YA Lit. Summaries (from #18-Permanent Connections)



18. Permanent Connections--Sue Ellen Bridgers, copyright l987

            Rob Dickson is a troubled teen, does drugs/alcohol, feels constantly inadequate; his parents--upper middle class New Jersey-ites--are worried about him.  His dad's (Davis Dickson) roots are in North Carolina--Tyler Mills.  Carrie, Rob's mom, is a college teacher; Allison, Rob's sister, is younger and "the perfect" daughter.

            Fairlee Dickson, Davis' older brother, has broken a hip.  He's the essential caretaker of Grandpa Dickson (the father of Davis, Fairlee, Coralee, and Rosalie) and Cora (a spinster who has cared for her parents; has become "agoraphobic"--unable to handle leaving her home).

Rosalie is married to Avery; Leanna is their daughter who dates Travis.  Rosalie is a constant "nag" about everything and everyone.

            Rob thinks he's going to be around just a week; ends up being told by his dad that he (Rob) is going to need to stay until maybe Thanksgiving when his uncle is well enough to manuever.  Rob's family is Episcopalian--in contrast to the "heavily" Baptist Dickson clan of the south.  Ending line of Ch. 11 after Rob finds out he has to stay for 3 months--he says this to Coralee, "Nothing hurts me." (49)

            Ellery Collier and her mom, Ginny live up the ridge from the Dicksons.  Ellery likes Fairlee and meets Rob through Fairlee.  Ellery is also feeling a "misfit" in Tyler Mills; her parents have recently divorced.  Ellery wanted to be able to stay with her father -- that wasn't possible.  Ellery and Rob are both runners--both run to help them handle the struggles.  Ellery's words to herself at the end of Ch. 15, p. 67, "Go away, Rob Dickson...I've got all the hurt I can handle."  But she continues to care.

            Ginny, who does all kinds of weaving and who feels her own inadequacies and loneliness, helps Cora move out of the fear of going outside/becomes crucial when Cora goes to the hospital when her dad is found near death after going out to search for Rob.  (near the end of the novel)

            Rob is sick to his stomach the whole first week of school--he doesn't fit in with the "redneck" type students, even though Travis tries to make him a member of the group.  Eventually from Travis, whose brothers grow marijuana, Rob will get some joints and is picked up for driving under the influence of marijuana.  This all comes after the struggles to be in relationship with Ellery.  She's afraid that Rob "wants" too much of her.  Ellery plays flute, loves opera--eventually Rob listens to opera on his own.

            Holy Family in the Valley--little church Rob goes to--first with Ellery and later when he feels so defeated after being picked up after leaving Fairlee's truck where Rob had gotten stuck.  Rob does one bout with alcohol; later buys the two joints from Travis.  Rob calls Ginny (Ellery's mom) to post bail for him; he feels terrible having to face the family.  Ginny suggests Jason Burnette for a lawyer.  Deputy Gatewood "dogs" Rob till he thinks Rob will give the source of the marijuana; Rob doesn't.  Travis's family area gets raided; the police don't find marijuana though.

            Rob leaves the house in anger; goes to the church, cries, prays, and falls asleep.  Later when he gets home, he is told his grandpa went searching for him.  Rob searches all night and eventually finds his grandfather who needs to be hospitalized.  Rob's dad has to come; sticks by his son through the trial.  Rob goes to the church, meets the pastor, Tom Fowler, and tells the pastor all his sins/his failures.  Fowler deals compassionately.

            Rob goes on trial and is cleared of charges.  He learns through the whole experience "where he was going."  Learns for the first time...(264).


19. The Blue Door (3rd novel in The Quilt Trilogy) by Ann Rinaldi.  Less Appalachian, but Southern.  Deals with the South Carolina Islands--St. Helena Island and Yemassee.  Lots of Southern/Northern issues as well as slavery and opposed laborers in the North in mills--specifically in Lowell, MA.


20. This Business about Elijah (Jewish/young adult) Sheldon Oberman


21. Dragons in the Water(combination mystery/morals young adult) Madeleine L'Engle


22. Anastasia Krupnik Lois Lowry--great children's book about a 10 yr. old, precocious one.  Some great examples of what not to do as teacher (the poetry example!!) and what to do (A.'s father and Mrs. W. when she calls about A.'s grandmother's death.


23. Anastasia,Again  Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l981

            In this book Anastasia and family move to the suburbs; A. has all kind of misconceptions about the suburbs.  She even convinces Sam to cry wildly when they get to the house the real estate agent shows them because if Sam cries, A. thinks maybe her parents won’t take it.  Instead the house has a “tower” for A.’s room, a room which can be a study/library for her dad, and a solarium which can be her mom’s studio.  It’s an old Victorian one.  Next door is Mrs. Stein, who becomes a good friend to Sam (he calls her Gertrustein) and eventually to A.  A. helps Mrs. Stein become more active again--encouraging her to get a new hairstyle and also creating a party with a group of senior citizens to come over to the K. house and eventually get introduced to A.  In this book also, A. meets Steve Harvey, the boy she will eventually date.


24. Anastasia Absolutely  Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l995 (This book isn’t necessarily the next in the series--I read it out of order)

            Anastasia gets a dog--but she is the one who must care for it, meaning taking the dog for early a.m. walks.  On the first day, as she goes out, she takes the NY TIMES out of its bag and takes the bag for a “poop scooper bag.”  She is also supposed to mail a package for her mom, a set of illustrations.  A. is considering what to name her dog and is distracted as she is out on this early a.m. walk.  Fairly close to the mailbox, A. has to collect the “dog business” and she is really embarrassed.  She is going over to the mailbox and by mistake puts the bag with the “poop” in the mailbox--as she does so, thinking she is mailing her mom’s package, she spots a man who looks at her fiercely.  Only when A. gets home does she realize that she has put the wrong thing and worries that she has tampered with the mail (though she doesn’t know the real meaning of tampering.  She had gotten the idea to name her dog, Sleuth--it is fitting since the dog is eventually the key to solving (plus preventing) a crime. 

            A.’s 8th grade class is studying an ethics unit--her teacher gives them situations, and they must decide how to respond/write out their response.  As A. does each of the questions, she keeps pondering her situation--should she call the PO and confess?  She also finds out that the mailbox where she mistakenly put the “poop” has been taken away--her friends also tell her  about seeing police at that corner that day; all this adds to A.’s worry.  She spends times avoiding that path.  Her teacher eventually notices how sad A. looks and asks her what’s up?  A. can’t tell him, but does decide she should “confess.”  When she calls the PO someone eventually comes to her house; it turns out a “mad bomber” --who many believe is a former postal employee--had put a bomb in the same mailbox that a.m. and the dog poop disabled the bomb.  Eventually A. has to go to the police station and see if she can recognize/identify anyone who would have been in the area.  Finally she remembers the man who has looked at her fiercely--he’d been wearing a Harvard sweatshirt--A.’s dad teaches at Harvard.   A. is a hero.


25. Anastasia At Your Service : Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l982. 

            Worried by her minimal allowance, A. wants to find a job.  She decides it would be great to be a companion to a wealthy older woman.  A. creates an ad describing the position she wants; she also puts together a resume.  (These are both great examples of writing).  Mrs. Bellingham is the woman who calls for A.’s service.  A. goes the first day thinking she is going to be a companion, but actually she’s put to work as a maid. In polishing the silverware (preparing for one of Mrs. B’s galas) A. drops one and it gets into the disposal and is ruined.  Mrs. B. tells A. that she has to pay for this “bolster”--A. is interpreting the word incorrectly, so her mom can’t understand what A. must pay for.  A. must continue working for Mrs. B. even though A. would like to quit, because she has to earn the money to pay for the spoon.

            Mrs. B. is the grandmother of Daphne, one of A.’s new classmates, so A. is really embarrassed to think she must serve as a maid at D.’s birthday party, hosted by Mrs. B.  A. decides she must look older--40 or so--so she creates “falsies” from panty hose of her mom’s, puts on make-up, and generally looks weird.  As she is serving appetizers, her falsies get into the food.  Daphne excuses herself and asks for A. to help her.  In the bathroom, D. explains that she knows A. is not 40 and the girls become friends, allied against Mrs. B. who has given D. a doll for her b’day--D. considers this an affront--and has “deceived” A. by making her a maid, instead of a companion.  The girls eventually decide to send invitations to Mrs. B. major fund-raiser out to various street people types.

            Meanwhile one night while A. and D. are together, Sam (who is very precocious and has learned the word “airplane,” falls out the window and is taken to the hospital.  His curls need to be cut off, so the doctor can do work on his head.  He looks like Kojak.  A. is so worried that her brother will die; she promises to do  whatever she can for him.  Sam has supposedly met a person he calls Mrs. Flypaper--no one knows who that is.  The family thinks Sam has created an imaginary friend to help him through all the trauma of the hospital etc. 

            Eventually A. finds out that Mrs. B. is the Mrs. Flypaper and Mrs. B. is a hospital benefactor.  At this point, she doesn’t want to cause Mrs. B. pain, but the invitations have already gone out to the “street people.”  In the end, the party works out for best and both A. and D. confess why they did what they did.


26. Anastasia Ask Your Analyst Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l984

            A. is 13 and going through a time when she thinks her parents are awful and don’t understand her; A. thinks she should go to an analyst.  Her parents tell her it’s all normal for teens to feel this way, but A. doesn’t believe this.  A. gets 2 gerbils which she plans to use for a science project, studying their reproduction process.  A.’s mom is terribly afraid of rodents and refuses to go into A.’s room to clean or anything since A. has the gerbils there.  A. is supposed to keep a record of her project--there are samples of A.’s write-ups.

The gerbils give birth early--soon there are 11 gerbils and A. doesn’t know what she’ll do about all these.

            One day when A. is with her friends at a yard sale she gets a bust of Freud--now A. has an analyst.  She keeps this in her room and often “asks” Freud for help in her quandries.  (A. has usually asked her goldfish Frank--he doesn’t answer much!!).  A.’s parents ask her about problems--like Mom wonders how to deal with a nursery school mate of S.’s who is biting and cruel to Sam.  The Nicky who “attacks” S. turns out to be a girl and N. has an obnoxious mom who doesn’t see the destruction that N. causes (there is a horrible experience when Mrs. K. invites N. and her mom over.)

            The gerbils escape one day and are all over the house; A. is super stressed and eventually has to tell both her dad and S. about the gerbils.  Finally the gerbils gets captured and Mrs. K. finds out.  This book ends with Nicky, the obnoxious child needing to be in the hospital and the school sending a letter out about her classmates doing something for N.  The Krupniks think a fitting gift will be the gerbils.  A. has decided these will not do for a science project.


27. Anastasia On Her Own : Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, l985. 

            Anastasia and her dad try to help Mrs. K. be more organized with the household work since Mrs. K. thinks she is a failure at this.  It actually is the many unexpected things that come into each day that cause Mrs. K. to have problems.  (Mrs. K. is an illustrator for books and does much painting)  When A. and her dad (Myron) get a schedule organized, Mrs. K. can’t necessarily stay on it--lots of unexpected things come up.  She eventually has to be gone to Los Angeles, since one of the works she illustrated is going to made into a film and she is asked to serve as consultant.  She is supposed to be gone 9 days.  Right after she leaves, A. is asked for a date--her first--by Steve Harvey.  The date is to be that Friday p.m.  Meanwhile, Annie, a former friend of Mr. K. (he had been in love with her before he met Katherine, Mrs. K.) comes back to town, and she invites herself to see Myron.  Myron is panicky since Annie is coming for dinner on Fri.  A. decides she’ll invite Steve for dinner so Mr. K. won’t have to face Annie alone. 

            Sam comes down with chicken pox; A. has to be out of school to care for S.  A. now tries to manage the household schedule she and her dad had designed for Mrs. K.  A. quickly realizes how problematic the schedule is, how hard it is to keep.  When Mrs. K. calls the rest of the family refuses to tell her about S.’s chicken pox, Annie’s coming, and A.’s date.  A. looks up info (in COSMOPOLITAN) about how to create a romantic dinner.  She decides to have the purple, a passionate color scheme, for the dinner party.  That involves dyeing a table cloth (eventually all A.’s dad’s shirts, by accident get dyed purple), A. wants to have purple make-up and all kinds of things to match.  She does tell her father eventually about the romantic dinner; he promises to bring flowers for the table. 

            In trying to help Sam with the itch, A. mistakenly gives him a bath in baking powder instead of baking soda.  Eventually she uses the baking soda, Sam no longer itchs.  Sam has outlined each chicken pox in purple, making a dot-to-dot pattern. 

            A.’s menu involves a veal dish. While cooking it, she keeps getting calls about free dance lessons (though there are of course a number of hidden expenses that are the “catch.”)--she ends up asking the man about cheesecloth and how to use a corkscrew.  When the dinner comes, Steve isn’t prepared for A.’s romantic side; Annie is completing obnoxious--she’s also put on lots of weight and makes comments which continually have the word, “bleeping” this or that.  The dinner is somewhat of a disaster and afterwards the kitchen is a mess, the laundry has piled up, no cleaning has been done, Mr. K. comes down with chicken pox.  A. calls her mom, who comes home early and is able to get everything back to normal.


