Posts tagged ‘Illinois’

AGAINST ALL ODDS…

The Leopard Tree

Written by Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu

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Three African children meet while living at the Nyumba wa watoto orphanage in Kenya, Africa and become fast friends. Their favorite spot is a tree they call “the leopard tree.” Daudi’s mother died of Aids when he was two; recently his grandmother has died and left him orphaned and abandoned without medication. Masozi is blind and lost a leg to a land mine due to civil war in Sudan, and Ramla from Rwanda witnessed the rape and killing of her family in her village. The trauma from that event has robbed her of her speech. Daudi reads the story of the Wizard of Oz to his friends, which inspires them to seek a wizard who can make life better for them and the children of Africa. Rosa Carson is a photojournalist who often visits Africa in an effort to create awareness of the poverty and medical needs of children in orphanages throughout Africa; she is drawn to and takes a special interest in these three children.

On one visit to the orphanage, Rosa agrees to take the three children on a day trip to Nairobi airport. When Daudi finds a passport on the floor, the adventures begin. The children stow away on a jet flying to San Francisco. From that point they travel by bus to Reno, a minivan to Kansas, and a goat trailer to Missouri. They walk along railroad tracks and stow away in a freight train until they arrive in Pennsylvania. Where are they going? Daudi has learned there is a UN conference in New York. He is determined to plead his case to the Secretary General Akama. All along this journey, the children must hide from the immigration authorities while they face all sorts of personal physical danger. To make matters worse, Daudi has been without any medication and his medical condition is deteriorating.

Rosa desperately wants to find these children to keep them safe and eventually adopt them as her family. She uses all her resources and contacts in an attempt to track them down. All the odds are against them succeeding; will these three unlikely spokespeople for Africa’s impoverished orphans succeed in the quest?

This book is a powerful presentation of the issues that face so many children everyday. Characters are deftly created with powerful personalities. Heartbreaking twists and turns in the plot abound. The authors paint portraits of the best and worst of human nature. I found it difficult to put the book down. Young adult and adult readers should not miss this book.

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A FAMILY DIVIDED

Hazardous Unions:Two Tales Of A Civil War Christmas

Written by Alison Bruce and Kat Flannery

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This book is an unusual combination that works well in this instance. Two different authors have teamed up to write two separate stories about twin sisters, Maggie and Matty, who find themselves separated by circumstance on opposite sides of the border during the Civil War. Due to their father’s death, these two sixteen year old sisters feel compelled to help support their mother and brother, whom they love dearly. The setting of both tales begins in the Fall of 1862. Both protagonists encounter physical and emotional trauma; both sisters succeed in rising to the occasion to assume control. They will each need to solve a mystery, navigate through romantic attachments, and survive the war.

In the first novella focusing on Maggie, we meet the twin who has traveled with her employer to a southern plantation in Tennessee. She is a servant girl employed by the Hamilton family. Soon the Union army comes to occupy the plantation; Maggie is the only person who has the strength of character to assume control. But the story does not so much revolve around the events of the war as much as the personal struggles of all the characters on both sides. It deals with their hopes and fears, racism, and family ties as well as the divide between the rich and poor. Maggie hopes to survive and someday be reunited with her own family.

The second story centers on Matty, a servant girl whose employer, General Worthington, has been sent to a fort in Illinois to train soldiers to fight for the Union. Her story rapidly switches to a mysterious piece of paper and Matty’s trickery to deceive a disabled bachelor named Colonel Cole Black into marrying her. The reader learns that she is remorseful for the deceit, but that she is determined that this letter and its information get into the right hands. This is the only way she could find to do so. There is danger for both of them now, and she fears that her solution might come about too late. Still, like her sister, Matty possesses a strong will and a determination to do the right thing, regardless of personal cost. The matter comes to a head at her father -in-law’s Christmas party resulting in lots of unexpected events and consequences.

The first of these stories about Maggie is more leisurely, filled with lots of well defined characters facing complex issues in treacherous times. Matty’s story is shorter; more intense with fewer characters, but a powerful, tighter knit plot. Even though the characters’ struggles and not the events of the Civil War are the focus of each story, the stories are well researched and documented in historical details. In less than one hundred fifty pages, the reader is treated to two tales of mystery, romance and historical fiction. I recommend this highly enjoyable work to young adults and adults who are interested in any of these genres.

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