Monday, February 27, 2006

The King of Mulberry Street

Beniamino is from Naples, Italy. His momma sends him the America to find a better life. This novel by Donna Jo Napoli gives the reader a feeling for what it was like to be a nine-year-old boy on his own in New York City in 1892. From the moment he arrives in America, all Dom (the new name he is given in America) wants to do is find a way to return to Italy. He has to survive among the other homeless multitudes and the ruthless patroni who would make him a slave for their own profits. Dom is befriended by Gaetano and Tin Pan Alley, two other boys in similar situations, and together they find a way to survive. One of the themes in this novel is family and relying on that family to help get us through the tough times. Sometimes families are not connected by blood but instead by a common need. I think that this book will give the reader an opportunity to see some of the troubles that faced many young immigrants to this country in the 19th century. From that they may get an insight into problems that face immigrants even today. If you read the postscript, you will see that the author wishes she had had more interest in her history as a young person so that she could have listened to the stories of her grandparents.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Small Steps

The book is not what one would usually call a sequel to Holes by Louis Sachar. In this novel, the author focuses on Theodore “Armpit” Johnson after his time at Camp Green Lake. In an interview Sachar says he focuses on “Armpit” because he thinks life would be hard for a young man in his position, poor and African-American and having a criminal record.

Armpit is determined to finish high school and uses his digging skills in working for a landscaper in Austin, Texas, his hometown. These are some of his small steps in becoming accepted by society. He has a best friend, Ginny, a ten-year-old white girl with cerebral palsy who lives in the other half of the duplex. Armpit gets involved with X-Ray in a ticket scalping operation which X-Ray says will make them rich. Armpit meets the teen rock star of the show they are scalping tickets for. He gets involved with her and his life is definitely changed forever because of what happens.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Inkspell

Cornelia Funke is the author and has also written Dragon Rider, The Thief Lord, and Inkheart.

This book is a sequel to Inkheart, and it is even more engaging. Meggie, Mo(her father), and Resa (her mother) and a number of other characters are read back into the original story. Dustfinger, the fire-dancer, has been so desperate to get back to the story he came from that he take drastic steps to get there. Then curious Meggie reads herself and the boy from another story, who has a crush on her, Farid, into the book. Once they all get back to Inkworld they find the story has taken on a life of its own. Mo is injured by an enemy in the story. The rest of the book is trying to save Mo and create a happy ending to this story gone wrong.

This is not a book that you can read, then put down and come back several days later. You need to continue reading so you can keep the happenings clear in your mind. Most of the chapters are short.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi

This novel by David Chotjewitz (translated by Doris Orgel) tells the story of Daniel growing up in Hamburg during the 1930s. He has experienced an affluent life style as he is the son of a lawyer who was also a war hero from World War I. His best friend Armin is very poor because his father is an out-of-work longshoreman and a socialist. The novel takes the reader through the emotions of this boy who wants more than anything to be a NAZI. He has one big problem, his mother is Jewish. That makes him half-human in the eyes of the NAZI government. The story jumps between the 1930’s and 1945 when Daniel is an officer in the US Army on duty in Hamburg. During the entire story, Armin and Daniel hold the life of the other in their hands.

This story will bring some ethical questions to the reader. They are not easy ones to answer. It has a different perspective than books I have read about Nazi Germany.