Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow is a work of historical fiction that focuses on the Jim Crows laws in the south and the sport of baseball. Told fSatchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow is a work of historical fiction that focuses on the Jim Crows laws in the south and the sport of baseball. Told from the point of view of an unnamed black baseball player, it tells of the narrator's first encounter with the legendary Satchel Paige. From there, it shows how their lives differed from that moment, and the final baseball game where Satchel Paige brilliantly struck out three white players. There are many elements that make Satchel Paige, Striking out Jim Crow, a success. Although the presence of a fictional narrator and his story prevents the story from being a true biography, the author does a great job of weaving in facts from Paige's life as well as information about the Jim Crow laws. The artwork is very simple, done in black, white and gold tones, but it effectively manages to capture the tension and excitement presented in a baseball game, as well as the emotions of the main character. After the story has been told, there are several pages which expand on the historical background of certain panels, giving the readers more information on topics like sharecropping, the negro baseball league, and Paige's life. The writers do not shy away from some of the more disturbing elements of racism, as can be seen in the silhouette of a man that has been lynched, and the mention of the n-word, making it a read more for mature readers. Recommend Grade Level- 5 and up Genre- historical fiction...more
Neftali is a young man who loves words and can find magic in ordinary places. He lives a life of tyranny under his cruel father who wishes to mold NefNeftali is a young man who loves words and can find magic in ordinary places. He lives a life of tyranny under his cruel father who wishes to mold Neftali into his own ideas of success and masculinity. The Dreamer follows Neftali as he grows from a scared young boy to a passionate young man, and hints at the great poet he will one day become. This unique book combines illustrations by Peter Sis with text by author Pam Munoz Ryan. The illustrations are simple and at times even abstract. Next to many is a simple yet often profound scrap of poetry. These illustrations do a great job of enhancing the dream-like atmosphere of the piece. Although written in third person, the writing is highly influenced by Neftali's imagination. When he imagines the numbers of his math homework flying off the page, we get to see that as he does. As a result, the book does a great job of getting the reader to understand Neftali's plight, and feel sympathy for him. The book finishes off with information on the poet that Neftali grew up to be, as well as samples of his poetry. Although it is not necessary to read this extra material to enjoy the book, it provides a treat for people who are curious to see what happens to Neftali after the book ends. Recommended Grade Level- 3-6 Genre- historical fiction...more
The Silent Boy is a story about a unique relationship between Katy Thatcher, a young girl with dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Jacob,The Silent Boy is a story about a unique relationship between Katy Thatcher, a young girl with dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Jacob, a special needs boy that cannot speak but has a close connection with animals. When Jacob unknowingly does something unforgivable, only Katy can understand why. The Silent Boy is a work of historical fiction taking place in the early 1900s. The book features a photograph at the beginning of each section, which does a great job of future immersing the reader in the time period. A lot of time is also spent showing the difference between Katy’s family, which appears rather wealthy, and Jacob’s family, which is not. Katy is a rather young narrator, but is mature enough that older children will be able to relate to her. The ending is rather shocking. Some may conservative adults may consider it too shocking for young children, but Lowry builds up to it in a rather logical way so it makes sense. It’s interesting that this is a children’s story, as Katy herself, reflecting as an older woman, mentions that this is not a story for children. Still, it’s one that most older children should be able to appreciate, and adults as well. Recommended Grade Level- 5 and up Genre- historical fiction...more
In 1943, Dewey Kerrigan’s life is changed forever when she is sent to live with her father in Los Alamos, a town that officially does not exist on anyIn 1943, Dewey Kerrigan’s life is changed forever when she is sent to live with her father in Los Alamos, a town that officially does not exist on any maps. Here lives a community of some of the brightest minds in the world. They are all heavily at work on a special gadget that can help win the war for the United States. Here Dewey meets Suze, another young girl that she initially does not get along with, but eventually becomes her closest friend. The Green Glass Sea is a interesting historical fiction novel that has the potential to appeal to readers regardless of their knowledge of World War 2. Some less patient readers may be dissatisfied with the slower pacing, but others may find themselves drawn into the plot about the developing friendship between the two young girls, as well as the air of mystery that permeates the setting. Klages is a talented writer that does a good job of immersing the reader in the past. Occasionally the narrative slips into a more focused present tense to focus on the thoughts and experiences of one characters. These moments can be heart breaking. The presence of caring parental figures is also quite satisfying. One of the best parts of the book is the warm relationship between Dewey and her father. Recommended Grade Level- 5 and up Genre- Historical Fiction...more
