Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira

Written by Cynthia Kadohata, Narrated by Elaina Erika Davis

Reason for Reading: This book won the Newbery Medal in 2005

Review
In this endearing book, the Takeshima family moves to Georgia so that Katie’s parents can work in the chicken factory. There, young Katie learns about Southern racism and the practically-slave-labor conditions of factory workers. But when Katie’s older sister Lynn becomes sick, Katie learns the hardest lesson of all…This is a sweet story – and pretty typical for Newbery winners. (Newbery judges certainly like bereavement, racism, and Southern settings!) The character in the book ranges from about 5-7, I’d say, but I think the subject and reading level is more appropriate for a 10-12 year old.  

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field

Reason for Reading: This book won the Newbery Medal in 1930 and has been sitting on my shelf for years. 

Review
While sitting idly one evening in her antique shop, Hitty, a 6-inch-long doll carved out of Mountain Ash wood, decides to write her memoirs. She begins her narration with her birth into the brave new world of 1830’s Maine. Her little girl drags her on many adventures beginning first with their village and ending in a far-off land…where she finds a new owner. Follow Hitty’s adventures over a hundred years as she changes hands and lands and occupations. This is an adorable little classic of historical fiction for 8-9 year-old girls. The story is sweet and generally easy to read (though some of the historical references went over my head, and the book succumbed to the racial stereotyping common for books written around the turn of the century). I’m glad I finally picked this one up. 

Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry

Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry

Reason for Reading: This book won the Newbery Medal in 1941. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years.

Review
Mafatu is afraid of the ocean because he almost drowned when he was a boy. But in his culture, fear is scorned and laughed at. Mafatu feels that he must redeem his good name and prove that he is not afraid anymore. He climbs in a boat and goes on a voyage, but he soon finds himself shipwrecked on an apparently-deserted island. There, he keeps himself alive by making all of his own tools, weapons, and a new canoe. He battles a tiger shark, an octopus, and a boar. He defies the cannibals when they return to their island. But will he be able to return home? This was a cute book, and I enjoyed the adventure – though it’s very short and all the adventure is packed in at a very unrealistic pace. Regardless, I really enjoyed the couple of hours I spent with it. I think a young reader might find this book fun. It’s appropriate for someone reading at maybe the 3rd grade level. 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor

2012 Book 143: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
Reason for Reading: This is my fourth and final book for Book Journey’s blog tour for Banned Books Week. This year, I read only YA books that I happened to have lying around in my TBR pile…it was fun! 🙂

My Review

In this Newbery Medal-winner, fourth grader Cassie Logan learns that African Americans are treated as second class citizens in Depression-era Mississippi. She and her family rebel the nasty Wallace brothers by arranging a boycott of their store. Wallace-brothers-and-friends respond with horrifying violence. This was an amazing book. The narrative was engaging, the characters were lovable, and suspense was high–I sincerely worried about what the ugly white-folk were going to do. While reading, I was struck by how similar in theme this book was to all the unoriginal dystopias that are being cranked out by the YA market these days. It was about a young girl realizing that her society was not as wonderful as she had grown up thinking…it was about fighting for your rights against a seemingly hopeless situation. But, wait! This book was actually meaningful because it was describing a REAL situation! Something tragic that people actually suffered! That makes Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry a much more powerful book than any of those dystopias can ever hope to be. I think an intelligent fourth grader who loves dystopias couldn’t help but love this book as well. 


(Oh, wait, sorry, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry IS missing the cheesy cliche love triangle that YA dystopias all seem to have these days. Sorry girls!)


This book was banned because of racism, violence, and language (including the use of the infamous n-word). There is no doubt at all–This book HAD racism, violence, and the n-word. However, the purpose of the book was to show young readers the horrors of racism–so that they could learn a bit of history AND learn to be better people themselves. This book is not going to make children into racists. The bad influence of parents, role models, and friends lead to racism. This book, with the right discussion, will be a good influence on our children. Yes, the book has scary scenes in it, but nothing most fourth graders couldn’t handle. We can’t protect our children from the real world indefinitely, and as far as I’m concerned it’s better for them to know what it’s like than to enter it in compete innocence and immediately have their fresh young spirits crushed. My philosophy–breed them tough, because sheltering only hurts them later!



The Headless Cupid, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

2012 Book 140: The Headless Cupid, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder 


Reason for Reading: This is my first post for Book Journey’s Banned Books Week 2012 blog tour. By reading banned books, I feel that I’m expressing my freedom of speech, but I’m also interested in learning more about WHY people ban books. I don’t approve of banning most of the books on ALA’s top banned books lists, though for some of them I can empathize with the objections.  For the most part, I think the people who are objecting to these books need to give their children more credit for non-gullibility. All parents should watch what their children are reading, watching on TV, playing on the computer, etc. I believe that the best way to raise children is through a lot of communication. Banning books isn’t going to save our children from the real world. 


My Review
David, the eldest of the Stanley kids has had to take care of his three younger siblings ever since his mother died. When his father gets remarried, David has to adjust not only to the new mother, but to a new teen-aged sister. And what a strange sister she is! Amanda dresses in dark flowy clothing, has a triangle in the center of her forehead, and wears an upside-down smile. Amanda begins to teach the Stanley kids about the occult, but soon things get out of hand when they awaken a poltergeist! This book is appropriate for 3rd-5th grade range.


