Preuss, Margi. The Bamboo Sword.
September 15th 2015 by Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
in 1853, Yoshi and Jun are the servants of Hideki, who isn't thrilled about training to become a samurai. When ships are sighted in the harbor and the samurai are called to arms, Yoshi helps him flee to the temple and takes his place. Kisune, from the dojo where Hideki trained, finds out about the deception and vows to make Yoshi pay. Four US ships have sailed into the harbor, and are asking the emperor to be allowed to come into Japan, which has been closed off to foreigners. Yoshi ends up working with the artist Ozawa, who draws pictures of the barbarians and has copies printed to sell. Things are quite topsy turvy, and Yoshi ends up as a body guard for Manjiro, the main character in The Heart of a Samurai. Since Manjiro has lived in the US, he is helping the governments communicate. Yoshi meets Jack, who has gotten left behind by the US ships, and the two learn to communicate and become friends. In an epilogue, we later find that Jack goes back to the US and works with Matthew Brady, and Yoshi becomes an interpreter, and the two meet again right around the time of the US Civil War.
Strengths: This had a lot of interesting things going on-- Yoshi on his own, finding jobs, Jack surviving in a culture he knows nothing about, the larger problem of the two governments trying to come to some sort of mutually beneficial agreement. Also, lots of good details about daily life in Japan during this time period. Appreciated the inclusion of artwork, especially since Yoshi was working with Ozawa. This is a much more appealing book than The Heart of a Samurai.
Weaknesses: It's very difficult to get students to check out the first book, so I will have to debate purchase. The cover might help, but it's hard to tell.
What I really think: I enjoyed this, but it might not be the best us of my money to buy it.
Giff, Patricai Reilly. Until I Find Julian
September 8th 2015 by Wendy Lamb Books
Copy provided by the publisher
Mateo knows that life in his Mexican town can be tough, but he has a supportive family. His brother Julian has gone to the US to find work so he can help out by sending money home, but eventually, there is not word from him. Mateo decides that he has to go and find his brother, and his Abuelita knows this isn't the best idea but understands that Mateo feels compelled to do this. Crossing into the US is dangerous, and Mateo makes it with the help of a girl, Angel, who befriends him and seems to know a lot about making this journey. When they finally make it to the town where Julian was living, they find that the house where he is living is empty, and that there are many issues with immigrants going on at the place of employment where Julian was working. Was Julian killed in a fall, or did he take off because of these issues? Angel and Julian are able to figure things out and report back to the family in Mexico.
Strengths: I would like to see many more books involving children living in the US illegally. Dream Things True and Restrepo's Illegal were brilliant in their portrayal of families torn apart by immigration issues, but it were aimed at older readers. Until I Find Julian is good for a younger demographic, especially with its emphasis on keeping family together.
Weaknesses: The cover is rather boring, and I could have done without the entries in Julian's journal. They slowed down the action of the book.
What I really think: This had its moments, and the simpler language would make this a good choice for some of my struggling readers, but I wish this had more action and less introspection.