Told through the point of view of Allen Say, "Grandfather’s Journey" describes Say’s grandfather’s life as he left his home country of Japan in orderTold through the point of view of Allen Say, "Grandfather’s Journey" describes Say’s grandfather’s life as he left his home country of Japan in order to travel the world and inevitably end up in California. Throughout the course of his life, Say’s grandfather constantly struggled with always wanting to be in both countries at once, and would eventually pass down that turmoil onto Say. His grandfather’s arrival in North America is detailed through its lyrical prose, as well as its rich watercolor paintings and static use of line work. The simple and effective text both guides the illustrations, yet works independently of them as well. The soft watercolor paintings fit the tone of the story and Say uses color appropriately throughout: darker tones for darker periods and lighter tones for happier times. Each page contains a large illustration with one or two sentences accompanying it, creating a nice balance between the two. Say manages to effectively represent his grandfather’s emotions in the text and illustrations. The novel displays more traditional depictions of Japanese people and their culture, but few modern images are shown during his grandfather’s time in California. Since Say is writing about his own personal history, he does not show a great deal of cultural variety, but more so his own cultural family traditions. Japanese traditions are beautifully represented in the book in a way that would by no means offend that culture, but produce honor. "Grandfather’s Journey" is ideal for children ages 5-8, but can easily be enjoyed by anyone. ...more
"The Servant" is a coming of age story, set during the 1987 Lebanese Civil War, of 15-year-old Faten who is send to work as a live-in maid for a wealt"The Servant" is a coming of age story, set during the 1987 Lebanese Civil War, of 15-year-old Faten who is send to work as a live-in maid for a wealthy family in Beirut, away from her family, friends, and education. Wanting more out of life though, she seeks the help of her friends, which includes the handsome Marwan, in assisting her with her dream of becoming a nurse and finding the freedom to live her life. The Servant is a powerful story of love, bravery, and freedom.
The story offers a lot of historical description and insight into Lebanese culture. Even though Faten’s story is set against harrowing circumstances, her positive attitude never waivers and is inspiring. She is hopeful and determined even when the odds are against her and it appears she will not reach her goal. While the book is translated over from Arabic and set against a different culture, issues of love, patriarchy, social status, and tradition are ones found in nearly every culture and one's people can identify with.
The book was very enjoyable and even though it was short, it still contained a lot of information and left a lasting impression on me. It was informative and gave me further insight into Lebanese culture and conflict. I have always been slightly aware of what was happening over there, but this book really shined a new light on it and made me understand these issues on a much deeper and meaningful level. Even though the characters were not very well developed, Faten’s story was still eye opening and a humbling reminder of how lucky we are in America. "The Servant" is a quick read that packs a punch....more
When Fing’s family of nine decides to move to the country so her father can start a cigar business, they find themselves living across from a cemeteryWhen Fing’s family of nine decides to move to the country so her father can start a cigar business, they find themselves living across from a cemetery in a rickety old house christened Nine Open Arms – a house so full of mystery and secrets that it will either lead to their salvation or worse, downfall.
The book offers much historical insight into 1930s Germany and the 1860s, which allows readers to see how cultural traditions had a great impact on people’s livelihood and manner -- especially on women. There was also a lot of amazing history behind the house, which is a very realistic reflection of the times. There is an aura of mystery surrounding the story because of all the unanswered questions posed throughout most of the book, all leading up to a grand revelation.
Even though the story is translated over from Dutch with some of the language peppered in, there is a glossary at the beginning and list of characters that helps readers and it does not take away from the story. The overarching themes of family and their issues are universal and ones people from all cultures can identify with. "Nine Open Arms" is great for older audiences due to the intricacy of the book and how involved the story is, but it’s a great challenge for middle graders....more