Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust is a captivating story about a young girl living during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, which greatly affected OklahKaren Hesse’s Out of the Dust is a captivating story about a young girl living during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, which greatly affected Oklahoma farmers as they struggled to survive under extremely harsh conditions. The novel’s protagonist, Billie Jo, tells her story through a series of diary entries written as free verse poems. In the book, a horrible accident occurs that changes everything for Billie Jo and her family, causing her to desperately want to escape from the dust and harsh realities of life. However, the personal journey Billy Jo is forced to go through as a consequence of the accident does ultimately lead her "out of the dust," but in a very surprising and unexpected way.
I highly recommend this book for anyone studying the Great Depression. The dust storms and the economic disaster that Hesse writes about allows for readers to truly feel connected to the hardships faced by the characters of the book. The form in which the book is written also gives students the chance to learn about a period in history while simultaneously interpreting poetry. While students are often reluctant to study this genre, this is the type of book in which students become so immersed, they forget they are reading and interpreting poetry. Instead, they focus on the story and are drawn into the lives of the characters. ...more
In the beautifully written novel, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, the reader follows the life of Liesel Meminger during World War II in Germany. HoweIn the beautifully written novel, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, the reader follows the life of Liesel Meminger during World War II in Germany. However, the story is told through a rather unique and interesting narrator, which I believe helps readers to connect to the characters on a greater level. While many books written about this time period seem to focus primarily on how Jewish people were affected during the war, Zusak provides insight into how the war affected Jews, Germans, Nazis, children, and families. Also, the relationships formed between the various characters throughout the story provide insight into and illustrate the lengths people went to help others during a time period in which there was little hope or optimism. I strongly encourage people to read this book. It's the type of story you cannot help but think about even after you have finished reading. ...more
In Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow the author, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, provides readers with an interesting perspective of World War IIIn Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow the author, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, provides readers with an interesting perspective of World War II and the Holocaust, one that I think is often overlooked by teachers when educating students about this time period. Bartoletti is able to portray the characters in a way that makes it easier for students to understand how easy it was for German youth to be persuaded by Hitler's propaganda, which I believe also serves as a good lesson for our schools' impressionable children. Furthermore, from reading this book, students will be able to see that not all Nazis were aware of the atrocities that were being committed. I believe this is a powerful book that should be used in classrooms studying World War II (however, I also think a teacher needs to be sensitive to their student population in terms of age and culture when introducing this book to students). Not only does this book provide a glimpse into and answer questions about the past, but I also believe it can serve as a tool that students can use to help answer questions about current world issues. ...more
Christopher Paul Curtis's, Elijah of Buxton, is a captivating coming-of-age story about Elijah and his experience growing up in Buxton, Canada duringChristopher Paul Curtis's, Elijah of Buxton, is a captivating coming-of-age story about Elijah and his experience growing up in Buxton, Canada during the 1850s. Throughout the story, Curtis vividly illustrates what life was like for the freed slaves of Buxton by incorporating historical information regarding the settlement and slavery in America. I highly recommend this book be taught to middle school students that are studying slavery and the Underground Railroad. While I felt that some of the events that take place in the story unfolded at too leisurely a pace, I think children will ultimately enjoy this book, specifically due to Curtis's portrayal of Elijah and the way in which children will find him an intriguing and relatable character. ...more
Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff, is a story about an orphaned girl, named Hollis Woods, who is an extremely talented artist. While dPictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff, is a story about an orphaned girl, named Hollis Woods, who is an extremely talented artist. While described as "a mountain of trouble," by former foster families and social workers, Giff illustrates Hollis as a loving and caring child who only wishes for a family of her own. While Hollis lives with Josie, a retired art teacher who seems to be suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's for the majority of the book, Giff incorporates Hollis's fond and loving memories of her stay with the Regan family. Her time spent with Josie and memories of the Regan family make for a beautifully written story, that I highly recommend. The only reason I did not give the story five stars is due to the fact that I found it to be a bit slow at parts, yet I still think this is a book that should be read by students in middle school and above. ...more
Messenger, by Lois Lowry is a compelling story that can easily be enjoyed by a variety of students, no matter what their interests. However, I do notMessenger, by Lois Lowry is a compelling story that can easily be enjoyed by a variety of students, no matter what their interests. However, I do not believe this novel is appropriate for young readers. It contains some mature themes that can be disturbing to young children. Yet, I highly recommend this book for students, ages eleven and above. The book is great to read with a class, and can easily be tied to important lessons students need to learn. There are also many comparisons one can make between the village and current issues within our society, which I believe can create class discussions and learning experiences for the class. ...more
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters is an exceptional African Cinderella tale. Steptoe illustrates the importance showing kindness and compassion towards allMufaro's Beautiful Daughters is an exceptional African Cinderella tale. Steptoe illustrates the importance showing kindness and compassion towards all types of people through the protagonist of the story, Nyasha. Also, unlike many European versions of Cinderlla, Nyasha takes a more proactive stance in regards to the outcome of her life, which I believe is important for young readers, especially females, to observe. Furthermore the illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. ...more
Marjane Satrapi's autobiography, Persepolis, is a fascinating story about her life as a child in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War.Marjane Satrapi's autobiography, Persepolis, is a fascinating story about her life as a child in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War. Through her eyes, the reader learns what life was like for the suppressed citizens of Iran, where war, death, and fear were a part of everyday life. The book contains accurate information about Iranian history, as well as a firsthand account of her life and experiences. The fact that Satrapi tells her story in the format of a graphic novel makes this book appealing to a wide range of readers and ages. The illustrations bring meaning to her story, yet the cartoon element makes the harsh reality of war easier to digest. This is a story that would be great to use as a resource for Social Studies class when studying this region and time period (particularly for middle and high school students). ...more
Peter Sis's, The Wall, is a picture book that is easily enjoyable for students of all ages (elementary - high school). In the story, Sis writes aboutPeter Sis's, The Wall, is a picture book that is easily enjoyable for students of all ages (elementary - high school). In the story, Sis writes about a young boy growing up in the Soviet Union during The Cold War and his interest in western culture that he has to keep hidden. Throughout the text, Sis also incorporates personal diary entries and information from the period. The way in which he incorporates information makes it easy for readers of all ages to follow and understand, and his wonderful illustrations, which are black, white, and red when describing The Soviet Union and multi-colored when depicting western culture truly seem to capture the time and people who lived in the Soviet Union during The Cold War. I highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who has an interest in this period of history. ...more
Dinosaurs Before Dark is the first installment of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series. In the story, siblings Annie and Jack discover a tree hDinosaurs Before Dark is the first installment of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series. In the story, siblings Annie and Jack discover a tree house that contains numerous books on a variety of subjects. While skimming through a book about dinosaurs, Jack makes a wish that transports them back in time over sixty-five million years ago. While Annie and Jack explore the land, Osborne subtly incorporates information about various types of dinosaurs that Jack and Annie encounter.
I recommend this book for young readers who are just beginning to read chapter books independently. Osborne breaks the book down into ten chapters, each containing a black-and-white illustration. While I myself have never been that interested in dinosaurs, the Magic Tree House series appeals to a wide range of readers in that Osborne writes about all different time periods and people. ...more