28. Anastasia at the Address. Lois Lowry

            A. writes to a singles’ ad in the paper--she writes to a single white male.  She is eventually answered--the man has gotten over 461 (416?) letters.  He says he’d like a woman with a sloop--A. doesn’t know what that is.  She asks her mom and Mrs. K. tells her it is a kind of boat; it turns out that Sam has a toy one.  A. buys it from Sam eventually--Sam didn’t really want to sell it.  Then A. could write that she had a sloop. A. uses the “secret name” Swifty, and has a series of words that the s-w-i-f-t-y stand for.  (Copies of the letters are included in the book) One of A.’s friend’s older sister is getting married.  Because of problems with the originally selected bridesmaid, the couple decide to have junior bridesmaids--her own sister and 3 of her classmates--A. is one.  During this time each of the girls: Daphne, A., Meredith and Sonya  (I think these last two names are correct) have been discussing whether they should spend time with boys--invest all they do to be noticed.  The climax of the book comes when the single white male identifies himself at Septimus Smith and says he is coming to A.’s area and could come to meet her.  But he turns out to be one of the groomsmen and A.’s partner (says his name is Tim, but his full name is Septimus--tells A. this at the wedding rehearsal dinner.  A. has never revealed her name; she also make sure that she is not home on the day when Septimus (Tim) shows up.


29. Anastasia’s Chosen Career:  Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l987.

            A.’s class is supposed to do a paper on their chosen career.    It’s a break time and most of her classmates get to go someplace to go skiing.  A.’s parents won’t allow that so she asks if she can’t take the modeling class she’s found an article about.  They eventually allow her do that--though it means going into Cambridge, where Mrs. K. thinks it isn’t really safe for A. to go--because A. talks about interviewing a book seller who knows A.’s dad--had a book-signing party for Mr. K. for one of his books of poetry that helps her convince her parents.   Also A. will pay for the sessions--$116.00 or so.

            The actual place A. goes does not look like the modeling studio which A. envisions or has imagined.  Mrs. Szcempelowski and her husband, who are non-typical shapes/types for running a modeling school.  Mrs. S. asks to be called Aunt Vera and her husband, Uncle Henry.  The first student A. meets is an African Am. girl called Henrietta Peaboby, though anyone who calls her Henrietta is doomed to be crushed.  She wants to be called Henry.  The other students are Helen Marie Howell--a 12 yr. old who seems very shy and withdrawn; Bambie Browne, a 14 yr. old who thinks she’s God’s gift to fashion and modeling; and of all people, Robert Giannini--someone from A.’s previous school and neighborhood, who carries a briefcase and is the “nerdy” type.

            On day one they tape the students doing some kind of talk/intro. so they can have a “before and after” comparison of their development of poise--poise and self-confidence are what A. keeps noting in her career paper writing--that even for the job of bookstore owner she needs these.  Bambie does some Shakespeare cutting from ROMEO and JULIET--for effect.

            During lunch of day one, A. meets Barbara Page, the bookstore owner and has a delightful time with Barbara, whose shop is the downstairs of her home and who is a really charming woman who fondly remembers Myron Krupnik.  A. is so taken with Barbara, that time runs out before A. can ask any questions. 

            Day two is hairstyling--A. gets a neat style, but Henry becomes stunning with a cut sort of like an African goddess type.  The 3 beauticians are also very untypical--really old women (in A.’s perspective) Helen Marie is also transformed by the hairstyle; she stills remain hesitant.  Henry, Helen and A. get to do make-up, or be made up; Robert and Bambie have to have diet counseling.  There’s also a time when each person has to walk like an animal they’d like to model.  A. selects a giraffe. 

            A. and Henry go to Pages bookstore together.  Once more they have a delightful time with Barbara. B. gives Henry a book with the  African women in whom H. looks like.  A. discusses being an assistant for Barbara; A. feels B. gives too much away, does too much (readings for children and senior citizens etc. ).  A. handles a phone call for B. and in the process sells a copy of her dad’s poetry book.  A. wanted to buy a book while at B’s store, but B. ends up giving A. some books.

            That evening A. goes to Henry’s house, meets a family who makes her feel at home--H.’s dad is a policeman.   A. gets a ride home with the policeman.

            Next day of the class is a fashion consultation one--each person is outfitted according to the suggestions given by Aunt Vera.  A. is darling,  Robert and Bambie look good; once again Henry is stunning.  When Helen goes in to the dressing room, and she has resisted getting dressed, she struggles and eventually runs away.  Robert decides he will search her out.  The next day he and Helen do return.  It’s a day for recording again and specifically saying what each got out of the workshop.  Robert and Helen come together.  Robert tells part of the story he’s learned from Helen; Helen tells the rest.  Her family home burned--her mom, dad, and brother died in the fire.  Helen has scars and that’s why she resisted anyone seeing her.  She’d run to the psychiatrist--but was able to work out the pain she was feeling.  Everyone is stunned by these revelations.

            A. ends up knowing she’ll never be a model, but knowing she gained a great deal.


30. Anastasia Has the Answers   Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghlin Mifflin Co.,             l986.

            Book opens with Anastasia trying to decide if she wants to fly to Los Angeles for her aunt's funeral.  (Aunt Rose is Uncle George's --Myron K.'s brother--wife.)  She has died from salmonella poisoning.  A. loves to envision it as Sal Monella--since in this book she's thinking of becoming a journalist.  Each chapter ends with a brief sample of a newspaper lead. 

            We find out about Mr. Rafferty, A.'s English teacher--who eventually wants her to memorize "O World I Cannot Hold Thee Close Enough" by Edna St. Vincent Millay to present when a group of international educators come.  Mr. R. wants A. to do lots of gestures--fling out her arms for example.  Anastasia also writes/thinks lots about Ms. Willoughby, her physical ed teacher.  Actually A. has a "crush" on Ms. W. and is worried about that until Mrs. K. tells A. that she too, once had a crush on a teacher.  There's nothing strange about that. 

            A.'s big challenge is that she can't do the rope climb in PE and is continually embarrassed.  She even tries, while her parents are away to get the rope hung in the garage so she can practice at home.  She can't manage that alone, but when her parents return, and Uncle George comes with them to stay for a while, they do get the rope hung.  When it comes down to the point that A. will have to simply stand and blow the whistle in the class when the international educators are present, A.'s mom helps her practice, and on the night right before the inter. eds. arrive, A. is able to do it.  She decides she may surprise everyone in class.  In some ways she doesn't want to pull a surprise on Ms. W., but when A. doesn't get a chance to do her poem in class, she does decide to do the climb.  She gives a brief speech about how she's worked at being able to climb, then does get to the top.  When she's so elated about being at the top, she starts into the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem and does feel like flinging her arms.  Thus she falls to the floor and gets a major concussion.  But as she eventually wakes up in the hospital---everyone from her class, to her family to Ms. W. is there at the hospital. 

            One other aspect of the book is that A. wishes they could read Gone with the Wind for English; when U. George arrives, he looks just like Rhett Butler.


31. All About Sam : Lois Lowry.  Illus. by Diane deGroat.  Boston: Houghton             Mifflin, l988.

            Written from the viewpoint of baby Sam--from birth and coming home; to the "Terrible Twos."  Sam keeps thinking this is a group of people.  Or when he is asked by his mom about being "trained" -- he thinks of trains and engines and likes that--he doesn't like the notion of training pants.  He flushes A.'s fish Frank down the toilet after Mom has explained that what's flushed down the toilet goes out into the water and evaporates and comes back in the form of rain.  Sam does realize that he has to put things in the toilet (after he's been told so by his mom) that like to be wet--that's why he thinks the goldfish will work.  There is also an incident related to moving--Sam doesn't get the concept of moving, as in moving away from one house to another house.  He is not happy with his new room as they first move--it's too large and empty.  But when they unpack the box with his trucks, and he, Mom, A. and Dad, plus the movers eventually, all start playing with the trucks and "driving" them to his new room, he is really happy.

            Sam really wants a pet--he can't have a dog or cat because Mr. K. is allergic.  Sam finds a worm and thinks this might work for a pet.  At the library, he realizes that there's going to be a pet show and he wants to bring his.  S's named the worm, "King Worm."  Sam displays his "pet" but after the judges give him the award for "the most invisible pet," Sam realizes his worm is gone.  Sam is worried that the pet has been taken for bait.  In fact, the worm is found back at the K. home--Sam says the worm should have been awarded the "fastest slitherer" award. 

            Sam has a series of experiences at Nursery School--Nicky is a girl who bites, Adam is a boy who always does imaginary dropping of bombs and firing of guns, and Sam can never think of things to bring for Show-and-Tell.  One time Sam took his dad's pipe and a lighter.  He tried to say it was his pipe, not his dad's.  His teacher turns this into a lesson about safety and health--not good to smoke and be careful playing with matches. 

            Sam wants his curls to be gone; wants a punk haircut like Adam.  He goes into the bathroom and begins to play with his dad's shaving cream; then he uses his mom's perfume; and finally he finds a scissors and tries cutting his own hair--creating a disaster.  He has to go to the barber and see if he can get his cut fixed.

            Another funny experience is Sam's wanting to be a he-man.  He's told by A. to pump iron, so he finds his mom's iron and then the pumps she has in a shoe box and attempts to figure out how to "pump iron."  He also eats spinach, thinking that he can be strong like Popeye--but his dad helps him with that reality. 

            In the final chapter he learns from A. about making a secret code; and from his dear neighbor, Gertrude Stein (Sam says, Gertrudestein--all one word) about Morse Code.  He and she use flashlights to send each other messages at night.  This is the first time Sam says he doesn't need his night light.


32. Atta boy Sam : Lois Lowry.   Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l992  (This is at least the 2nd in the Sam series)

            Focuses on 3 yr. old or close to 4, Sam.  They are preparing for Katherine K.’s 38th b’day.  She mentions that things homemade mean the most to her.  So each family member attempts to make something.  A. writes a poem, Myron tries to do a painting.   Sam finds out that his mom can no longer get her favorite perfume.  He thinks of making perfume and each time his mom mentions something that is her favorite smell, he attempts to get some of that object, putting whatever in a ziplock bag and collects all these in a big jar--from the scent of babies, S. takes tissues from diaper changes and spit-ups; from Dad’s pipe smell, S. takes one of the pipes and puts it in the jar; of Sam’s hair--he clips a lock while at nursery school (gets reported for cutting hair and is put in the “time out” place); for fresh bread which Gertrude Stein next door is making, S. takes some yeast--when that is put with everything else, the jar begins to “burp” and gurgle and of course, smell.  S. also puts in water from a field trip to the aquarium (for the ocean scent) and  vanilla flavoring.  Meanwhile he worries more and more as the “brew” ferments.  To make himself feel better he gets a kitten, even though he knows his dad is allergic to kittens.  (A neighbor has been giving the kittens away free.

            Sam has not allowed anyone in his room, but as Mrs. K’s b’day approaches, M. and A. do come into the room so all can discuss how their presents aren’t right.  The perfume mixture blows up while Dad, A. and S. are in the room. but in the end they all laugh and Mrs. K. is pleased with their efforts.


33. Autumn Street : Lois Lowry.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l980.

                        The main character (story is told from her viewpoint) is Elizabeth Jane Lorensi, who is 4 when WWII begins.  Everything she hears has some connection to “the War.”  (e.g. whenever she can’t do something it’s related to “the War.”)  She and her family live in NY but have to move to their grandfather’s (maternal one) in PA when her father goes to war.  While still in NY, there is a description of Elizabeth painting at nursery school--she has far more sense of perspective about trees and the horizon--it’s noticed by someone from a university school of education. 

            Jessica Kathryn is 3 yrs. older than Elizabeth; neither feels very “at home” with their grandmother.  It turns out that this woman married Grandfather after his first wife died in childbirth with E. and J.’s mom.  Grandmother here seems very stern, only calls the girls by their complete first and second names.  Grandfather is a banker, and a dignified man in the community.  They attend the Episcopalian Church.  The others in the household include Tatie (African Am. who is a cook and has been with the family since the girls’ mom was a child) and her grandson, Charles, who Elizabeth befriends and has so much fun with; Lillian Chestnut does the laundry.  There are also 3 great aunts, sisters to the girls’ mom’s mother.  These aunts are Caroline, Florence and Philippa. 

            Gordon, a new baby, arrives while Father is away at War.  He is a frettish baby at first.  Noah and Nathaniel Hoffman, twins, are neighbors of E.’s grandparents.  Noah is a very cruel young boy--strangles a cat and E. and Charles see this.  Once E. wishes something would happen to Noah.  He gets ill, develops pneumonia and dies.  Mr. Hoffman, of German descent, disappeared when the war began.  One day E. and Charles sneak into the Hoffman house, looking for any clues that Hugo (Mr. H.) was a spy for the Germans.  Nathaniel is a very kind and good boy.  Another character is a man named Ferdie Gossett, who is possibly retarded; occasionally he’s around the school which E. and J. attend.  E. is six at this point; she can’t understand though why Charles (who is Afro-Am) can’t attend the same school she can.

            One day Grandfather has a stroke; again E. doesn’t quite comprehend what a stroke is--she associates this with the stroke of the clock.  She also has a cousin David who she always enjoyed.  She knows he is in a hospital in CA; eventually she’s told David was “shell-shocked” and she can’t quite comprehend what that means.  A great quote from the novel sums up these experiences: “Everyone I loved was threatened by things I didn’t understand” (105).

            At her school, Miss MacDonald is her teacher; and a girl named Louise Donohue friend.  Her family is “real”--there’s no one like Grandmother who is so stern and proper.  The Donohues aren’t concerned about getting messy or about “protecting” things so nothing gets broken.  At the Donohues, E. first learns her grandfather’s real name (all she had ever called him is Grandfather)--Benjamin Lloyd Creighton.  She also learns that Louise’s mom knows E.’s mom, Celia.  (p. 139 has a description of the ideas about the family being neat, placed carefully in a separate file, not interacting which anyone else.)

