Posts tagged ‘Missouri’

AGAINST ALL ODDS…

The Leopard Tree

Written by Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu

TheLeopardTree,pic

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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FREE OR SLAVE?

Runaway

Written by Dennis Maley

Runaway,pic

This work of historical fiction which stretches nearly two hundred pages is a fascinating study of white and black characters struggling with each other not in the North and South but in the new western territories caught in the battle between slave and free. Maley’s protagonist is a fourteen year old black boy named Blanche Bruce who begins life as a slave in Virginia, but later struggles to assert his independence in Missouri after his current master’s death. Here he is owned by a printer who relies on him to set type for his newspaper. Bruce had secretly learned to read and write as a young boy. The author admits that Blanche is a composite character, but his thoughts and actions are very believable as the intricate plot unfolds.

Bruce will take a journey along the Underground Railroad, while he is pursued by the pro-slavery forces he left behind in Missouri. They consist of an unlikely alliance of preachers, lawmen, politicians and citizens. Butler reveals himself as a clever young man struggling to differentiate between exactly who are his friends and enemies. The pro-slavers found opposition in the abolitionists and free soil settlers who hoped to make the new territories a land of new opportunity. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot as Blanche struggles to find a safe haven. At the end of the tale, which has a surprise ending, the author provides an epilogue illuminating what facts are real and which are fiction. This section is instrumental in understanding the plot; the reader might wish she had it earlier as sometimes the story line becomes complicated to follow.

I still recommend the book as an interesting one appropriate for adults and children age twelve and older. It presents a good psychological study of the pre-civil war era that is a lot less widely known and understood. Students of mid-nineteenth history can use it as a vehicle for examining the personal, moral and political conflict occurring in America’s new territories at that time.

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