Posts tagged ‘strong female character’

TORN BETWEEN TWO SIDES

Fields of the Fatherless

Written by Elaine Marie Cooper

fieldsfatherless

Short novel of Christian historical fiction based on a true historical account of the 1775 conflict in the village of Mentonomy, Massachusetts. Betsy Russell is an eighteen year old girl living in a Patriot family near colonial Boston. Her village is busy preparing a militia for the inevitable battle looming on the horizon with the British. Betsy feels slighted that her younger brother Noah is taught how to fire a musket, while she is expected to stay home and play a support role. When Betsy confides her feelings to the blacksmith, he gives her a small knife to defend herself and protect her family. Betsy could never imagine what role that knife would play in her future.

The battle brings both joy and tragedy to the Russell family. Betsy will grapple with grief, struggle with her Christian faith, assume heavy family responsibilities, become a nurse, and find out about love in many unexpected ways. This novel is based on actual historical events; the fictional characterizations and quotes from the Bible add a humanistic element to the narrative. Some of the battle details are a bit graphic, which is the reason I would suggest the target audience to be age thirteen and older.

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DOESN’T FIT THE MOLD

Natasha the Party Crasher “The School’s Out Summer Bash”

Written by Eileen Rose Giadone

Illustrated by Michael Murray

Natashacrasher,pic

Natasha La Rue is an ebullient and vivacious elementary school student who is looking forward to summer vacation in just three days. Every day her friends pick her up on the way to school; her personality always seems to make her stand out. Without warning, Natasha’s friends decide they are tired of her boisterous behavior and begin to ignore her. No matter what she does, they make her feel invisible. On the last day of school, Natasha sadly walks home alone, watching her friends celebrate. Natasha becomes more angry and hatches a plan to get even with her friends.

A celebration for the beginning of summer had been planned in the town square for that evening. Natasha buys some “get even” supplies and begins to implement her plot for revenge. What dire deed is Natasha planning and will she be successful? Will Natasha and her friends discover something new about themselves?

The illustrations in this book are a nice combination of digital art and hand drawings that use exquisite color and exaggerated facial expressions to communicate the author’s message. I would recommend this book to readers ages seven and up. The author is also a songwriter and that is evident in the way the words flow easily from line to line and page to page. Look forward to more adventures with Natasha La Rue.

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BREAKING THE MOLD – BOOK REVIEW BLITZ

Roxy Rogers: Your Destiny is Calling

Written by Emily Siskin-Toy

Illustrated by Brian C. Krumm

Roxy,pic

Roxy Rogers comes from a baseball family. From the day she was born, her family groomed her to be a talented ball player. Everyone in the family, great grandparents, grandparents, and parents had been star baseball players. Her great grandfather had played with Joe DiMaggio, grandpa was on the team with Jackie Robinson, and her dad played with the Los Angeles Dodges in the 1980’s. Her grandmothers played professional ball and even her older sister Morgan had already played on an Olympic team. But Roxy had a passion that she enjoyed more than playing baseball; she wanted to be a soul singer like her idol,  Aretha Franklin.

Roxy hummed while she walked in the opening day parade with her team. When the singer slated to sing the National Anthem at her game gets stuck in traffic, she is invited to sing. The crowd goes wild and Roxy realizes that she has another real talent. To their credit, her family cheers her on. It seems like Roxy might be breaking the mold of family tradition.

This book is executed well. The illustrations are charming. I like the game at the end challenging readers to find the 48 musical clues, and the background information on names of famous baseball players mentioned in the story. Encourages children to act independently and be true to their passions, even when others expect something else. Good choice for early readers, aficionados of baseball, and admirers of strong female characters.

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FINDING ONE’S WAY

 

The Candle Star (Divided Decade Trilogy)

Written by Michelle Isenhoff

TheCandleStarpic

This is the first book in a trilogy examining the Civil War through the Underground railroad setting in Michigan in 1858. In this first volume, the protagonist is fourteen year old Emily whose petulant personality and insolent behavior has resulted in her parents’ shipping her off to stay with an uncle in Michigan. Emily has never been off the Ella Wood plantation in the Carolinas. She presumes her life will be much the same, and her faithful slave Zeke tries to make her comfortable.

