Thursday, February 2, 2017

New books for bigger kids

I've been reading a lot of picture books lately so it felt good to read some books that are definitely meant for bigger kids from Netgalley.  Bigger themes, bigger ideas, I do love picture books, but it's good to read lots of different things, right?

The first one is a dystopian future novel called "The List" by Patricia Forde.  It has a completely horrifying premise-in the future, a group of people survive an apocalyptic event and the leader decides the big thing that needs to change is language.  People use words carelessly or ineffectively and so the words must be eliminated.  The wordsmith, Benjamin has an apprentice, a girl named Letta who helps him craft the lists of words that people ARE allowed to use.  But one day Benjamin goes out on a word finding mission and doesn't come back.  Letta is frightened by his disappearance, but more alarmed by a handsome young man who turns up on her doorstep.  The young man is clearly fleeing from the local militia called gavvers and has been wounded.  In spite of her doubts, Letta brings the young man in and starts taking care of him.  It turns out the boy is from the underground movement known as the Desecrators.  They are artists and musicians who have refused to be limited by the List.  Letta is torn until she finds out Benjamin is not dead as she has been told.  Letta has to choose between the safety of following the rules and the leader she has always known or follow people she barely knows and try to overthrow the leaders.  It's very fast paced and exciting.  The characters are interesting and there are some terrific plot twists.  I think this would be a terrific story in the dystopian future genre and would give people a lot to talk about when compared with some of the other dystopian future books.

The second one is non-fiction.  It's more of a picture book, but it's not a picture book for little kids.  It's called "Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees" by Mary Beth Leatherdale.   You might be able to figure out that it's about kids who took to the sea to find refuge and you'd be right.  What's really great about this book is that it has lots of things to help readers figure things out-there's a table of contents, timelines showing the history of people coming to different countries by boat and why they would take the risk of coming across the ocean.  The heart of the book focuses on several kids from a variety of different countries.  It explains why the kids felt they needed to leave and then described their journeys, most of which were incredibly difficult and not exactly direct.  I think it came as a surprise to me that most refugees were not welcomed, even in some of the most obvious instances of need, like in World War 2 when the Jews were fleeing Germany.  The art work has strong graphic elements and I found it modern and appealing, almost raw.  I think this book would be a great addition to libraries to help kids (and adults) build background knowledge about the plight of refugees everywhere.  

The last one I got from my local library.  It's called "Freedom over me" by Ashley Bryan.  This is a work of historical fiction, based on a primary source document-a will from a slave owner, listing his property, which included several slaves, as well as farm animals.  In the author notes, Bryan tells how this document really stayed with him, that he kept thinking about the slaves and what their lives must have been like.  So the book profiles each slave.  There is a full page portrait in a primitive folk art style that is very compelling.  Then there is a full page poem describing the slave, including the slave's age, some background information (like how they came to the plantation, either on a slave ship or being purchased or gifted to slaveowner), the slave's name and connections to the other slaves.  The second poem talks about the slave's dreams-dreams of freedom and of being together with family, of being able to create their own art and their own lives.  The poetry makes these stories really accessible and immediate.  I think kids are really going to like this one, even if they might need some help getting started with it.

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