When Katie's parents receive new jobs, their family is forced to move from their home in Iowa to Georgia. One of the few Japanese-Americans in town duWhen Katie's parents receive new jobs, their family is forced to move from their home in Iowa to Georgia. One of the few Japanese-Americans in town during the 1950s, they struggle at first to fit in. The largest challenge of all comes when Lynn, Katie's older sister and idol, becomes gravely ill. Kira-Kira is a sometimes bright, sometimes sad book about sisterhood and family. The reader will quickly warm up to the likable Takeshima family, especially Kaite and Lynn's humorous uncle. Katie herself is a complex heroine, who admits that she has a habit for being “bad” but still deeply cares about her family. Kira-Kira touches on many issues of the time, such as racism and labor disputes at the factories where Katie's parents work, but the crux of the story is Katie's relationship with Lynn. When the book opens, young Katie views her older sister with a kind of hero worship, and even as things come between them, whether that be boys or disease, nothing can break Katie's devotion to her sister. When it comes to Lynn's disease, the book is not afraid to descend to some darker territory that parents may not feel that their children are ready to encounter. For all of the sad moments of story, the novel does end of a note of hope. Kira-kira is a beautifully written story about family, poverty and loss that will make the reader laugh and cry.
Houdini: The Handcuff King is a graphic biography about master magician and escape artists, Harry Houdini. Instead of trying to tell about Houdini's eHoudini: The Handcuff King is a graphic biography about master magician and escape artists, Harry Houdini. Instead of trying to tell about Houdini's entire life in an eighty-two page graphic novel, the comic instead tells the story behind one trick and how that one trick expressed so much about Houdini's life. Here we are able to learn about his daring, his devotion to his wife Bess, his sense of showmanship, his insatiable pride, and demand for loyalty from his employees. This paints us a picture of Houdini as a complex man, far from perfect, but no less interesting for it. The illustrations for this comic are done with minimal lines and color that successfully manage to personify the emotions of the character, as well as create tension during the actual trick when Houdini jumps off a bridge into the Charles River. The art is presented with several blocks on each page, except for a few important moments which are given full page spreads. The several pages of further back story and in depth introduction, is just as interesting as the comic itself. Though these pages we are able to see more information on Houdini's life and death, as well as life in Boston and Cambridge during the early 1900s. Houdini: The Handcuff King is an effective graphic novel, both educational and suspenseful, that effectively tells the tale of one larger than life man who's great works are still remembered a hundred years later.
Ruby's Wish tells the story of a young girl growing up in China who is given the unique experience of being allowed to go to school as a child, despitRuby's Wish tells the story of a young girl growing up in China who is given the unique experience of being allowed to go to school as a child, despite the fact that she is female. Ruby's biggest wish is to attend a university like her brothers. Ruby's Wish is a lovely story written by Shirin Yium Bridges. She does a fantastic job of immersing the reader in China. The story behind Ruby's Wish is a true one, and the author at the end reveals that Ruby is actually her grandmother. This gives the book a nice personal touch. The version I experienced was translated to DVD format, with the author narrating. Shirin has a calming voice, making her an appropriate narrator. Sophie Blackwell's illustrations are left intact, but the camera chooses to focuses on specific parts to emphasize certain character moments. This does a good job of giving the otherwise stagnant images movement. The DVD also includes a useful study guide for the classroom, with activities to complete before and after viewing the DVD, as well as vocabulary words. This makes Ruby's Wish a useful classroom too, but a pricey one at almost $50 for a ten minute DVD....more
Eleven-year-old Galena is a Russian immigrant who lives in New York City in the early 1900s. To help support her family, she does not go to school andEleven-year-old Galena is a Russian immigrant who lives in New York City in the early 1900s. To help support her family, she does not go to school and instead works at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory with her older sister. When a large fire breaks out, the workers panic and Galena cannot find her sister. The results of the fire will change Galena's life, and the life of New Yorkers forever. The Locket is a work of historical fiction based on a real life event that took place in New York City. One thing the author does incredibly well is transport the reader back to the early 20th century. Her descriptions from Galena's every day life, to the design of the factory, to horrors that occur in the fire itself are very impressive and feel accurate. The author supplements