Sunday, August 28, 2011

Booktalk: The Rock and the River (Virginia Readers' Choice)

It is really, really tough to be an African-American teenager in 1968. Sam’s father is a personal friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sam is used to life as a Civil Rights Movement child. He’s marched in civil rights marches, listened to passionate speeches, and protested for equal treatment of blacks and whites. Sam’s older brother, Stick, has joined an organization called the Black Panthers, and Sam’s father is not happy about this. You know, it’s awful when people in your family are fighting about something. Ironically, Sam’s father and Sam’s brother are both firm believers in equal civil rights for blacks and whites, but they disagree on how this equality should be achieved. Guess who’s caught in the middle of this family dispute? Right, Sam. But what do you do when, like Sam, you repeatedly witness white police officers unfairly beating and charging blacks with crimes they didn’t commit? Do you side with your dad, who says deal with it nonviolently? Or do you side with your brother’s Black Panther friends, who say to fight back? In this case, the wrong choice could cost you your life. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon. 290 p. Aladdin: 2009. Booktalk to middle school, high school. Personal recommendation: while I enjoyed this book, it does have some traumatic scenes, especially the ending. I would not recommend this to middle schoolers whom I felt were not emotionally read for it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Booktalk: Pop by Gordon Korman (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Marcus Jordan, high school football player, has a new football practice friend named Charlie. Here are five facts about Charlie.
1). Charlie appears to be an expert football player.
2). Even though he's in his 50s.
3). Charlie likes playing pranks on people: well, mostly one person
4). Charlie's son is the quarterback on Marcus' team
5). Charlie's family is extremely protective of him. Now, Charlie is a useful friend to have if you want to get really, really tough at tackling, being tackled, blocking, catching hard passes, and generally being a tough, indestructible football machine. But in other ways, Charlie is sort of like a kid: an innocent, forgetful one. What fact about Charlie is Marcus failing to see? Pop by Gordon Korman.

Pop by Gordon Korman. 260 p. Balzer and Bray, 2009. Booktalk to middle school, high school. Virginia Readers' Choice for middle school, 2011-2012.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Booktalk: Out of My Mind (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Melody has been forced to be silent her entire life. She's 11 years and in 5th grade, but she has never spoken a single word ever. She's got a condition called cerebral palsy, and this means she can't control her body, can't walk, and can't talk. Her brain is fine, though, and she's very smart. Melody is a cool, witty, and normal kid in so many ways. She laughs when she reads Garfield, loves animals, and craves McDonalds milkshakes.
   Finally, her parents agree to buy her a high-tech machine that "talks" for her as she types. It's incredibly expensive and complicated, but as she gets better at "talking" via the computer, her classmates and teachers realize how very smart she really is. For example, she knows all the U.S. presidents and vice presidents inside out. She has a massive vocabulary and a brilliant memory for facts.
   Melody is so smart and starts doing so well in her classes that she wins a place on her school's competitive academic travel team. The team is going to travel to Washington, D.C. for a big competition. Melody is studying so hard at home: she's spending hours and hours memorizing more facts, learning newer and harder subjects, and even inventing her own games so that she'll be able to compete better. For the competition, though, Melody will be out of her element, and travel is really hard on you when you have cerebral palsy. There's also the question of how well her team mates will treat her. Will Melody have both the academic skills and the social skills to endure this competition? Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. 295 p. New York: Atheneum Books, 2010. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school, lower high school. Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012.