with how it is handled, and again, this is not a middle grade novel.