Thursday, December 01, 2022

Snow Foal and Deborah Sampson

Bailey, Susanna. Snow Foal
November 29, 2022 by Peachtree
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Addie's mother is no longer able to take care of her because of her struggles with alcohol, she is brought to Ruth and Sam's farm by her caseworker, Penny. Determined that her mother needs her, Addie does not want to make herself comfortable, and plans her escape from the beginning. She shares a room with Sunni, who is a bit prickly, and also has to deal with young Jude, who doesn't speak and is separated from his infant brother, as well as Gabe, Ruth and Sam's son. There is a lot to do on a farm, even during a cold and snowy winter, and Gabe asks Addie to help him with a foal that was found in bad condition. At first, they think it is an Exmoor pony, a wild breed that have a protected status. Gabe isn't able to get near the animal, but it takes to Addie, who manages to feed, brush, and otherwise care for the foal. Ruth is very understanding about Addie's circumstances, and tries to make her as comfortable as possible. Penny is truthful with her, and lets her know how her mother is doing in her struggles to take care of herself so that she can be prepared to take care of Addie. Unfortunately, she doesn't always show up to the meetings with Addie that are scheduled. When Addie finds out that the foal will most likely not be returned to its mother in the wild, she fixates on this, and makes plans to get the foal back into the wilderness. She does well, working with Jude, and he starts to communicate a bit, and she involves him in her plans. This turns out to be a good thing, because when she takes the animal back into the wild in the middle of the night, she becomes lost in the mist, but since Jude told Sunni, help is soon on its way. Sunni tells Addie that her actions might cause Ruth and Sam to be disqualified from being care givers, and Addie does feel some remorse. This turns out not to be the case, but Jude does get an offer of adoption. When the foal comes back to the farm, looking for care because it did not do well in the wild, Addie starts to wonder whether ot not she did the right thing, and reflects on her own circumstances as well. 
Strengths: Like Scarlet Ibis, Snow Foal gives us a good look at the foster care system in England, along with an enticing view of an English farm. Addie's feelings and concerns see true to life, and her transference of her feelings of longing for her mother to the foal are very realistic. It's good to see other points of view; Gabe was adopted by Sam and Ruth, so is more stable, Sunni still wants to see her mother but knows that it is increasingly unlikely, and Jude is too young to fully process his circumstances. Penny is portrayed more sympathetically than many social workers, which I appreciated. The real draw will be the wild foal, and Addie's ability to bond with it and take care of it. There's even a bit of adventure when Addie takes off into the night. 
Weaknesses: This might appeal more to elementary school readers; older readers might realize that taking the foal back to the wilderness is a very bad idea, while younger ones will think this is a reasonable course of action. 
What I really think: This was very similar to Peter's delightful Jasmine Green series, in that it has a good amount of details about taking care of animals on a farm. If Lackey's All the Impossible Things or Lorentz' Of a Feather are popular in your library, or if you have readers who have an insatiable need for horse books with a bit of problems like Stevenson's Lizzie Flying Solo, Snow Foal is an excellent choice. 

Anderson, Beth and Lambelet, Anne (illustrations)
Cloaked in Courage: Uncovering Deborah Sampson, Patriot Soldier 
November 15th 2022 by Calkins Creek
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Deborah Sampson is a fascinating character, in part because so little is known about her life (1760-1827). After a difficult early life that lead to her parents sending her into indentured servitude at the age of five, Sampson worked in several places before deciding, after listening to recruitment speeches, to join the army and fight during the Revolutionary War. The first time she signed up for the bonus money, she did not actually join, and had to repay the bonus. When she signed up as Robert Shurtliffe, she saw some action and was wounded, but ran away from the hospital with shrapnel in her leg because she didn't want to be discovered. Later, she became ill with a fever, and a doctor found out her secret. She was fortunate enough to get an honorable discharge, and was not jailed, which was the fate of some women who tried to fight. The author has a good set of notes that discuss primary and secondary sources, as well as the challenges of writing researching a historical topic for a picture book. 

Strengths: Sampson is an interesting historical figure, and I can't think of any picture books covering her life, although there are at least three middle grade books: Klass' 2009 Soldier's Secret, Clapp's 1977 I'm Deborah Sampson: A Soldier In The War Of The Revolution, and McGovern's 1975 The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson. There's no coincidence that two of these were written around the time of the Bicentennial! This had appealing artwork that was reminscent of some portraiture of the time, and presenting the facts of the story without imposing too many modern preconceptions upon it. This would be a great book for elementary students covering the Revolutionary War or looking for individuals to research for biography projects. 

Weaknesses: I'm not sure that there is enough information for a longer middle grade biography, but that would certainly be something I would buy. 

What I really think: Probably won't purchase for my library, but definitely would for an elementary or public library. 

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