9 October 2012, Knopf
Nominated for the Cybils by Danielle Joseph
Ani has trouble fitting in at school in her town of Guernica in 1937 because she is the daughter of the local sardine seller and always smells of fish. Her mother is demanding and unpleasant, but hardworking. Her father is off serving as a cook on the front lines during the Spanish civil war, so the two have to work even harder just to survive. When Ani meets Mathias, whose family has moved from Berlin because his mother is Jewish, she finds it hard to believe that he really wants to be her friend. Mathias' father runs the local movie theater, but also is involved in a spy ring. Ani and Mathias end up delivering messages to the group under the guise of selling fish, and find the job to be thrilling. War is closer than they think, however, and when an unspeakable tragedy occurs, they need to rely on each other to survive.
Strengths: This book covers an aspect of World War II which I knew very little about, so it was very interesting. Notes and pictures at the back help tremendously. Ani and Mathias have an unusual friendship, but it is realistically portrayed and believable. This is marked as Young Adult, but is completely appropriate for use in the middle school.
Weaknesses: A map of the area would have been a good addition (instead of the epilogue), and Ani's mother could have been a little nicer.
4 September 2012, American Girl Publishing
It's 1812, Caroline's father is a shipbuilder, but after he and her cousin are taken by British soldiers during a routine try out of a new boat, Caroline's mother has to oversee things. Luckily, her grandmother can help around the house, and Caroline has spent a lot of time with her father and knows a little about his accounts, because her goal is to be captain of her own ship some day. Things don't look good to get her father and cousin back, and the was has disrupted daily life in her seaside community. There is a whole series of these books out now.
Strengths: I didn't know much about the War of 1812, and this was very informative. I always like the historical notes at the back.
Weaknesses: A bit young for middle school. I have a few of the older American Girl books, but they don't circulate well at all. Great for elementary school, though!
Rose, Caroline Starr. May B. :A Novel
10 January 2012, Schwartz and Wade
Nominated for the Cybils by The Show Me Librarian
May's parents are in need of money on the Kansas frontier, so they hire her out to Mr. Oblinger and his new bride, who has come from Ohio to live in a sod house on the prarie. The work is not too hard, but Mrs. Oblinger is so sad and negative that May misses her home desperately. She tries to keep up with her school work, but has much trouble reading. When Mrs. Oblinger decides to go back to Ohio, her husband follows, leaving May alone. He doesn't come back. At first, May is glad to be by herself, but as days stretch in to weeks, she starts to worry about when her father might come to get her, and whether or not the food will hold out. When she eats the last morsel after a horrendous stormstorm, she decides to try to make it across the fifteen miles of lonely prairie to her home. A novel in verse.
Strengths: This was a highly atmospheric novel; the dank sod house felt like it was closing in around me, and May's loneliness was palpable. Not many books address the subject of dyslexia in earlier points of history.
Weaknesses: It's very difficult to get my students to read novels in verse, and this does not have a lot of action. Lane's Young Pioneers (aka Let the Hurricane Roar) is also about being stranded on the prairie and has a bit more action and suspense.