Monthly Archives: March 2013

Make Lemonade

by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Multicultural with Urban Emphasis

Personal Evaluation: I found myself rooting for Jolly and LaVaughn to work together to raise Jolly’s kids. I like the ultimate hopeful tone of the book and I liked that LaVaughn’s mother came around to approve of the impact LaVaughn was having on Jolly, though it is understandable that her first instinct is to care more about Jolly’s effect on LaVaughn.

What might interest children: Both girls face adversity in their goals and learn to lean on each other and others for support. LaVaughn has a lot trying to come between her and her goal of going to college, but she keeps her goal firmly in mind – and it is her goal first, not her mother’s – and makes good choices. It may not be realistic for kids in extreme poverty, but for kids who don’t face quite as many challenges as LaVaughn, it may be really inspiring.

A Hero Ain’t Nothin But a Sandwich

by Alice Childress
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Multicultural with Urban Emphasis

Personal Evaluation: A children’s librarian I work with recommended this one for this assignment. I read a little bit and then avoided it for a while, unsure if I really wanted to read it based on the subject (13-year-old junkie), but in the end its short length made me give in. In general, I’m glad I did because ultimately it’s a book about hope and about believing in each other (in kids, especially), but I’m not sure I would have read this book on my own.

What might interest children: I’m a bit torn about who I would give this to. The 13-year-old main character suggests that a 12- or 13-year-old reader would be appropriate, but all the drugs and grittiness of it really make me hesitate. I could see it being compelling for a kid who was going through addiction or recovery, or had a friend or sibling who was, or possibly for suburban kids who want to “live vicariously,” if you will. But in general, I think it’d be a tough one to sell.

Ride Wit’ Me

by Katina King
Overall: 0 out of 5 stars

Category: Multicultural – Urban Emphasis (Chicago)

Personal Evaluation: Oh my. I’m pretty sure the librarian who recommended this to me was playing a trick on me! This book is just a step above self-published, and you can tell in the horrible editing job, both grammar-wise and content-wise. It is essentially an urban Romeo and Juliet tale, but with a much happier ending. However, I think the author actually had a more interesting story in the dual identities of the main characters as rich African American kids. There were several times their privileged upbringing was in stark contrast to their urban Chicago lives and they did seem to struggle under the surface between whether they belonged to either world. I think it would have made a more interesting novel, and one I might have recommended to a kid.

What might interest children: This is a story about first love, and it is told in simple black and white terms. Even when shades of gray started to creep in, as it does in real life, they were shoved aside and ignored. So, while lots of teens may identify with Mercedes, the book does not offer any constructive, adult ways to deal with it, which I guess could be appealing (ie the book is not lecturing about how to get over puppy love). Kids who are not rich but wish they were may also really enjoy the descriptions of Mercedes’ house and belongings. (I had to put that part in my review for class, but really I would never recommend this book to anyone. It is terrible.)

Ninth Ward

by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Category: Multicultural with Urban Emphasis

Personal Evaluation: I just read Zeitoun this summer, which is more or less non-fiction about one family’s experience of Hurricane Katrina, so I felt more or less prepared for what would happen to Lanesha, but it was still moving.

What might interest children: Lanesha is a great kid that I think lots of kids would identify with. Add a healthy dose of voodoo spirituality and New Orleans culture, plus her special relationships with her “grandmother” and her new friend, and the book just takes off.

The Serpent Slayer: and other stories of strong women

by: Katrin Tchana
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Folk Tale

Personal Evaluation: I came across this as I was considering books to get for my 7-year-old cousin, whose mother is a feminist. She is very into dragons and fairies and things and even though she is not allowed to have Barbies, she could still use a few more strong female role models!

What might interest children: The stories in this collection are great stories in general, and even more so for girls because of all the commanding women. They are also from different cultures, which is cool for comparison.

Stories from the Billabong

by James Vance Marshall (retelling)
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mythology

Personal Evaluation: I have always been fascinated by aboriginal culture and stories and learned as much as I could while living abroad in Australia. However, I had not heard most of these stories before, but it was really cool to know the places and animals they were talking about and how the Aborigines say they were formed.

What might interest children: The illustrations are very different and may not appeal to them, but the stories are well-told and there is a page of explanation after each one. It is very much geared toward a non-Australian audience, which is helpful for American kids to understand the context of the stories.

Necklace of Raindrops

by Joan Aiken
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Folk Tale

Personal Evaluation: Joan Aiken’s name caught my eye since I really enjoyed her Wolves series when I was younger, so I had to give this a shot. Also a librarian I really respect recommended it, but overall I thought it was just okay.

What might interest children: The stories are entertaining and good for kids who have long memorized the classic fairy tales as these ones are definitely original (even a little too off-the-wall for my taste) but you can still identify the elements of a classic fairy tale in them.

Firebird

by Saviour Pirotta
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Category: Folk Tale

Personal Evaluation: The pictures are beautiful and the story is great. I’m surprised I hadn’t read it before, but I’m glad I did!

What might interest children: This would make a great read-aloud for a classroom. The pictures are great and there is plenty of text on each page in case an older child wants to take it out on his or her own; it’s definitely a step up from fairy tale picture books for younger children.