Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Final few Cybils books

There are maybe four books left that were nominated that I can't find a copy of. Eric Walters' End of Days, Jo Ann Yhard's Lost on Briar Island, Natalie Hyde's Saving Armpit, Trilby Kent's Stones for My Father and Michelle Khan's The Hijab Boutique could be the world's most fabulous books, but if we can't get copies to read, we can't really judge the books!

Neri, G. Ghetto Cowboy.
Nominated for the Cybils by Alison
Cole is constantly in trouble, so his mother takes him to live with the father he's never mer in Philadelphia. While leaving, his mother runs into a horse that comes out of nowhere, and has to be shot by Cole's father. It turns out that his father is involved with a group that purchases old racehorses and is raising them in an inner city neighborhood so that kids can ride them and have an activity that is safe from gang involvement. Cole is mad and wants to go home, but starts to enjoy the horses and get used to his father. When an inspections officer comes and threatens to take away the horses and tear down the facilities, the group mobilizes to try to save them at the same time that Cole's mother offers to take him back. When the horses are taken, Cole and his friends steal them back from the police stables with the idea of riding them to Brooklyn, but when Cole's father shows up, they decide to stage a protest. The media gets involved, and the group gets time to get the building up to code and raise the money to buy it from the city. Cole decides to spend the school year with his mother and his summers with his father, tending the horses.
Strengths: There are apparently horses being raised in some cities, and this inspired Neri. It is a unique story with appealing illustrations and gives a different view of inner city life. Distractingly nice paper.
Weaknesses: The nonstandard English style is not my favorite-- it's hard enough to break students of saying "we was" without them reading it!

Tak, Bibi Dumon. Soldier Bear.
Nominated for the Cybils by Lara Sissell
Polish soldiers escape from Russia during World War II and make their way to Iran. They trade food to a small boy for a bear cub, whom they name Voytek. He is cute and engaging, so they take him to Palestine with them. Voytek grows, gets into mischief, and doesn't get along well with Kaska, a monkey accompanying the group. The soldiers go to fight in Italy and take Voytek with them; he turns out to be surprisingly adept at bringing munitions to the soldiers during battle with the Germans. When the fighting is over in Italy, Poland is still in turmoil, so the group sail to Scotland. When they are demobbed, Voytek ends up in the Glasgow Zoo. Based on a true story and translated from the original.
Strengths: I've said I'm always looking for odd facets of WWII, and this certainly qualifies! There are maps included to show the soldiers' travels, and this does introduce readers to more areas of the world that were tangentially involved.
Weaknesses: The illustrations are oddly reminiscent of Paddington, which was somehow jarring. A review I read said that this would be a good read aloud for 3rd or 4th graders, since it talks about the war but doesn't get in to graphic detail. I'll have to see what my students think.

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