akibird

A Blog of Children's Literature

Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03 April 18, 2011

Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03 by Yumi Hotta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hikaru No Go, Volume 3 by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (1998)

Graphic Book (Manga), 204 pages

In this third volume of the popular Hikaru No Go series, Hikaru Shindo is now in seventh grade and can officially join the Haze Middle School Go team and play the game, a complex Japanese board game using strategy to move glass chips to defeat opponents. Hikaru played in a tournament the year before for Haze Middle School and beat the champion Kaio Middle School team but got disqualified when it was learned that he was only in sixth grade. With the spirit of the Go master Fujiwara-no-Sai, still present within his consciousness from his encounter with his grandfather’s old Go board that the ghost haunted, Hikaru tries to find one more student to join Haze’s Go team so they can compete in the upcoming tournament. What he finds is cheating Yuki Mitani, a clever classmate who plays the game in Go salons and gambles to earn extra money. Yuki is Haze’s only chance to play in the tournament, so Hikaru and Sai do their best to convince Yuki to join the team and play ethically. Meanwhile, Akira Toya, son of the Go professional Toya Meijin, has joined the Kaio Middle School team to take on Hikaru, after he refused to play Akira previously. Akira’s teammates cannot understand why he has joined the team when he was meant to train with the Insei to go pro. Akira struggles with his teammates and his place on the team, but ultimately makes it to the tournament to challenge Hikaru. Hotta’s narrative is fairly easy to follow and with the competitive nature of Go and the teams, readers ages 9 and up with enjoy getting pulled into the fast pace of the storyline, personified by Obata’s captivating and slick illustrations. Manga lovers will appreciate this series’ dedication to traditional manga format reading (right to left) and will look forward to the next volume.

 

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for FreedomThe Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (2008)

Novel in Verse, 158 pages

A Newberry Honor Book and the winner of the Pura Belpré Award, The Surrender Tree captures the struggles of Rosa Castellanos Castellanos, or Rosa la Bayamesa, the former slave turned herbal healer who takes care of the sick and wounded during Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. Broken into five parts, the story begins around the time Rosa is freed from her owner but still must run from slavehunters who work for the Spanish Crown which does not recognize the slaves’ freedom. The slavehunter Lieutenant Death, as evil as his name implies, has an eye out specifically for Rosa because of her ability to slip out of his sight right before her capture. The poetry documents the next fifty years of Cuba’s history, most of which Rosa and the other rebels must hide from Spanish rule and slavehunters in makeshift hospitals in caves and the jungle. Rosa’s empathic soul and commitment to her oath of healing shine through all she does, including treating Lieutenant Death and injured enemy Spanish soldiers. Peasants who were not able to escape were forced to leave their homes and move into the world’s first “reconcentration camps,” a decree by Captain-General Weyler. In alternating voices, the reader hears the perspective of Rosa, her husband José, Captain-General Weyler, Lieutenant Death, and Silva, a reconcentration camp escapee. To avoid confusion, each poem is titled with the name of its speaker. In her short but stirring verse, Margarita Engle draws on the emotions of a war-torn country through the hearts of all those involved, exemplifying the pain, courage, frustration, determination, and exhaustion war brings. While the author takes some liberties with characters’ words since there are holes in the recorded history of Cuba’s Wars for Independence, The Surrender Tree is a great addition to young adult lessons on the history of Cuba with its more personal accounts of guerilla warfare.

 

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic CollectionTrickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembiki (2010)

Graphic Book, 231 pages

In a compilation of work from over 40 storytellers and artists, Trickster shares a diverse collection of trickster tales from various Native American cultures and regions. In some the crafty coyote plays the trickster who ends up being taught a lesson, in others it is the sly raven who gets away, while in some it is the rabbit or the raccoon, depending on the cultural origin. Many of the tales share a reason behind a natural landform (“Moshup’s Bridge”) or an animal’s appearance/ways (“How the Alligator Got His Brown, Scaly Skin”), while others teach a lesson about behavior to learn from (“The Wolf and the Mink”). The novel’s true success draws from its diverse collection of tales and the art that captures them. Each tale highlights a different artist’s style that sets the tone of the story. Specifically, the composition in “Coyote and the Pebbles” is to be lauded with its strong storyline by Dayton Edmonds and amazing illustrations by Micah Farritor. Trickster not only creates an anthology of trickster tales but creates an anthology of artist’s interpretations of the cultural stories, a unique gem in both Native American and graphic novel publications. This book could add so much to various units of study within folklore, illustrations, and cultural anthologies, as well as provide plenty of stories for anyone looking to read about wily characters. I would recommend Trickster to anyone ages 11 and up, especially those drawn to graphic novels.