            One day while E. and her mom are over at the great aunts, E. finds out from her mom that Aunt Philippa had wanted to marry Grandfather.  Instead Grandfather married “that stiff unbending woman.” 

            A major tragic event of the book happens when E. and Charles go out to  try E.’s new sled on a hill where others of this “non-black neighborhood” are out sledding.  Several older (6th gr.) boys taunt and hurt Charles, telling he isn’t allowed there.  Charles and E. (even though it’s very cold) go off to the woods (Charles has never been allowed in these woods before.  E. hasn’t been feeling that well and she tells C. they must go home.  She feels more and more sick as she goes back; he stays in the woods.  Next day after Tatie and others have been searching for Charles, he is found dead.  E. goes through a time of intense fever, lack of consciousness--she fights for life and Tatie is worried about “losing this one too.” 

            In a very powerful ending, E. is told about how Grandmother risked going to the all black church which Tatie attends for the funeral of Charles and to support Tatie.  Only in March is E. well; her father returns from war; he’s lost his leg.

            This book is really powerful, uses wonderful language and description.


34.  Number the Stars : Lois Lowry  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., l989

            Annemarie Johansen is 10 yrs. old and the story is told from her viewpoint.  She and her family live in Copenhaugen; Kristi is her younger sister.  Lise, their l8 yr. old sister was killed in an accident 2 weeks before the marriage.  Peter Nielsen, her fiance, is active in the resistance movement.  (Only at the end of the novel do we learn that Lise was killed in the resistance)  During the 3 yr. occupation, electricity has been rationed as well as sugar and other foods, no one has enough to eat and there is a nightly curfew after 8:00 p.m.  No leather is available so shoes are made of fish skin (fish scales).  Eventually the Nazis close all businesses that are owned/run by Jews.  Using the reference made early on about the King of Denmark and who his bodyguards are, “All of Denmark is his bodyguard” Annemarie says all of Denmark must be bodyguards for the Jews.

            Annemarie’s friend Ellen Rosen is from a Jewish family; one day the Rosen family comes and leaves Ellen; the Rosens are led into hiding by Peter.  The Nazis come to the Johansen home; they question why A. is blond and this “other daughter” --that’s what they’ve been told about Ellen Rosen, is dark.  Fortunately the J’s have pictures of Lise when she was little--Lise was dark so they claim Ellen is Lise, and the Nazis go away.  Next day Ellen is sent to Inge’s (Mrs. J’s) brother Henrik’s.  He’s a fisherman and out in the country.  Ellen’s parents also arrive at U. Henrik’s and they, plus Ellen, are eventually helped to escape to a boat that Henrik is running which will take them to safety in Sweden.  On this night a coffin arrives at U. Henrik’s--to explain why people (others Peter has assisted) have gathered at the house, the coffin is used to be the site of a wake.  Again the Nazis arrive and question, but fortunately they don’t open the coffin when told the person died of typhus. 

            Title of the book comes from a line of Ps. 147 (?) “he who numbers the stars one by one.”

            The night everyone is trying to get to the boat, Peter has sent a packet to Henrik; it’s in Mr. R.’s pocket, but falls out.  That is only discovered when A.’s mom falls as she is returning from having gone with them to the boat.  Mrs. J. sprains her ankle so Annemarie must get the packet to Henrik.  A. takes a basket (like Little Red Riding Hood)--her mother warns her, if you are stopped by anyone, pretend you do not understand.  A. is stopped by soldiers and amazingly though they search the basket, they do not get the packet.  In the handkerchief in the packet is a special chemical to confuse the dogs’ scent (the search dogs which Nazis are taking about ships.  The Rosens and others were hiding below deck when their boat was searched.

 The war ends when A. is 12; Peter has been caught and executed.  The Danish resistance has been highly successful in assisting most of Danish Jews to escape.


35. A Summer to Die Lois Lowry; illus. by Jenni Oliver; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, l977

            Told from the viewpoint of Meg, the younger sister and less beautiful (especially from Meg's perspective) daughter of the Chalmers.  Molly, the older, is the popular one, prettier one, has just become a cheerleader.  Mr. Chalmers has been given a yr. from the university, to finish a book--he's an English prof.  The family rents a small house in the country so Mr. C. can have the quiet to write.  They move right before Thanksgiving. 

            The owner of the house is Will Banks, 70, a kind and creative man who befriends the Chalmers, especially Meg. Will quotes poetry--one great one, Hopkins "Spring and Fall" telling Meg, "It's Margaret you mourn for." and at the time Meg doesn't understand the line.  Meg can do photography and she eventually gets a darkroom--her father builds it when he is "stuck" on the writing--and is able to teach (as well as learn with) Will Banks.

            In the midst of all this, Molly gets ill (starts with nose bleeds; but one night as Meg awakes knowing "something is wrong," Molly is in a pool of blood.  What she develops is a kind of leukemia, but for a long time, Meg doesn't realize how ill Molly is.  Her parents don't tell her since there is some hope that medication will work.

            Meanwhile a family, Ben Brady and Maria Abbott, move into Will's other house.  Will, by the way, has just one living relative, a nephew who is trying to prove Will looney and get the property from his uncle. Ben and Maria become good friends of Meg's and also Molly's.  Molly does lots of sewing for the baby and keeps insisting everything is to be "right" for the baby.

            Ben and Maria ask Meg to photograph the birth.  Meg learns lots about birthing; eventually Meg also learns that Molly is dying.  Meg cannot bring herself to go to the hospital (her parents say the hospital won't let her in, but really Meg is scared) until the birth of Ben and Maria's son, and then she wants to be the one to tell Molly.  By this point Molly is close to death and does die two weeks later.

            Huntington, the nephew, turns up soon after Molly's death.  He wants to force his uncle to get rid of the "hippie" family--Ben and Maria.  It turns out that Huntington is actually the junior partner in Ben's dad's law firm.

 The book handles a family's dealing with death; offers some great images of friendships.


36. Wolf by the Ears Ann Rinaldi. New York: Scholastic, l99l.

            Title is based on this quote by Jefferson

                        "...Gradually, with due sacrifices, a general emancipation

                        and expatriation could be effected.  But, as it is, we have

                        the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor

                        safely let him go.  Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation

                        the other."

Told from the perspective of Harriet Hemings, probable daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, African Am. woman.  Harriet, Beverly (a male), Madison and Eston are the Heming children still living at Monticello; Thomas has already left--"passing as white" into a different world.  T. left when H. was 10; he apparently bore such resemblance to Jefferson that when anyone came to the plantation, he was sent elsewhere.  Harriet's mother has been the keeper of Jefferson's wardrobe and the only one allowed, most times, into the inner sanctum of the Master's rooms.  Harriet always feels she must call Jefferson, "the Master"--yet that sets a slave relationship and all of the Blacks at Monticello (definitely the Hemings) are given papers saying they are free; these papers are accessible when the Hemings reach age 21.

            Harriet is allowed to get some tutoring from Mr. Oglesby who also tutors H.'s brothers.  Burwell is like a butler; Mammy Ursula is a cook, confidante for H.

            As the novel opens H. is recalling the day she received a journal from Jefferson and was told to write in it often.  She was the one who frequently made comments about aspects of the farm that Jefferson records in his farm book.  (these items are brought in throughout the novel).

            Two of Sally's children, a "first Harriet" and Edy have died in infancy or as with Harriet 1, at age 2 of pleurisy.  Harriet (the second one and the narrator in the book who is red-headed, almost white, has freckles) is l8 as she begins writing in the journal in April l820--she'll be l9.  H. speaks of the pain she sees in Jefferson;  "I'm watching him.  Me. Harriet. I watch the great Thomas Jefferson al the time when he doesn't know it.  And I see things others don't see.  I can do that with people. Especially with white folk.  They don't know how to keep what's in their hearts from showing in their eyes like we do" (12).

            H. records how others want her to leave when she is 21; she doesn't want to leave; she believe Jefferson doesn't want her to leave either.  Her mother particularly is encouraging her to go.  Thomas Mann Randolph, son-in-law of J. wants H. to "go for freedom."  Though he is considered "crazy" by many, he has the wisest words/plans for H.; Randolph comprehends the reality of being an illegitimate child of someone like T. Jefferson.  Randolph also calls to mind the children H. may have some day.  H. has not thought of children; she simply believes in her protected state.  Yet, as Randolph reminds her, J. will be dead by the time H. has children.  Randolph is currently the governor of Virginia and wants to free all the slaves in VA.  He sadly realizes though, that too many in VA, including his father-in-law, J., are not strong enough on the desire to free slaves.

            Thurston, 25, is a black man, gardener.  He'd like to marry H.  She realizes she is not ready to marry; Thurston tries to help her see that she will be married off whether J. would want that or not.  Isabel's Davie is a black man who "wants" H.--H. would not like that. 

            Incident with Beverly flying a hot air balloon to prove to J. how smart B. is--B. wants to be allowed to go to the U. of VA, which J. is founding.  In this scene, which H. overhears, J. tries, though painfully, to show Beverly why B. would not be allowed at the U. and how problematic is could be for J. Beverly is horribly angry; ever after basically rejects J.

            Mammy U. reveals to H. that H's mom has been making a wardrobe of clothing for H. to wear when she leaves the plantation.  H. is upset--she finds a way to sneak up to her M.s room ( of course this means she must go through J.'s room and she is discovered there by him).  J. and H. have a wonderful conversation--though he tells her she must never reveal she wasn't punished by him for being in the room--it would diminish his authority.

            Charles Bankhead, alcoholic is the husband of Anne, grand daughter of J., daughter of Thomas Randolph.  He has been known to beat Anne; also he tried to stab his brother-in-law.  One day he is allowed back in the J. household.  This same day Thurston tells H. that Mr. Bacon, overseer of the slaves, will marry off H. someday soon.  H. is distracted and ends up in the dining room where drunk Bankhead is; Bankhead is attempting to rape H. when first Thurston, then Burwell and Randolph intervene.   H. is sick for a number of days; now realizes she must go.  She sees R. again, who tells her if she'd like to go, he'll arrange for his wife to tutor H. so she learns how to live in white society.  He also confronts H. with the idea of "passing"--a good portion of the rest of the book deals with how H. struggles with the notion of passing/possibly leaving her culture; how her brothers, particularly Beverly react.  Randolph also tells H. about a man who would marry her or at least become betrothed (this process would help H. leave).  H. does meet the man, falls in love with him, is eager to marry despite all that implies.  The man, Thad Sandridge, tells H. that she must go under another name in white society--Elizabeth Lackland.  He also tells her she can be a teacher in his sister's orphanage.  Thad lives in Washington D.C.

            As H. is preparing to leave, and she has now shared this with J. who seems saddened, yet tolerant, H. finds out that Beverly is leaving--he won't tell J. before he goes.  Also only after their farewell mtg. does H. learn from her mother that B. was also "passing."  End chapter is very powerful--final scene with J.

 Key to this work, the alienation of non-recognition.  This novel could be a great one to "pair with a classic"--specifically Absalom, Absalom


37. The Last Silk Dress:  Ann Rinaldi.  New York: Holiday House, l988.

            The novel is set from l861-l862, in Richmond primarily.  It is based on research about silk balloons used by the Union for reconnaissance during the Civil War.  The Confederates eventually wanted one; the novel focuses on Susan Dobson Chilmark, who works to gather the silk dresses (even having to work her brother Lucien's brothel for dresses--with his help, of course) and the other Confederate women who help sew it together.

            Susan's father, Hugh, is continually involved in the war effect--a machinist, doing munitions work.  Lucien, has run from home--he's Susan's older brother and she and he are the only living children.  Their mother, Charlotte, is bitter; physically and verbally abusive of Susan.  Only far into the novel do you realize Susan's mother had an affair with "a Yankee" to avenge her husband Hugh's indiscretions with the black daughter of Rhody, the housekeeper. Lucien had also loved the young black woman.  He'd left home when his father wouldn't protect the young woman.  Lucien is an abolitionist.

            Lucien is also wealthy from being a food smuggler, running a gambling casino, and the brothels.  The Confederate women of Richmond and surely his mother, refuse to speak of him.  His mother is constantly worried about her reputation because of Lucien's actions.



38. Broken Days by Ann Rinaldi

            The novel is set in l811-1812; it's another of the Quilt Trilogy books and highlights the growing of the mills in Lowell, MA. Its primary focus is on the Chelmsford family again; particularly it centers on those who have been part of the Shawnee.  Tecumseh is a caretaker of the young woman who eventually is sent to mother's family in Massachusetts.  The protagonist is a young woman constantly struggling for the love and recognition of her grandfather.  Aunt Hannah, single throughout most of the book, is the young protagonist's primary caretaker.  Georgie is a woman considered an outcast because of her Native American connections.  Worthwhile for Native Am. studies.



39. A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi

            Susanna English is the protagonist; she is one of the few who know the real beginnings of the group who began the witchcraft hysteria in Salem in the late 1600's.  Her parents are eventually implicated mainly because they are not entirely locked into Puritanism--Philip English is Episcopalian.  Susanna's brother has been away at sea and that leads her to Tituba, the slave employed by Rev. Parris.  When Susanna goes to Tituba, she learns of the initial movement, but can't reveal this as she believes she must protect her family.  She falls in love with the son of the infamous Judge Hathorne (ancester of Nathaniel)--this son eventually defies his father, the judge, because the son can't condone the tragedies of the witchcraft hysteria.  This would be a great companion text to The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible.


