"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."
(1993) ~ Anna Quindlen ~

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Salon, Gloria Whelan, After the Train

Anne of Green Gables Winner

My apologies first of all to anyone trying to access this new site. I have had trouble on my end posting to it. Things seem to be ok now. Hopefully! So with trepidation I am announcing that The Burns has won the trilogy for the Anne of Green Gables book set. Please send me your snail mail address so that I can send your prize to you.

Gloria Whelan, After the Train

I reviewed After the Train by Gloria Whelan for Harper Collins. Being a fan of Whelan and a librarian in an elementary school I was looking forward to this new book. Once again, she has presented a realistic historical fictional snapshot of a period of time we can only visit. Adventure, suspense and a lesson for all time is what awaits the reader. A terrific book for teaching tolerance and equality.

After the Train
Gloria Whelan

It all starts with Peter’s recurring nightmares, always the same, always including the appearance of the same woman. He knows she must be someone he should know, and this leads him to search through his mother’s private things. After finding a small photo amidst his snooping he thinks he has all his questions answered. What happens next in this fast paced thrilling adventure of intrigue and self-discovery will have you reflecting and thinking about After the Train for days.

Gloria Whelan's poetic prose drops you right in the middle of post WWII as a witness to Peter's pursuit for the truth. The text is so real it moves with each character's step and each person's dialogue. You are in the story, not an outsider peering in. Her setting is so detailed and richly described, you can close your eyes and you are there. Peter’s friends are so true to character, so well developed, you can easily step in as a substitute.

A wonderful story for teaching tolerance and prejudice of any race, culture or gender. This book reminded me in some ways of Crispen, A Cross of Lead by Avi. Peter, and Crispen are both searching for their birthright and the truth, no matter what they may discover. Both characters face difficult challenges as they are coming of age. After the Train is the perfect book for literature circles, reading groups and classroom discussions. An ideal book to get children to think critically about the possibility of this scenario (prejudice, genocide) repeating again in places we see already( (Darfur) as we all become related in a large global village. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

SAYE, Jeremy H. Walker

SAYE, by Jeremy Walker is a deeply rich debut fantasy novel by a young author whose name you will not want to forget. The story is brilliantly crafted with characters he
has developed over many years from his early sketches. This refreshingly original book is futuristically visionary and captivating. The story takes place on the planet Valiku near the constellation Cephues. The planet is inhabited by living beings of two races the kinth and the kolntas.

The story is about a thirteen year old girl named Saye, who is abandoned after a long bloody battle. The war between the two races of Valiku,ended in the defeat of the kolntas. Saye has mixed heritage and has been adorned with the beauty from her kinth mother, and the symbol of the kolntas on her forehead from her father. Saye is discovered by Hilonya, a messenger of the kinth who is riding by on her endelo. She spots Saye as she is running into a cave. With reluctance and trepidation Saye decides to follow Hilonya to Jayxen City, making the wise decision that she has no other choice.

Saye is always guarded and doesn’t care much for Hilonya, especially when she tries to cover Saye’s head with a blanket before entering the city. What Saye doesn’t realize is the symbol on her forehead, is a tatoo that will draw attention to her difference. Although she looks kinth, she has the trait of a kolntas. Hilonya fears for the girls safety and wishes only to protect her from possible prejudice and hate from the people of Jayxen.

As the story continues the challenge for Saye is developing her sense of self having kinth/kolntas heritage, in a world composed of kinth people. The path is not easy for Saye and she is full of fury and foreboding. Readers will relate to this story on so many levels. Saye is a timeless tale told with a sensitive heart.

Mr. Walker is looking for a literary agent to publish his series consisting of five books. I can’t wait to read the next book, I couldn’t put this one down. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chains, National Book Award Nominee

by Laurie Halse Anderson published by Simon & Schuster

Once you read Chains, it will be etched in your mind forever. Taking place during the beginning of the American Revolution in New York, Chains is one of those rare books of historical fiction to cherish, savor and hold on to. Laurie Halse Anderson has accomplished an intricate literary shaping of Isabel Gardner and Madame Lockton, realistically memorable, one dear the other hateful. You will love Isabel as the devoted sister of little Ruth and an insolent slave to Madame. You will loathe the cruel and inhumane way that Madame Lockton treats Isabel and parades Ruth as if she is a trophy.

