Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Revolution at Various Times

Sophia's War: A Tale of the RevolutionAvi. Sophia's War: A Tale of the Revolution
25 September 2012, Beach Lane Books
Nominated for the Cybils by Amy Koester

Sophia and her family live in New York City, and are struggling not only with the British, but with the direction their own sympathies are taking. They end up with John Andre being billeted in their house at the same time Sophia's brother William, a strong Patriot, is held by the British in prison. When William dies, any fond feelings the family has for the British die as well, but they must keep their opinions secret. When Sophia's father is injured and unable to work, she presents herself at the printer for whom her father works and offers her services. There, Mr. Gaine puts her in contact with Mr. Townsend, and her career as a spy begins. A few years later, she steps up her activity and ends up uncovering information crucial to the Patriots, and risks everything to make sure that it gets into the right hands.
Strengths: Great cover, and this was packed full of historical information. A glossary author's note, and bibliography help to make this a great novel for class study. While Sophia's situation is unusual, Avi makes it seem possible, and the fact that she is a female gives a nice twist to a Revolutionary War tale.
Weaknesses: The sheer amount of historical facts made this somewhat hard to follow, and the story sometimes seemed dry.

My Own RevolutionMarsden, Carolyn. My Own Revolution.
9 October 2012, Candlewick Press.
Copy received from YA Books Central and reviewed there.

Patrik has grown up with Danika, but has started to have romantic feelings for her. They have played games and shared an interest in the Beatles, but things become difficult between them when Bozek moves from Bratislava and Danika finds him attractive, and politics also comes between them. Patrik's father is a psychiatrist who balks at being told by the government what diagnoses to hand out, but he doesn't know what he would do in the US. Danika's father decides to join the Communist Party so that he can get a better job earning more money and perhaps put meat on the table. After Patrik is caught in several acts of "treason" (graffiti and setting fire to a flag at a rally) and sentenced to being an apprentice to a miner instead of being able to continue in school, the family decides that the must leave Czechoslovakia no matter what happens to them.
Strengths: There is not much fiction about the Communist regime during the 1960s, and this describes the living conditions in that time and place very well.
Weaknesses: No specific year is given, and there is no historical background to help readers know when this occurs or what the situation was in Czechoslovakia. While I was able to put together clues like Beatles' records, fountain pens, and Dr. Martin Luther King leading African-Americans during race riots, my students will not have this background. Explaining this at the beginning would have strengthened the story considerably. As it was, I spent a lot of the beginning of the book trying to figure out what the setting was. The boy and girl in modern looking hoodies on the cover did not help.

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