Flashback February 2007

flashback to what I was reading in February 2007:

John Lewis In the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Benny Andrews. From my review: “History cannot be hidden because it is violent or unfair or difficult; and Lewis proves a role model who acts, who tries to make the right choice, who is a leader despite his youth. It’s one thing to say you are for nonviolence; it’s another thing to keep to that view when personally attacked; when you see other assaulted and killed. To keep with those convictions, and triumph, demands respect. Kids need books like this. Lewis saw that “it was time to turn things upside down in order to set them right side up.” It is powerful, and important, to read about someone who believed that; who acted; and who continues to act.”

Wolves by Emily Gravett. From my review: “Rabbit gets a book on wolves out of the library. He’s so captivated by the book and involved in the reading that he doesn’t notice it when the wolves leave the book. . . .  The book rabbit is reading is the book you are holding in your hands. Examine the endpages, look at the cover under the dustjacket: yep, you’re reading rabbit’s book. And if you’re reading rabbit’s book, and you know how that story ends . . . It’s like Stephen King or the X Files for kiddies.”

Manga Claus  by Nathaniel Marunas; art by Erik Craddock. From my review: “An elf’s plot to get a change in job responsibilities goes horribly wrong, resulting in an attack of evil demon possessed teddy bears who try to take down the North Pole. Only one man can stop them: Manga Claus.”

The Exiles At Home by Hilary McKay. From my review: “It’s Hilary McKay. Have you all not yet been converted to the cult of “anything she does is good”? No?. . . .  McKay quickly sorts out the four girls and introduces you to the way they view the world. That view is best summed up by young Phoebe, that there is “nothing worse than what happens to you by not doing it.” In a way, the girls remind me of Peter Pan. In that, the Conroys are seductive; you love them, laugh with them, turn the page, half in fear of what they think of next. But like Peter Pan, they are still very much children, with their own dedicated world view. It’s very matter of fact; honesty and blunt; sometimes callous; always entertaining. The older girls deliberately teach the next door baby some rather naughty behavior just so they can keep a baby-sitting job. I laughed so hard I cried; and luckily, the mother was rather understanding of it all. One example is teaching the poor baby the game of Omelette, which consists of crawling around a couch at top speed shouting “omelette” until one loses all sense. Ruth observes, “she was dizzy and the world whirled and the word took possession.””

Monday by Anne Herbauts. From my review: “This rather defies a simple plot description. Surreal is the best way to describe it: Monday is the figure you see on the bookjacket; the book begins with a description of his week, interactions with his friends, and as the seasons change so does Monday.”

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. From my review: “As the chapters alternate stories, from myth (Monkey King) to realistic (Jin Wang) to bizarre (Danny is obviously Caucasian and his cousin is every negative Asian Stereotype personified) the reader wonders, how does this all fit together? Once the pieces of the puzzle click together, it’s very satisfying and the reader wants to go back and start over, to pick up what was missed and to see how the stories overlap.”

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. From my review: “Angela remembers being age six and the swim teacher saying, “boys in one line, girls in another.” Angela was puzzled: “why did everybody think I was a girl?” Ten years later, Angela realizes that “inside the body of this strange, never-quite-right girl was hiding the soul of a typical, average, ordinary boy.” Angela picks a new name: Grady. And with short hair, bound breasts, and a boy’s wardrobe, Grady quietly yet proudly comes out as transgendered and starts living life as a boy, both at home and at school.

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen. From my review: “This is a work of fiction; it is the story of Deogratias, a teenage boy who is a Hutu; and two teenage sisters who are Tutsi, Apollinaria and Benina. It begins after the Rwandan Genocide (800,00 to 1,000,000 dead); and has characters from all sides, the Hutus, the Tutsis, the observers, those who acted and those who did not. . . . There is a mounting sense of dread in this book; Deogratias is alive, obviously affected by the events that unfolded, but just how badly he has been injured is not known until the last pages. How did he get to where he is? And why is he so shattered, when he was not part of the ethnic group that was targeted for extermination? And what happened to those two sisters? With each page, there are glimpses of just how bad it will get, and little bits of hope to hang onto.