Things turn out very differently. Emily will not have a tutor, she will have to walk to a school, do chores in her Uncle Issac’s inn, and learn to deal with free slaves who are her equal. Emily rebels at once, she steals a neighbor’s horse, skips school, and treats the household members as if they were “her slaves.” Her uncle refuses to give in to her; he cringes when she befriends slave bounty hunters from Virginia as her equals. Emily is curious to find out what her uncle writes in a small book hidden in a secret compartment. But gradually she must learn to respect another way of thinking, her black friend Malachi makes her realize that her way of thinking may be jaded. He encourages her to pursue her dreams of painting and not to limit her goals to become a proper Southern plantation wife.

Isenhoff has done her research. She introduces characters based on real prototypes like Frederick Douglass and George deBaptiste. Her language is smooth and polished. Take the following excerpt: “Emily looked the boy over. He had skin the color of strong tea before the cream was added, and his eyes were as dark as the midnight sky.” The reader quickly assimilates himself into the character. Only complaint I have is that the story line sometimes seems to move too slowly, but it is certainly not predictable. There are many twists and turns and lots of surprises before Emily is ready to return home to her plantation. Changes are on the horizon for the country. Will Emily be successful in acclimating herself to a changed order? What will happen to her uncle and staff at the River Inn?

I would recommend this book to children and adults age ten and up. There are lots of issues that middle grade students are facing that are addressed in the book irrespective of the difference in time period. Any reader who enjoys history, character study and good writing will enjoy this book series. Classroom teachers and librarians should consider it a good resource to a study of the pre-Civil War period from a humanistic point of view.

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PERFECTION TO A POINTE

Pie And Other Brilliant Ideas

Written by Karen Pokras Toz

Pieandother,picPicture0003

Another outstanding middle grade coming of age story. This book is well written and carefully crafted. Pokras develops her characters with strength and compassion that will not disappoint young girls, young adults or their parents.

Twelve year old Georgie has recently moved to a new neighborhood closer to her grandmother’s nursing home. She sorely misses her best friend Amber, but more than anything Georgie misses her dancing lessons. Their new community is much more expensive; despite her pleas Georgie is informed they cannot afford the extra expense. When Amber comes for a visit, they scheme together to find a way to raise money for Georgie to pay for her own lessons. After Amber allows Georgie to try on her pointe shoes; Georgie understands that nothing will deter her from achieving that goal.

There is also lots of humor in this book. The first two plans for earning money have some hilarious results. One day Georgie’s grandmother Jane gets a new roommate. Georgie and Amber are thrilled to learn that she has danced in Russia with a famous ballerina named Paulina Strofsky. Over several visits the woman named Eve relays the story of how she and Paulina trained to become prima ballerinas. In the process the reader learns quite a bit about the history of Russian and its people while under Communist domination.

Seeing the determination that Georgie has to dance, Eve encourages her and even gives her the poster over her bed with the picture of the famous ballerina. By the end of this tale, the two girls have figured out a way for Georgie to pay for her dancing lessons, absorbed lessons about the importance of family and friendship, and received a surprise gift that they never could have imagined.

Highly recommended for tweens, teens and young adults. Readers who enjoy ballet, history, and strong female role models will especially enjoy this one.

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A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by John Tenniel

e Book design by Marie-Michelle Joy

Aliceinwonderland,pic

I picked up this new e book version of the classic Victorian tale on a whim. What I did not expect was a totally new perspective on this classic fantasy tale.

As a child I read the book, but did not much care for it. After doing a bit of research I discovered that Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) told this story to a friend and his three young children while enjoying a boat ride. The children were so pleased with it that he decided to write it down and commission John Tenniel to do the drawings for the publication. Dodgson was a mathematician intrigued by the math and science that was being applied daily to inventions as England was entering the Industrial Revolution. His other interests included reading, poetry and photography.

