Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Collins, Mazer and Yep

It's hard enough for Gregor the Overlander and his two year old sister Boots-- their father has disappeard, and their mother works long hours, ketting Gregor babysit his sister. When they are sucked into a vent in the laundry room, however, they find out how much worse it can be. The Underlanders, a pale, intense race of people, are involved in a battle with the rats (gnawers) who are evil, the spiders (who seem to go either way), and the cockroachers (crawlers), who help them but talk in a really annoying dialect! Gregor seems to be the savior mentioned in an ancient prophecy, so when he finds out that his father may be in the Underland, the people help him with the rescue. There is a lot of action in this one, and fantasy fans will enjoy this series, which currently runs to fivebooks. (Suzanne Collins)

In Dragon Road, Cal and Barney, having graduated from high school after being local basketball stars, are finding it hard to get work in 1939. The Depression has hit their community hard, and people outside Chinatown won't hire them. When they are both approached to be on a barnstorming ethnic basketball team, they reluctantly accept, and start a life on the road filled with phusical hardship, widespread prejudice, and lots of basketball. Even though many basketball fans shy away from historical novels, this one had enough basketball to please them, and the experiences of the boys make it all the more riveting. My own favorite part was when Cal and Barney's team played the Harlem Globetrotters. As usual, Lawrence Yep draws on family history and memories for this insightful book.

Sally Lincoln has a difficult life. Her father has lost the family farm, and they must all leave their comfortable house to live in a lean to in Indiana. Sally and her brother are not able to go to school, they must work very hard to clear the land, and there are few neighbors. Still, they manage until their mother dies of "milk fever" (really milk poisoned by plants that cows have eaten), and their father leaves them to go back to Kentucky to retrieve a wife. Their stepmother is a sympathetic woman, and eventually the two children are glad to have her in their lives. While Harry Mazer's My Brother Abe is a fabulous book to have for the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, it may be a little young for middle schoolers, especially since it is very reminiscent of the Little House books, which my students refuse to read.

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