Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Modern and Historical

Yes, two new book orders are in. No, they are not available for check out. Even though I buy them fully processed, I took an hour this morning just getting them ready for volunteers. It is tremendously helpful to put genre labels, series numbers, etc. on them before they get released to the wild. I am bad about waiting, which is not a good thing because I end up with books that aren't even stamped with our library name! We're planning a big release for this coming Monday. That also gives me a chance to read the books that I bought on the strength of recommendations. This always makes me nervous, but is sometimes necessary.

Winston, Sherri. President of the Whole Fifth Grade.
Brianna, who lives near Detroit and wants to grow up to have a cooking show, is determined to be class president like her idol, Miss Delicious, and is doing well at this goal until the arrival of snooty Jasmine Moon, who also wants to run. A competition ensues, cleverly set against a social studies unit on the presidents, and Brianna starts to lose track of why she is running. Her friends aren't happy with her, but once she realizes she is running in order to help her classmates, she is able to readjust her priorities and be happier with herself.

Strengths: Along with Boles' Little Divas, this is one of the few books about suburban, middle class, African Americans. It not only has Brianna on the front, but cupcakes! Hooray! Good story, strong characters.

Weaknesses: Like The Kayla Chronicles, the tone on this is rather strident. Brianna was not particularly likable; I sided with her friends when they were mad at her. Also, there were odd, random changes of font (especially for Jasmine Moon) which was distracting. At least for me. Students will not mind. I still haven't bought The Kayla Chronicles because of the health class issues, but I may reread it over the summer.

Friesner, Esther. Threads and Flames.
If there is any historical topic for which I am a sucker, it is the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire! Long Haddix's Uprising , Davies Lost, and Auch's Ashes of Roses. Since I was also very fond of this author's Nobody's Princess, I looked forward to this one. Raisa's family has died, except for her sister Henda, who has gone to the US. Raisa follows, and after a hard journey arrives in the new country with a young orphan, Brina, is tow. Her sister is not at the address Raisa has, but families who knew her sister help. She also meets Gavrel, a seminary student who has to work as a pattern cutter, and his family is taking in boarders. His sister helps Raisa get a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and enroll in English classes at a settlement house, and a romance blooms between Raisa and Gavrel. Raisa manages to escape from the fire, but many of her friends die, and Gavrel does not come home for months. Eventually, though Raisa finds both her fiance and her sister, and is able to become a teacher.

Strengths: A great book. Raisa is hard working and plucky, the time and place vibrantly portrayed, and the romance, while unlikely, is fun.

Weaknesses: The beginning of the book talks about Raisa recuperating, but it's from typhoid fever in the old country. It's very confusing, which was probably done deliberately, to mimic Raisa's own confusion, but if I hadn't already bought the book, I might well have stopped reading. Also, there are too many fortuitous coincidences throughout the book for this to feel realistic. Still, I enjoyed reading it.


  1. We need The President of the Whole Fifth Grade-will add to next month's order.

  2. I just bought UPRISING and am looking forward to reading it.


  3. I also found parts of Threads and Flames stretched my credulity a little, especially the happy ending. But I gave the author some slack since it's a YA book after all! I hope that kids will pick it up! I didn't love the cover either, which I don't think will draw in lots of readers....