Alice was modeled on one of these three girls. She is curious and polite. The character in the story displays fear and courage, resilience, and the ability to adapt to change. The anthropomorphic characters she encounters are a strange bunch; some of them like the Cheshire Cat and the Caterpillar appear to teach her, while others like the Mock Turtle and the Flamingo appear sillier and more frivolous. A careful reading will produce numerous evidences of mathematical reasoning and the importance that the author attaches to mathematics in the world around us; yet the reader’s main focus centers on the trials and tribulations that Alice must face from the time she falls into the rabbit hole: how she must swim herself across the sea of tears to face the challenges that many creatures present, to her ultimate escape from the nefarious Queen of Hearts at the trial, which almost results in her losing her head! Alice learns to think on her feet quickly in this coming of age tale.

Adult readers will reminisce and recall many of the famous quotations, like “Off with his head,” and “Curious and curiouser.” Tenniel’s woodcut engraved illustrations are etched in time and delight the eye, whether in black and white or in color. The beautiful scroll work that edge the pages are a reminder of the care taken with printing books long ago. Alice is a strong, intelligent character who maintains the proper balance between respect and independence; she is probably one of the first strong female models in modern literature. This book can be used as wonderful tale for family discussion on so many levels. I would recommend it for tweens and teens as well.

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BEDTIME BONANZA

LOTS AND LOTS (RHYMING CHILDREN BEDTIME STORIES)

Written by Peter Collier

Lots and Lots pic

What a refreshing collection of amusing short stories written in rhyme! This collection is very different from the typical bedtime fairytale or animal story. I especially like the fact that the featured character is a very bright little girl named Frances Nicolson, who just can’t stop asking questions. She inquiries about common everyday activities like baking a cake without a recipe and using the wrong kind of pebble as a skipping stone. Frances questions her neighbor about the funny words he uses like, “Hunky Dory” and “old curmudgeon.” She refuses to believe in tales like the Loch Ness Monster because they can’t be proven. Her imagination is unlimited: Frances uses her own backyard to go on an African safari, have tea with kings and queens, and climb the world’s highest mountain.

Frances’ curiosity is insatiable. Some of her questions include:

Do you have any bellybuttons?
If chickens are boneless, how could they walk?
What’s the difference between hunks and chunks?

When the circus came to town, Frances had all sorts of questions for the clowns like what is the reason for their baggy pants and why don’t they get dizzy from standing upside down all the time. Frances has a friend named Susan Jane who has a habit of exaggerating the truth. That exasperates Frances because she just has to have the right answer! There is only one time when Frances is quiet. Can you guess when?

The bottom line of this enticing book is that you cannot learn without asking questions. That might be annoying to parents and teachers, at times, but it is the way all children enrich their minds. Collier is to be commended for a clever story line and a character who represents a wonderful role model for children.

MONSTER MELANGE

Monsters I Know (Rhyming Bedtime Stories

Written and illustrated by Peter Collier

MonstersIKnow, picThis book would make a delightful Halloween read. The types of monsters are unorthodox and most of them are not very scary! First, the reader encounters The Big Foote Belly Button Lint monster. He lives at the feet of Thomas Mcfee’s bed. It began as some belly button lint and grows bigger every day eating only colored string. There is a Hungry Tree who walks about eating farm animals, the Smelly Kiss, Smelly Sam stomach gasses monster, a Spaghetti Dinner Monster, and the Dead End Rubbish monster.

Perhaps the scariest is the cursed School Chair monster.
The author describes it as,

“One moment you’re there
and the next you’ll be gone;”

The Jones family certainly lived to regret not getting rid of The Fridge. I won’t give away its secrets except to say,

“No one goes near it anymore:
Never will anyone open its door;
All it does now is snarl and snore.”

Children age six and up will love the absurdity and the silliness in these rhymes, although some of the vocabulary will not be understood by younger readers This kind of slapstick humor is especially appealing to middle grade boys. Although the concepts are clever, the rhymes are sometimes a bit forced. There are some issues with punctuation and line placement. In this kindle version, the illustrations are very small. Larger pictures would have added a lot more to the desired effect of the tales. On the other hand, if you are looking for a very different and funny Halloween book of short tales, this one will surely fit the bill.

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