40. The Friendship : by Mildred Taylor, Pictures by Max Ginsberg

Logan children: Stacey (he's 12 in this book), Cassie (is 9, story told from her perspective, her voice), Christopher-John (age 7), Little Man (age 6 ) are outside Wallace Store, where their parents have urged them not to go.  John Wallace is the storeowner, Dewberry, Thurston, and Kaleb are the sons.  The children are on an errand for Aunt Callie Jackson--they are to get her some headache powders.  It's their first time in the store.  Christopher-John is eyeing the candy; Little Man is looking at belt buckles, cuff links, etc.

Dewberry W., when he finally decides to wait on the children, yells out at Little Man to "get them filthy hands off-a-there."  Little Man, who is always worried about being clean/tidy is so frightened; he worries about taking these words of the white man literally.  L.M. is further offended when he tries to explain his hands are clean; the Wallace sons are meaning the black skin...

            The children are just glad to get out of the store, when Mr. Tom Bee, an old black man comes along--he used to be a sharecropper, is now basically out fishing.  He wants to get some sardines from the store.  He does not call John Wallace, the store owner, Mr. J. W., because long ago Tom had saved John's life several times and had been told by John, that no matter what, John was simply "John" to Tom.  Now the sons are infuriated that a black man addresses their dad without saying sir or mister, and uses their dad's first name only.

            Jeremy Simms, a white boy, who consistently befriends the black children, is at the store--his entire family, but particularly his dad and older brothers, is extremely prejudiced.  Jeremy wants to go fishing with the Logan children.  They are suspect, worried about being with a white child.

            The tensions rise as Tom Bee keeps asking for John; Dewberry is horribly cruel to Tom.  The children learn the story of the friendship only after Tom Bee is basically thrown out.  John does try to warn Tom about calling him John, without the Mr. Tom does get the candy for the children.

            On the return from A. Callie Jackson's place, Tom says he wants to get tobacco.  More whites have come into the store, and this time when Tom uses John, John throws him out; as Tom is walking out of the store asserting he will use John, John shoots him in the leg.  Tom crawls away calling out John's name.  The children witness the shooting--this is how the book ends. 


41. The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor. Illustrated by Michael Hays 

            In this novel there are two girls, Eloise is one--the narrator, and Wilma.  Their dad buys a gold Cadillac and delights all the neighbors, relatives, etc. in their neighborhood in Toledo.  Their mother isn't happy that her husband has spent the money on this car; she wants to be buying a house.  Wilbert, father's name; Dee, mother's name.  The next thing Wilbert says he will do is drive the car to Mississippi to see his relatives; everyone cautions against this--worried about Southern whites and their hatred of "seemingly uppidity” North blacks.

            It turns out that Mother and the girls go with their dad; several other families do too.  Elois sees in their travels south, all the "white only" "colored only" signs.  She doesn't understand.  In Mississippi at the state line, her dad is stopped by a policeman.  The police charge that he's stolen the car; the also take him to jail; eventually Wilbert pays the fine.  Wilbert decides while they are in Mississippi, he will drive a 4-yr. old Chevy of his cousin's.

            When the family is back in Ohio, Wilbert sells the car; they get a 1930s Model A Ford, and use the money for the house.  Wilbert tells 'Lois that they are more together as a family now. 


42. Mississippi Bridge by Mildred Taylor; pictures by Max Ginsburg; New York: Dial Books, l990

            Told from the viewpoint of Jeremy Simms, age 10, a white boy who befriends (at least tries to) the Logan family, especially Stacey.  There had been lots of rain so creeks were swollen; men can't do much farm work, the Charley Simms (father), RW, Melvin--Jeremy's older brothers--hang around in Wallace's store, also the bus stop.  Rudine Johnson, black and nearly the same age as R.W. and Melvin, and her mother come into the store; Rudine is admiring a summer-sky-blue hat, wishing she could try it on.  Mr. Wallace will not let a Negro try on a hat that she may or may not buy. 

            Then Mrs. Hattie McElroy and her granddaughter, Grace-Anne (about 4) come in.  They are white; they are going to take the bus to visit Grace-Anne's mom.  Miz Hattie doesn't want to drive; doesn’t trust her Negro servant, Uncle Moses, since he can't see well anymore. 

            Josias Williams, young Negro man about mid-twenties comes in.  He is also planning on taking the bus to go to "the Natchez Trace."  He is hoping to get a lumbering job there.  When Mr. Simms confronts Josias about where he is going, J. tells about getting the job.  Simms starts "verbally attacking" Josias, saying a "Nigger" shouldn't be working for cash when so many white men are out of work.  (It's the Depression).  Josias actually lies about the job possibility so he won't be beaten by the white men; he is humiliated, then after leaving the store, is angry. 

            Next Stacey (10), Cassie (7), Christopher-John (5) and Little Man (less than 4), arrive with their grandmother, Big Ma (Caroline).  Jeremy reveals how the Logans are suspect since they own land; these Negroes actually have more than some white people--again that is a problem.  Big Ma is trying to go to help her sister who is ill. 

            As the bus arrives, the white woman and her granddaughter are treated graciously.  The driver steps back while the Negroes try to find places.  Cassie tells her grandmother about a seat; it's in the front section--reserved for whites.  Jeremy runs after the Logan children as they head back in the rain.  The bridge they need to cross is hard to find/see in the fog.  The bridge is old, rickety; it's over the Rosa Lee creek which is rising.  The children are looking through the weak planks at the rising water, but eventually they go on with the errand of taking milk to Miz Georgia.

            Meanwhile back at the store there are problems.  Henry Amos and his wife and several children, who are all whites, have arrived and want to take the bus so now there is not room for several of the Negroes.  Big Ma and several others get off; Josias doesn't want to.  He is confronted by the bus driver--eventually J. is pushed off the bus into the mud.  Jeremy tries to console Josias, and Jeremy is yelled at by his dad.  The bus races on, to the bridge; Jeremy is running after, calling Josias.  They watch as the bus swerves, hits the rail and careens over the side into the water.  Jeremy is sent back to the store to get help.  All the whites who were on the bus--drown.


43. The Well by Mildred D. Taylor; New York: Dial Books, l995

            This story is told by David Logan (age 10 at the point of the story), the father of the Logan children of the other Taylor novels.  In this story there has been drought; the only place with drinking water is the Logan's who have a well.  The Logans share the water with everyone, even white people.  The Simms' come for water--they are mean and racist and cruel to the Logans.  (Simmes live less than a mile away on tenant-farm land; the Logans have their own land.  Charlie Simms and his brother Ed-Rose come for water; they verbally incite Hammer Logan, David's brother; Hammer (13) doesn't like to "give in" to the Whites.  Ma Rachel, David's grandmother, is starting to become senile; she's also lived through abuse as her mother was a slave.  Ma R. doesn't like it that white folks can come and get water.  Cousin Halton, Aunt Callie's son, is around working; he tries to keep David and Hammer out of trouble.  (Pa, Mitchell and Kevin are away lumbering on the Natchez Trace.)

            When Hammer and David take the cattle to water, they again are confronted by the Simmes' boys and Dewberry Wallace.  Later the same week, Hammer and David discover Charlie Simms, his wagon hung over a ditch, one wheel off.  David offers to help; Hammer is angered by Charlie's words about "niggers"--David is walking with a crutch from a broken leg.  David tries lifting the wagon so C. can get the wheel on.  C. wastes time and David has to drop the wagon.  C. comes and knocks David down; Hammer attacks C. C falls back and hits a rock; the Logan boys run, worried that C. is dead.  Halton comes along --the boys tell what happened; Halton rushes them away from the scene to hide.  Joe Callister and Mr. Tom Bee, both Negroes, come along --they assume Ma that Charlie isn't dead.

            Still the sheriff (Peterson Rankins) comes; Ma make molasses bread, which she knows the sheriff likes.  Sheriff does agree to go to Old Man McCalister Simms to see if he can persuade him to not press charges.  But the Simmes come; they expect the sheriff to whip both Logan boys.  Eventually Ma does the whipping; the boys have to be humiliated in front of the whites; also Ma Rachel is upset and has to be taken to Aunt Callie's.  Plus the boys have to work for the Simmes all summer.  Pa eventually comes home; he makes the boys carry through on their work for the Simmes.

            The Simmes boys play a trick on Joe Callister, who rings the bell at the Negro church.  Pa, David and Hammer, help Joe handle it.  The Simmes are angry; evenutally they get coon, skunk, and several animals; chop up the animals, and throw them in the well; that poisons the water.  At first the Simmes lie about the smell/poisoning, but they are found out. Their father makes them go down into the well and pull out the smelly, dead animals.  They are humiliated in front of the Negroes present.


44. The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier

About young adults in a medical experiment "complex."  The main character doesn't know he is also terminal; he has had some memory experiments.  Powerful.


45. Tenderness by Robert Cormier

A fifteen year old woman from a family without much love/some abuse/a mother of several husbands; an l8 yr. old psychopath--he was imprisoned at 15 for killing his mother and stepfather.  Both characters are drawn to each other in heavily ironic situations.  Both are seeking tenderness... another powerful text.


46. The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Another great match with Medieval lit.  Young, homeless woman who knows no other name than Brat or Beetle, is frequently tormented by young men, slightly better off than she, is taken to be a midwife's apprentice.  The young woman eventually renames herself Alyce.  She learns much about midwifery, but can't manage to help in a birth that is particularly difficult.  Eventually leaves the midwife and goes to work at an inn; she learns to read from a boarder at the inn who is working on an encyclopedia.  Eventually she realizes she can and should go back to the midwife.


47. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

About Trinity HS run by an order of Brothers; Brother Leon is acting headmaster and a despicable man; the "Vigils" a student group not totally unlike a college frat, really "runs" the place.  Archie Costello is the assigner; devises schemes for underclassman to fulfill; there is a black box and if Archie draws a black marble he has to do the assignment--neither never happens.

Archie is asked by Brother Leon to help, put the support of the Vigils behind the annual chocolate sale.  Jerry Renault, a freshman who has just lost his mother to cancer in the spring and who lives with a father who can't bear the loss of his wife, first is ordered not to sell; then Jerry refuses on his own.  The motto he has on a poster in his locker is "Do I dare disturb the universe?"--T.S.Eliot lines from "The Wasteland." Jerry is eventually beaten terrible in a fight arranged by the Vigils and against Emile Janza, a cruel, amoral young man.

 Roland Goubert--called the Goober, is Jerry's only friend, yet he's unable to save Jerry; feels like he betrayed Jerry.

Obie and Carter are two other officers of the Vigils--though Costello wields the power.  David Caroni--caught in the web of Brother Leon's sadism, eventually will try to kill Brother Leon and David commits suicide (in the book Beyond the Chocolate War) Goober's assignment is to take all the screws out of desks and chairs and tables in Rm. 19--Brother Eugene who teaches there has a breakdown the day that the room falls apart.  In B. t. C.W. the students learns of the death of Brother Eugene, who leaves the school immediately after the incident.  Goober always feels guilty.


48. Beyond the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Ray Bannister is the new student in this book; he knows how to do magic; has an act which uses of guillotine--this will become a way Obie tries to get Archie.  Also Obie learns about sleight of hand tricks (actually learns how Archie avoided the black marble in all his years as "assigner.").  Ray Bannister finds it hard to have moved and hard to adjust to being part of Trinity.  He doesn't feel like he has any friends until Obie comes along. 

Obie is in love with Laura Gundarson; he draws closer to her and seemingly away from the Vigils; thus Costello gets a sophomore, Bunting, to be a "trainee."  Bunting has two buddies, Harley and Cornacchio who will eventually join with him in attempting physical violence, also a rape, of Laura while Obie is pinned to the ground and helpless.

Carter, president of the Vigils, though Archie is the real power figure, is really upset at A.'s latest idea, of having everyone but one student skip classes on a day the Bishop is scheduled to visit.  He writes a note to warn Brother Leon--anonymous, but A. finds out eventually. A. sees Carter as a traitor;  Carter tries to get Obie to help him.  Carter is particularly disgruntled since boxing has been banned from the school since the terrible incident arranged by A. in which Jerry Renault had been severely beaten.

Jerry comes back to the town; he'd been in Canada with an aunt and uncle; Jerry had often gone into a church--is seemingly being led to a vocation.  Goober eventually goes to see Jerry; tries to tell Jerry that he feels guilty about not being able to protect or save Jerry.  Emile Janza is also still in the picture. Janza finds out Jerry is back and wants to beat him again.  In this incident Jerry "wins" in effect, by not fighting back.  It's another major beating however.

Bunting plans the assault on Laura without A.'s direction--A. is a person of psychological attacks, not physical, so A. is particularly upset by Bunting's acts--refuses to provide an alibi. 

David Caroni is in this novel--stories of his anger, urge at avenge Brother Leon.  David eventually commits suicide.

The Bishop had changed his mind about coming so that Vigils' plan failed, but the next activity is for Fair Day--when there are skits etc.  Obie plans here to have Bannister do the guillotine thing; Obie is planning for it to be the death of Archie; the plan fails; A. confronts O. saying that O. and Carter are as bad as A. since these two have never had the guts to stop A. 


49. The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman

Set in the l849-50's California gold rush time.  California Morning, is the narrator (named because of her family's desire to go to CA); her siblings are Butte (a brother), Prairie, Sierra, Golden Promise, Ocean (a baby who died) and Rocky Flat is the dog.  The father and Golden died of pneumonia in l848; Arvella, the mom, decides she will go West and complete her husband's dream.

