Tuesday, February 23, 2016

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Rebecca Brubaker Bradley.  New York:  Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015.  320p.  ISBN 9780803740815 hc. $16.99     Gr. 5-8     JUV FIC

Bradley chronicles the childhood of Ada and her younger brother Jamie, who live in the poorest part of London in 1939.  Their mother spends most of her time at nearby pubs and routinely punishes her daughter for being born with a club foot.  The girl has not received medical treatment and is left to crawl around the confines of their third floor apartment.  When England prepares for war with Germany, the school children of London are evacuated to the countryside.  During one of her mother's long absences, Ada sneaks out of the apartment and leaves town with Jamie and the other evacuees.  The pair are assigned to Miss Smith, a childless woman mourning the loss of her dear friend.  Blessed with common sense and her own childhood experiences, Miss Smith manages to provide the children with food and clothing and advocates for them with school and medical officials.  She also has a pony named Butter, a source of freedom and responsibility for Ada. Jamie flourishes in the nurturing environment, but Ada's memories of beatings by her mother, in addition to her shame at being crippled, are larger obstacles to overcome.  Just as she begins to trust that the adults in her life have her best interests at heart, her mother shows up and drags the two children from Miss Smith's doorstep. Has their short time in a caring environment been enough to get them through the physical and mental abuse they face with their mother?  This is an inspirational story set amid the harsh realities of poverty and war.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

FLASHLIGHT by Lizi Boyd. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, CA, 2014. 32p. ISBN 9781452 118949 hc. $16.99    PreS-Grade 2    E PIC

This wordless book can lead to long conversations about the plant and animal life to be found in your local park or at the edge of a nearby wood.  Our young explorer uses the beam of his flashlight to spot bats, mice, skunks, an owl, a beaver, a porcupine, a fox, and some fish before tripping over a stone which sends his light flying.  As he approaches to recover the light, some of the animals hiding in the black and white background turn the tables and put him in the spotlight.  The light leads him back to his outdoor tent where he settles in for the night.  Boyd uses simple grey outlines on a black background to look like chalkboard drawings, highlighted by color in the white flashlight beam.   Readers will have fun identifying all twenty animals that seem to move around the pages in the darkness.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey. Hew York: Hachette Book Group, 2014. 403p. ISBN978-031627815-7 hc. $25.00   A FIC

This is science fiction at its best, elevating the zombie theme to a new level of sophistication.  Ten year-old Melanie is collected from her cell each morning by three guards with rifles and delivered to her classroom with 30 other students who are strapped into their wheelchairs.  Melanie can’t remember any other way of life and enjoys the stories taught by her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau.  She is clearly the most intelligent student in the class, but begins to realize that her brain cannot control her snapping jaws or her notable strength when she smells human flesh without the disinfectant chemicals used by school personnel.  She is a “hungry,” a human shell powered by a contagious grey fungus that destroyed most of the people in England twenty years ago.  When other “hungries” breach the school’s defenses, Melanie and three human school administrators make a break for safety.  Who will survive and for how long?
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

FISH IN A TREE by Linda Lullaly Hunt.  New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 288p. ISBN 978-0399162596 hc. $16.99.   Gr. 4-7    JUV FIC
Ally dreads going to school because she can't read and doesn't want anyone to know.  So far, she's fooled all her teachers and kept other students at arm's length to cleverly hide her secret.  Ally reaches a low point when she chooses an inappropriate greeting card for her departing teacher because she can't read the message.  On top of that, there's a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, to size up the very next day.  Ally thinks he's easy to fool, when he's really the first teacher who recognizes the signs of her reading disability.  He also offers to work with her after school and begins to build up her self esteem in the classroom. Mr. Daniels sums up her learning disability with a phrase that also sums up his rationale for teaching: "Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”  As Ally's confidence grows, she reaches out to other students to form alliances and friendships.  Keisha the baker, Albert the scientist, and Oliver the talker, all good readers to begin with, also share some of their strengths and challenges in the classroom.   If all teachers were as observant about how students learn as Mr. Daniels, the dyslexic students of the world  might learn to read a lot earlier and have better academic experiences.  What a guy (even though he's fictional)!
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI