Tuesday, November 29, 2005


By Valerie Hobbs

“Toby knew he was in trouble, but the cow didn’t. She just kept gazing at him with her huge brown eyes, like she was in love or something. . . His mother would have a fit if she knew.”

Toby Steiner is 11-years-old and has just completed cancer treatment. He and his mom are supposed to be doing something “normal” like taking a vacation. Toby meets Pearl through the cow, Blossom. His first impressions are formed by the sign on the door, “Whoever Steals My Freedom Takes My Life.” Initially, he thinks Pearl is a witch with white hair flying and a crooked stick.

Pearl is not a witch, she is a 94-year-old who is from a world very different from the world Toby has grown up in. Pearl was born into a world where there were no televisions, or computers, or cell phones. She knows about milking cows, reading poetry, and learning the secrets of life from animals like Blossom and Geraldine the cat. Pearl and Toby share a darkness in their lives – Toby’s because of cancer and Pearl’s because of the murder of her husband.

Together they learn from Blossom one of the many secrets of life that will raise the darkness from their own lives. They realize that they have not reached a time that is right for them to stop living.

This novel is only 116 pages in length, but it touches the reader emotionally and leaves you thinking about the story long after you have finished reading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chicken Boy

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the author of this novel. You may have read Dovey Coe.

Tobin McCauley has led a strange life since his mother died five years ago. One of the teachers described him as “One Bad Apple and snot-nosed punks.” This may give you an idea about how many people felt about Tobin’s family, but as you read you will discover what is the real problem for all of the McCauleys.

Tobin meets Henry Otis, a boy new to the school. Henry wants to be Tobin’s friend, which is hard for him to understand. Henry is very much interested in chickens, not as food, but as beings. Tobin feels like people are saying “What’s Tobin doing with a friend?” Henry’s home is much different than Tobin’s – he describes going from Henry’s house to his as “…walking out of a color movie into one that was nothing but black and white.”

Henry tells McCauley “when you learn about chickens, you learn about life.” As you read the story you will find that this is true for Tobin. Henry and chickens help Tobin learn to stand on his own and deal with life. He learns to have self-confidence and "You could love some things you'd never guess" -- like a lost father, an angry grandmother, and a confused, lonely brother.

The author has developed the characters very well as she presents a dysfunctional family and a story of friendship.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


“But the weather-beaten sailboat Chance Taylor and his father call home is thirty years old and hasn’t sailed in years. One step from both homelessness and hunger, Chance worries about things other kids his age never give a thought: Where will the money come for the electricity bill, grocery bill, and moorage fee?”

Chance’s mother left a long time ago and his father is an alcoholic. Running is the only thing Chance really likes to do, but he does not run on a school team. A fat guy offers him some easy money for running – “. . . But some days there will be a package. When there is, you slip the package into your backpack. . . .” Chance knows there is something not right, but he is desperate for money just to survive.

Carl Deuker weaves a story of mystery and intrigue. Is Chance involved with terrorists or drug smugglers? The story is fast paced and draws readers in. Melissa is smart and has no worries about money, and Chance wants to be like her and the others. "I'd always thought that if I had a few bucks in my pocket, I'd be even with kids like Melissa and Thomas and Annie and Natasha. Now I had money, probably more money than anyone else at the table, but it didn't even things up at all. They were still them, and I was still me."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Under the Jolly Roger

This is the third book in the Bloody Jack Adventures by L.A. Meyer. It is a sequel to Bloody Jack and Curse of the Blue Tatoo. Jacky Faber is in London hoping to be reunited with her beloved Jaimy. This is not to be. Jacky is taken against her will and impressed into the service of the British Navy. Jacky’s adventures continue as she takes control of the warship Werewolf and then goes on to become a privateer. She eventually takes the Emerald as her ship and brings Liam Delaney (he had been with her on the Dolphin) to captain this privateer.

I think this installment in the series is just as exciting as the first two. This book is a definite read for anyone who likes historical fiction, pirates, or adventure.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Eyes of the Emperor

A new word for you to add to your vocabulary “xenophobia.” According to Merriam-Webster this word means fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. To hear it pronounced go to the Merriam-Webster site.

During World War II this xenophobia was prevalent, especially toward Japanese. It was probably more noticeable than the hatred of Germans and Italians because it is so much easier to distinguish a person of Japanese heritage. This book by Graham Salisbury shows readers a part of the history of this time.

The author introduces us to Eddy Okubo who lies about his age and joins the U.S. Army in 1941 in Honolulu before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He is proud to be in the Army and never dreams that he will be seen as an enemy of the United States. Eddy and his friends had been born in the United States and felt as “American” as anyone else.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Eddy and all the other soldiers of Japanese heritage were confined to areas away from other soldiers. They were given dangerous and demeaning jobs that other soldiers were not expected to do. Before Eddy was sent on a “mission” he came home to visit – while there his younger brother, Herbie, gave him a beautiful blue lapis stone for good luck. The group of soldiers was sent first to Wisconsin to Camp McCoy. Then they were sent to Mississippi to an island swamp where they are used to train dogs to hate and kill.

This novel will give you an insight into the kinds of behavior that can be considered acceptable when fear and hatred govern what a nation or a group of people do.

Graham Salisbury also wrote Under the Blood-Red Sun, a book about this same time period.