Morpurgo, Michael. A Medal for Leroy
January 14th 2014
by Feiwel & Friends
Growing up in England right after WWII, Leroy frequently goes to visit the aunts who raised his father, Aunt Snowdrop and Aunt Pish. Leroy isn't terribly fond of having to eat bubble and squeak and custard with them, but he likes playing with their dog Jasper. He knows that they miss his father, who was killed in a plane crash during the war, as much as he does. Several years after Aunt Snowdrop dies, he gets a picture of his father in a frame, and finds a long note from his deceased aunt in the back. It turns out that his grandfather was one of the first black men to serve in the army during WWI, and was denied a medal even though he died a hero's death. Family secrets come out, but Leroy is glad to know his true identity. Inspired by the story of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British army.
Strengths: Interesting details about black officers in the British army, and about biracial children in England at the time. Leroy's mother is French, and a few issues about his treatment at school are discussed. Great cover.
Weaknesses: Not what I was expecting. Morpurgo's books like War Horse and Shadow have a lot of details about the fighting, which is what readers usually want, and this was a bit slow, with more coverage of having tea with the aunts. I wish there had been more about what the father and grandfather actually did in the army, and way less about Aunt Snowdrop's life. This might be a tough sell.
English, Karen. Dog Days (Carver Chronicles #1)
December 17th 2013
by Clarion Books
Gavin is having trouble making friends at his new school, so when Richard comes over, he wants to show him a good time. He sneaks into his sister Danielle's room to steal candy, and Richard thinks it's a good idea to throw Danielle's snow globe across the room. It breaks, and Gavin must be punished. This comes in the form of walking his great aunt's Pekinese when his aunt stays with the family for a week. Other students make fun of him, but when the dog goes missing, Richard helps Gavin find the dog, whom girls from Gavin's class had found.
Strengths: This is a book for early elementary school students, and deals with issues that concern the: misbehavior, missing dog toys, children stealing things from stores, mean kids as school. I especially appreciated that while Gavin and his friends are clearly black, the story is not about this. Woot!
Weaknesses: I think I've read Nikki and Deja at some point, and they appear in this book but are not particularly appealing characters. Gavin falls on the Alvin Ho side of character personalities-- a little scared and dysfunctional. Not my favorite kind of character, but I can see this series being a good addition to an elementary school library.