Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#87 - Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

2007 Honor Book

"For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana , to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim. "At least now my letters will be more interesting," she writes to her good friend Charlie, who is fighting the Kaiser in France.

Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove. Her quest to make a home is championed by her new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German husband, and their children. For the first time in her life, Hattie feels part of a family, finding the strength to stand up against Traft Martin's schemes to buy her out and against increasing pressure to be a "loyal" American at a time when anything - or anyone - German is suspect. Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle's claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home."

I loved this book - it definitely had a "little house on the prairie" feel to it. Hattie was a very strong, brave, generous, and hardworking girl. I can't imagine what it must have been like to make your own way far from anyone you know, and create a home, and farm with no experience at all. I love that the ending was left open - does she and her long time friend (who have written letters back and forth while he was at war) reunite once he returns home? Do they get married? I would love to see a second book!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#86 - After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

2009 Honor Book

"When D Foster walks into Neeka and her best friend's lives, their world opens up. D doesn't have a "real" mom constantly telling her what to do, and the girls envy her independance. But D wants nothing more than to feel connected, and the three girls form a tight bond - and a passion for the music of Tupac Shakur. D's the only one who understand Tupac's songs best, and through her, his lyrics become more personal for all of them.

After Tupac is shot the first time, the girls are awed by how he comes back stronger than ever. And seeing how Tupac keeps on keeping on helps when Neeka's brother is wrongly sent to jail and D's absent mom keeps disappointing. But by the time Tupac is shot again, the girls have turned thirteen and everything's changed, except their belief in finding their Big Purpose."

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the bonds between the three girls and the bonds of family illustrated in this book. The story also illustrates how strongly music can affect one's life.

Neeka's brother, who was wrongly accused of a crime and imprisoned, is openly gay and it was nice to see how, although his family may not have approved of his lifestyle, they still accepted him for who he was, and showed him unconditional love.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

#85 - A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard

1982 Medal Winner

'Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

The author of these much-quoted lines is William Blake, who painted and wrote his marvelous books nearly 200 years ago. Inspired by Blake's work, Nancy Willard has written a book of magical poems about life at an imaginary inn, run by none other than William Blake himself.

The inn is staffed by two mighty dragons that brew and bake, two angels that wash and shake the featherbeds, and a rabbit who shows visitors to their rooms. Among the remarkable guests are the Man in the Marmalade Hat, the King of Cats who writes his wife not to 'grow fat like a common kitchen hat,' and two sunflowers who demand a room with a view."

Sigh. Another poetry book. I'm going to be brutally honest here. When books like this win the Newbery medal, it is just proof that it is adults that choose the winning book, and not the children who the book is targeted towards. I don't imagine books like this making the best seller list.

If you are a fan of poetry, you might like it...but for me, it was boring.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

#84 - Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

1989 Medal Winner

"In this remarkable volume of poetry for two voices, a companion to I Am Phoenix, Paul Fleischman verbally recreates the "Booming/boisterous/joyful noise" of insects. The poems resound with the pulse of the cicada and the drone of the honeybee. Eric Beddows's vibrant drawings send each insect soaring, spinning, or creeping off the page in its own unique way."

This book was meant to read aloud by 2 people, some parts in unison, so it was hard to just read through. And if you've read my other posts, you know that I am not a big fan of poetry. Yawn.

Friday, July 1, 2011

#83 - Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi

2003 Medal Winner

" 'Asta's son' is all he's ever been called. The lack of name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in fourteenth-century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less - no home, family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he didn't commit, he has been declared a 'wolf's head.' That means he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name - Crispin - and his mother's cross of lead.

His journey through the English countryside is puzzling, amazing, and terrifying. Especially difficult is his encounter with the juggler named Bear. A huge, and possibly even mad, man. Bear forces the boy to become his servant. Bear, however, is a strange master, for he encourages Crispin to think for himself.

Though Bear promises to protect Crispin, it becomes clear that the boy is being relentlessly pursued. Why are his enemies so determined to kill him? Crispin is gradually drawn right into his enemies' fortress, where - in a riveting climax - he must become a different person if he is to save Bear's life and his own."

Ok. See, I posted on facebook yesterday that I dreaded reading this book (which was true), and that I disliked reading medieval period stories (also generally true). Well...guess what? I liked this book! I should've known with Avi being the author (I like many of his other works). It was well written, and very exciting! My favorite character was Bear, although I truly disliked him at first. He ended up being a loving "father figure" and protector for Crispin.

This is one of the great things about this project. I am being "forced" to read books that I wouldn't normally choose to read, and it is making me much more open to other genres!