this by providing a short essay in the back of the book with more information on the fire and the time period, as well as a list of further reading. Lieurance provides accurate descriptions of the fire, including the sight of girl's hair catching on fire, and jumping off the roof of the building. These descriptions are true to life, but not overly graphic, although some people may still feel that they are inappropriate for children. One area where Lieurance struggles a bit more is in characterization. Although Galena is an interesting lead, many of the other characters come off as rather two-dimensional. As a result, the dialogue can feel clunky and unrealistic. As a whole, The Locket is a likable book about a young girl who survives a tragedy and then has to determine how to deal with the consequences. Recommended Grade Level- 3-6...more
Every year in the towns of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge, a softball game takes place between two sixth grade teams. In 1949, each team is convinced thaEvery year in the towns of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge, a softball game takes place between two sixth grade teams. In 1949, each team is convinced that they are going to win. Bear Ridge Creek believes they are going to win because of Aki, an incredibly talented Japanese-American who has spent a years in an Interment Camp during World War II. Barlow believes they are going to win because of Shazam, a phenomenal player with a horrible secret. No one could have predicted what ended up happening at the Bat 6 baseball game in 1949.
Bat 6 is a work of historical fiction about racism and living in post World War II America. The author skillfully paints the time period, and religious and political beliefs of the people during that time. The issue of racism is dealt with in a head on manner that some people may not seen as appropriate for young readers, but the overall message, being that racism is bad and has consequences, is well played out. The story is told through the alternate points of view of the twenty-one girls in in the Bat 6 softball game. The use of so many narrators is interesting, as if gives the reader many different reactions and opinions, but at times feels overwhelming. It can be difficult to keep the names and stories of the twenty-one narrators straight for an adult reader, never mind a child. There are a few characters who feel very well established. It is impressive that the author takes so much time to develop Shazam, who's dislike of Japanese may seem shocking. Still, one leaves the book believing that Shazam is not necessarily a bad child, but someone who has had such beliefs pounded into her, and struggles with letting them go. Bat 6 may start off slow, but once the story gets to the softball game, the readers patience will pay off as they are treated to an interesting story about softball, racism, and small town life in the 1940s. Recommended Grade level- 4-6...more
After hearing that her finace has been unfaithful to her, Sovay masquerades as a highwayman to see if he will willingly give up the ring that symbolizAfter hearing that her finace has been unfaithful to her, Sovay masquerades as a highwayman to see if he will willingly give up the ring that symbolizes their love for each other. When she discovers her father is under suspicion for seditious activities, her midnight rides take a more serious turn. When she comes across a wallet which is filled with paperwork about possible traitors to the crown, Sovay gains access to a much bigger problem, involving secret societies and wicked men.
Sovay is the fourth book I've read by Celia Rees (the other three being Witch Child, Sorceress, and Pirates!), and it's the only one that I haven't enjoyed. Admittedly, some of the reasons I did not enjoy this book is not necessarily Rees's fault. First off, I really didn't do my homework well before picking Sovay up. After skimming the summaries online, I thought I was going to read a Robin-Hood like book about a female highwayman. The tagline on the cover “She Fought for Life, She Robbed for Love” seemed to confirm that. Ultimately, Sovay is not a story of a female highwayman, and that aspect is just a small part of the book. Instead it's a story of life in England during the French Revolution, with an emphasis on secret societies, neither which interest me that much. If I had read some of the reviews online, I would have been a little more prepared for this.
At the same time, there are more problems in Sovay than just my bad research. It's not poorly written. One thing that Rees has not abandoned is her ability to transport the reader back in time. She has a knack for providing little details, whether they be of dress, architecture, or the natural world, that really enhance the feeling of authenticity, a must in any work of historical fiction. The dialogue is for the most part, okay, although a few of the lines are eye roll worthy. The main problem (which, I would have known if I had bothered to read any of the reviews online beforehand) is that there's just too much going on. At first, it's a retelling of Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman." Then it's a story of political intrigue in London. Then it's a Gothic horror story at Thursley. Then, they travel to France, and it's a story of the horrors of French Revolution. There's enough material here for three or four books, which results in the four hundred page tome feeling quite overstuffed. Ultimately, certain parts of the book read better than others. I liked the horror section, but I wasn't really fond of the revolution section at all.