The Braid by Helen Frost. From my review: “1850. Scotland. People are being forced off the land they have lived on for generations; the MacKinnons decide to move to Canada for a new start. Grandma Peggy doesn’t want to go. On the night the family is to leave, Sarah, 15, runs away; she wants to stay in Scotland with her grandmother. There is no time to go after her; so the rest of the family, including her sister, Jeannie, 14, make their way to Cape Breton, Canada.. The Braid tells the story of sisters Sarah and Jeannie and their now-separate lives. The Braid is also something physical; the girls had braided their hair together, and as they slept Sarah cut it, leaving half with her sister. . . .  Frost stays true to the time; neither Sarah nor Jeannie are literate; the family separation is brutally final, with no hope for direct communication. In a time of cell phones and text messaging, it is almost impossible to imagine a time where it would be months before Sarah learns of the deaths of some of her family. As time goes by, all the girls have is hope that the other is doing well, hope that somehow they will connect. Most brilliant of all is how Frost braids together the girls stories. For the narrative poems, the last word of each line of one poem becomes the first word of each line of the next poem. For the praise poems, the last line of one poem becomes the first line of the next. Independent, yet dependent; alone, yet connected.”

Hercules: The Twelve Labors. A Greek Myth by Paul Storrie, illustrated by Steve Kurth. From my review: Hercules is one of those people who are “in” the common knowledge, but really, how much do you really know? Seriously, can you name even half of the twelve labors? Without peeking over at Wikipedia, of course. This Graphic Novel is a great introduction for younger readers. Storrie tells this part of the Hercules saga with lots of action and humor. During one labor, there is the boast that “my club will strike you down!” followed by a “perhaps not” when the club does not in fact slay the beast.”

Stormwitch by Susan Vaught. From my review: “Ruba has been raised by her maternal grandmother, Ba, in Haiti; but Ba has died so Ruba now moves to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to live with her paternal grandmother, Grandmother Jones. It’s August 1969, and Ba raised Ruba to be proud of her African heritage, to be strong, to be a fighter. Ruba has a hard time adjusting to the segregation and prejudice in Mississippi, and a harder time adjusting to life with her grandmother. She sees none of the pride found in Ba; and Grandmother Jones, a devout Christian, frowns on the spells, potions and magic taught to Ruba by Ba. Holy Hannah, it’s not just tradition — Ba and Ruba really are witches! Or war women or storm chanters or whatever you want to call them. Basically, the spells and chants and potions work; they are part of the wisdom and tradition of the Dahomey Amazon women. And they are real. Which means that this changes from a book about a teen adjusting to life in a racist world to a book about a teen who can kick some racist ass.”

Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies. From my review: “This isn’t a Hallmark Made for TV version of illness, where by golly we all pull together and are better because of cancer! Cancer sucks. Cancer kills. And stress is hard and difficulty and can bring out the ugly.”


2 thoughts on “Flashback February 2007

  1. In December I was introduced to Hilary McKay’s books through the Casson Family series (Saffey’s Angel, Indigo’s Star, etc.) and fell in love with them and McKay’s writing. Though I quickly devoured all the Casson family books, I haven’t read any of her other books. Thanks to you, I’m off to see if I’ll love the Conroys as much.

    Stormwitch sounds wonderful and I’ve added it to my library request list. The premise is intriguing. Also it sounds like one of the rare kick-ass heroine books that will pass the Bechdel test. For some reason, it seems that if you create one strong* female character, it’s acceptable to surround her with only male characters (but that’s a rant for another day). I’ll let you know how I liked Stormwitch after I’ve read it.

    American Born Chinese was one of the books I gave out as part of International Book Giving Day. I left it at the bus stop next to my local high school.

    *oh, how I hate that phrase “strong female character” as it implies that such a person is the exception rather than the rule. Do you ever hear it applied to male characters except as reference to physical strength? (Yet another rant for another day.)


  2. Eliza, I still have to read the third Conroy & the last Casson books: I think I’m in denial and just want there always to be “one more” book in the series.

    I have to say, I forget whether or not Stormwitch passes the Bechdel test, but I like the idea of reading YA for that test. A main female character doesn’t mean it passes, that’s for sure!

    And oh yes on the “strong” female character as well as what does “strong” mean, a blog post in itself


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