 The novel revolves around California, who eventually renames herself Lucy; Lucy spends most of the time trying to get back to MA to her grandparents and life in the "civilized" East.  The novel recounts the truly hard life of the mining camps, the sickness, death, sometimes brutality.  There's incidents about racial prejudice; the stories of traveling preachers (on eventually befriends the Whipples as he saves Butte from drowning.  Butte does die later though) and eventually Arvella, who hadn't planned on remarrying goes without the preacher, Clyde Claymore.  The town they live in is called Lucky Diggins; not really a lucky place it is eventually destroyed by wildfires.  Lucy is constantly reading; she is able to get books and lend books when miners go over the pass.  Most of her books are lost in the fire.  Book ends in l852--most of Lucy's family has gone with Brother Clyde to the Sandwich Islands; Lucy has learned that now Lucky Diggins is home.


50. Tunes for Bears to Dance To by Robert Cormier

an epigraph: "Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity." Gustave Flaubert

Henry Cassavant, an 11yr. old boy who has just lost a brother, Eddie (11 mons. and 3 days ago as the novel begins) lives with his parents in Wickburg, in an apartment across the street from a place for the mentally ill.  Henry calls it the crazy house.  Henry's dad has been a compulsive gambler; since his son's death though, he is in a state of depression.  Henry's mom works as a waitress; she tries to support the family, but they haven't enough to get a monument for Eddie's grave.

 Henry works after school and on Saturdays for a grocer, Mr. Hairston.  Hairston is an abusive man--always criticizing customers after they've been in the store. 

            Henry is lonesome for his former neighborhood--Frenchtown, in Monument.  Eddie, who had been a great athlete, though not so great at academics, was killed by a hit-and-run driver.  Henry is curious about the old man he sees leaving the "Crazy House."  On the second day Henry follows the man, he finds out that the man is Mr. Levine, a survivor of the Holocaust.  Mr. Levine is an excellent woodcarver; Henry is fascinated as he watches Mr. L. in his work constructing a miniature of the village of his homeland, destroyed by the Nazis.  The place where he works is a craft center, coordinated by a man named George Graham, who can speak Yiddish and communicates with Mr. L. for Henry.

            At his job, H. occasionally sees Doris, Mr. Hairston's daughter.  She is bruised--Mr. H. says she's clumsy; one gets the implication--Mr. H. is an abusive man.  Eventually Mr. H. finds out--from Henry's sharing--about Mr. L.  Mr. H. wants Henry to go and destroy the village.  Henry is horrified; Mr. H. uses the blackmail of saying he'll provide money for the monument for Eddie's grave (a bat and baseball design that is Henry's idea); Mr. H. also says he'll fire Henry and make sure no one else hires Henry; Hairston will also influence the employer of H's mom, to help or hinder;

            Henry is caught in the fear of what will happen either way--he also does go to the Center, but when he is in the act of raising the mallet above the village, inches away from destroying it, a rat runs through and breaks up many of the figures.  Henry leaves, and does go back to report to Mr. H.  Mr. H. is happy about the destruction and wants to "reward" H. as Mr. H. had promised.  Henry does not want any of the rewards; Henry realizes Mr. H. literally wanted to make Henry an evil person (a constant theme running through the work is H.'s prayer, "Deliver us from evil."

 A very powerful book.


51. After the First Death by Robert Cormier

About the young terrorist (Miro) and his assignment; the hijacked bus with pre-schoolers on; the 16yr. old driver, a niece of the regular driver; the son of a military general involved in INNER DELTA--the emotions as the son is tortured and gives out info; the father (general) risked his son and knew his son would give the needed info.  Powerful for father/son, terrorist/mind of terrorists etc.


52. I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

about a young person who's father gave secret testimony regarding organized crime;  the family had to assume a new identity, and they lived in fear.  The story is told via the son talking with a psychiatrist.


53. Other Bells to Ring by Robert Cormier

a children's story--neat book about miracles that can happen


54. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

About a group of boys who vandalizes; they vandalize a home -- one daughter is coming in and they attempt sexual assault, but do push the young woman down the stairs and she is in a coma for a long time.  Most of the novel is told through the voice of the sister of the girl who was hurt.  Strong work.


55. Annie John by Jamaica Kinkaid

About a young woman's rite of passage/growth to young adulthood.  Jamaican context.


56. All But My Life by Gerta Weissman Klein

powerful Holocaust novel; the autobiography of Gerta during her years of 15-21; aftermath is later in her life.


57. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher 

Eric Calhoune is the main character—heavy, called “Mobe” he’s the one who stays fat for Sarah, after he begins to lose weight by being on the swim team.  Sarah Byrnes has been scarred—when she was 3 her father pushed her face against the wood stove; her mother has deserted the family.  Sarah is feigning silence/that she’s catatonic to protect herself from her dad.  Mark Brittain is a very self-righteous person/Christian who though he preaches a “good line” is rigid; has forced his girlfriend Jody to have an abortion.  Steve Ellerby, son of an Episcopalian minister, is a good questioner, supporter of Eric.

Ms. Lemry is a teacher who is vital in helping these students think—CAT, Contemporary Am. Thought course.

Dale Thornton is a young man who has been held back in school; he acts the part of a bully or tough to antagonize others; he becomes an ally for Sarah.

Powerful book.


58. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (l987)

Brian Robeson is a teen—he is caught in the stress of his parents’ divorce.  He has seen his mother with a lover; he wants to keep this “Secret” from his dad.  He is off to visit his dad, going via private plane to the Canadian oilfields where his dad is working.  Brian’s mom has given him a hatchet—Brian is somewhat embarrassed, but having the hatchet eventually is B’s life-saving item.  Enroute to Canada, seated in the cockpit with the pilot who doesn’t seem all that communicative, Brian is given a “mini” flying lesson.  The pilot begins to give signals of pain—eventually has a heart attack.  Brian tries first to make some contact via radio, but loses touch.  He does attempt to fly the plane—but eventually the plane crashes.  Brian has gotten the plane close to a lake so he is not killed in the crash.  He does get to an island—there begins a series of learning for this city boy now alone without anything.  He does survive on the island for 54 days before he is rescued.  An amazing survival story.


59. In Summer Light by Zibby O’Neal

About a young woman who is an artist, though because her father is a famed artist she can’t be all she wants.  She’s doing a paper on THE TEMPEST and there are innumerable parallels to the play: her father and likenesses to Prospero, etc.


60. Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher

Young woman who has been sexually abused by her stepfather; she’s a basketball player—plays to “escape”—


61. Fade by Robert Cormier

About a young man who “inherits” the ability to be invisible; the quality goes from one generation to another—usually to a male.  He “sees” things which disillusion.  The novel is set in French settlement in upper Northeast during the Depression.  There are incidents about factory jobs and how oppressive these are; about unions;


62. The Hobbit by Tolkien

Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit; he’s led by Gandalf, a wizard, to go on an adventure with a group of dwarves.  These dwarves want to regain the treasure buried beyond the mountains—in a place where a dragon is in control of the land/the treasure.  The dwarves and Baggins meet enchanted woods, fight with goblins and wargs, with spiders; obstacles in abundance.  Through magic


63. All Together Now: by Sue Ellen Bridgers

Casey is 12; she’s gone to stay with her grandparents, Ben and Jane; in the small town that was Casey’s dad’s home.  Casey’s dad is in the airforce in Korea; C’s mom is working two jobs and isn’t available to be with C much.  Casey learns to love and care for a man, Dwayne Pickens, who is nearly C’s dad’s age—Dwayne is retarded.  D’s brother Alva, finds D. an embarrassment and is constantly trying to get D committed in a mental institution. Casey discovers the gentleness of D; how D loves baseball, watching C’s uncle Taylor race, and going to movies.  Pansy, a life-long friend of Jane, goes through her own struggles—marrying Hazard Whitaker, a man of 52 who feels like much of his life has been a disaster.

 The caring of this family circle for D saves him; it’s during the polio epidemic time and C nearly dies of it.  At the same time she’s loved back into life by her grandparents and Pansy/Hazard, Taylor and Gwen/ and Dwayne, who when he finds out Casey really is a girl is ok with that/C. had been hiding that identity from D., afraid he’d not like her.

Good book for teaching respect/acceptance of mental handicaps.


64. Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White

Woodrow is the 12 yr. old son of Everett and Belle; as the novel begins his mother has disappeared—no one knows where she is.  It’s very mysterious since the family lives in a very isolated holler, Crooked Ridge near Coal Station, VA.

His cousin, Gypsy, is also 12; she’s the narrator of the book. 

The poem W.’s mom was reading often right before she disappeared:

            The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you

                        Don’t’ go back to sleep.

            You must ask for what you really want.

                        Don’t go back to sleep.

            People are going back and forth across the doorsill

                        where two worlds touch.

            The door is round and open.

                        Don’t go back to sleep.

Jalal al-Din Rumi, thirteenth century


Gypsy’s mom is named Love; she was the family beauty; her sister (W.’s mom) always longed to be the beautiful one.  Belle was in love with Amos, and all seemed right; then Amos saw Love, and they were an instant “match.” Belle was so humiliated and hurt; she eventually went out and met/eloped with the first miner she saw, Everett Belle.  Gypsy only realizes that her father, Amos, was actually in love with W. mom first, and then feels so sorry for him.  Also Amos, who loved Gypsy dearly, died suddenly after being seriously disfigured in a fire (he was a volunteer fireman) –he actually shot himself and Gypsy saw him through the bedroom window.  She has blocked that memory; though she keeps having nightmares of some hurt animal.  Her mom, Love, has remarried to Porter Dotson—G. refuses to accept Porter; she sees him as “taking her dad’s place.”

The book deals with “what essential is invisible to the eye” from the ugliness of Belle (or her lesser beauty) which plagued her, to Woodrow’s severe cross-eyed situation, to Gypsy’s dislike of her long hair—which though beautiful, she sees as a bother and something which hides her richer qualities; to Amos’ inability to live after he’s been disfigured, to Blind Benny, who was born with some disfigurement and no eyes.

Appalachian setting/context


65. Children of the River by Linda Crew

Cambodian refugees are the central characters; narrator is Sundara, 13 at the beginning of the novel.  She is with her aunt (mother’s sister) Soka and her husband, Naro.  Soka has just given birth.  Ravy is 6, his little brother Pon is about 3.  Chamroeun is the boyfriend Sundara has left back in the city (Phnom Penh) when she’s come to be with her aunt’s family.  The family is warned that the Khmer Rouge (Communists) are coming; Soka does not want to leave having just given birth and having been unable to complete the rituals accompanying birth.

            The grandmother also sees no reason to leave; Naro, upon returning for work, forces everyone to go.  They get on board ship; then everyone is sick; Soka can’t provide milk for the baby; Sundara is caring for it, but eventually the baby dies and Sundara is forced to throw the baby into the water.

 Novel moves on to when the family is settled in Oregon; Sundara is in school—she writes a poem about her experiences, but is embarrassed as her teacher reads it aloud.  S.’s writing is so much more serious/big issues than her classmates—primarily all white.

            Jonathan McKinnon, son of a doctor who helped Sundara’s family when they first arrived, is a star football player.  He becomes intrigued with Sundara and her life.  Much of the book is about her trying to explain the difference in customs; also S. must continually deal with the harshness with which her aunt, Soka, treats her.  Sundara believes her aunt is so harsh because the aunt is upset that Sundara wasn’t able to help the baby stay alive.  Cathy Gates, typical cheerleader type thinks Jonathan is “all hers.”  Cathy doesn’t have the depth for Jonathan who comes to love Sundara.

            Sundara (and her family) has to work growers—harvesting everything that comes along, in order to earn money.  S. is embarrassed at how she must dress and constantly struggles to be a good young woman; she hopes to become a doctor; enjoys when she meets Dr.McKinnon and talks with him about becoming a doctor.  A couple times S. doesn’t tell her aunt where she (S.) is going; other Cambodia or Chinese families do and the aunt becomes upset.  Eventually Sundara is driven to tears and it becomes clear to the aunt that S. was blaming herself for the death of the baby.

            Jonathan is hurt at a football game; this is close to the time S. learns of the death of her boyfriend back in Cambodia.  She never finds about her parents; she does eventually learn that her youngest sister is still alive. Dr. McKinnon goes to help the Cambodians for two months. J. and S. do get together eventually; with the aunt’s grudging approval.


66.Homecoming Cynthia Voight—Dicey is 13, her brother James is 10, Maybeth is 9 and Sam 6.  As the novel opens the children’s mother is telling them to stay in the car and to obey Dicey; the mother heads into the shopping mall in Peewauket (RI) and never comes back.  The children stay in the car overnight; then eventually head (walking!) to Bridgeport, RI.  Dicey shows incredible ingenuity for a 13 yr. old; she keeps the children together; she helps them find food; she maps their route; she keeps them hidden from the police—afraid the police will separate the children/put them in foster homes.  The conditions are extraordinarily demanding—walking in rain, not always getting something to eat; not always able to find shelter at night.  Dicey is going on an address she has for Aunt Cilla in Bridgeport—Cilla is the children’s mom’s aunt. 

            The father of the family deserted when the two oldest could barely remember him; the mom has become desperate after losing her job and having to face questions about Maybeth—teachers think M. is retarded since M. is very quiet and non-communicative in school.  James is intelligent/does well in school.  Sam is a little fighter—he struggles particularly in trying to understand that their mom has gone.

            Several different people are helpful to the children—particularly two college students, and later in the novel, Will Hawkins and a circus crew. Two teens give the children a sailboat ride, which eventually gets them to their grandmother’s in Crisfield.

