Books I Read this Week:
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
Recommended for grades 6+
I think whenever there is a book written about a culture, besides the author's own, there is an opening for criticism. If you run a search on Ghost Hawk you will come across such criticism, calling Cooper out for countless wrongs in her story. I am no expert on Native Cultures, but I have read through some of the criticism. Some of it is nitpicky, some might be accurate, but none of her "wrongs" seems to be hurtful to the culture of the Pokanoket tribe. If anything I felt that the Native Americans were portrayed beautifully, with the Englishman exposed for many of their despicable behaviors. Again though, I am reading this book through my eyes and experiences.
That being said, the book is told in two major sections, which I can't get into as I would like to, because it is a major spoiler alert! I will say I was more engaged in the book after the major turn in the story. An engaging read for both make and female readers, I say 6th grade to be safe due to content, pacing and length.
Stitch Head by Guy Bass
Recommended for grades 3-5
It took me a long time to finish this little book...It has its enduring moments, but I found that I wasn't connecting to any of the characters, and even wanted to smack little Stitch Head in the head to wake him up a bit. I'm certainly going to share this with my students though, I'm sure some will find it entertaining.
Bluffton by Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press, 2013
Historical Fiction/Graphic Novel
Recommended for grades 4-8
This beautiful graphic novel is set around a young boy, Henry, meeting and spending summers with young Buster Keaton and a traveling vaudeville troupe in Muskegon, Michigan. Phelan tells of his own boyhood fascination with Buster Keaton's works, which led Phelan to learning about Keaton's happiest days spent summering in Michigan, which became the inspiration for this book.
Phelan's artwork conveys so much meaning. All at once a picture can appear so simple, yet be telling so much of the story. I will be happy to pass this on to my readers.
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown Books, 2013
Recommended for grades 4-6
A story of a free young African American girl, Sugar, working on a Sugar plantation along the Mississippi River. Sugar and the other workers on the plantation are free, but Sugar certainly doesn't understand why freedom is so much work. I think it is powerful to remind young students that when slavery ended, it isn't wasn't the kind of ending they might be envisioning. Fictional Sugar, like many real people, were still tied to their plantations for survival, and working and living conditions were harsh. In this story Sugar befriends the white son of the plantation owner, which leads to its own set of complications, and turns out a lot better than adult readers might expect. The story builds in historical significance when Chinese workers are shipped in to the south to work alongside the African Americans. The author's own interest in that piece of history is what led her to create Sugar, and I agree that this is history that should be shared with our young people.
I'm Currently Reading:
Happy reading to you!