This is an incredible book for many different reasons. The plot is compelling, the characters sympathetic, the voice is omniscient. However, it is the...moreThis is an incredible book for many different reasons. The plot is compelling, the characters sympathetic, the voice is omniscient. However, it is the style of Zusak's writing and use of literary devices that draw readers. Using Death as a narrator is thought provoking and allows Zusak to examine the characters, their motivation, the various themes, and settings. The book is divided into ten sections that correspond with the books that impact Leisel's life. Within those sections, Zusak uses short, succinct chapters to move the story along interspersed with headlines to call attention to important facts, reactions, announcements, and foreshadowing. Each chapter is a vignette that illustrates Leisel's experiences in her pursual for books and self identity. Zusak's style helps readers digest this bittersweet and difficult story. Finally, he understand the impact of words and their ability to calm, enlighten, connect, and anger. Like Zusak, "[t:]he best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. .. [and:] how powerless a person could be without worlds."(less)
In March 1859 a huge slave auction took place in Savannah, Georgia, where more than 425 slaves from the Butler Plantation were sold to cover the debts...moreIn March 1859 a huge slave auction took place in Savannah, Georgia, where more than 425 slaves from the Butler Plantation were sold to cover the debts of Pierce Butler. Day of Tears is a heart rendering fictionalized account of this event, known as "The Weeping Time," told from the perspective of the slaves, the master and his family, and the auctioneer. The primary character is a young slave, Emma, whose primary responsibility is to take care of the Butler's daughters. Emma is unexpectedly sold at the auction, and readers learn about the consequences of this incidence on Emma, her family, and the Butlers.
Julius Lester's novel is an amazing account of the atrocities and lingering effects of slavery. Instead of straight prose, Lester uses dialogue to explore the many perspectives of slavery, the auction, and their aftereffects. This style gives each character a direct vehicle to voice their experiences and beliefs, and is augmented by the use of interludes in the form of flashbacks and flashforwards. This is a powerful literary device that allow characters to relive the life-changing events.
Lester’s use of dialogue and stage directions provides a great foundation for an audiobook. The audio version, performed by many actors, is an amazing rendition of this powerful novel. The actors effectively convey the characters' range of emotions--the sadness, anger, and hope--and experiences . Both the book and the audiobook are compelling resources for teaching and discussing slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.(less)
Since his mother died, Ben has been plagued with dreams of wolves dashing through the forest. Why does he have the same dream over and over? Many year...moreSince his mother died, Ben has been plagued with dreams of wolves dashing through the forest. Why does he have the same dream over and over? Many years ago and many miles away, Rose also had dreams, but they were not nightmares. They were dreams of escape. Read Wonderstruck to discover how Ben’s recurring dreams of stalking wolves leads him on grand adventure and whether Rose finds her escape.
The illustrations in this book are amazing! Brian Selznick won the Caldecott Medal in 2008 for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The Caldecott is awarded to the “most distinguished” picture book. Wonderstruck is really three stories in one book. Ben’s story is told through words, and Rose’s through picture. It's one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. The characters were fascinating, the plot compelling, and the illustrations were out of this world. I was awestruck by Wonderstruck.(less)
Ruthie Knapp tells the story of the infamous heist of the Mona Lisa by an Italian housepainter in 1911. This book provides great insight into Leonardo...moreRuthie Knapp tells the story of the infamous heist of the Mona Lisa by an Italian housepainter in 1911. This book provides great insight into Leonardo da Vinci and his techniques in creating one of the most famous works of art and Jill McElmurry lively illustrations help move the story along. While I enjoyed the book, some of the sidebar illustrations and tongue in cheek writing distract from the story.(less)
Bessie wants to do all the things that boys can do like go hiking, and cannot understand why there are different rules for girls. She is invited to a...moreBessie wants to do all the things that boys can do like go hiking, and cannot understand why there are different rules for girls. She is invited to a tea with Susan B. Anthony and learns about the "long fight for equal rights." This book tells the fictionalized story of Bessie Keith Pond, who lived in California in the late 1800s, and was from a long line of suffragists. Claire Rudolf Murphy weaves historical facts and artifacts in the endpapers. Given that few books about Susan B. Anthony are available that truly "hook" students, this story can serve as a starting point for biographical research.(less)
The endearing story of the Watsons—an African American family living in Flint Hill, Michigan, in 1963. The episodic format of this book is narrated by...moreThe endearing story of the Watsons—an African American family living in Flint Hill, Michigan, in 1963. The episodic format of this book is narrated by Kenny, the middle child, who introduces his family in a variety of vignettes from his brother’s intimate experience with a side-view mirror to meeting his best friend Rufus to his father’s purchase of an Ultra-glide, a record player for the car. After Byron disobeys his parents one too many times, the family embarks on a road trip to visit their grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama. This trip forever changes the family’s life after four young girls are killed in a church bombing.