The Headless Cupid is 98th on on the ALA’s list of the top 100 books banned between 1990-2000. The complaints about the book were that kids might become interested in the occult (or even learn to practice the occult) from this book. Of course, this is preposterous. This is not a story about an evil little teen-aged witch–it’s a book about an angry girl who wants to get revenge on her mother for getting remarried. This is a book about the very real emotions children feel when their parents make life-changing decisions. It’s about coping with that anger. It’s about love and forgiveness. Any child reading the book will end on a note of acceptance and forgiveness (unless they don’t finish the book). I think people who fear a book about kids playing let’s-pretend probably ought to lock their doors and hide away…because the real world is a lot scarier than this book.




The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

2012 Book 98: The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare (6/30/2012)

Reason for Reading: I’m participating in the Middle Eastern literature theme read, and this book fits the theme because it takes place in Israel; however, I’m not sure they’re really interested in children’s literature, so this was really for my own edification.

My Review 5/5 stars
Daniel has been living for years as a member of a band of Zealots who wish to free the Israelis from Roman oppression. When he meets a preacher named Jesus, he realizes that perhaps his path of violence and thievery isn’t quite as logical as he’d thought it was. This is a fun book for kids, with adventure, interesting moral lessons, and new friendships. Although Jesus is a character in the book, he is only a minor one–the book is mainly historical fiction, and I think the lessons Daniel learns (violence, thievery, and hatred don’t accomplish anything good) are appropriate for kids of all religions or lack thereof. This is a must-read.

A controversial side-note: This book has been banned from many public school library on the following charges: 1) It’s too Christian, 2) It promotes bigotry against Jews, and 3) It suggests that Christianity is “right” and Judaism is “wrong.” I thought I’d address these issues. 

1)Too Christian: Kids are intelligent, we need to have more faith in them. They are not going to convert to Christianity just because they read one Christian fiction book. This book isn’t even Christian fiction, though it does get close. Kids will be better people in the end if they are introduced to all world religions, as well as many different cultural ways of looking at the world…it will make them LESS racist and more empathetic towards people with different beliefs. 

2) Hostile towards Jews: I’m not sure how? I’ve read a few arguments on this subject, and the people who claim that it promotes bigotry or that it is hostile towards Jews don’t provide examples. Or, when they do provide examples, they quote the book out of context to such extremes that it seems purposeful. But I’m going to assume that SOMEONE (who is actually honest) must have been insulted by this book at some point? I see only two reasons why that would be. 

First, the characters in the book are mostly Zealots who are angry about the oppressive Roman regime. It could be perceived as portraying Jews as angry or racist. However, the book did a good job of showing that this anger is rightfully aimed at an oppressive regime. People under oppressive regimes get angry. That’s a fact. So this book is both sociologically and historically accurate when it portrays some of its characters this way. Furthermore, the book is very sympathetic towards the characters and is rather more hostile towards Romans than Jews.

Second, there was a very short (maybe 3 sentence) passage in which it said that the priests from the synagogue were angry at Jesus and might try to get him killed. I understand that this pokes at the let’s-blame-the-Jews-for-the-death-of-Jesus wound that is still open and festering among some Jewish people (and some Christians???). I’m truly sorry about this open festering wound, but the passage in The Bronze Bow was very short and there’s no way it will encourage kids to blame currently living Jews for the death of Jesus. 

I grew up hearing these stories for my entire life, and I never realized this was an open, festering wound until I was 23 and talking to a rather onerous Israeli friend who (for reason still unknown to me) was trying to start an argument. He said to me: “You should hate me because, after all, I’m Jewish and we killed Jesus.” I was completely floored by this comment because the idea of blaming the Jews for Jesus’ death was foreign to me. I answered “But the Romans killed Jesus.” I had a Catholic education, heard all the stories from the Bible and still never considered the idea that Jewish people alive today could be blamed for the death of Jesus. It seemed preposterous. As far as I was concerned, Jesus was killed by Romans for political reasons that I didn’t quite understand. Though I know now that this is not just an issue with my Israeli friend…I came across the same idea in the book The Faith Club

I think that books like this with very short passages that reference well-known stories out of the New Testament aren’t going to encourage kids to be bigoted. It’s bigoted parents, teachers, and role models that will encourage kids to be bigots, not The Bronze Bow.

3) Christianity is right, Judaism is wrong: Well, it DOES imply that Christianity is right. That doesn’t mean that it implies Judaism is wrong. It never says that anywhere. There are scenes when the kids break rules, like washing hands before eating…but if kids breaking rules proves that they’re right to do so, then the Harry Potter books imply that kids are “right” and schools are “wrong.”

Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff

2012 Book 78: Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff (5/17/2012)

Reason for Reading: It was there

My Review 4/5 stars
Hollis Woods is a 12-year-old orphan who has run away from every foster home she’s ever lived in. As a last-ditch effort, she is placed with an elderly lady who is “good with girls like you.” In her new home, Hollis is finally happy, until she realizes that her foster mother has a fading memory, and she must hid this fact from the state in order to stay where she is. This book is simply precious. Hollis seems so real–snarky but sad, brave but insecure, and willing to do whatever it takes to care for her foster mother. This short book could be appreciated by adults as well as people in 5-8th grades.