Burn My Heart is another amazing book from Beverley Naidoo. In this story set in Kenya in 1951-1953, we meet Mathew – the white pre-teen son of a landownder and Mugo – the African son of the farm’s chief caretaker. They share a friendship that is beginning to show the strains caused by their places in the world they inhabit.  A worse threat is looming around them both however, with the growing Mau Mau rebellion led by the Kenyans to reclaim their ancestral land from the white British settlers.  Suspicion, accusations, brutality and betrayal escalate until everything in Mathew’s and Mugo’s world changes. The larger question in this bookRead More →

Kristin Levine’s debut novel, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had,  takes place in Moundville, AL in 1917.  12-year old Dit can’t wait for the new postmaster to arrive in his small town because he hopes the postmaster will have a son about his age.  Instead, 12-year old Emma arrives and even more of a surprise to the town is the family’s skin color.  At first Dit is disappointed and wants nothing to do with Emma, but his mama’s rule “be nice to everyone” soon helps himaccept Emma and her family, even if some in the town do not.  Their friendship makes Dit think about whyRead More →

Rodman Philbrick’s newest novel for children, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is an adventure story set in the thick of the Civil War, full of danger, humor, scrapes & escapes, and scoundrels and kind-hearted characters. Homer’s older brother has been tricked and sold illegally into the Union Army by their ruthless guardian.  Homer runs away from their home in Maine to find his brother and save him from the war.  Along the way, Homer, who has a knack for stretching the truth, meets some period characters: swindlers, a Quaker, slave catchers & a conductor on the Underground railroad, a snake-oil salesman with aRead More →

Little Audrey, is Ruth White’s latest novel and most personal work to date. It tells the story of a time in her childhood when she and her family were living in a coal mining camp in southwestern Virginia.  Taking real events and imagining them through the eyes of her older sister, White crafts a poignant and charming tale of what it’s like to be poor, hungry, and sometimes happy. Fierce in its honesty, we see through 11 year old Audrey’s eyes and learn about this harsh world.  Struggles with hunger, poverty, the grueling life in the mines, alcoholism, depression, and illness are balanced by moments of family joy,Read More →

 I was drawn to this book because it has CHOCOLATE in the title and on the cover. How could I resist that? At first it just seemed like an innocent, sweet story (no pun intended) about a Jewish girl, in fifth grade, living in Chicago right after WWII. The adults in the family discuss missing relatives in Europe while Dorrie looks forward to the end of the school year when she must bring in a dessert for a competition called “Sweet Semester.” I particularly enjoyed the end of the book when Victor, a 16-year-old relative, is brought to America to live with Dorrie and her family. HeRead More →

Set in the Mississippi bayou in the summer and fall of 1963, A Thousand Never Evers tells the story of 12 year-old Addie Ann Pickett.  After graduating from Acorn Elementary School, Addie Ann looks forward to a summer of swinging in her yard, jumping double Dutch, working in the kitchen at Old Man Adam’s house,  teaching her cat, Flapjack, new tricks, and to starting 7th grade at West Thunder Creek Junior High School.  Two unexpected events change the course of her summer, and ultimately, the life she has always known: the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers and the death of her employer, Old Man Adams. AsRead More →

In my opinion this is Christopher Paul Curtis’s best novel yet.  He is a gifted storyteller, making you laugh one chapter and cry the next.  Elijah is the first child to be born free in Buxton, Canada, a town of freed and escaped slaves.  We see this period of time through Elijah’s eyes and ears, as he has adventures, welcomes escaped slaves to town, & overhears adults discussing their lives as slaves.  He learns to appreciate his freedom and so will the reader. This is a moving, beautiful novel.  I am recommending it to fifth graders and up.  It would make a great read aloud,Read More →

Lynne Reid Banks’ newest novel is historical fiction set in Rome around the 3rd century AD. Two tiger cubs are captured and brought to Rome. One is given to the emperor’s daughter to be raised as her pampered pet. The other brother is taught to be a vicious man-eating fighter at the Colosseum. There is description of the gladiators and animals slaughtering each other, and also innocent, forbidden love between the princess and a slave. It demonstrates the social structure of Rome very vividly and also demonstrates how Christianity was viewed by the Romans. Tiger, Tiger would be excellent to use if you are teaching ancient Roman historyRead More →

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine is the sleeper hit of my library this semester. It sat on my new releases shelf for a while, unchecked by students. One afternoon, as I prepared for a booktalk, I stared at the book, wondering what had made it stand out to me when I made my purchasing order. Imagine a world where George Bush put his face on posters all over the country, required everyone to have a picture in their home, and stopped work halfway through the day to listen to his teachings. Thankfully we have a president and not a ChairmanRead More →