Woodson, Jacqueline. brown girl dreaming
August 28th 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Born in 1963, Woodson traveled from Columbus, Ohio to South Carolina to New York City, living with different family members while problems were worked out. She was part of a pivotal time in Civil Rights history-- everything was supposed to be equal, but it wasn't, especially in the South. Her family had different perspectives on how she should act, and Woodson herself was torn between the different cultures, not feeling that she fit completely into any of them. Her family was very supportive, but faced many difficulties, such as her parents' divorce, the death of several members, and varying levels of prejudice and discrimination.
Strengths: As far as book length memoirs (or novels) in verse go, this was very good, and that's hard to do. The poems are lyrical to read and actually sound like poetry, but also give a good description of time and place and advance the story in a fashion that is not too slow. The feelings of longing and loss are palpable, and the view of history is quite interesting. I am only two years younger than Woodson, but there were very few black people in my school in Ohio, so I knew little of the equality issues during my childhood. I found the story of Woodson's youngest brother getting lead poisoning from eating paint chips particularly interesting-- I remember it being a huge item of concern in the late 1970s, but could never understand why a child would eat paint! (Interestingly enough, one of the projects that my daughter is working on as an intern with the City of Columbus is a lead paint abatement grant program!)
Weaknesses: As beautifully written and interesting as this is, I don't know that students will pick it up. I'll buy a copy, and recommend it, but there are just some books that I cannot gets students to read, and I fear that this will be one. Woodson's fiction is rather hit or miss in my library, with some titles being hugely popular, and others being ignored.
Loughead, Deb. Sidetracked.
November 1st 2012 by Orca Book Publishers
Maddy and Kat have been keen competitors in middle school, but the high school track team is even more fierce, and not everyone who ran in middle school gets on the team. To complicate matters, Maddy's brother Matt is acting rather suspiciously. Someone on the team is stealing things, and everyone is a suspect. Maddy had seen someone bullying Shauna (who is interested in Matt), and thinks that the people behind that might also be stealing. Is Matt involved, too? And will Maddy be able to keep her competitive edge?
Strengths: This had just enough drama to keep readers on edge, and is written in a straight forward style. The bits of romance, as well as descriptions of running are good as well.
Weaknesses: Maddy seems a bit too worried about everything!