Monday, December 08, 2008

Banner in the Sky and other titles

This Newbery Honor book from 1954 was a good companion book to Roland Smith's Peak. Rudi Matt, whose father died attempting to climb the highest Alp, the Citadel, near his Swiss home, has climbing in his blood. Tired of washing dishes at a local hotel, he runs off to the mountains and rescues an English climber who is trying to get to the Citadel. Rudi's uncle won't guide the man, but a guide from a neighboring village agrees to. When Rudi finds out, he runs off to join the group. Rife with harrowing details of cold, deprivation, and competition, students would not know this was set in 1865 except for the lack of sophisticated gear and Polarfleece. The notes say that this is based on author James Ramsey Ullman's experiences, with details drawn from the first ascent of the Matterhorn.

Esther Friesner's Nobody's Princess (reviewed November 07, 2007) was a rolicking good read, and Nobody's Prize continued this imaginative tale of Helen of Troy as a young girl. Helen, along with her former slave, Milo, join Jason and his crew of princes on the Argo in search of the golden fleece. Many characters from Greek myth are mentioned, there's plenty of fighting and intrigue, and it's refreshing to see a treatment of Helen that doesn't make her vain and foolish. There are so many people who know that she is a girl that it stretched my credulity somewhat, but students who are interested in ancient Greece, even boys, should like this.

Another "historical" book that is more action and adventure is Bill Wallace's Red Dog. Adam and his family live in a secluded area of the mountains out west. Adam does not care much for his stepfather and is glad when the man goes to town to file a claim on their property and leaves him in charge. Unfortunately, there are evil prospectors targeting the family's land, since they have located gold in the stream, and they take the family hostage. Adam shows that he has what it takes to protect his family, and of course the dog, whom he has trained to track, helps out, too. A great selection for adventure fans forced to read history.

Emily's parents get divorced when her father decides to quit being a realtor and rejoin the rock band of his youth, and her mother, a free-lance writer, decides to move her from New Jersey to California. Missing her father, Emily writes her journal addressed to him, detailing all of the difficulties she has settling in to her new life. My reluctant 5th grader liked this, but while I liked the basic story, the journal pretense wore thin for me (who really writes extensive dialogue in a journal?) and I was slightly irritated that we have yet another "hippy" mother (although she is researching former hippies and emulating them, and not portrayed as an actual one.) Still, a good addition to the Millicent Min trilogy.

Had some trouble with Papademetriou's Accidentally Fabulous, although 5th grader liked it. The Candy Apple books do tend to focus on nasty girl cliques, but apparently that is a big concern, because all of these titles are popular. Thrift store afficianado Amy has a scholarship to the prestigious Allington Academy, and makes friends with a girl in the "League", but must jump through many hoops before the leader accepts her. There are a lot of fake brand names dropped, but I had a hard time believing that 7th graders really pay all that much attention to designers, or that private schools are really that snooty (and I taught in one for 4 years). This was sort of The Clique lite, and I hope that Papademetriou wrote this by order of Scholastic, because I usually like her titles much better.

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