Thursday, February 27, 2014


17934467Walters, Eric. The Rule of Thre3
January 21st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

When all of the electricity, computers and phones stop working at Adam's school, it's the least of his problems. His old clunker of a car doesn't have a computer, so he manages to get his friend Lori back to her farm, and his young brother and sister home. His father is stuck in Chicago, but his mother, the chief of police, is off working. An older neighbor with a background in intelligence takes matters into his own hands, buys a ton of chlorine tablets, and starts putting together resources. Things quickly disintegrate, more because people being violent than there being a huge threat of starvation. Adam's neighborhood closes in on itself, builds fortifications, and gathers a group of people with useful skills. They fend off attackers but are always wary. Adam has a small, older plane that is able to do reconnaissance,  and the group realizes that there are other communities that may be threatening. At first, the group thinks to move out to Lori's farm, but instead turns their neighborhood into a giant farm. They manage to successfully fend off some attacks, but more are sure to come. The second book, The Fight for Power, comes out in 2014, and the third, Will to Survive, in 2015.
Strengths: It is completely a good idea for me to stockpile 100 jars of peanut butter and as many cans of vegetables as I can fit in my basement! This book is the most realistic dystopia I have seen, and it made me feel depressed and desperate. What will students take away from this? If all the power goes out, they get to fly planes and blow things up! This will be hugely popular, so I should probably just plan on buying two copies of each of the books.
Weaknesses: I'd like to believe that human beings would be more noble in the face of danger, but this book is probably more true to life. Herb creeped me out a bit, and I really wonder what he will do in the next two books.

18222566Tarshis, Lauren. I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944.
February 25th 2014, Scholastic Inc.
E ARC from

Max and Zena are surviving in Poland the best they can after their father is imprisoned by the Nazis. When Max tries to reach out of the ghetto for some berries, he ends up in the hands of the Nazis, but he and Zena manage to escape and run deep into the woods. With the help of a farmer who hides them in his barn, they manage to find their aunt Hannah, who is working for the Resistance. After several close escapes fighting the Nazis, the Russians come into Poland and the two children are reunited with their father and later immigrate to the US.
Strengths: This was a good, short book covering a topic that all of my 8th graders have to read about every year. Many of the students struggle to get through books that are too long, or too philosophical, so this would be great for them.
Weaknesses: This still has some violence (lots of people get shot; some die) so it won't be good for students who are overly sensitive, even though there are not the grim descriptions of concentration camps. The beginning of the book seemed overly... black and white? Late, there is more of the feeling that some of the Nazis might be humans who are being forced to do things against their will, but the beginning seemed a bit one dimensional to me. I'm not claiming that the Nazis were anything but evil, but I do think there were a huge number of people who either had to commit atrocities or be killed themselves, and most Holocaust books do address this difficult issue. (Disclaimer: A very dear friend of mine lived in Polish Silesia and was forced into the Wehrmacht as a young man. He ended up spending most of the war on the Russian front, hanging out with villagers and waiting for the Americans to come. Long story, but it always colors my perceptions of these books.)

I will still buy two copies. In Permabound or Follettbound, unfortunately, since it only comes in paperback.

18222549Philbrick, Rodman. Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina
February 25th 2014, The Blue Sky Press 
E ARC from

Zane, whose father was killed in a car accident before he was born, goes from New Hampshire to New Orleans with his dog Bandy to visit the great grandmother he has never met but who raised his father. He is not fond of  the area, but amused by "Miss Trissy" and glad to find out more about his father's cultural heritage (his father was black while his mother is white). Soon, however, Katrina is on her way. The two (and the dog) are offered a ride in a church van, but the dog gets out and runs across the highway, so of course Zane chases him. Bandy ends up back at Miss Trissy's house. Zane manages to notify his mother where he is, but then the storm hits and he has to climb to the attic of his house, where it is hot and he has no supplies. Luckily, he is saved by Tru, a musician, and his young ward Malvina, whose mother is a recovering drug addict. The group investigate several shelters, including the Super Dome, but there they run into Malvina's mother's drug supplier and have to leave. Will they be able to survive, especially with Tru's foot injury?
Strengths: If your library needs a book on Katrina that describes the storm and its aftermath well, this would be a good addition. It covers a bit of the area's culture through Tru's background, and does touch on looters in wealthier neighborhoods and the treatment of black people by the area's private security forces, which is something I hadn't read. This does not sugarcoat the damage (the smells in particular are mentioned). The exploration of Zane's cultural heritage is also interesting.
Weaknesses: Did everyone involved in Hurricane Katrina have a dog? Would Zane really have run after Bandy? Would Bandy really have gone back to the great grandmother's house? Wouldn't the drug dealer have bigger fish to fry at this point? There were several parts of this I didn't quite buy, and the dialect was very strong. I have several books about this historical event, but my students aren't particularly interested in it, probably because we are so far physically removed from the area, and it happened "so long ago"!

Here is another book about Katrina. Instead of a dog, we have younger twin siblings, one sickly. Same amount of dialect, similar experiences.  Equally good, just don't have readers for it.

17815784 Lamana, Julie T. Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
April 8th 2014 by Chronicle Books                                                                     
ARC recieved from publisher

From Goodreads "Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. All her friends are coming to her party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten is a big deal to Armani. It means she's older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm. A powerful story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the miraculous power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable."

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