Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mississippi Trial, 1955
Chris Crowe
(Phylis Fogelman Books, ISBN 0-8037-2745-3)

The Civil Rights Movement. Search the topic on the internet or in a history textbook and the names Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X are prominent. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, and the March on Washington are listed as important events in the forward movement of the cause. But one name and event is often missing in the story: Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered, his body dumped in the Tallahatchie River, for allegedly whistling at a white woman. While doing an interview for a biography titled Presenting Mildred D. Taylor, BYU professor Chris Crowe first heard about Emmett Till and knew it was a story that must be shared.

Told though the eyes of Hiram Hillburn, a white teenager who has come to stay the summer with his grandfather, the reader is taken into the heart of racism at a time when the passions of the south were volatile and violent. Hiram sees changes in his beloved south, his friends, and even his grandfather; changes which make him doubt his own safety. Hiram witnesses R.C. Rydell force Emmett to eat a raw fish at knife-point. Hiram’s grandfather offers no sympathy, warning that “colored boys like Emmett should know better than to push himself on white folks.” After Emmett is murdered, Hiram doesn’t want to stay silent, he wants the truth to be told, even if it uncovers secrets about his own family.

Parents should read this book along with their teens and discuss the issue of racism as it stands in our country today and what can be done to prevent it.

Everything on a Waffle
Polly Horvath
(Farrar Straus Giroux, ISBN 0-374-32236-8)

Primrose Squarp refuses to believe that her parents have drowned at sea. Because the townspeople of Coal Habour will not continue to pay her elderly babysitter’s hourly wage, Primrose’s Uncle Jack resigns from the navy and becomes a real estate developer in the small community. Although populated by eccentrics, Coal Harbour provides the education and comfort Primrose needs as she waits for her parents’ return. Primrose loves to eat at The Girl in the Red Swing, where she hears the town gossip and learns how to make her favorite recipes, which she shares at the end of each chapter.

This novel is a fun light read, especially appropriate for the younger reader. You might want to try out some of the recipes as well.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Brothers in Valor
by Michael O. Tunnell
(Holiday House; 0-8234-1541-4)

Hamburg, Germany, 1937. Rudi Ollenick, the narrator, and his best friends, Karl Schneider and Helmuth Guddat, German boys, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. The boys aren’t sure how they can follow the teachings of their church, yet still be good German citizens, willing to follow the Führer.

When the boys are forced to join Hitler’s youth group, they learn about the ruthless and violent ways of the Nazis and begin to formulate a plan to spread the truth among the German people. The flyers they print and distribute put them in danger, but all three boys are willing to take the risk, even if it means they lose their lives.

Tunnell, a Brigham Young University School of Education professor, has based his story on personal interviews, published biographies, and Nazi archival records, bringing to life the story of three heroes who had to decide on whose side they would stand.

Say You Are My Sister
by Laurel Stowe Brady
(HarperCollins; ISBN: 0060283084) Twelve-year-old

Mony Keddrington turns to her older half-sister Georgie for comfort and strength when their mother is killed by a tornado. She doesn’t look much like Georgie, but that doesn’t matter to Mony who has learned from her Pa that “family is family.”

On a trip to town, Mony witnesses the realities of racial issues in her Georgia town when the barber is thrown through the plate glass window of his shop for giving a black man a haircut, a crime under the Jim Crow laws.

When their Pa is killed by a bull, the girls are determined to take care of themselves and their baby sister, Keely Faye. Magnolia Hewitt would like to take Keely Faye to raise as her own and she uses her position as the banker’s wife to attempt to force Georgie to give up the baby. Mony begins to learn who Georgie really is as they struggle to keep their family together.

Brady’s story is entertaining, as well as important as it looks into our country's history of racial discrimination.

Ruby Holler
by Sharon Creech
(Joanna Cotler Books; ISBN: 0060277327)

Dallas and Florida Carter are thirteen-year-old twins who have been passed from orphanage-to-home-to-orphanage-to-home-and-back-again so many times it’s hard to keep count. When they come to live with an older couple, Tiller and Sairy Morey in Ruby Holler, the children don’t trust that their luck may have changed.

The twins plan to run away, saving their money, but they find it hard to leave the new life they are living. Tiller and Sairy sure don’t treat them anything like the parents at the previous foster homes who couldn’t wait to send them back to the orphanage. Maybe the twins should stick around awhile, just to see what happens. But what if the couple who own the orphanage get in the way if the twins decide to stay?

Creech’s down-home, comfy way of storytelling makes you feel like you’re yearning for a home of your own, just like Dallas and Florida.