            When they finally get to Bridgeport and locate the house of Aunt Cilla, they discover C. has died and only her daughter, Eunice, a conservative spinster who wants to be a nun, is left.  The house is small; and Eunice is really unhappy and worried about having the children there; James is sent to a school where priests are the educators; Sam and Maybeth have nuns; the nuns believe M. is retarded and needs a special school; Sam is continually caught fighting. Dicey works at cleaning, meals, shopping, and everything that Eunice requests.  D. also know she needs to earn money and does so washing windows for storeowners.  D. has learned the address of their grandmother is Crisfield (from Fr. Joseph and the policeman who tries locating the children’s mother.  The mother is eventually found in a mental institution in Boston—she’s in a catatonic state) and plans to go to Crisfield and check out the situation.  James and Sam discover she is going; they want to go with her; the 3 then go get M. and set out.  First they do get some bus rides; worried about the cost of tickets and their lack of $, Dicey has them again walk as much as possible.  In one bad situation, the children work for a Mr. Ryman, who tries to brutalize them.  When they eventually get to Crisfield, D. goes alone to meet the grandmother (the grandmother is reported to be crazy); with time and giving on all sides, the grandmother decides she will take the children.

An extraordinarily powerful novel. 


67. A Kindness by Cynthia Rylant: Intro has a segment of a poem by William Dickey—a poem titled “A Kindness”

            Because even if it is not true, I need

            something now to look back to, in order to say:

            I have been sudden in the sun’s perfection,

            I have had blood rise like light,

my hands have answered,

my memory is a bush of grown flame.


It is a kindness you can do for me, to have been there

at the center of summer, yourself the attack of summer,

and to have made all that light out of being young.


I need to have loved you. I need to have told you so.


Chip Becker is about 15; he’s lived alone with his mother; his father an ex-hippie had not been “into” the responsibility of a child and is off in Australia somewhere.  Chip’s mom, Anne, is an artist and must the artistic personality that seems not to be able to take charge/take responsibility for the pragmatic/the practical.  Anne is a sensitive and loving woman; her art agent/dealer, Ben, in New York is someone who has been extremely helpful.  He is also the man, who on a summer night when he is worried about his own daughter who has vanished from college, has a sexual union with Anne (who has always loved Ben, though she has never told him, and he is too involved with him own marriage and family).  Anne becomes pregnant; and though she does have to tell Chip that she is pregnant, she does not reveal the father’s name.  Much of the novel explores Chip’s feelings of embarrassment that his mom at 35 would “get pregnant,” his anger that she will have the child, his own feelings of abandonment (no longer having the sole attention of his mom), his struggles with intimacy in relationships with girls—especially his girlfriend, Jeannie Perlman.  Jeannie has empathy with Chip’s mom; eventually Chip does too. 

Chip is allowed to name the baby; he names her Dusky Anne.  Chip is also eventually able to confront Ben in a phone conversation his mom will never know anything about.  Chip is anxious after the birth of Dusky and his newly discovered love for her, not to have Ben invade their lives and try to take charge as Ben has and does. 

The book ends rather abruptly (it would be a good one for students to finish the ending!! Or write their own!) with a phone call between Anne and Ben after Ben knows about the baby; it ends with Anne saying goodbye and not wanting Ben to come into their lives or to complicate his own family/marriage. 


68. The Secret of Sarah Revere : by Ann Rinaldi

Deals with Sarah, one of the daughters of Paul Revere.  The wife, children’s mother has died; Paul is in “a shell” so his daughters do feel they need to do something.  They connect with a “Tory “ or Loyalist woman who tells Rachel to meet Paul Revere; eventually Rachel and Paul marry.  Dr. Warren is a family friend, a freedom fighter, a figure Sarah idolizes and then chastises when she thinks that he has “designs” on her mom. Deborah, S.’s older sister, is not kind to Rachel; does not want Rachel around; neither does Mother Revere, a stern grandmother to the children.  There are many complexities Sarah faces—summed up in the question she repeatedly asks of her father: What matters—what people think or what is true?  The novel is set against the backdrop of the Tea Party, the initial actions of the Revolutionary War.  Son Paul is also a freedom fighter—rapidly growing to maturity.


69. Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey by Jamake Highwater

            Anpao means “the dawn.”  This book is a series of myths woven together in journey.  Anpao and his twin Oapna are poor, have no parents (actually Anpao was conceived by the sun and a human mother), but they do love the beautiful maiden, Ko-ko-mik-e-is.  She says she cannot marry because she belongs to the Sun.  “Be careful, Ko-ko-mik-e-sis, and listen to me because I have great power.  You must not marry.  You are mine…”

  K. does tell Anpao she will marry him if he goes to the Sun, tells the Sun that K. wants to marry him; and if A. can get the Sun to remove the scar on his face.

            The book chronicles A.’s odyssey to the Sun; he must fight the jealousy of the Moon who constantly causes deaths/disasters, destruction. 



70. Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojiciechowska

Manolo Olivar is nine; he looks a good deal like his father, Juan Olivar; a famed bull- fighter.  At Juan’s birth, the prophecy was about his future as one of the best bullfighters ever.  Manolo is fearful; he sees himself as a coward. He is rapidly “taken under the wings’ of six men in the village, of Arcangel, who want him to begin learning all about bull-fighting.  He even begins to practice secretly.  At the same time, the older brother, Juan, of Manolo’s best friend, is so eager to become a bull fighter; Juan, unlike Manolo, has the “aficinado” – the love of fighting but his father had been injured and “rejected” by Manolo’s father, so Juan does not believe he has any chance to become known.  Manolo, eventually on the day he first “tests” his bullfighting skills, realizes he cannot kill the bull, and that he is not “made” for fighting. He wants to be a doctor; he learned that in helping the aging village doctor help an injured “clown” bullfighter.  Manolo spent much of his two years before actually being “tested” always wondering if his father was ever fearful.  A Newbery winner; a great book.


71. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Billie Jo is 13 as the book opens; in a loosely poetic and extremely powerful text, she tells of her life in Oklahoma during l934/5 in the days of the dust bowl.  Her family—mother, father, and the child the mother is carrying in her womb – are all managing in the dust and depression, until the day of a tragic accident, when Billie Jo’s hands are severely burned; her mother is burned and the unborn child dies.  Billie Jo then no longer wants to/nor can play as she could the piano.  The narrative is very poignant.  A great book.


72. Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt

This is a sequel to Homecoming; Dicey is getting established in school which she does well enough in –except in Home Ec which she doesn’t like.  She meets a girl named Mina, an African American who is bright and who appreciates Dicey for who she is.  Once in English class Dicey writes an essay about her mom; it is so good that her teacher thinks she plagiarized.  In a confrontation in class, Mina defends Dicey; their English teacher apologizes.  James still keeps to himself a good deal and does well in school.  Maybeth is a constant concern till James decides there are other ways to help Maybeth learn.  Sammy is in fights; partially because his peers tease about Gram.  Gram does well adjusting to having the children; actually formally adopts them.

            Dicey gets a job working for Millie in the grocery store, even though Dicey is legally too young to have a job.  Mr. Lingerle, a music teacher for Maybeth, befriends the family; even providing the money that will be used for the cremation of the children’s mom.  Lisa, the mom, has been in an institution in a catatonic state every since she left the children in the parking lot of the shopping mall (as told in Homecoming).  Gram shares much wisdom with Dicey; the entire family suffers in the death of their mom. A worthwhile read.


73. A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt 

Jeff Peters is the main character—he’s 7 1/2 as the novel opens, is coming home from 2nd grade at a university school since his father is a history prof at this MA university, when he discovers a lengthy good by note from his mother.  She is leaving them—more leaving her son than her husband.  Melody (the mother) is considerably younger than her husband, is an activist in all kinds of issues, and really incompatible—you learn this only as the novel goes on.  In the beginning Jeff is very unsure of how to relate to his father (and vice versa). Also, Jeff is a smart young child, but always afraid of doing what will annoy or disturb any adult.

            One summer Jeff goes South, his mother is living near Charleston, with a rich, and typically Southern grandmother, called Gambo. There are also two maiden cousins living in this household.  In Jeff’s first summer all seems to go well—Jeff feels particularly loved and valued.  He is really “infatuated” with his mom, her beauty and her ability to make him feel loved.  He has major slumps in school back in MA after this summer.  When he goes back the second summer, Melody is almost never with him—she’s with Max, her boyfriend and a person not pleasant, nor easy to be with. Jeff goes off on his own a lot; especially out to islands and he buys a boat that he sails. 

            After this disastrous summer, he is even more withdrawn.  Eventually he comes much closer to his dad, Horace or “the Professor” and his dad’s friend, Brother Thomas.  Jeff and his father eventually move out of Baltimore (out of the city area) to a remote place that they renovate – it’s in Crisfield (and at this point in the novel, Jeff starts to connect with the Tillerman family from Homecoming and Dicey’s Song.  This interweaving of plots is neat—was a surprise for me.


74. Nightjohn Gary Paulsen

            The book is narrated by Sarny, a slave girl of nine as the book opens.  It deals with the horrendous treatment of slaves owned by Waller. (He deserves no first name).  John is purchased and comes to the plantation very beaten and scarred.  Sarny reveals much about the plight of slaves who try to run away, those women who are used as “breeders,” the cruelty of dogs trained to track runaways slaves, the terrible whippings—the generally terrible conditions for food, shelter, etc.

            Sarny wants to learn “letters” and she realizes that John will teach her in return for tobacco.  John had escaped to the North but returned to slavery to help others read.  At one point when she has learned the letters to make a word, Sarny is caught by Waller.  He tries to get her to tell who taught her; Mammy takes the blame and is whipped as she is forced to have a harness around her neck and pull the master in a wagon.  John admits he is the one who taught Sarny.  For that John has two toes cut off.  (the “rule” was an appendage was cut off for each time one was caught.  A hard read—in seeing the terribly inhumanity of whites to blacks; very powerful.


75. Jackaroo Cynthia Voigt

            Historical fiction of England—about 11th cent. – Gwyn is an innkeeper’s daughter at the Ram’s Head Inn.  She does not want to marry, unless she can marry someone she really loves.  She is caught since at the Spring Fair her father (Da, as he is called) will have to announce her intention to marry or her intention never to marry. The novel explains much about life of the commoners in this period in England: the Doling Room is a place where women come to get food, doled out by the Steward, a servant of the Lords who are servants of the Earl, servant of the King.  There is a good description of life in the inns and of the life of those who were innkeepers and the providers of food, housing, amenities for the travelers, particularly if these guests were nobility (as the two guests: a father and son, who are at this inn in the first part of the book). There are many highwaymen, robbers; there are the poor like Granny, who Gwyn helps; Hap, Granny’s (Nell) husband was a gamekeeper for the Earl, but Hap was injured and now has only the permission to set traps for game to feed him and his wife; 3 robbers have come and stolen the nanny goat that provided milk for Hap and his wife; these robbers also killed the couple’s dog—these are warnings to Gwyn of how bad the times are.  It is also a reason why people are reviving their stories of Jackaroo: a hero who saves the innocent from hanging, who gets golden coins away from the greedy bailiff, who generally assists the poor.  Jackaroo has a distinctive outfit: a short red cape, silk blue tunic with silver buckles, high boots of fine soft leather, and a silken mask that muffles his voice and conceals his chin.

            Tad is Gywn’s younger brother and as she feels, he is really spoiled.  His parents were so eager for a son though, and two sons died as infants/children before Tad.  Every sickness is a worry.  Blithe, a sister of Gwyn, is married to Guy.  They lost their first child; it’s a period of high infant mortality. Gwyn’s sister Rose hopes to marry soon; though Burl loves her, he will not be able to marry her. Rose likes a man named Wes. Granda also lives with the family; he dies “old” at 58.  As is the custom with the lower class then, his body is burned; cremation for the commoners, burial for the nobility. As Granda is dying he calls out for his other son, Win, who was a favorite.  (Eventually it turns out that Win is to be hung; he’s been a highwayman/Jackaroo.  G. discovers this when she is dressing as Jackaroo and tries to free Win.  Burl asks for the body; that way Win can be given a decent burial.)

Gwyn’s mother sums up the hard life in her response to the comment of G. that is must be hard to lose a child, especially a first.  Her mother says “Life is hard; It is only death that’ll be easy for us.” (57) Burl is a serving man who has been purchased for 7 yrs. labor; he knows all the workings of the inn. Megg is taken to stay with a weaver, a woman who has lost her husband and is bitter in her struggles. Cam is the weaver’s son who is not thought well enough of since his family is poor.

            Old Megg has a hut where she keeps goats and has a vineyard; she is a sister to Da.  Thieves have also come here and taken several of Megg’s goats. When G. eventually can return to clean Megg’s house, G. takes a goat and gives it to the old couple who have had theirs stolen. She leaves the goat without letting them know who brought it—the action gets attributed to Jackaroo. 

            The landscape and country beyond the immediate area aren’t known to Gwyn: to the north the kingdom is protected by mountains; to the south by forests. Gwyn’s family has lived all their lives beneath the mountains.  For protection the people need to know how to use their staff: Gwyn is told she must teach Tad.  (they are watched as they practice by the young son of the Lord, the ones who are staying at the Inn.)  One day G. and Burl are sent out to accompany the Lord and his son.  Their journey takes them into dangerous territory as the Lord is out mapmaking. At one place overnight, they stay where the thieves are.  Eventually G. and Burl and the lord and his son are caught in a blizzard; G. and the young man get separated from Burl and the Lord.  G. and the young man end up in Megg’s hut. They are snowed in and the Lordling is injured; G. cures him.  During their time marooned in the hut, the Lordling teaches G. to read enough to understand the maps; the commoners were not supposed to know how to read.  In cleaning Megg’s hut, G. discovers the hidden clothing of Jackaroo.  They also do lots of talking and G. learns a great deal about how the nobility live.  He even reveals his name: Gaderian.  When they can get out and return to the Inn, Gaderian hides first and the Lord thinks G. hasn’t been careful of his son; he puts a sword to her throat, but eventually she is saved.  She feels betrayed by her family and for a long time is not at peace with them.

