Her Own Two Feet by Meredith Davis and Rebekah Uwitonze

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The subtitle of this book really tells most of the story of the book.  It is an inspiring story of a brave little girl who at nine, with the help of her sponsors, came half way around the world by herself in order to have the chance to walk on her own two feet.  Rebekah had been born with twisted arms and legs and her parents were urged by others in her home in Rwanda to abandon her by the side of the road and let her die.  But her parents refused to do that.  Instead, they encouraged her to do everything that she possibly could do and then go beyond that.

  Doctors in Rwanda tried to straighten her legs once when she was about four, but it didn’t work.  Rebekah could not walk to school, so her younger sister taught her everything she was learning each evening when she came home.  Rebekah taught herself to walk, instead of crawling around on the ground.  However, she had to walk on the tops of her feet since her feet were twisted all the way to the back.  Nevertheless, she persisted, and although she never could get her arms to work correctly, she learned how to eat and brush her teeth.  One day she found out that a person from America had sponsored her, providing her family with a guarantee of food and a chance for her to go to school.  This is itself encouraged her to keep up working toward her goal of walking and going to school. 

She did not know that her sponsor was a doctor in America.  One day another family who had sponsored children from her village came to visit them.  Mr. Clay Davis saw her need and realized that he knew her sponsor and that her sponsor, Dr. Rice, might be able to find another doctor who could help Rebekah walk.  Thus began the saga of Rebekah’s struggle to be able to walk.  Her father and mother knew that she had lived for a reason, and so they were able to let their little girl go to a strange land with people they did not know to find the help they could not give. 

The author of the book is Mrs. Clay Davis. Meredith and Clay Davis not only helped Rebekah come to the U.S. They provided a home for her and treated her as their own daughter through the years that she had to undergo treatments and surgeries. She tells Rebekah’s story from her firsthand knowledge and uses Rebekah’s words to explain all of Rebekah’s emotional turmoil.

I think this book deserves a place in every library.  It is a testimony to the power of faith and perseverance.  While the people involved in the story are obviously Christian, the story is not overtly about their faith.  It shines through, though, because faith is like that.  When it exists, people notice, even if editors may have pruned out overt religious references. Buy this for your upper elementary and middle school children – even if it is only for the cultural references which abound in the book.

Strange Birds: a Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez

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Lane Disanti is from London and she wants to make friends, but not just with anyone. She wants to meet girls who have the same interests as she does. In order to do this she plans a secret rendezvous in the tree house that her brothers built on her grandmother’s property in Florida.

She makes up special invitations and leaves them where only a certain kind of girl would find them. She had already seen one of the girls, Ofelia Castillo because she often came to work with her mother who was the cook for Lane’s grandmother. She slipped an invitation into Ofelia’s backpack. Since she had to read fifteen books before school started in the fall, Lane thought that the library would be another good place for an invitation. There, she slipped two invitations into summer reading club book bags.

One of those was picked up by Cat Garcia, whose mother was determined that Cat become a member of the Floras, an elite club for the girls of Sabel Palms, Florida. The last invitation was discovered by Aster Douglas, a budding chef. And from these invitations came the Inaugural Meeting of the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders.

Each of the girls knew that they certainly fit the “Outsiders Category.” The girls spend a wild summer together sometimes doing good and sometimes getting into serious trouble. This is an entertaining story of preteen girls who all feel that they aren’t a part of society, but who learn that friendship is the most important part of life, and they learn that other girls often feel the same way that they do.

This is a nice little adventure book for girls.  It is about growing up and about dealing with family issues.  The characters are well-defined and engaging.  Although the girls do things that they shouldn’t, they learn from their mistakes and grow from them. I recommend this for all upper elementary readers.
Recommended.

Patricia S Brown, Educational Reviewer, Auburndale Florida

 

Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucifer

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Reyna is nearly finished with her training as a map maker and explorer. She needs to do a major project to finish her studies and become a master explorer, but in a world where women are not accepted in that position, she has to prove that she is capable of what she wants to do. She has been traveling around her world and making maps for a year when the ship she is traveling on is attacked by a pirate ship. She manages to escape from the clutches of the pirates by jumping into the sea and swimming to land. Once there, she encounters a young man who she finds out is the crown prince of that land. Of course he helps her – at least as much as she allows him to. Thus begins a fast-paced adventure involving foreign intrigue, traitorous friends and sirens.

