Friday, March 19, 2010

A Selection of Published Book Reviews

Just thought I'd do some recycling -- aren't we all trying to be green? -- by sharing some of the book reviews I've had published in the past. (I review for School Library Journal and Library Media Connection.) I'm only sharing a few of my favorites for now...hope one of them sparks an interest!

DOWELL, Frances O'Roark. The Kind of Friends We Used to Be.
Gr 5-8--This insightful sequel to The Secret Language of Girls (S & S, 2004) stands alone, but readers will want to go back and find out more about these engaging characters. Kate and Marylin used to be best friends, but sixth grade changed things.

Now, as seventh graders, they are trying to work their way back to the way things "used to be." But it's not so easy when they are so different; Kate's new passion is the guitar-and her heavy black boots-while Marylin, a cheerleader, is determined to be feminine and popular at all costs. Alternating points of view make it easy for readers to relate to both girls as they navigate friendship, romance, and family relationships. Dowell gets middle-school dynamics exactly right, and while her empathetic portraits of Kate and Marylin are genuine and heartfelt, even secondary characters are memorable. A realistic and humorous look at the trials and tribulations of growing up and growing independent.--Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI (School Library Journal 55.3)

PAULSEN, Gary. The Legend of Bass Reeves: Being the True and Fictional Account of the Most Valiant Marshal in the West.

Gr 6 Up--Drawing on newspaper accounts and his own fertile imagination, Paulsen tells Reeves's story. Brief sections give the known facts of this hero's life, set in historical context, and longer, narrative sections (the longest being about his boyhood) fill out the details. The result is a compelling tale of the runaway slave who lived as a fugitive among the Creek Indians for 22 years, until the Emancipation Proclamation freed him to become a cattle rancher in Arkansas and, finally, a federal marshal appointed to help bring order to the Indian Territory. Bring order he did, with thousands of arrests and 14 gunfights to his credit. Paulsen doesn't romanticize the Wild West or flinch from descriptions of the lawlessness (including murder and prostitution) that was rampant in the Territory, but this dark backdrop only serves to illuminate Reeves's heroism. The protagonist is a fully fleshed-out character whose story is made all the more satisfying by the truth behind it.--Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI
(School Library Journal 52.8)

SCHWABACH, Karen. The Hope Chest.

Gr 4-6--In America in 1920, "proper young ladies" are expected to behave in a certain way. But when 11-year-old Violet Mayhew discovers that her parents have been keeping her disowned older sister Chloe's letters from her, she abandons propriety and runs away to find her in New York City. There she meets Myrtle, a "colored" girl who is happy to leave her own training as a maid and join Violet in finding her sibling, who has left the city. Their travels take them first to Washington, DC, and then to Tennessee, where Chloe works on the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Here Violet and Myrtle join the fight for women's suffrage. The girls confront heavy issues such as racism and sexism, but the narrative is leavened with humor. The story is packed with period details--Jim Crow laws, Bolsheviks, Palmer agents, Prohibition, shell shock, autocamping, just to name a few--but Schwabach's attention to character and plotting ensures that it never bogs down. Readers will cheer along with the "Surfs" as the victory in Tennessee grants women the vote. The book concludes with historical notes and a voting time line that includes black-and-white photos. Illuminating a time period rarely featured in children's literature, this is a fresh choice for historical fiction fans.--Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI (School Library Journal 54.3 )

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