Thursday, November 10, 2016

Abbott, E.F. Mary Jemison, Native American Captive.

Abbott, E.F.  Mary Jemison, Native American Captive.  Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends    2016  213p  $15.99  ISBN 978-1-250-06838-5  ms/jr    Historical fiction  VG-BN    

When her family is attacked by Indians during the French and Indian War, 15-year-old Mary Jemison is captured and taken west. At Fort Duquesne she is traded to two Seneca sisters. She is adopted as a sister and slowly acclimates to tribal life.  She marries and has a son, and after four years she is given the opportunity to return to the whites.  She chooses to remain Indian. In the last chapter, her last 50 years are covered. There is a glossary of Seneca words and other terms used in the story. This is based on a true story.
Comparing this title to Lois Lenski’s Newbery Honor book, it targets a slightly older audience.  It also approaches the story more from the native side. Names are given in the Seneca language, and more seems to be told of the daily life and culture of the Seneca. The map of the area is not as good, but it does give a thorough picture of Indian life of the time. Students would get a more complete picture by reading both titles. 

Summary: This is the story of Mary Jemison, who was captured and adopted by Indians during the French and Indian War.  After four years as a Seneca Indian, she is offered the opportunity to return to the white world.  It is based on a true story.            

Mary Jemison                                          --Joan Theal

Alexander, Kwame. Booked.

Alexander, Kwame.  Booked.    Houghton Mifflin  2016  314p  $16.99  ISBN 978-0-544-57098-6  ms/hs  Sports  VG-BN 

In this novel in verse, Nick Hall is an avid soccer player whose father subscribes to Verbomania and forces Nick to read from “his” dictionary and learn a variety of uncommon words to prepare him for college. He has issues with paying attention in class as well as completing assignments, like any middle-school student who is distracted at times. He has a crush on April and a fun-loving, insistent librarian, as well as an overbearing language-arts teacher. Just when Nick learns that his team and best friend Coby’s team have been invited to play in the Dallas National Soccer tournament, he learns of his parents’ intent to separate.

This well-written novel in verse is sure to engage and entertain young readers. It will appeal to adolescent readers, as Nick experiences and learns to balance sports, school, parents’ requirements, romance, and his demanding teacher and librarian. When Nick encounters an unavoidable situation that threatens his ability to compete in the National Soccer Tournament, he must come to grips with it and differentiate between what he needs and what he desires. Readers can’t help but root for Nick on his life journey.

Booked will appeal not only to avid adolescent readers, but to struggling and reluctant readers as well. The story is written as a poem with few words on each page, and it will not intimidate reluctant readers. The many themes and twists in the plot will appeal to readers and give them a strong connection to the protagonist.

Summary: In this novel in verse, Nick Hall is an avid soccer player whose father subscribes to Verbomania and forces Nick to read from his dictionary and learn a variety of uncommon words to prepare him for college; and just when he learns his team and his best friend Coby’s team have been invited to play in the Dallas National Soccer tournament, he also learns of his parents’ intent to separate.      

Soccer-Fiction                                  --Virginia McGarvey

Alexander, Sarah. The Art of Not Breathing.

Alexander, Sarah.  The Art of Not Breathing.    Houghton Mifflin  2016  274p  $17.99  ISBN 978-0-544-63388-9  hs  Realistic Fiction  VG-BN   