This is a great story of a woman defending her rights and proving her capabilities. While the world that Reyna lives in is a fantasy, it becomes realistic for the reader. The author has provided the reader with a great deal of adventure, a mystery, some mythology, and a little bit of romance. I believe this book is a suitable selection for high school readers.

I recognize that I am reading a review copy, but I would like to point out an observation: Places mentioned in the story are not on the map provided in the front of the book (I like to get a feel of where the action goes, and I could not do that). This might be corrected in the final editing, but the reader should be aware.

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

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Clementine has just turned sixteen and Mother Fleur, the housemistress, is preparing her for her Lucky Night, the night she will finally become a woman.   She and her sister Aster have lived with Mother Fleur for 10 years since her parents had to sell the girls or let them starve to death. Since Aster was older than Clementine, she had already had her Lucky Night. Aster tells her nothing about the night except to NOT drink the Sweet Thistle (a type of narcotic) that Mother Fleur would give her and to think about a song while she entertained the brag that had paid a big price for her. 

No one tells her what she is expected to do or what the brag will do, just that she is to make him happy.  Nothing goes as it should and her brag lies dead on the floor.  The only thing she can do is to get someone to help her and then to run as far as she can before the raveners, creatures that can get into ones mind and destroy it, get her.  Aster comes to her aid, along with three other good luck girls, Tansy, Mallow and Violet.  Their escape is frantic and often violent. A young tracker finds them and actually helps them instead of turning them in as he should. 

This is a fast-paced story set in a fanciful, yet very realistic world that will keep the reader turning pages as fast as possible.  Davis has taken on a very disturbing social situation, sex slave trafficking, in a thoughtful and discrete manner. There are some implied sexual scenes and some very violent scenes of beatings and murder. I definitely recommend this book for high school readers.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

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Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Sometimes I get to read just for the fun of it. Usually I pick older books – I don’t know why, but my last excursion to the library, I ran across this book and became fascinated by title. I really enjoy reading good science fiction and fantasy literature. This one did not disappoint me.

Joyce Carol Oates is a very prolific writer, but much to my chagrin, I have to admit that I had not read any of her works before. I plan to change that on my next trip to the library.

The story begins in the not too distant future in what had been known as New Jersey, U.S.A. The USA as we in the 21st century know it has ceased to exist. Citizens are not even allowed to say the words, “Government” or “State.” The FBI has become the Federal Bureau of Inquistors. The politicians are chosen by their wealth, and ALL thought other than those sanctioned by the government is met with immediate and severe consequences

Adriane Stohl is a senior in high school who has been raised by parents – in particular, her father – who value the concept of “Self” and “Truth.” Her father, who had been a well known pediatrician has become an MI, or Marked Individual because he listened to a protestor in a park.

Adriane gets into trouble when she is chosen to be the valedictorian of her graduating class and chooses to write her own speech rather than pattern it on those of other students. Her family had always worried about her because she chose to do her best at the subjects she studied, and get the “A’s” she deserved. But is this society, standing out by getting good grades or being different from others is frowned upon. Her speech was actually only a series of questions, designed to make her classmates think about life and themselves in particular. Unfortunately, that sort of behavior was NOT acceptable, and she was arrested for her crime of promoting subversive thinking.

She is sentenced to be teleported back in time to 1959 to a small private university in a town called Wainscotia, Wisconsin. It was either that or to be Deleted so she was thankful for the mercy of her judges. She is given a totally new existence, a new name, a new family history and a set of rules to follow. Her sentence is for four years. (Just enough time for her to finish a college education.) Then she is to be taken back to her own time – provided she had kept the rules and not allowed anyone to know who she really was.

At the university she meets young psychology professor and somehow identifies him as a fellow Exile. How the two of them deal with their situation is the main theme of the book. The psychology of Skinner is the prevailing theory being taught at the university. Skinner believed that man was just a machine that behaved in certain ways because of the experiences the person had encountered. The professor, Ira Wolfman, comes to believe that they will not be punished if they break the rules, and he tries to get Adriane (or Mary Ann as she is now known) to go with him to California. One of the rules is that they cannot travel more than ten miles away from where they are living. He tells her that either they CAN travel away as they choose, or that what they are experiencing is only a Virtual Reality constructed by their jailers. In any case, he believes that their reality is only limited by their own minds.

At times the book becomes very philosophical, but Oates always pulls the reader back into the action of the story. The paranoia of the 1950’s about Russia and nuclear war is very clear. The limited mindset of many Caucasian Americans in the 1950’s becomes very real. The book is tragic and hopeful at the same time. The reader will not be the same after spending time reading it. Although my library has this in its Adult collection, I think it would be a good volume to add to any YA library. There is ONE “F bomb” in the book and one very limited sex reference. I would highly recommend it.

