Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: The War that Saved My Life

The War that Saved My Life
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't help but contrast this book with another book that I just finished, [b:Fish In A Tree|22402972|Fish In A Tree|Lynda Mullaly Hunt||41828131]. The settings and circumstances are unrelated, but the main characters' problems are surprisingly similar. The characters in this book felt much more real to me and I am trying to figure out why.

The main characters in each book suffer from a disability and their reactions are, for both, shame and the feeling of complete lack of self-worth. They each even had a caring adult rescue them from this feeling of debasement. And they also each had caring brothers to help them. But, for some reason, the people in this book seemed much less like stereotypes and more like real people. I think the "devil is in the details" - the subtle actions and reactions that made each person come to life in their own way.

If there is one note that sounded slightly off to me, it was the discovery of the German spy. But I will forgive that author that, because I found the rest of the book very satisfying. The part that seemed quite real to me was the main character's anger and refusal to accept her own growing sense of self-worth.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Ruby's Wish

Ruby's Wish
Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an compelling introduction to some cultural differences that might actually interest kids of our dominant (American) culture. I was especially intrigued by the description of the household, with the patriarch and all of his descendants. It could make for some wide-ranging discussions with students about gender roles and differences in values. Thought-provoking.

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Review: Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was compelling enough that I listened to the whole thing in two days and it is an encouraging look at a whole bunch of different kids who eventually learn to value each others strengths. I think kids will probably enjoy it and be able to see themselves in at least one of the characters.

There are, however, some things that make me a bit uncomfortable about it. Several of the characters seem like caricatures of certain types of kids: the brain, the girl bully, the outspoken confident kid. Even Ally herself, seems in some ways to be a caricature of dyslexic kids. And, the interactions sometimes border on the saccharine.

The narration is good, but adds to the saccharine feel of the story line. A bit too sweet to be real.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book better than I did. It is an important addition to books set in the Civil Rights era. But it just doesn't feel very compelling. The focus is on a series of events, so there isn't the identification with major characters and their doings and there isn't the suspense leading up to a single event. I am glad Huntsville escaped some of the more serious violence, but it just felt a bit detached to me.

That said, quite a few of my relatives live in the Huntsville area and it was interesting to be from that perspective.

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