Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strings Attached

by Judy Blundell

Kit Corrigan has dreamed about being on Broadway since she was little.  Now in New York, leaving her past behind her, she's working in a chorus line in an off-Broadway show just hoping to be discovered.  But when her ex-boyfriend's father shows up, offering her an apartment and a dream job working as a Lido dancer if she's make up with Billy.  But Kit soon realizes that making up with the boy she still loves isn't the only thing that Nate Benedict wants from her.  As rumors swirl about Nate's true occupation as lawyer to the mob, Kit finds herself caught up in more than she bargained for.

Blundell's book is a great historical piece about life in the 50's.  Kit is a hopeful young girl striking out in the world on her own, eager to leave family troubles behind her.  What she finds instead is that the things you try to leave behind never really stay where you want them.  It's a fun read with a bit of suspense that older tweens will like.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 8th Grade

The Lions of Little Rock

by Kristin Levine

It's the beginning of the school year in 1958 in Little Rock, and Marlee is not excited about it.  She's not much of a talker you see, and this year she starts middle school, with teachers she's never met before, who probably will want her to talk. But on her first day of school she meets Liz, a new student who becomes her best friend.  But when it's revealed that Liz is actually African American, both girls have to learn to stand up on their own and force those around them to realize that perhaps race shouldn't be a reason to dislike a person. 

Lions of Little Rock is a book about great courage.  Both girls demonstrate remarkable maturity throughout the book, even when those around them tell them they are in the wrong for being friends.  The book is set during the height of the civil rights movement, the year after the Little Rock 9 had been allowed to attend a 'whites only' school.  The book explains the hatred and fear that spread through the communities regardless of their views, and the worry that those who opposed segregation felt even as they worked to ban it.  The book is a great read for tweens. 

Age Level-5th-6th Grade
Genre: Historical Fiction

Friday, August 10, 2012

Turtle in Paradise

by Jennifer Holm

Turtle and her Mama are like 2 peas in a pod.  Well, at least they were til her Mama sent her to live with relatives in Key West since Mama was working as a housekeeper for a lady who didn't like children.  Now she's living with her aunt and cousins in a ramshackle house on the keys, surrounded by even more family members she's never met.  But she finds ways to keep busy, helping her cousins with their babysitting business (even if no girls are officially allowed) and discovering a map to some buried treasure.  But when a freak storm comes in while she and her cousins are looking for treasure they are left stranded and just hoping that someone will find them.  Adventures in the comics always turn out swell, but will they in real life?

Holm's book is not your typical book about a family during the Great Depression.  While it touches on themes of want and talks about how far people have to travel for work, the overarching theme through the book is about family and being resourceful.  Turtle is a spunky character many girls will identify with.  The quirky Key West family she finds herself with are colorful and fun, making me wish I lived in the Keys myself.   It's an absolutely fabulous book for tweens, especially those who like a little bit of adventure in their books.

Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 4-5th Grade

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone

by Kat Rosenfield

Becca can't wait to move away from college, to shake off the trappings of her small town life and move somewhere new and exciting, never to come back.  But when a girl from out of town is found murdered on the same night Becca graduates, the repercussions shake the entire town's foundations. Becca finds herself trapped, worrying about the girl that no one knows, unsure of who is telling her the truth.  Murders don't happen in her hometown, or at least they didn't.  Now they are left wondering who among them could have done it, who among them has gotten away with it.

Rosenfield's book is both well written and engaging.  The book is told mainly from Becca's point of view beginning at the time when the murder occurs, the book is interspersed with chapters from Amelia Anne's point of view from her last day alive.  The resulting novel draws readers in and leaves them guessing til the very end about who did it.  It is a great story about the repercussions a tragic event has not only on those immediately involved but also all those peripherally around it.  The book is great for any teens who like murder mysteries. 

Genre: Mystery
Age Level: 8-9th Grade

Never Fall Down

by Patricia McCormick

Arn had always been the one with the plan in his family.  Always scheming to find a way to make a little money so he could buy treats for his siblings, or a little extra food for the family.  But when the Khmer Rouge comes to Cambodia, Arn's skills turn out to be what saves his life.  Whether it is staying out of trouble with the guards at the kids camp he is sent to, or learning to play a musical instrument and sing for the military higher ups, or learning to shoot a gun and kill to save himself, he finds a way to survive.  But what is the cost of his survival?  How do you live with yourself when everyone you love is dead, when you have committed terrible acts to live?

Never Fall Down is a story of how one boy survives the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.  The book is based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond.  His recollections of the war are mixed with what McCormick imagines happened to create an incredibly compelling and gruesome story.  The book is incredibly frank in it's telling of the thousands of killings that happened in Cambodia at the time.  Arn is almost completely disconnected emotionally from his telling of watching people murdered in front of him or doing the killing himself.  It is a brutal reminder of the atrocities of war from the point of view of a child who should never have had to have witnessed it, not to mention participate in.  The book is a great book for teens, but due to the violence is really best for older teens or those who are a bit more mature.

Genre: War Fiction
Age Level: 10-11th Grade

Breaking Stalin's Nose

by Eugene Yelchin

Sasha has waited for the moment he could finally become a Young Pioneer for almost his entire life, all ten years of it.  His dad is his hero, a guard for the Kremlin who roots out anyone who doesn't support Communism.  He thinks Stalin is the best leader that Russia could ever have, and writes him letters telling him so.  But all that changes when his father is taken by the police on suspicion of being a spy for the West.  Sasha must choose between being loyal to his father or supporting his beloved Communism.  He realizes that perhaps everything he had believed in isn't quite what he was told. 

What I liked most about this book is the way Sasha evolved from being a boy who idolized a system and saw no flaws in it to one who was able to see in a quick period that no system could ever be perfect.  Many children who grow up in dictatorships or other types of systems know no other way of being, so they accept that their system is the best with no qualifiers.  Sasha sees Communism as the absolute best, and Stalin as the best provider they could have (I liked one scene where he is given a carrot as a treat and thinks that he is lucky because American kids have probably never had a carrot.)  The book is well written and provides some history with a story that is engaging for children (though depressing for adults who know more about Russian history.)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 4th Grade