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My daughters and I found this book during a trip to the library,  and it has been a wonderful opportunity to share history with them as well as talk about the destructive nature of racism. The first thing that they noticed from the cover was Hazel Bryan's distorted face as she spewed racial slurs at  Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine. My response to them was, "Isn't it terrible that this young girl will always be remembered for her hatred towards another person?" And, one daughter responded, "She should have tried to be Elizabeth's friend." Such a simple response, yer so few people could fathom it in 1957. 

As I read this book with my daughters and explained the Civil Rights Movement, they were appalled that people were beaten and murdered simply because they wanted equality. Although the book isn't written to be emotional, there were times that I caught myself choking up at the sheer cruelty that people, "Christian" people, showed African Americans during this time. To know that Elizabeth Eckford was fifteen at the time, and grown adults (mothers, even) shouted to string her up in a tree to prevent her from entering Central High School, makes my skin crawl. 

I know that many people like to pretend that racism doesn’t exist today. Maybe minority women aren’t kicked off of buses anymore for refusing to give up their seats, but racism exists in many forms.  I just hope that there are enough of us teaching our children to look at the content of a person’s character rather than the color of skin to offset the consuming hatred that fuels bigotry.


 
 
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Há is a ten-year-old girl living in South Vietnam with her mother and older  brothers when she and her family barely escape the fall of Saigon in  1975. As they board the ship to America, Há knows that she will never see her  papyrus tree again, she will never see her friends again, and she will never see  her MIA father again. As her family settles into its new life in Alabama, Há  tells of the promise of democracy giving way to acts of racism as well as the  kindness of a few overcoming the hatred of many. 

Thanhha Lai weaves a simplistic, yet emotional, story that provides a new  perspective for how the Vietnam War changed people's lives forever. Told in  free-verse, the reading is fast-paced and easy to comprehend. My only complaint  is that this young adult National Book Award winner, which is slated for 8-12  years old, is clearly children's literature. Although I enjoyed the storyline in
the context of children's literature, the reading is too simplistic to be  categorized as young adult literature. It makes me wonder if this novel was  pushed into the NBA pool by cronyism. Decide for yourselves.

 
 
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Abby and Lena are best friends who love thrifting together. When Lena finds an Impulse polaroid camera during one of their hunts, she can't wait to start taking pictures. As she and Abby experiment with the camera, the images convey a disturbing figure that seems to want something. Lena soon discovers that the camera belonged to a young man who died in a tragic accident. As each day passes, Lena begins to realize that the young man never left the camera, and he has unfinished business that he wants Lena and Abby to perform - either willfully or possessed. 


My eight-year-old daughter chose this book for us to read together before bedtime. The basic premise of the book is interesting, and there are a few scary places, but the book mostly drags. In addition, the ending leaves too many loose ends that lead to the reader being completely dissatisfied. My daughter sums it up when she said, "They never explained whether or not Robbie was guilty. Plus, why was he on the tower in the first place? It's supposed to tell that stuff to make it better." 

Too many holes and too little action makes this novel a disappointing read.    


 
 
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I usually make it a practice not to read any literature meant for an audience younger than seventeen years of age because I tend to judge it too harshly. However, I received this book at a conference over a year ago, and was intrigued with the plotline since it was written about Hurricane Katrina (2005). 

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in the Ninth Ward with Mama Ya-Ya, her elderly guardian ever since her mother died giving birth to her. As the story progresses, the reader learns that Mama Ya-Ya has "the sight" that allows her to sense the fast approach of Hurricane Katrina. As citizens in the Ninth Ward prepare for the hurricane, Mama Ya-Ya's visions grow worse, and the reader learns that many of them didn't refuse to flee because of ignorance; they didn't flee because they couldn't afford hotels and gas.  Unfortunately, no one was prepared for the devastation that hit New Orleans that day. 

In an eloquent writing style, Rhodes does a superb job of using imagery that creates an understanding of the fear that ran throughout the Ninth Ward as Hurricane Katrina hit and the flood waters rose. She humanizes the people who lived in that part of New Orleans and shows that many of them had nothing and nowhere to go. In a land of plenty, it's often easy to forget about the ones who have barely enough. 