            In the rest of the novel, Gwyn frequently disguises herself as Jackaroo and does brave deeds. She eventually is given a place of refuge—a cottage away where she and Burl can live.  They are given this place of refuge by the Lord and his son.



76. On Fortune’s Wheel Cynthia Voigt

            Birle, is the Innkeeper’s daughter in this book. She is a couple generations later than Gwyn in Jackaroo.  Birle is scheduled to marry a huntsman, but she is discontented with her choice. She is out one night (something surely against all custom) and encounters someone trying to steal a boat.  It turns out to be a young nobleman, the next Earl of Sutherland, Orien.  His father was killed during a hunt—probably a murder not an accident.  Gladaegal is Orien’s brother. O.’s departure would allow for him to become Earl. The old Earl (grandfather of Orien is the Earl who eventually saved Gwyn and Burle in Jackaroo.) She doesn’t know this as she confronts him; nor does she know that their lives will become entwined.

            This novel is again rich in the customs of England of this period. Birle and Orien are eventually saved from the wreck of their boat and starvation, but taken by those who “save” them and are sold into slavery.  A large man, a giant and slightly deformed and simple, Yul, is also taken.  He and Birle are bought by Joachim, a philosopher, who is being driven by his rich brother (Corbel) to attempt to make gold through alchemy.  Joachim has actually been working on an herbal—a book of all the natural remedies.  He discovers that Birle can read and write (she’d been taught by her grandparents – Burl and Gwyn).  Corbel keeps all in fear of him.  The city is torn by tensions: Corbel stole a young woman (really not more than a child) and Celinde’s father is always trying to get her back.  Corbel keeps the city under control by soldiers.

            Orien has a much harder enslavement—he is nearly sold to work the mines, but he becomes infected when his face is branded.  He does escape to Joachim’s house on the very day that Joachim is escaping the city.  Yul and Birle care for Orien; eventually they all escape to back to where Orien is earl and Birle back to the Inn.  Only after Orien has asked to marry Birle (she believes she could never live the life of a Lady and asks to go away).  She ends up at the house where Gwyn and Burl stayed under the protection of the old Earl.

            Birle has a daughter she names Lyiss, after her mother who has died, and Orien eventually comes and finds them both.


77. Lily’s Crossing Patricia Reilly Giff  (l998 Newbery Honor Book)

            Lily is about 12; she has just finished 5th grade. It’s June of 1944, D-Day. Lily is getting ready to go to Rockaway, a place she and her father go for summers, with Gram.  Lily’s mother is dead; Lily has stars on her bedroom ceiling in St. Albans and each summer as she goes to Rockaway she peals one from that wall to take.

            Lily is kind of a self-centered child as first portrayed. She tells lies—makes up stories (and sometimes that gets her into trouble as when she tells Albert she is going to Europe and he thinks he can go along to find his sister Ruth), sometimes she daydreams, she needs friends (eventually Albert becomes one) and she doesn’t like it that her father is gone and she has to stay with her Gram.  She is often upset with her Gram; and really wants her father around. This summer he arranges for her to have the piano taken to Rockaway; Lily’s mom played piano and Lily wanted to—but she wanted to be able to learn “right away.”  Now she complains about practicing and all that’s demanded.  Her best friend at Rockaway, Margaret Dillon has a brother, Eddie who is in France—is a part of the D-Day invasion. Margaret’s dad has to go to Detroit to work on bombers—the family has to move, but Margaret leaves Lily a key so Lily can get into the house. Poppy (Lily’s dad) has to go to Europe too, since engineers are needed.  Lily is so upset that she doesn’t say goodby to her dad and then regrets it that she didn’t.

            Albert is a Hungarian who is taken in by the Orban family for the summer. He’s staying with Mrs. Orban’s brother Emery in Canada.  His sister Ruth (8yrs. old) is in France, Paris.  Their parents did a newspaper and got in trouble with the Nazis and were killed.  Albert wants Lily to teach him to swim; she works at that and he thinks he’ll be able to go with her to Europe. Lily has to eventually tell that she has lied.

            The summer weaves the children in friendship amid the problems of WWII. In l945 Lily’s father does return and he has been able to locate Ruth, Albert’s sister.  Eddie Dillon, does not come back from the War (as least as the book has it.).


78. Walk Two Moons:  Sharon Creech (l995 Newbery Award winner)

            Sal (Salamanca Tree Hiddle) is 13; she’s lived most of her 13 yrs. in Bybanks, KY.  The book tells two stories simultaneously: one is that of Sal and her father, of her mother who died and of the baby who was born prematurely and died, of Sal’s grandparents, the Hiddles—paternal grandparents (Gramps and Gram) who are taking her on a trip to Idaho, actually tracing the path of Sal’s mom’s last journey.  Sal’s family is Native American (both Sal and her mom wanted to be called Indian or American Indian).  The second story is of Phoebe Winterbottom, a young girl Sal’s age.  Phoebe and Sal become pals when Sal and her dad move to Euclid, OH (have been there a year) when Margaret Cadaver (a very significant woman in the story) finds a job there for Mr. Hiddle. 

            Phoebe’s mom is frightened when a young man appears in the area of the Winterbottom home; eventually readers learn that Phoebe’s mom had a son out of wedlock.  Her husband, Prudence (one of the daughters) and Phoebe are all really shocked—and Phoebe has been further upset because her mom disappeared for several weeks before all this came out.  The family had also been getting these mysterious messages on the porch: saying like “do not judge a person until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

            Margaret Cadaver’s mother lives with her; Margaret’s mom is Mrs. Partridge.  Mr. Birkway, Phoebe and Sal’s English teacher, is Margaret’s twin brother (all this gets discussed through Sal’s story—she’s telling as she and her grandparents travel to Lewiston, ID).  Mary Lou Finney and her cousin Ben are also key characters. We learn eventually that Ben’s mom is gone too—she’s in a psychiatric ward.  The Finney household is chaotic, with children always on the go and parents who are tolerant and patient—a contrast to the Winterbottom family.

            Sal’s grandparents are characters—they stop at each of the places like the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Pipestone, MN, Yellowstone and Old Faithful that Sal’s mom had stopped at on her bus trip to Idaho.  Sal’s mom was a Pickford and her name was Chanhassen, meaning “sweet tree juice” or maple sugar—her mom always got called “Sugar.”  At one stop Gram is bit by a water moccasin. She has to be hospitalized and never really regains health all the rest of the trip. In fact, by Couer d’ Alene, Idaho, Gram is hospitalized and they realize Gram has had a stroke. Gramps has taught Sal about driving—so Sal eventually drives the very mountainous 100 miles to Lewiston. There she learns about the bus accident where her mom was killed and she learns that Margaret Cadaver was seated next to her mom on the bus; Margaret had met Sal’s dad that way.

            A powerful book.


79. The Crazy Horse Electric Game Chris Crutcher

            Willie Weaver (he's Willie Jr., whose dad has been a well-known athlete for the Washington St. Huskies and played in the Rose Bowl where the Huskies beat the Wolverines) is 16 at the time of the remembered event.  His friends are Petey Shropshire, Johnny Rivers and Jenny Blackburn.  Several of the guys are on the baseball team with him; Samson's Floral is a sponsor; the teams are part of the Eastern Montana Am. Legion. The game with Crazy Horse Electric is a major rivalry and Willie is the pitcher/he DOES win it with an amazing catch behind his back and a throw out to first. 

            Willie and his dad take these daring rides on the Honda motorcycle--W.'s mom would not approve because she has already lost one child--Missie was born when Willie was 12; at 3 months she died of SID syndrome.  Willie blames himself since he didn't know what to do and Mrs. Weaver was out across the street talking to a friend. The family is devastated by then.

            Then an additional sorrow comes: Willie is in a water ski accident; while his dad is trying to get the lifejacket off Willie, the dad is actually almost strangling Willie. Jenny, Willie's girlfriend actually saves Willie.  But with the brain damage Willie has speech problems and is physically no longer who he was.  His dad "clams" up; life at home is incredibly tense.  No one "really talks." At school, Willie struggles with the tenses not to be pitied and to fit in.

            One night he overhears his parents talking (this is after a time when Willie actually took some acid at a party; after Willie has been seeing a therapist, and after Willie realizes Jenny is seeing other guys and isn't going to "stay with him" as he thought.) and hears the fight as his mom challenges his dad about not letting Willie be.

            Willie takes money and leaves on a bus for CA.  He ends up getting off in Oakland in a gang-infested area. He's beaten up and has his money stolen by the Jo Boys.  Willie is actually "saved" by the city bus driver, Lacey, who drives bus for respectability, but actually runs a prostitution place.  Willie is taken in by Lacey Casteel, and brought to a school for "last chance kids" called (OMLC-one more last chance).  Andre Porter is the schoolmaster; he's willing to admit Willie if W. will work for his tuition.  Lisa is the school's PE coach; she teaches students to find "their center" and act out of it. She becomes a major figure in W's life -- helping his recovery. She is aided by a man named Sammy who knows Tai Chi and other Eastern martial arts.  Sammy and Lisa are the main reasons Willie can "return to normal."

            Lacey has a pimp, Angel, who is also at the school where Willie goes. One night when Lacey is drunk, Willie saves Angel from Lacey; Lacey ends up in the hospital.  Lacey reveals he has a son who he is unable to see--his ex-wife has assured that. Lacey had beaten the boy and the boy is now very mentally handicapped/ non-functional.  This is the reason Lacey took Willie in--gives life to one after having in essence taken it from another.

            The Jo Boys are terrorizing the school; that angers a number of the students who are recovering street kids. The students plan to get revenge; Willie stays at the school but Hawk doesn't arrive. Willie takes on the gang alone--the gang also sets fire to the place.  Only because Willie has been there is the place saved.  Willie survives and does go home to Montana. His mother has remarried; his father has sunk into alcoholism, and Jenny doesn't think she can recover at seeing Willie healed when she blamed herself for his leaving and thought he was dead.  Another powerful Crutcher book.


80. Running Loose Chris Crutcher

            The novel is set in Idaho--a small town called Trout, Idaho.  The narrator is Louie Banks, a 16yr. old who is hoping to have a good football season. His good friend Carter Sampson is the quarterback and a very talented athlete.  There is also Boomer Cowan, an angry young man who considers Louie a "wuss" and who creates major conflicts in the story.  The football coach Lednecky, is a conservative and actually racist man--winning is everything for him.  The school principal/superintendent is Mr. Jaspers (he's also been a coach and is a "good old boy" type). 

            From the time Louie experiences Coach Lednecky's rantings about Washington, a black athlete on Salmon Rivers' teams and encourages his players to "hurt" Washington, Louie is upset.  Dakota, a man who runs the tavern where Louie works sometimes, is a "wisdom" figure.  Louie's parents are also really supportive in their acceptance and direction of Louie.

            At the football game against Salmon River, Boomer deliberately bangs up Washington, and Louie makes a major scene in trying to inform the refs that there injury to Washington has been deliberate.  Louie is off the team; and when Lednecky and Jaspers get through, is supposedly off any extracurricular activity.

            Two other supportive folks in Louie's life are Coach Madison, the assistant football coach who did not like the "dirty play" encouraged by Coach L. and who eventually gets Louie into running track--specifically the two mile; and Becky, a talented student, cheerleader, etc. who is Louie's girlfriend.  Becky is killed in an accident on March 21 of their senior year. Her death is really hard for Louie and that's a reason Coach M. gets him running.  When Jaspers puts up a plaque (which he signs) in memoriam of Becky, Louie, smashes it, but denies he's done it.  A good work on moral choices. 


81. Ironman by Chris Crutcher

            The narrator is writing/telling the story as if it's an extended series of letters to Larry King.  Beauregard Brewster, age 17, is a triathlon athlete.  He's also a son of a man who had demanding ideas of discipline; his parents are divorced but the emotional scars of his dad's demands leave Bo an angry young man.  Jordan is Bo's younger brother--Bo has to get Jordan from Day Care daily. Their father left the family the same weekend their mom was in the hospital for Jordan's birth.  Bo was about 11 at the time.

            Among the incidents Bo remembers with his dad include 7 months "isolation" in the family home for not shutting a door softly; also when Bo completed a major job for his dad and was given $100. 00 but then Bo gave it to a homeless person he saw.  His dad claimed Bo needed to learn the value of character and made Bo work to re-earn the money. 

            Bo is in constant conflict with Keith Redmond, English teacher and football coach of Clark Fork High School.  Mr. Serbousek (Lionel), another teacher, is someone who befriends Bo; works to keep Bo in school even when Bo faces almost constant suspension.  Mr. S. has told Bo, "your anger comes from your life." There is a university in the town; otherwise it's a small town (conservative eastern WA wheat town) on the end of Spokane county.  Mr. S. coaches swimming at the U; he allows Bo to practice there and to "push" the U swimmers--one though, beats up on Bo for being such a good swimmer and causing the U swimmers to have to work harder.