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick

I don’t know how I managed to forget to post this after I reviewed it. This is the perfect book for fans of suspenseful non-fiction. This one is a page-turner narrative about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and pacifist who became a most unlikely hero during World War II and who took part in a plot to kill Hitler.

This book was written by the a National Book Award finalist, Patricia McMormick, author of Sold and Never Fall Down. McCormick is also the co-author of the young reader’s edition of  I Am Malala. While it is primarily for younger readers, high school students will also gain from reading it.

It was April5, 1943, and the Gestapo would arrive any minute. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been expecting this day for a long time. He had put his papers in order – and had left a few notes specifically for Hitler’s men to see. Two SS agents climbed the stairs and told the boyish-looking Bonhoeffer to come with them. He calmly said goodbye to his parents, put his Bible under his arm, and left. Upstairs there was proof, in his own handwriting, that this quiet young minister was a part of a conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.

This compelling, brilliantly researched account includes the remarkable discovery that Bonhoeffer was one of the first people to provide evidence to the Allies that Jews were being deported to death camps. The narrative takes readers from his privileged childhood to the studies and travel that would introduce him to peace activists around the world – eventually putting this gentle, scholarly pacifist on a deadly course to assassinate one of the most ruthless dictators in history.

The Plot to Kill Hitler provides fascinating insights into what makes someone stand up for the right when no one else is standing with you. “What should I do?” is a question each generation must answer over and over again.

With black and white photographs, fascinating sidebars and thoroughly researched details, this book should be essential reading for all middle school students.

Be the One by Byron Pitts

In just a little over 100 pages, Pitts has given us six stories of young people who have overcome tremendous odds in their lives. These are true heroes. They overcame child abuse, bullying, psychotic parents and war.

Their stories are not just those of survival, but of true success in life. The stories are inspiring and are easy to read. Many of these heroes credit God for strength for their successes, but all knew that they had to “be the one” to make changes in their lives.

I strongly recommend this as an addition to middle school and upper elementary libraries.

Harry Potter: a History Of Magic

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic (American Edition)
British Library and New York Historical Museum and Library

Once in a while, I run across a book that just makes me want to say, “WOW!” This is such a book.

It may be hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since, J.K. Rowling first introduced Harry Potter to the world. This anniversary edition is done by the British Library and The New York Historical Society. The book is actually subtitled; The Official Companion to the British Library Exhibition at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. I understand that there is an exhibit in New York of the history of magic going on now.

As one might suppose, the history of magic through the ages is presented to the reader, but is it done in a rather unique format. The chapters are arranged to lead the reader through the history as if he or she were taking classes at Hogwarts. The titles of each chapter is the name of a class that Harry would have taken at Hogwarts; i.e Herbology, Divination, and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Most things presented in the text are actual historical items, but interspersed with the historical are copies of drafts of Rowling’s drafts for the texts of the Harry Potter series and actual artwork for those books. Some illustrations are pen and ink drawings by Rowling herself, but the fantastic color illustrations were done by Jim Kay for Bloomsbury Books.

The book is well-bound. It is delighting to the eye, interesting to read, and engaging for all Harry Potter fans, ages 6-60. It also could be used as a source for research into the history of magic. There is an index of the exhibits shown in the text and brief biographical sketches of Rowling and of the curators of the British Library Exhibit. I highly recommend the purchase of this book for public,middle, and high school libraries.

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

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This is a fantasy that focuses more on relationships than the magic powers of the characters. The setting is in a world torn apart by war. The Union of the North – very reminiscent of Russia – is trying to defend itself against the onslaught of the Elda forces that want to totally wipe out the Union.

     The two main characters are very different.  Linne’ is the daughter of one of the generals of the Union. She felt that her father didn’t notice her, so she bound her breasts and enlisted in the army as a boy. She has distinguished herself by her bravery in battles, but at the beginning of this story, she has been discovered and disgraced for trying to serve as a man. Linne’ has the power of sparking things. That means she can make engines move and start fires by using her magical abilities.

Revna is the other main character. She is a factory worker who lost both of her legs in a tragic accident. Her father was very skilled in working with living metal, so he fashioned artificial legs for her from the scraps at the factory. The only problem with that is ALL of the living metal, including the scraps, are considered government property. He was tried and convicted as a traitor because the courts argued that his use of the metal impeded the war efforts of the Union. The government did not take Revna’s legs from her so, she went to work in the factory where her father had been working.

