Monday, October 31, 2011

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott

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Elliott, Zetta. A Wish After Midnight. New York: Rosetta Press, 2008. Print.

After making a wish in a fountain, 15-year old Genna is transported back in time to Civil War-era Brooklyn.

What would you do if you found yourself face down in the dirt, beaten and bloody, suddenly 150 years in the past?

Genna is a smart, ambitious 15-year old from Brooklyn, who lives with her mother and three siblings in tiny one-bedroom apartment. While her brother deals drugs from their apartment building, and her sister works part-time at a clothing store, Genna dreams of going to college and becoming a psychiatrist. Even though her classmates make fun of her, there is one boy, Judah, who seems different. One night, after sneaking into her favorite place, the botanical gardens, she goes to the fountain where she has made countless wishes for a better life. That night, though, she hears mysterious voices and sees strange apparitions. She finds a penny on the ground and tosses it into the fountain, and the world around her changes. Genna awakens, but not in the Brooklyn she knows. Instead, she has been taken back in time to the Brooklyn of 1863. How will she navigate life as a young black woman during the Civil War? Will she ever make it back to present day?

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

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Armstrong, Kelley. The Summoning. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. Print.

  • Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List
A high school freshman finds herself committed to a group home for unstable teens after seeing ghosts in Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning, the first book in the Darkest Powers series.

“Ghosts aren’t real. Ghosts are for crazy people. What I saw were hallucinations, and the sooner I accepted that, the sooner I’d get out of here.” (78)

Fifteen-year old Chloe Saunders can see ghosts. After a frightening episode at her art school, she is hospitalized and moved to a group home. However, Lyle House is not all that it seems.

Is Chloe schizophrenic, like the doctors say? Her roommate Liz says she’s haunted by a poltergeist, and is transferred from the home. She appears to Chloe later, and both of them are shocked when Chloe is able to move her hand through her arm. What secrets does Lyle House hold? Who are the other teens that are in the group home with her? Are they all mentally ill, or is there something supernatural going on? Who can Chloe trust? The twists and questions pile up in The Summoning, and you’ll want to race to the end. If you’re hungry for more, dive into the rest of the Darkest Powers trilogy.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence by Marion Dane Bauer (ed.)

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Bauer, Marion Dane, ed. Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994. Print.

  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • ALA Recommended Book for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • ALA Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual Book Award for Literature, 1995
  • Lambda Literary Award for Children and Young Adults, 1995
  • Minnesota Book Award for older children, 1995

In a collection of short stories, edited by Marion Dane Bauer, Am I Blue? explores the experience of gay and lesbian life through the eyes of young adults.

Am I the only one? At times, growing up, it can feel that way.

The characters in this book come from a myriad of backgrounds. They span different races, religions, forms of family. Some are questioning their sexuality. Some are coming out as gay or lesbian. Some are learning more about a gay friend or parent. They all find comfort in the fact that they are not alone. The authors are able to tell many different types of tales, and in doing so, illustrate that being gay or lesbian is not one sole experience.

Sharing their stories helps illuminate things that are often kept quiet or left unsaid. Learn more about these stories in Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

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Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. Print.

  •      1999 nominee, National Book Award for Young People's Literature
  •          2000 Michael L. Printz Award
  •          2000 Coretta Scott King Honor (Author)
  •          ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  •          ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  •          Kentucky Bluegrass Award

Sixteen year old Steve Harmon sits on trial as an accomplice to murder. Monster follows his story, narrated in a mix of diary entries and screenplays from his perspective.

Is Steve Harmon a monster? The State of New York thinks so. Steve sits on trial for his role in a neighborhood robbery gone bad. At the age of sixteen, he is faced with at least twenty years in prison, if not the death penalty, for acting as the lookout in a drugstore holdup that ended in the owner’s murder. As he thinks about the trial and his future, the only way Steve can make things clear for himself is to imagine how his life would look as a movie. Combined with his journal entries written during his nights in jail, Monster shows the internal struggle of a young man in dire circumstances. Steve is forced to confront the truth of who he really is. Will the jury agree with the prosecution that Steve is a Monster

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields

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Shields, Charles J. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. Print.

  •          American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
  •          Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
  •          Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List
The life of the famously reclusive Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is explored by Charles J. Shields in an adaptation of his award-winning biography Mockingbird, targeted specifically at young adult readers.

I Am Scout tells the story of Nelle Harper Lee, whose sole novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is an American classic. As the title might indicate, Lee shared many characteristics with her novel’s protagonist, Scout. Feisty and independent, she shunned conventional femininity. The details of TKaM were reflected in her young life. Lee was raised in small town Monroesville, Alabama with her lawyer father, who inspired Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird was not simply an ode to the strong disposition of her father, it was a story that sought to illuminate the character and tensions of her hometown.

I Am Scout follows Lee throughout her life. It describes the process of her working with her childhood friend, Truman Capote, who inspired the character Dill. Together, they explored the murder of a family in Kansas, for a story that would become Capote’s famous book, In Cold Blood. We then follow Lee through the development of the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, dealing with increased visibility and public attention, and the pressures to write a follow-up book.

The book is great further reading for anyone who loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Despite the notorious reticence of Harper Lee, I Am Scout crafts a well-researched look at her life, and the motivations behind her legendary novel. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Braid by Helen Frost

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Frost, Helen. The Braid. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Print.

·         YALSA "Best Books for Young Adults, 2007"
·         2007 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book
·         2007 honor book: "Lion and the Unicorn" Award for Excellence in North American Poetry
·         School Library Journal "Best Books of the Year, 2006"
·         Kirkus Reviews "Editor's Choice, 2006"
·         NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
·         Notable Book in Historical Fiction, 2007, for the Children's Literature Assembly (CLA) an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
·         Bank Street College of Education Children's Book Committee "Best Children's Books of the Year, 2007"
·         Cooperative Children's Book Center "CCBC Choices 2007"
·         Special Recognition: 2007 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People
·         Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Master List
·         Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List

In alternating poems, two sisters tell the story of a family split by the Highland Clearances in 1850s Scotland, one to Canada and one to the smaller Scottish island of Mingulay.

The Highland Clearances of the 1850s forced thousands of Scots to evacuate their homeland on short notice. The night before their family is due to leave Scotland, bound for refuge in Canada, eldest sister Sarah braids her hair tight together with her younger sister Jeannie. When Jeannie awakens in the morning, Sarah has gone. The braid has been cut from their heads, and all that remains of her sister is half of that braid.

The Braid is beautifully structured. A narrative poem from each sister’s perspective is followed by a praise poem on a subject like boats, feathers, or shadows. All three intertwine, creating a narrative braid. The structure of the book left me hungry to know more about each sister’s story as it slowly unfolded. I was tempted to race through the book simply to learn the plot, but was always brought back to a slower, more thoughtful reading because of the beauty of the poetry.

The Braid follows strong young women navigating their way through difficult times. It follows their path as they grow up, and work to maintain their family ties while seeking independence. In the face of uncertainty, loneliness, and hardship, Sarah and Jeannie weave their stories into something stronger. The poetry is easy to understand, and while the book takes place in 1850s Scotland and Canada, the emotions and problems are universal.