Monday, October 15, 2007

Rrrrrrrr we there yet?

My trek through the stacks continues! Still held up at Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles. 

 Richter, Hans Peter. Friedrich. 1961. In flashback format, we follow the life of Friedrich, a young Jewish boy, through the eyes of his best friend and neighbor, a Gentile. We are shown how everyday occurrences change over time and become more and more difficult for Friedrich's family. An informative time line is included at the end of this book. This is a slow-paced and introspective work; the Holocaust is of great interest to many 8th graders, and is studied as part of the language arts curriculum. This work is better suited to students who have started with other, more immediately engaging titles such as Moskin's I am Rosemarie, Orlev's The Man from the Other Side or Spinelli's Milkweed. 

Robinet, Harriette Gillem. If you please, President Lincoln. 1995 This book is hampered by the title: if it were called Survivor: Ile a Vache it would circulate more. Set just before the Civil War, this story follows Moses, a house slave of a Catholic priest. After escaping, he ends up on a ship of slaves being sent to an island near Haiti to set up a colony and grow cotton. The slaves are ill treated on the ship and in no condition to fair well on the island; smallpox and starvation run rampant. Eventually, the slaves are retrieved and taken back to the US, where Moses and an older man make a life for themselves. An afternote describes how President Lincoln at first thought that relocating freed slaves would be a good idea, but how he changed his mind. It was too late for the group Moses was with, and many people died. Written in a story telling style, this book will appeal to students who like adventure fiction and need to read something historical.

 Ruckman, Ivy. Night of the Twisters. 1984. Based on an actual event in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1980 (my family had friends who lost their house at this time), this follows two boys who are left alone right before the twisters hit. A short and easy-to-read book (which, oddly enough, has the rather high Accelerated Reader level of 6.9 assigned to it!), this story is suspenseful and realistic. Dan and his friend must take care of Dan's infant brother while surviving the storm, which was quite devastating. The details make the danger immediate, but all turns out well in the end. This is used in the 6th grade as a class novel. A good choice, since it should appeal to most children. 

 Ruby, Lois. Skin Deep. 1994. There aren't many books about students involved with Neonazi groups, and this one is well balanced. We can understand why Dan gets involved with a local skin head group; he is recently relocated, living in a small aparment with his mother and two sisters, and unable to find a job or join the swim team because of Affirmative Action. This is a bit overdone, but helps to make the point. It was interesting how Dan first starts dressing the part, and then actually joins a group involved in hate crimes, because that is one thing antidrug programs teach parents-- before students get involved in behaviors, they often dress the part. Walking a very fine line, Ruby shows how Dan goes along with the group until they threaten someone he knows and likes, and he then understands that hating others is not the way to improve his own situation. A very tricky subject, and adroitly handled. 

 Also read Jacqueline Wilson's Candyfloss. This is a book for younger students than I thought, but the 6th graders who think they want to read Rennison's Georgia Nicolson books but aren't ready for them will enjoy it. Floss's mother and stepfather are relocated to Australia for six months and she decides to stay in England with her father, who runs a chip shop. Things are not going well for her father, and there are many problems that arise while she is staying with him. Cathy Cassidy's fans will also find this enjoyable-- a pleasant mix of problems with humor. Do not see Gregory Maguire's What-the-Dickens meeting any needs in my collection, but since my daughter is a HUGE fan of Wicked, I am having her read the book to see if it is something she likes.

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