Written in a believable first-person voice, this debut novel by Sarah Alexander tells the dramatic, intriguing story of a girl who must piece together the truth of her brother’s drowning when so many parts of the story have been buried due to the psychological trauma.  Young Elsie is the “normal” twin; her brother Eddie is developmentally delayed.  Both love the ocean, until a swimming accident takes her brother.  The story begins when sixteen-year old Elsie is trying to survive high school.  She has a close bond with her older brother Dillon, but that is not enough to stave off her loneliness and her “misfit” status at school, where she is bullied.  When she meets Tay, her life changes.  She begins to free dive, and realizes that in the depths of the ocean she can begin to live again.  Her deep-sea experience triggers memories that she uses to piece together the events of day her brother drowned.  A wonderful cast of characters plays out various roles in Elsie’s life: her mother, a drinker who is depressed and aloof; her father, an escapist who seems unable to cope with anything more than work and survival; Mike, the owner of a new dive shop, and his son Danny, the free diver who seems to have Elsie’s best interests at heart.  But does he?  The portrait of Dillon is compelling; he is an anorexic who is depressed even before his brother’s death.  As the plot develops, Elsie makes discoveries that change her perceptions of everyone.  It is when she finds her twin’s shirt that the novel reaches a climax that will please new readers and leave them wanting more.  The words are descriptive, the plot is engaging, and the characters are inviting.  A good book forces readers to think, and Alexander’s accomplishes just that.

Summary: A family is devastated and begins to fall apart when a mildly disabled son drowns.  Elsie sets about trying to find out what happened on that fateful day.  A new young man named Tay, her brother Dillon, her mother, and others are involved, and Elsie must figure out exactly how.   

Twins-Fiction, Drowning-Fiction                 --Martha Squaresky

Amateau, Gigi. Dante: Horses of the Maury River Stables.

Amateau, Gigi.  Dante: Horses of the Maury River Stables.  Candlewick Press  2016  306p  $6.99  ISBN 978-0-7636-8754-0  ms  Animal  VG 

A retired racehorse finds a second chance at life.  Told from the horse’s point of view, this is the story of Dante’s Inferno -- a racehorse whose grandfather was the greatest racehorse of all time.  However, Dante fails as a racehorse and ends up at a rescue facility run by rehabilitating prisoners before being adopted by the Maury River Stables, where he becomes a project horse.  Dante slowly befriends other horses, Daisy and Napoleon, and he lowers his guard.  Can he succeed on the cross-country course?  Readers will race through the book to find out.

Some readers may find the use of dialect off-putting, but animal lovers will embrace this engaging horse story. While it is not packed with action, it offers emotional depth and Dante is an appealing character.  Readers who enjoy the book will be delighted to learn that it is part of a series, although this volume can stand on its own.

Summary: A retired racehorse finds a second chance at life as a project horse on a stable run by prisoners.

Horses-Fiction, Horse racing-Fiction                  --Hilary Welliver

Benoit, Charles. Snow Job.

Benoit, Charles.  Snow Job.   Houghton Mifflin/Clarion  2016  274p  $17.99  ISBN 978-0-544-31886-1  hs  Conflict  VG   

Nick is an honest, law-abiding teen whose vices are alcohol and possibly girls. Set in the winter of 1977-1978 in upstate New York, Snow Job features Nick working at the local Quick Mart doing all sorts of menial tasks. He has testified about a stabbing he witnessed by a local drug dealer a few years before, and now the drug dealer has returned from jail.  Nick wants to become more than his current lifestyle would suggest. He has an eight-word motto: “Stand Out, Stand Up, Stand By, Stand Fast”. This motto inspires him to change his clothing style, stop thefts from the Quick Mart, stand by those he believes in, and vow never to falter in his mission to change. He tries to stay away from parties but gets caught up in being a runner for a drug kingpin. Nick’s flings with two girls influence his decisions as well, and he has his ups and downs in his mission to improve himself. Drug and alcohol scenes and violence are featured, but not graphically nor horribly violently.  The ending has an unexpected twist concerning a girl involved with the drug culture, whose actions make Nick fear for his life. Snow Job is a  cerebral journey about what it takes to change yourself when your environment doesn’t change and where an indifferent, dysfunctional family doesn’t support change. It is for mature readers.   

Summary: Nick, a senior, wants to change his ways and become something other than a “banger” dude. Set in the 1970s, this novel about life choices, drugs, and growing up is a cerebral journey with a thriller edge. Grades 10-12.  

Drug culture-Fiction                                  --Lois McNicol