Phoebe’s Heron ticks all the right boxes for me: a bright young girl, in a loving family, confronting complex issues. I enjoyed the role played by boom-town Denver in the 1900s as an effective backdrop and contrast to the semi-isolated mountaintop life in the new home in the Colorado Rockies foothills where uprooted Phoebe’s coming of age unfolds. In the mountain setting, Phoebe has plenty of free time to develop a friendship with a local boy, Jed, and his affable dog, Mike. However, it turns out that Jed and his father are market hunters, who shoot wild birds for their feathers. [Click on book cover above to read the full review …]
The early chapters of Beyond the Bright Sea unfold at a subdued pace, but one that manages to reveal stunning information: a newborn’s unexplained arrival on an isolated island in the North Atlantic, an austere but tender-hearted man who discovers the baby strapped to a boat and takes her as his responsibility, and a trusted neighbor woman whose steady presence anchors the unmoored pair into a sort of family. That purposeful pace sets the hook before the story accelerates. [Click on book cover above to read the full review …]
Much is made, among readers and writers, of the power of a memorable opening line. In the case of Wolf Hollow, debut novelist Wolk manages to hook readers in the first ten words of a two-page prologue: “The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.” Line after line, page after page, character after character, the story builds, strengthens, deepens, and never disappoints. [Click on book cover above to read the full review …]
The story of Robert Smalls is most likely not known by many. Born to a house slave in 1839, he would go on to accomplish one of the most daring escapes of the American Civil War. Seven Miles to Freedom is a biography, but because of its picture-book format and striking oil paintings, this book should appeal to all ages. This is a gem of a title, a perfect choice for Black History Month.
Last year, author Jennifer A. Nielsen visited my school. Her book, A Night Divided, carried me back to my visit to Berlin in 1984, when the wall still sliced the city in two. At first, I saw little to like. The air was thick with the residue of coal-burning, bombed-out and bullet-pocked buildings were stark reminders of World War II, and a huge concrete wall with barbed wire, minefields, and guard towers snaked through the middle of the city. But somehow Berlin, so steeped in history, won my heart. Thanks, Jennifer Nielsen, for reminding me of this adventure in my life, and for the many other books on Berlin that tell stories of our humanity, stories we must not forget. [Click on book cover above to read the full article & list of books …]
When I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I passed right by the second sentence: “This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.” Yet somehow the sentence lodged itself in a dark recess of my brain. Only as an adult, did I begin to understand the huge impact that the London evacuation during World War II had on a generation of children. Now, I work in an elementary school library. When I unpacked The War that Saved my Life, it went to the top of my Must Read list. [Click on book cover above to read the full review …]
Louise Erdrich is one of our finest writers, winner of many literary prizes for her adult fiction. The daughter of an Ojibwe mother and a German-American father, Erdrich’s novels explore Native-American themes with memorable characters, storytelling, and often, a graceful touch of magical realism. Her children’s books, especially The Birchbark House series, also explore Ojibwe history, and are likewise deeply steeped in a wonderful storytelling tradition. As Horn Book noted, “Readers will absorb the history lesson almost by osmosis; their full attention will be riveted on the story.” [Click on image above to read the full article …]
The history of our relationship with Cuba is a complex one.
Now, thankfully, we have recovered to the point where the two countries have begun to explore better relations. Here are two kids’ books set in the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, going beyond the fears and hysteria of the political conflict to look for the common hopes and dreams of young individuals trying to make sense of the complicated time. [Click on image above to read the full article …]
More than thirty years ago I didn’t know much about May 17. Norway’s annual holiday (Syttende Mai in Norwegian) is similar to our American Fourth of July. Then I got a chance to travel to Norway, where I heard delightful family stories, and fell in love with that country and the warm-hearted people I met. Of the many stories I heard, the ones about life during the Second World War were among the most memorable. [Click on image above to read the full article …]
Philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” For most of us, knowledge of the past does not come from textbooks but from stories – stories told when generations gather around the dining table, in movies or on the flickering TV set in the family room, in historical novels that pull us into a bygone era. Years ago, I read Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s memoir Farewell to Manzanar and was incredulous that discover that the United States ran concentration camps during World War II and locked up American citizens. [Click on baseball-player image above to read the full article …]