Although this book is about Hurricane Katrina, it's told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl. In addition, it's fictive writing, which means that it takes a real-life event and creates details that may or may not be completely accurate in an effort to tell a descriptive story. Although I enjoyed reading about Mama Ya-Ya's mysticism since it is an important aspect of Southern culture around New Orleanes, others may be turned off by the fantastical elements within this text. Basically, if you're looking for a nonfiction account of Hurricane Katrina, you won't want to read this one, but if you're looking for another creative perspective, then give it a try.

  

 
 
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Award winning author Russell Freedman weaves a mesmerizing tale of two men who seemed unlikely friends, and how their mutual drive for the abolition of slavery brought them together. With  painstaking detail and historical photographs, the reader sees famous, historical characters from the Civil War era come to life on the page. 

The book begins with Douglass waiting in the White House foyer to speak with President Lincoln. As he waits to "lay the complaints of his people at the president's door," the story flashes back between the two men's lives to show their rise to power. Although one man was Black and another man was White, they shared striking commonalities in their acquisition of an education as well as political ideals. Although they didn't always agree, and Douglass could be one of Lincoln's greatest critics, their last moments together were as friends who shared a mutual respect. 

I loved this book, which is saying a lot since I despise reading nonfiction. Ever since I was a child, I shied away from autobiographies and biographies because they were disconnected, dry, and dull. I could, honestly, care less what someone did 100 years ago. However, I couldn't put this book down. I read it in an hour, and I immediately showed it to my eight-year-old daughter and told her that she needs to read it because it does such a great job of humanizing the events of the Civil War and the people who were affected.

The book ends with Lincoln's assassination, and his final gift to Douglass. I have to admit that there were moments in this text that moved me to tears because of the struggles that people have faced and the hope that these two men instilled. They were, and are, two great examples for honoring each other as humans, first and foremost.

Ages: 9-12 years
Available June 19, 2012

 
 
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Love, love, love this series. I gave this to
my six-year-old because she's just learning to read, and she can't put it down. She has favorite sections that she'll open to, and she'll just giggle over and  over again.

The illustrations and storyline are so cute that parents shouldn't be deceived by all of the pink within the pages. Even my nephews love reading about this spunky mouse who can't help but be in the Christmas spirit. The plot is fun and deals with the struggles that most kids have when they get  caught up in the commercialism of gift-giving (and receiving). Through the witty banter between the narrator and Babymouse, readers not only get to laugh, but also get to think about what's really important during this holiday season. 

 
 
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In a world full of political unrest and uncertainty due to Hitler's cruelty, Joe Louis fights one of Germany's "perfect race" to show that people are worth more than their skin color and ethnicity. As the bell rings and East meets West, the crowd holds its breath to see who will be named the victor.

Matt de la Pena takes the historical events of boxer Joe Louis and creates an impressive children's story with beautiful illustrations (Kadir Nelson) and poetic writing. My daughters (six and seven) enjoy listening to the rythmic words as Louis's story unfolds. In addition, the author raises important questions about the role of race in Germany as well as the US, which provides opportunities to open a dialogue about the merits of multiculturalism and diversity.

 
 
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**I don't know how to accurately use accents on Latino names. I will learn. **

Neftali Reyes grew up as a sickly child who possessed a gift that his father did not value. A hard man who never showed affection, Senor Reyes hoped his son would become something of value - doctor, lawyer, businessman. Instead, Neftali found comfort in his pen and the words that flowed effortlessy onto his pages. Disgracing his father, he became a poet - "a thief that lived off of other people" - and denounced the government that used its laws to murder people.

Munoz-Ryan uses beautiful language and flowing images to give the reader a glimpse into the life of Neftali Reyes (a.k.a. Pablo Neruda), and the sacrifices he had to make to follow his dreams. Although the story is a work of fiction, she incorporates factual events and characters to add substance to the ambiguous details surrounding Neruda's life.

Overall, this book drags in a lot of places, and uses too much symbolism to make sense to young readers (without guidance).