Revna has the gift of using the Weave, a type of strand that connects the universe. She can locate and pull objects along the strands Weave. Both girls are recruited to serve in an experimental airborne division for the war effort, and all the men expect them to fail.  Revna and Linne’ do not like each other, but they are thrown together because no one trusts Linne’. They think she is a spy, and no one else wants to fly with Revna because they see her as a liability who might get them captured because she can’t run if they crash.

All the girls fear the two Sakrov officers that come to their camp. The fact that Linne’ used to serve with them only makes the girls fear her more. The Sakrov are like the CIA, and they deal mostly in intelligence and torture. The Union has a strange philosophy that if a soldier goes down behind enemy lines and then manages to escape then they must be a traitor, so they are tortured upon their return and then killed or taken to work in the mines. All of the girl aviators are allowed to only fly at night so their presence won’t demoralize the men.

One night Revna and Linne’ crash deep in enemy territory. How they get out and what they learn about each other is the main point of the story. While the book comes to a satisfactory ending, I think there is a possibility of more to come. Even though there is occasionally a bad word, and some smoking and drinking, I recommend this book for middle school and highs school libraries.

My Body, My Choice: the fight for abortion rights by Robin Stevenson

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This eye-appealing, full color book on a very controversial subject is sure to raise questions and controversies in the libraries that may chose to add it to their collection. The purpose of the book is to provide the reader with the history of abortion and abortion rights. The abortion controversy is not easily resolved, regardless of how simple the author makes it seem. The author presents the anti-abortion issue as one of the oppression of women, trans-gendered men, and non-binary individuals. However, she has chosen to only present one side of the argument. The pro-life stand of religion is passed off as totally one of men trying to control women. The Christian position of when life begins is not discussed anywhere in the book. Many very religious people, both men and women, take the stand that life begins at conception, but this position is not mentioned at all in the book. I would not expect the author to present a positive take on when life begins, but to not mention it at all is to allow the reader to continue to think it as merely a “fetus” or a “collection of cells” – not a baby human.
It never seems to amaze me that our society gets very upset over clubbing baby seals for profit, but refuses to consider it murder to slice up and vacuum out a little human from its first home. I do believe that it may absolutely be necessary at times for a woman to have an abortion, and I fully support using birth control for people who do not choose to get pregnant. I do not and cannot subscribe to the position that women should have unfettered, free access to all forms of abortions. I digress. The purpose here is to explain why I do not think this book is appropriate for teen readers.
Some things are also glossed over, or simply not discussed. The reader is told that one in four women in North America will have an abortion; however, the reader must read the definition of abortion that the author gives on page ten to understand that she is including all terminations of all pregnancy for all reasons – including spontaneous abortions. The fact about one in four pregnancies ends in abortion may very well be true, but the fact is misleading because the reader, especially a young reader, will read that statement as “one in four end in some type of induced abortion.” Not true.
On page 76 the reader is presented with a list of MYTHS and FACTS about abortion. The first myth given is: “Having an abortion is dangerous for your health.” The fact given here is that: “The risks of continuing a pregnancy and delivering a baby are approximately 10 times higher than the risks of an abortion during the first trimester of a pregnancy.” Although the author clearly states that she is speaking only about the first trimester of a pregnancy, a young reader will not pick up on that, and will assume that any abortion, if done by a qualified person, is safe at any time. In that same list the author states a myth that “Having an abortion makes it difficult to get pregnant in the future.” She states the fact that “A safe, legal and uncomplicated first-trimester abortion has no effect on future fertility.” Important words here that are glossed over are “uncomplicated” and “first trimester.” The last myth states: “ Fetuses experience pain during abortions.” The author states: “ Fetuses cannot feel pain until at least the 24th week of pregnancy.” This statement is controversial in itself, but, a glossed fact here is that not only can the fetus feel pain at 24 weeks, but also, most states simply do not allow abortions after that time because the fetus is viable outside of the womb.
The author, in several places, decries the “lies” of the pro-life movement, but omission of facts, and miss-statements of other people’s beliefs are also lies. While there is a bibliographical list of all sources used, every single one of them is pro-choice. I cannot conscientiously recommend this book for young readers. I do think that adult pro-life advocates should read it for it is necessary to totally understand the position of the people on the pro-abortion side in order to be able to refute their arguments.