Metaphorically, the book’s title Chains represents a figurative chain of oppression that denies the colony’s their liberty by the laws enacted by the British Parliament. Isabel is also chained to Madame as her slave. While the colonies are at the mercy of the King, so too is Isabel at the mercy of her cruel owner. Isabel learns that her freedom has no side but her own self preservation. She will aid either Patriot or Loyalist as long as they can help her to break though the chains.

Anyone who loves historical fiction and American History will not want to pass this book up. Chains would be an ideal novel to supplement the American History curriculum for grades 4-8. Students and teachers may also read this book and decide to research further one of the many events or conditions that took place, for example; Great Fire of 1776, population of slaves second highest in the colonies in mid 1700s, and treatment of prisoners.

Laurie Halse Anderson has a poetic gifted writing style with an amazing allure that I find myself rereading passages again and again. Throughout the book Isabel’s moods are depicted by a reference to bees.
Anderson writes,

“ Melancholy held me hostage, and the bees built a hive of sadness in my soul. Dark honey filled up inside me, drowning my thoughts and making it hard to move my eyes and hands.” (157)

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Chains was nominated for the National Book Award on October 15, 2008. I for one believe it is well deserving of this honor.

Also reviewed on Picnic Basket Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Burn My Heart, October 13, 2008

Burn My Heart,by Beverley Naidoo*

Amistad(Harper Collins)

Burn My Heart will have you biting your nails and butterflies bumping against the walls of your stomach. This is a truthful, deeply serious and valuable contribution missing from the historical fiction stacks in school libraries.

You are the vicarious witness to the fear, prejudice and misunderstanding endured by the Kenyan people during the 1950s. After fighting alongside the British soldiers during WWII, black inhabitants were not allowed to share power with the British settlers. Further, they adopted a parental philosophy toward the black citizens, believing them incapable of governing themselves.

Beverly Naidoo brilliantly unravels the untold history of hate that pitted white settlers against African citizens. Through the eyes of young Mathew, she is able to show both sides of the conflict. You read about the Africans who want results quickly and terrorize the British landowners through fear and bloodshed, and any possible means to force compliance. A secret society called Mau Mau, was formed to organize terror attacks, conscript membership and create ruination and ultimate surrender by the white landowner. Yet, others would rather place their efforts on peaceful negotiations, and an immediate end to the Mau Mau.

This is a novel of anxious intrigue that will hold you captive as the story builds to the end. You’ll love this thriller of a history lesson with an added message of forgiveness A perfect addition to middle and high school libraries. Highly recommended.
*Thanks to Harper Collins for the ARC. This was reviewed for their First Impressions program.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome to Bookworm's Dinner Children

Recently I have been asked to read and review many children's books. Therefore I hope you will be happy to be a part of my new blog, Bookworm's Dinner Children. Since I teach at the elementary level, and also study at the graduate level, this separation works better for me. I hope that you will like the change. For those of you who like an organized format, this should be helpful.

I am currently in the process of reading:

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson who wrote Speak and Fever 1793. She is one of my favorite children's authors. I received this book as an ARC and will be reviewing it for another site and cross-posting it here.

I will have a debut author's new book posted here next week with my review. I am very excited about this talented young writer. Waiting is so hard isn't it? I don't want to spoil the surprise...shhhhhh.

This week I received

... a wonderful just in time picture book published by Candlewick Press. Author Carolyn Crimi and illustrator John Manders have teamed up to create an adorable timely tale for Halloween called, Where's My Mummy? During a game of "hide and shriek" Little Baby Mummy hides and counts his bandages. (ha ha) When his time is up, he can't find his mother, Big Mama Mummy. As he searches for her, he insists he is not scared until he meets a spooky creature. (You'll have to read it to find out what. ) The story pattern changes and it will surprise all children. They will easily relate to the braveness and fear of Baby Mummy. This book would be ideal for teachers wanting to teach onomatopoeia or as a seasonal read-a-loud. I highly recommend this light and non-threatening Halloween tale. Ages 4-8.

Raffle Celebration

Finally, to kick off my new blog Bookworm's Dinner Children, I will be raffling off a three volume (pb)set of L.M.Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables Series. This set has still photo's from the movie adaptation of the book. The 100th anniversary celebration is this year. See the official link.
All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog for a chance to win. If you talk about my new children's blog on your blog you will get another chance.
Good Luck.