Author Christopher Paul Curtis depicts the Watson’s family life with wit, humor, and honesty. Curtis delves into the complexities of relationships between siblings. This can be seen, especially, in Kenny’s relationship with Byron who is sometimes cruel and teasing to incredibly sensitive. He illustrates the difficulties in growing up through Kenny and Bryon’s triumphs and tribulations. Discrimination and prejudice are also explored through the Watson’s travels from Michigan to Alabama and the church bombing in Birmingham. Curtis adeptly deals with this subject in the book, and provides a powerful epilogue about discrimination in the United States and the Civil Rights movement. He compels readers to consider the unfair treatment of others and take action against any type of discrimination. (less)
Shane Evans provides a simple, yet poignant, portrayal of slaves and their escape via the Underground Railroad. The minimalist pictures and text speak...moreShane Evans provides a simple, yet poignant, portrayal of slaves and their escape via the Underground Railroad. The minimalist pictures and text speak volumes as the family portrayed moves from fear to freedom. As they progress in their journey, the colors become lighter and glow as they find freedom. This book is a great introduction to the Underground Railroad for younger readers.(less)
I have to admit that I was skeptical about this newest account of Henry "Box" Brown's daring and unconventional escape to freedom via the Underground...moreI have to admit that I was skeptical about this newest account of Henry "Box" Brown's daring and unconventional escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad as I'm a huge fan of Ellen Levine's version--Henry's Freedom Box, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. However, author Sally Walker takes a more lyrical approach to the subject by incorporating songs and spirituals into the story. The illustrations bear the mark of Sean Qualll's signature style. Students are drawn to Henry's story and this book would be a good addition to libraries and classrooms as an example of the workings of the Underground Railroad.(less)
This lovely book is a factionalized account of the relationship between the young Frederick Douglass and his mother, Harriet Bailey. Separated from he...moreThis lovely book is a factionalized account of the relationship between the young Frederick Douglass and his mother, Harriet Bailey. Separated from her beloved son at a young age, Harriet would work all day and then risk her life to travel at night to visit Frederick. Glenda Armand highlights and Colin Bootman illustrates the enduring themes of the bonds of parental love, family, hope, perseverance, and courage as Harriet shares her hopes, fears, and prayers over the twelve miles it takes to visit her son. Pair this with Words Set Me Free by Lesa Ciline Ransome and Illustrated by James Ransome. A must have for school libraries.(less)
A complex story told in simple prose set in the Kansas prairie in the late 1800s. May B. is forced to help out at frontier homestead to earn money for...moreA complex story told in simple prose set in the Kansas prairie in the late 1800s. May B. is forced to help out at frontier homestead to earn money for her family and lessen their burden of feeding and clothing another child. However, she wants to stay ay home and finish school to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher like her beloved Miss Sanders. She can tell something is amiss when she arrives at the Oblinger's soddy house. Soon the young Mrs. Oblinger, depressed at the notion of prairie living, flees the homestead and her husband follows in pursuit, thereby abandoning their young helper. May feels that she must be stupid as she has trouble holding words in her mind (she's dyslexic), but she manages to survive on her own for four months. A sad tale of hardship, survival, and coming of age that is reminiscent of Out of the Dust.(less)
Avi has blended fiction and history in this compelling and well-researched novel with the often untold perspective of young female protagonist living...moreAvi has blended fiction and history in this compelling and well-researched novel with the often untold perspective of young female protagonist living in New York during the American Revolution. Sophia's brother is a fiercely committed Patriot and ultimately perishes on a British prison ship. Sophia continues her brother's cause and seeks justice for all who suffered the atrocities of the British. Ultimately she becomes a spy and helps uncover Benedict Arnold's traitorous plan to turn over West Point to the British.
From my perspective as an elementary school librarian, you have to know your audience and/or student, given some given some of the language (hell, damned) and subtext. (less)