Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
My kids attended a fine arts magnet school in Chicago. The great thing about this elementary school was that everyone danced. Dance was as big a part of the school day as gym. Most kids seemed to enjoy it. Mine certainly did, so when we moved to Michigan it didn't come as a surprise to me when my youngest asked if he could continue dance lessons. It started off good, especially with him being the only boy in the group. He got all kinds of attention from the girls and the instructors. When he walked into class everyone stopped what they were doing and said "Hi, Tommy". My problem was he was growing fast so he kept outgrowing his shoes. I got him through a couple of years by using his older brother's and sister's slippers and tap shoes. Then he outgrew those. It was time to face facts. Although, Tommy was still having a good time in dance and was learning a lot about movement, he wasn't that interested in the actual dance part of it. So, I did what most American moms would do. I bought him a basketball. Then he was a cool kid with a basketball.
Well, the teen book Panic by Sharon Draper is about a real dancer, Justin. Just like Tommy, Justin likes the female attention that comes from being a guy in a dance group. But, he also got a lot of not-so-good male attention for being 16 and liking toe shoes. The major difference between Justin and Tommy was that Justin could dance. He had real talent. Dance was his life. And even though the guys called him a fag he went "boom, boom, pop" with the Black Eyed Peas and that made it all worth it.
But the book Panic is not just about dancing. It's chucked full of teen life, including the scary parts. Sharon Draper has never hesitated to talk about the real life scary stuff, such as, bullying, bad relationships, abuse and abduction, trust and what it means to be a real friend. It's a tough read and although it's very realistic I'm glad it's fiction.
There are 2 things I can say about Dan Gutman he must be big on baseball and he has found a great way to tell historical stories about baseball. He takes a very youthful and imaginative approach to telling Jackie Robinson’s story in Jackie & Me. What kid couldn’t relate to time travel, baseball cards and getting to meet a famous player like Jackie Robinson. Jackie & Me is one of Gutman’s baseball card adventures and it's a great way for a young person to take a look at what it must have been like for Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier back in 1947.
There are several other books in the Baseball Card Adventures like Shoeless Joe and Me, Ray and Me, Babe and Me, and Honus and Me.
Jackie & Me
Well, Christopher Paul Curtis has done it again! The Mighty Miss Malone is not only about a girl but its about a family. It's about a family doing everything it takes to survive together and then just doing what it takes to survive.This story is not only about a family's struggles with the economic aspects of the Great Depression but also the political aspects. With this historical fiction Mr. Curtis has proven to me that the fights between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling in 1936 and 1938 were more than just heavyweight bouts. He calls them the perfect storm.
The Mighty Miss Malone
Desert Flower is a true story of a young woman’s journey from the Somali desert to the cat walk in New York City. I think most of us would assume this story is about a past practice and we would like to think that what happened to Waris would no longer happen to young women in any country, but we need to be aware that the archaic customs of the past are still very much a plague to the young women of Somalia. The purpose of Waris Dirie’s book Desert Flower was to raise a loud cry to violence, genital mutilation, and arranged marriages. For a few goats and camels elderly men can arrange a marriage to prepubescent girls. Waris felt that she needed to do something to stop the useless suffering of the young women of her country. Waris’ book tells of a little girl trapped as a Desert Nomad, a daughter to be bartered and a strikingly beautiful model. In the movie Liya Kebede does a beautiful job of taking us on Waris’ journey and helping us to see the turbulence a past practice causes.
Eulinda’s story takes place during the civil war in 1864. Her father was the plantation owner and although he was kind to her, he was willing to do only so much. She had been acknowledged as his daughter, lived in the plantation home, and had received an education. She received castoff clothing from the master’s stepdaughter and was treated a little better than the rest of the slaves. That much of the story is fictional but most of Numbering All the Bones was built on facts taken from records on Andersonville Prison. The Andersonville prison was the most horrific prison in the American Civil War. Ann Rinaldi added real characters and real facts to her fictional story. William Griffin was a real ex-confederate officer, who came along and saw the 13,000 bodies and knew that the prison was something he had to set right. He tolled, first paying ex-slaves to work along side of him, out of his own money. They dug graves, painted headstones and planted flowers. It became Dorence Atwater ambition to dig up the Negro bodies to get the names off the toe tags on the bodies and reburied them with their names on the headstones. And then there was Clara Barton…but, I’ve already told too much.
Even though, this book was written for children it really captured me and I enjoyed reading how Eulinda made herself come true.
Numbering All the Bones
With the weather we’ve been having you can’t help but realize that butterfly season is right around the corner. The library has lots of really good books on butterflies. One of them is simply called Butterflies by Seymour Simon. Simon does children’s science educational books with simple titles like Cats, Global Warming, The Universe and Penguins and they all have great pictures. The pictures are all close-up and graphic. His books are colorful and well written. The information is useful and comprehensive at a child’s level. There’s no better way for you and your kids to spend the day than in the garden with this book looking for butterflies and learning just about everything they need to know about them.