Archive for January, 2010

Claudette Colvin : Twice Toward Justice by Philip Hoose

Most of us instantly associate the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 to the name of Rosa Parks. And, indeed, Rosa Parks along with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is the face on the cover of this Civil Rights movement. Most people have no idea that two black teenage girls acting individually did the same thing months before Rosa Parks. Claudette Colvin at the age of fifteen found the courage to remain in her seat when a white woman demanded that she move.  Two Alabama police officers mounted the bus, pulled Claudette out of her seat, kicked her and called her vile names, and  finally threw her into an adult prison cell. Claudette remembers the bang of that door and the metallic finality of the key in the lock. Her dreams of attending college and getting a job were shattered because she now had a criminal record. Why did she do it? She says she did it because she was tired of hearing  the adults around her talking about their rights but never doing anything to win them. Colvin’s bravery inspired others, but it took many more months for the civil rights movement to gain traction and organize the bus boycott. In the end, Colvin’s defiance was mostly forgotten by the movement and the general population. This book tries to correct that injustice.

Lilian Hecker, Pelham

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January 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls LaNier with Lisa Frazier Page

“True heroism starts with one brave decision to do the right thing.” The year is Sepember, 1957, two years after the Supreme Court declared segregated schools are inherently unequal; fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls enters Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas to begin her freshman year. She and eight other African-Americans are the first of their race to integrate the all-white school in the heart of white supremacy. Not only did the “9”, as they came to be called, not get into school that first day but police and eventually the 101st airborne division had to escort the students for several months. This is Carlotta’s account of her time in Central High and what happened to her and the others after graduation. The hatred, name-calling, daily humiliations, and dangers are all part of her high school experience – as well as the bombing of her home and the arrest of her innocent Black neighbors. Now, some sixty years later, Carlotta and the others have received medals, honors, and interviews. This is a bitter-sweet memoir of those horrible days so long ago but they also serve as a milestone in the progress of racial attitudes that brings us up to the election of President Barak Obama. The book is too long and the writing rather dry, but the events that it recreates should be as well-known to today’s students as the name of Rosa Parks. Carlotta and her courageous companions are living testimony to the power of individuals who make the world better.

Lilian Hecker, Pelham

January 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

Malice by Chris Wooding

People say not to judge a book by its cover. But if you choose to ignore them like I do, you would expect the book Malice to be a great awesome story. Too bad it was a poorly written, boring book. The premise is that there is a evil comic book run by a man. Should you choose to, he can transport you into the comic where it’s horrible and kids die or something. I may be overselling this book (it is difficult to be sarcastic in print) but wait, it gets worse. Malice (the name of this forgettable book) is predicable and generally boring. One selling point of the book is that it switches from words to graphic novel/comic, the comic the story is based around. But the art and words are bad and difficult to understand. So long review short, this is a bad book. Disappointed is the word I would use.

Travis, Grade 8, Briarcliff Manor

January 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm 2 comments

The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Jane Smiley tries her hand at a young adult novel with fine results. Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt lives on a horse ranch in 1960s California. Her father raises horses to sell and Abby is involved in helping train the horses for sale. To avoid getting too attached, they aren’t allowed to name them, so the geldings are all called George and the mares are Jewel. But one very prickly gelding named Ornery George is at the center of the novel as Abby is made to ride this horse that constantly bucks her. There is a subplot of her school clique which is slightly less absorbing. The novel is punctuated by lovely drawings of various horse equipment that will prove useful to a newbie. The novel has a subtlety to it which may make some younger readers long for a more dramatic ending. But this book should fill an important category on YA shelves—a really good read about animals.

Recommended for all ages in YA.  Bettyjane Surabian, Rye

January 21, 2010 at 7:43 pm Leave a comment

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This novel is a cut above, actually several cuts above what I often read. 18-year-old Zach is an alcoholic who has no memory of why he is now in rehab. While there, we meet fellow alcoholics who all have different stories that are explored in the group therapy sessions. Zach is very closed off—unable to verbally relate to the group what his past is., and  it isn’t until the very end of the novel that we understand his reasons for shutting down his memories.. The revelation will move you to tears. Saenz’s dialogue is both poetic and realistic at the same time. His memorable friendship with the much older  fellow inmate Rafael is at the very center of this moving work.

For high schoolers.  Bettyjane Surabian, Rye.

January 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Waking up in a military hospital, Private Matt Duffy has trouble remembering how he got his TBI (traumatic brain injury). Flashbacks and conversations enable him to recall going down a back alley in Iraq with his buddy Justin. Justin ran up to the second floor to take out a sniper while Matt watched a young kid Ali, float in the air and come down dead. Why did Matt end up in an alley? How did Ali get shot? Why were he and Justin separated from the rest of the squad? Too many questions and everyone around him urged him to avoid the answers. Nevertheless, in the course of Purple Heart, Matt uncovers his guilt and discovers the crippling effects of a war where friends and insurgents can be one and the same. McCormick doesn’t uncover new ground in this familiar story about the hellishness of war. Like all war stories, there are innocent young soldiers, death, and uncertainty. But these soldiers are our own young men and the war is current. It is a timely and realistic depiction about events we read about in our daily front pages. There is some cursing in the book.

Recommended.  Lilian Hecker, Pelham

January 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm 1 comment


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