Libri Dilectio: November 2010

15 November 2010

Book Review: A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park
(Gr 5-8)
Clarion Books, November 2010. Reviewed from library book.

Salva is just a normal boy living in Sudan in 1985 – he goes to school, helps his family with their cattle, and spends time with friends. Then one day, his school is attacked by soldiers and Salva’s teacher sends the boys running into the bush to hide themselves. This starts off many years of running and living in refugee camps for Salva. He is one of the lost boys of Sudan, a boy who has lost everyone and still manages to walk hundreds of miles across unforgiving terrain to safety in the camps. Salva’s story is told alongside the story of a young girl living in modern day Sudan. Her family’s biggest problem is water. They follow the water all year long, sometimes water that is mostly mud. Until the day two men come to their village and offer to help.

This was an amazing, powerful, beautiful story that I read it one sitting. It made me cry in the library break room because I was so involved in Salva’s story. Salva is a real person. He is a friend of Linda Sue Park’s and she has written this fictional account, based on his real life. Knowing that this story actually happened made it even more powerful.

Linda Sue Park writes with very sparse prose to describe the horrors that Salva witnessed during his journey. In this way, she presents terrible things – thousands of people dying in a river full of crocodiles, men wasting away in the desert – in a way that children can handle. She doesn’t shy away from any moment of Salva’s life, but presents them in a way that isn’t too graphic. Her descriptions are matter of fact, not sensationalized.

I would recommend this book to (mature) 5th graders, but definitely to junior high readers. I think this would be a perfect choice for classroom discussion. It’s a slim book, so it won’t intimidate those students who aren’t big readers, but the prose and the story are so moving that they will absorb any reader. I think this is the first real Newbery contender I’ve read this year.

12 November 2010

Book Review: The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan
(Gr 5-7)
Hyperion, October 2010. Reviewed from library book.

When Jason wakes up on a bus holding hands with a girl he’s never seen before he realizes it isn’t only the girl he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know anyone around him, even Leo, who says they’re best friends. Jason has no idea who he is or how he got on the bus with these people, all he knows for sure is that he shouldn’t be there.

Piper has spent the better part of the school year trying to get Jason to notice her. Now, finally, he’s her boyfriend and she couldn’t be happier. That is until they go on a field trip and he suddenly forgets who she is!

Leo is always the goofy side kick to his best friend, Jason. He’s always felt like a little bit of a third wheel when he’s with Piper and Jason, but now that they’re an official couple, he’s pretty much feeling alone – until the day at the Grand Canyon. The day a group of storm spirits tries to kill them.

Jason, Piper, and Leo find themselves thrown into the adventure of a lifetime. They are all three demigods and the time has come for them to take their places in the quest that will either save the world, or doom it to destruction. Oh, and Piper’s dad’s been kidnapped by a giant, Leo is being haunted by an old babysitter, and Jason just wants to know who in the world he is! Just an average day when you’re the kid of a Olympian God.

 This book had everything I’ve come to expect from Rick Riordan; action, adventure, humor, daring escapes, and sides of ancient Gods and monsters that no one ever saw coming. For instance, did you know that King Midas never really did learn anything from his golden touch, or that the king of the winds works as a weather caster? Rick Riordan has a found a great way to get kids interested both in mythology and history. I’m pretty sure if I polled my library patrons he’d be tied for coolest person ever (obviously he would tie with Jeff Kinney).

The Heroes of Mount Olympus is definitely written for a slightly older crowd than Percy Jackson, but only slightly. There is a lot more noticing of the opposite sex in this series than there was in Percy’s adventures and the book itself has some serious heft to it that might intimidate younger readers. Although, from what I’ve seen, it’s just making the young kids more okay with reading a really thick book!

Jason, Piper, and Leo were great additions to the Camp Half Blood gang. All three were instantly likeable and had distinct voices throughout. The story is told from each of their perspectives, which did make the story move much quicker. Leo is one of my favorite of Riordan’s characters. He’s earnest, loyal, and always sees the humor in any situation. Even when three very large cyclopes are trying to catch and roast him.

This is a great book, a hilarious adventure, and one that the kids will be clambering for more of. Just be forewarned, some kids seem to be getting confused between Percy Jackson, The Heroes of Mount Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles. If you’re a librarian and you aren’t certain, check out the Kent District Library’s What’s Next database. Seriously, it’s a life saver.

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