Wednesday, October 19, 2016

#WNDB- Ashes and Everyday Hero

8131809Anderson, Laurie Halse. Ashes (Seeds of America #3)
October 4th 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Isabel and Curzon have left South Carolina during the Revolutionary War in order to find Isabel's sister Ruth and to try to not be captured by slavers or be involved in too much of the war. Eventually, they locate Ruth, who has had seizures and is somewhat developmentally delayed. This led to her being sold, but she has ended up in the care of an elderly couple who have lost their own children. The couple tell Ruth she must go with Isabel and do what she says, because Ruth doesn't want to leave, even though at 12 she is the object of inappropriate interest from an overseer. Along with Aberdeen, the group takes off and makes their way to Virginia. Isabel is able to work along the way, taking in laundry or working in taverns. In Williamsburg, the group spends some time ferrying laundry back and forth while waiting to see how the war will progress. Eventually, Curzon goes off to fight, Isabel realizes she loves him, and along with Ruth (and Aberdeen, who loves her) they must all decide what to do as the war is coming to a close. 
Strengths: This is very well researched, and offers interesting information on the plight of people brought over to America as slaves around the time of the Revolutionary War. There are lots of good notes at the back, and the details of every day survival are very vivid. This reminded me strongly of Forbes' Johnny Tremain (1943), which I know is a favorite of many American History teachers. 
Weaknesses: This is very long for middle grade (272 pages), and moves very slowly. There are a lot more descriptions of doing laundry and taking care of the wounded than of any adventures or action. 
What I really think: Chains (2008) has circulated only to members of the Battle of the Books team,  and Forge (2010) has not been checked out in three years. For now, I will pass on purchasing for my library. 

26586441Cherry, Kathleen. Everyday Hero.
March 15th 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Copy from Cuyahoga County Public Library
Nominated for the Cybils by SMorris 

Alice and her father have moved to Kitimat while her mother is staying in Vancouver to help her grandparents. While Alice deals with Asperger's Syndrome, her father has decided not to tell her new school about her diagnosis, so she gets frequent detentions for skipping gym class, hitting people, and not following the unspoken rules of the school. Also in detention is Megan, who is a tough, Goth dressing girl. When Alice melts down over the wrong bus coming to pick her up, Megan comes to her aid and gets her home. The two form an uneasy friendship, and Megan protects Alice from people at school who don't understand the way she acts. Megan has problems at home, and Alice's father is reluctant for the two to hang out. When Megan decides to run away to Vancouver, Alice follows her despite the difficulties she has with new situations, saving her new friend from making a very bad decision.
Strengths: This does a good job of channeling Alice's voice, and is a good addition to books with characters on the autism spectrum. Her voice is distinct, but not overdone, and very typical of many of the students I have seen in our autism unit over the years. The addition of Megan's abusive situation will draw in readers who like this flavor of sad, but I definitely appreciated that this was generally upbeat, and Alice was really trying to understand the world around her and make her way in it. 
Weaknesses: The formatting is not great- this is available only in paperback or prebind, although Orca has given this one more generous margins than many of their titles. Oddly, my students definitely prefer larger, dust jacketed hardcovers.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase. The ending was a bit too deus ex machina for me, and the friendship didn't make a whole lot of sense, but I enjoyed Alice's voice, and the plot drew me in. I think it will find a steady readership in my library. 

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