One result of overstuffed plot is that little time is spent developing characters, resulting in them feeling shallow. I had a hard time figuring out why characters did certain things. Like why did Sovay continue her masquerade after finding out her fiance was unfaithful. We're given some explanation about fighting for her family's name, but I don't see how disguising herself as stealing from people that pass her lands is doing much for anyone's name. It's certainly convenient to the plot though. This shallow characterization doesn't help the fact that the beautiful, spirited, self-sacrificing Sovay with her three love interests is a difficult narrator to relate to from the start. It doesn'r help that people are always talking about how amazing she is, which gets old after a while. To be honest, I was much more interested in some of the secondary characters, such as the American spy Virgil, or the charming rogue Captain Greenwood, and would have liked to hear their stories even more.
There are things to enjoy about Sovay. The author does the great job of describing England and France in the late 18th century, and some of the side characters caught my attention. Unfortunately, the book is over-ambitious. The many different genres result in a book that feels simultaneously overstuffed and underdeveloped, and the protagonist, Sovay, was difficult to relate to. This doesn't mean that I will never read another book by Celia Rees again, but I may be a little more discerning when it comes to selecting one....more
After Jacky Faber is discovered as being a girl, she is kicked off of her ship and sent to an upper-class school for girls in Boston. Only Jacky isn’tAfter Jacky Faber is discovered as being a girl, she is kicked off of her ship and sent to an upper-class school for girls in Boston. Only Jacky isn’t too good at being a lady, or upper class. She struggles with her embroidery, and quickly makes an enemy in the wealthy Clarissa Worthington. It doesn’t take that much time for her to start getting into trouble either. Before she knows it, Jacky finds herself bumped down from high-class lady in to serving girl. How will she manage to survive her new life in Boston?
I was a little nervous about picking up Curse of the Blue Tattoo, the second Bloody Jack book, as it’s been well over a year since I’ve read the first. Luckily, I found that the book was very easy to pick up after so much time away. Jacky remains an incredibly likeable narrator, passionate and fearless, even though she can have appalling bad judgment at times. Although the nautical flare from the first story is mostly absent here, as someone that grew up pretty close to Boston, I found that I connected to this story very well. I really enjoyed picking up on the street names or landmarks that I have visited.
I have to admire L.A. Meyer for this one. Not only does he accurately capture a female voice, but does a great job commenting on women’s issues in the early 1800s. Throughout the book, we see Jacky, who has spent the last year masquerading as a boy, really struggle with the concept of being a lady. Sure, she takes to her studies well enough, but when it comes to issues like decorum, no matter how much she tries, it’s impossible to fit her into the mold that society expects of her. We see this struggle on a smaller scale with her friend Amy, who on the surface, appears to be the model of a fine young lady, but has a deep desire to learn on an academic level, publish her writing, and teach. I found Amy to be a very likable character, and really enjoyed watching her friendship with Jacky. In fact, I enjoyed all of the female friendships displayed in this book. I often feel as if novels often lack strong female friendships, discarding them for romantic plotlines or, my least favorite type of story, the two close friends that are torn apart by their love for one man. This is not a problem here at all. I was surprised to see that Curse of the Blue Tattoo is not completely free of romance, as Jacky spends the entire book separated from her Jaimy, but it makes sense that as she picks up male friends, and female friends, that eventually they would start to pair off. This is another aspect of the book I enjoyed.
Curse of the Blue Tattoo is a really fun book. It’s only drawback is that the ending feels a bit rushed, almost as if there were supposed to be one more chapter that we’re missing. This flaw feels trivial compared to the fun that is the rest of the book. Jacky provides a real unique viewpoint on Boston, not just due to her background as an orphan and Ship’s Boy, but even due to the fact that she’s English, as has entered a country that has recently freed itself from English law. I will be picking up the rest of the books in this series. Only this time I won’t wait as long to pick up the next volume! ...more