 

The White Darkness April 13, 2011

Filed under: Adventure and Fantasy — akibird @ 3:55 pm
Tags: , ,

The White DarknessThe White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (2006)

Adventure, 369 pages

14-year-old Symone is fine, despite the fact that her father has just died, she has few friends, and her disability has made her somewhat socially awkward. Sym gets through life with the help of “Titus” Oates, once a great traveler of Sym’s passion, Antarctica. Dead for over 100 years, Titus is now a voice in Sym’s head, her own creation, representing everything she wants in a man and best friend. Besides Titus, Sym’s Uncle Victor has been very supportive through the grieving process and has even paid for the funeral for her father. Sym has so much confidence in her Uncle Victor, that she does not doubt him when he suggests traveling to Paris and then south to Antarctica without telling her mother. Through her sheltered experience, Sym only sees a genius uncle who has devoted much of his life to science and the discovery of Symmes’ Hole, a crack in the earth’s crust that Victor believes opens onto a world hidden under our own full of its own inhabitants and life. In this quest for amazing discovery, Uncle Victor’s guise of genius slowly slips away to insanity as Sym realizes this and other disturbing facts about her uncle. Now deep within the heart of Antarctica and left in extreme conditions, Sym must learn to stop believing what Uncle Victor tells her and start believing herself and Titus in order to attempt to make it out alive. With interesting psychological elements both within Sym’s narration and Victor’s behavior, McCaughrean creates characters in desperate need of help who get entangled in their own dreams that lead to disaster. I would recommend The White Darkness to older teens who love extreme adventure and stories that unfurl mysteries and origins of pain.

 

The True Meaning of Smekday

The True Meaning of SmekdayThe True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (2007)

Fantasy, 432 pages

In a world that was once the United States, 11-year-old Gratuity “Tip” Tucci struggles to find her mother who Boov aliens have abducted, befriends a Boov named J.Lo, and tries to save the planet from alien dominance. Most of Tip’s cross-country adventures occur while driving her mother’s car which has now been transformed by J.Lo into “Slushious,” a hovercar that is steered by the radio tuner and operates using a combination of alien mechanical parts and convenience store finds. Earth, now called Smekland, is a hot commodity as Gorg aliens come to overthrow Boov and secretly enslave humans. Gratuity and J.Lo are running against the clock to find a plan to restore earth to human control and convince others that Gorg do not intend to allow humankind to survive. In a very unique style, Adam Rex creates a dizzying narrative full of twists and comical turns that show humanity may not just be limited to humans. Using comic-like illustrations and Polaroid drawings, Rex also walks the reader into his narrative with the history of the alien worlds (drawn by J.Lo), a new America full of alien contraptions, and a car that flies complete with pink beach ball safety devices and a Snark’s Adjustable Manifold. Rex’s quirky imaginative story would be a great find for any young adult open to extraterrestrial hilarity that turns our world upside down.

 

Alabama Moon

Alabama MoonAlabama Moon by Watt Key
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alabama Moon by Watt Key (2006)

Adventure, 304 pages

Moon Blake is only 10 years old, but he knows how to survive in the wild and live off of the forest. Moon and his Pap have been avoiding the law and living in a half underground structure deep in the woods for almost all of Moon’s life. When his father dies unexpectedly and tells Moon to go to Alaska and find others like them, Moon is thrust into a whole new world outside the comfort of his natural surroundings. Moon then really learns what it’s like to run from the law as a boys’ home director and a sadistic constable are out to get him. Using his outdoor survival skills, Moon attempts to break out of confinement, find his way to Alaska, and live free. However, Moon’s heart begins to change as he makes friends with boys at the home, particularly Kit a sickly boy who admires Moon and his former lifestyle. In his first novel, Watt Key does an exceptional job portraying a boy who knows everything about survival but has a lot to learn about friendship, trust, and himself. The reader sees Moon grow into a multilayer character with his increasing doubts in his father’s plans for him, his inability to make an adequate medicine for Kit, and his ultimate decision to stop running. Readers who like adventure, strong male characters, and stronger introspection will appreciate Moon’s narration and his journey home. I would recommend Alabama Moon in a booktalk to share with 9-12 year olds who enjoy adventure and heart.

 

The Great Wide Sea

Filed under: Adventure and Fantasy — akibird @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The Great Wide SeaThe Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Great Wide Sea by M. H. Herlong (2008)

Adventure, 288 pages

15-year-old Ben lost his mother in a fatal car accident and now has to deal with a father who has lost all sense of himself in the grieving process. In a rash decision, his father gets rid of their house, their belongings, and life as they knew it to move them onto a boat for a year. Feeling like the only sensible one, Ben is forced to grow up and be responsible for his two younger brothers, 11-year-old stargazer Dylan and 5-year-old security blanket-holding Gerry. Just as things seem like they are starting to get better, their father decides they will extend their travels to Bermuda and beyond, when all the boys really just want to go home. After a rough evening, Ben awakes to find his father missing and realizes he is now truly responsible for their survival and welfare. As a storm brews over the ocean, Ben, Dylan, and Gerry all most overcome physical, mental, and emotional limitations to survive the great wide sea. In her first book, M. H. Herlong does an amazing job using language to weave frayed relationships and ripped sails into a tale of survival, family, and the sea. The Great Wide Sea is a great book for an adventurer, a sibling, or a teen looking for insight into struggling relationships and life.