            The alternatives for getting Bo back into class are either home tutoring with Mrs. Conroy ( a very grim option) or attending Mr. Nakatani's anger management group.  Mr. Nak, is a Japanese Texan cowboy, and a wise counselor.  He first gets students to focus on how it feels to be humiliated, to appear as a fool, to feel like one out of control. 

            At a second confrontation by Wyrack, the U student swimmer who beat up Bo, Shelly who is also in the anger management group and who is the only female in attendance, beats up Wyrack, and makes him apologize.

            On Christmas Eve Bo is delivering presents to his dad; his dad starts in saying he hurt as much as Bo on the Christmas when Bo was in "isolation"--but then he also goes on to reveal that he knows about Bo getting out of the anger management class; about Bo having added challenges in the triathlon, and insinuates that Lionel Serbusek is gay.  All this info he's gleaned from Redford, though he doesn't say that to Bo.

            Shelly tells about being adopted, though neither parent seems to like her--they even gave her less allowance than they gave to their biological children.  She found out about her real mom, by earning the $250. 00 through a paper route.  She finds out her mom (adoptive one) had all the info; she goes home and literally tears apart the kitchen. She's then put in foster homes.  Shelly begins to do drugs, skip school and gets kicked out of schools; has to leave foster homes, and eventually is sent to residential treatment at Good Shepherd.

            Eventually she decides to really try (after she's also been out of several high schools) and she ends up at Clark Fork high school and is trying out for basketball--she's excellent but Redford cuts her from any team.  He checked her records and thought she'd be a bad influence on the team members.

            Bo finds out Lion Serbusek is gay; this really rocks Bo since he feels he'll have to "eat shit" in facing his dad.  Bo also finds out that Shelly bet Wyrack $500. that Bo would beat him in the triathlon.  On Valentine's Day the group (Anger management) is all to give each other cards--saying some thing that is true.  Elvis tells Bo, "your dad is not your friend."  Elvis, when questioned explains that Bo's dad was willing to get one of these super fast bikes to the college guys who has egged Bo on, and to get the bike for free; he wouldn't get the bike for his son.  In response to all this Shelly shares a line from Mr. N. :"there is no act of heroism that doesn't include standing up for yourself" and Shelly adds: "That's how we fix it; we take back what we've lost.  We give it to ourselves; we learn the truth, and we put it in place of the lie."

            The Anger Management group, on Shu's encouragement, becomes the support team for Bo.  They make a great tape for him in the triathlon, which he does win.  He also gets the "great bike" from the U student who was not in on the deal.

            On Mr. S.'s advice, Bo asks his dad to go to counseling with him; it works for a bit.  That outcome isn't known.  The novel is a great one. 



82. The Sorcerer's Stone : The first of the Harry Potter stories…Harry is introduced; we learn about the Dursleys and how Harry is really treated poorly by these "Muggles" who had to take him in when his parents were killed.  We learn more about them and their deaths in the novel and the next ones in the series.




83. The Secret Chamber




84. The Prisoner of Azkaban





85. The Goblet of Fire: the Tri-Wizard school competition; no one under 17 is supposed to enter; Harry's name gets put in and he must become a 4th.  Voldemort is returns to life and power; Harry must actually come face to face with Voldemort. The son of Bart Couch works some violent actions.





86. Fallen Angels -Walter Dean Myers: dedicated to Walter Dean's brother Thomas "whose dream of adding beauty to this world through his humanity and his art ended in Vietnam on May 7, l968

--book opens with a group of soldiers enroute to Vietnam; on a flight from Massachusetts to Anchorage, Alaska

--narrator, Richie Perry, is not even supposed to go--he has a bad knee, but his paperwork has been messed up; he says (5) the war will be over soon anyway--that's the talk that there is a truce coming…he's in the army

--Gates, who wants to be called Peewee, is from Chicago; he is volatile, but likeable

--Perry had graduated from high school/had plans to go college and be a writer like James Baldwin; he went into the army hoping to earn and send money home to his mother and younger brother, Kenny

--orientation: about malaria pills, venereal diseases, dope, anything that Vietnamese are used to

--Jenkins, a new recruit, is timid, very frightened

--"Charlie" slang for Vietcong

--Peewee, Jenkins, and Perry are sent out to Chu Lai, first trip into combat--they are in Alpha Company; Johnson, a large African-American is also in their group; Jenkins is afraid he is going to die in Nam (30) They go on their first "chopper" ride

--flashback to Perry's life in high school; his home life, feeling he had to keep his mother "together"

--on a first little trial, Jenkins steps on a land mine by accident; he's killed.

--Perry never is able to forget Jenkins

--43, description of how Perry feels about Jenkins, "I wanted to say the only dead person I had ever seen before had been my grandmother…"

--seeing the body bags gets Perry; "It was only inside that I was numb." (43)

Lieutenant Carroll's prayer: "Lord, let us feel pity for ______, and sorrow for ourselves, and all the angel warriors that fall.  Let us fear death, but let it not live within us.  Protect us, O Lord, and be merciful unto us. Amen." (44)

--Carroll says his father used to call all soldiers angel warrior because usually they get boys to fight wars.  Most are not old enough to vote; Carroll is 23.

--Perry comments lots about whether to write to his mom or to Kenny

--go to a village for "public relations" work--give malaria pills, C rations and such things

--description of what the group does to pass time between action--cards, films, what they have for lunch, the insects, the talk, the tensions between guys…

--the sounds of the "choppers" start nerves in Perry; he constantly remembers Jenkins and his death

--"The air in Nam was always hard to breathe; it was heavy, thicker than the air back home.  Now it was harder…" (67) Lieut. Carroll asks Perry about his knee; is it really ok being out in combat; "The real questions was what I was doing, what any of us were doing, in Nam."(69)

--Perry on guard duty with Lobel--L. always talks about movies--they are around a foxhole; Perry remembers about telling his mom about enlisting; he didn't want to stay in Harlem…

--news film crew comes; interviews everyone about why they are in Nam

--reports about how many VC are killed get changed; the "numbers game is everything"

Perry is told to go out with a machine gunner and keep him supplied; there is a skirmish and confusion; the Americans actually fire on their own men

There are things he lets himself think about and things he forces out of his mind

Pacification trips--into hamlets to try to cajole the people there; VC often come in after an American group has been there; the VC attack those who have taken anything like medicine from the Americans

--outside a village, awaiting VC there is a skirmish; Lieut. Carroll (he was 23 yrs. old) gets killed; Perry can't stop trembling… Sergeant Simpson asks Perry to write to Carroll's family; (131) the letter

Peewee gets a letter from Perry's mom; she tells Peewee to let Perry know she loves him

--Christmas time comes; the group is still in combat

--new lieutenant; this guy sets off a flare and Turner, new guy, is killed; dies in the chopper on the way back

--into a village that the VC have burned and where they've tortured and killed; Perry kills his first man here

--at a place where they are supposed to do an ambush, there are so many VC, that if Perry's group had tried to ambush, they all would have been.  Perry prays, Jamal (newer recruit) is crying.

Simpson extends his time for a month; Capt. Stewart is trying to earn higher rank--volunteering Alpha Co. all over.  That's hard for the men to accept.

Out on patrol, Perry's squad is hit; he is injured; Brew is wounded, dies from the wound

--details about the medical ward Perry is in; he meets Judy Duncan, the nurse he was on the plane with; she discusses how the war has been going for her; she is sad now

--Perry is ordered to return to his unit; he's tempted to go AWOL; he is sick with fear.

--while Perry is gone, Simpson leaves, goes back to the States; they have a new sergeant; no one wants to deal with the reality of death and the new sergeant they don't trust; he's old "maybe 30 or 40"

--General Westmoreland gives directions to "maximize" destruction of the enemy

--description of a Vietnamese woman with her two children; Peewee makes a doll, but before he can give the doll, a GI blows up as the child is thrown into his arms; the child had been mined; the Vietnamese woman is killed

--snipers who can't be seen, injure men right in camp

--after one terrible battle Perry and his comrades are supposed to get the tags off the dead GI's; effects of napalm--the burning

--Perry asks if he should write Kenny about how the war really is…Peewee says yes

Peewee and Perry are alone; seemingly separated from the rest of the squad, in a VC spider hole

Peewee and Perry are in a hole (foxhole like); they kill a VC to be there; in leaving the hole and trying to get to a pickup area, Perry realizes Peewee is injured; at one point Peewee tells Perry to go on without him.  Monaco is also in danger; all three get on a chopper, but Perry is again injured.

He does recover; Peewee also recovers--for a time; Monaco has to go back to the "Boonies."

Monaco and Peewee and Perry have all "tasted like what it feels to be dead." They are "not all right." "We would have to learn what it was like to be alive again." (304)

Peewee and Perry fly "back to the world" together; Judy Duncan, the nurse Perry knew was killed in a hospital that was hit. 


87. Monster by Walter Dean Myers Steve Harmon is a 16 yr. old is telling his story via a film script; the young man is in jail, awaiting trial for being an accomplice in a felony murder. 


88. fast sam, cool clyde and stuff by Walter Dean Myers  Frances, who is fairly soon "renamed" Stuff, moves to 116th street when he is 12 1/2; he quickly becomes friends with a group of kids--people--who bond and in many ways break the stereotype of a group of "hommies" or of a "hood."  The folks on your block protect you/support you.

--Stuff's sister, Sharon, is 10; he has two parents--his dad frequently "lectures" him; his mom seems to just let him grow

--Gloria Chisholm (her parents eventually separate for a while when her dad isn't able to find work), Clyde Jones, named "Cool Clyde"; Sam, later known as Fast Same are the main supports for Stuff (they create his name)  -- they talk about fights (gang type, between the folks from one block area and another), about basketball, about sex

--Binky is one of the 116th st. group; in a fight he gets a bit of his ear bitten off in a fight with another tough guy, Robin; the whole group looks for the piece of ear, then they rush to the Emergency Rm. trying to ask about the piece of ear getting sewed back on; they are charged with disrupting the piece and all end up in jail for a bit.  Clyde is the one who gets the idea of sewing the ear back on.

--signifying (kind of like the "dozens" or other ways of using language to incite reaction/response, frequently make comments about another's mother

--Clyde's father gets killed in an accident; he talks about the funeral and about his mother crying; good sensitive discussion of Clyde, Sam and Stuff about C's dad's death and how to respond.  It's related to the fact there is going to be a dance contest and Sam is encouraging Clyde to go and encouraging C. to take the college course track at school.  In the end of this conversation, Stuff is crying and trying to hid his tears.  Sam's words: "Crying is feeling, baby, ain't nothing wrong with that…Ain't nothing wrong with that at all. Are you hip?" (34)

--the dance contest: Clyde is dressed like a woman so Sam will have a partner

--Charley (Carnation Charley) and the drug problem; he eventually dies because of drug related actions

--basketball and the ways Stuff does come into his own

--the support each of the group gives each other

(the rest of the notes are printed out.)


88.The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers A family saga beginning in 1760's on the west coast of Africa when an 11 yr. old is taken as a slave. Powerful narration about the conditions on a slave ship.  The next segment comes during the Civil War; then the l930s, the l960s and then modern day.



89. Dancing on the Edge, by Han Nolan

Harcourt Brace, l997, 244 pp., $16.00 0-15-20164801 

Dancing on the Edge is a story for everyone who ever felt unloved or alone or afraid; it's a book for anyone who has been kept from the truth.  Miracle McCloy tells her story of being taken from the body of a dead woman.  Gigi, her grandmother, has raised Miracle, repeatedly telling the child she is named Miracle, being born as her mother was dying.  Gigi is a spiritualist, constantly filling Miracle's otherwise empty life with beliefs about colors and séances. Miracle must wade through these beliefs and the disappearance of Dane, her father; through constant moves from Gigi's household to Grandaddy Opal's house, to Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole's, never being able to come to know any of these people as real. Miracle loves to dance, an unconscious link to her dead mother.  Dancing both hurts and heals for Miracle's road to discovering the truth is painful.


Han Nolan's gripping novel reveals the terrors of a young girl blocked from every avenue of self-knowledge and identity, blocked from the love that can give life.


90. Farewell to Manzanar Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Jeanne is telling her family's and the Japanese experience of the internment camp at Manzanar.  The book reveals much of the subtle racism against the Japanese, particularly once the camps were closed. Jeanne, who is about 7 in l942 when Pearl Harbor is bombed, tries to come to understand the major impact of the experience on her family, her culture, her world, especially the deep fears of the "other."  Well presented from the female voice of a young girl who has to keep struggling with the mix of cultures since she is American-born and is caught up in what it takes to be American…


91. Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson

Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr. is the only son in a family; he's sandwiched between two older sisters Ellie and Brenda and two younger, May Belle (who really adores him) and Joyce Ann who is too young and demanding.  His dad isn't around much; he drives back and forth daily to Washington; his mother is too busy to seem to care.  The older daughters get lots of attention and Jesse is the one who has to do lots of household chores, especially milking the cow daily.  Jesse is a creative boy; he loves to draw.  "Jess drew the way some people drink whiskey.  The peace would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body" (10)  The only one who supports his artistic talents is Miss Edmunds, a teacher at school; she teaches music all day on Fridays.  She's someone who is unconventional compared to the rest of the teachers and to the folks in the community.  Lark Creek is a kind of "backwater" in the area.

            The Burke family, two seemingly "hippie type" adults and their daughter, Leslie, move in next door.  Jess also likes to run; he has dreams of being the "fastest kid in the 5th grade"--he runs in the cow pasture.  When Leslie moves in, she wants to run and does; she is the fastest.  She also doesn't fit in since her parents are so different.  The family has moved because Leslie's parents are "reassessing their value structure" (32).  Then Mrs. Myers--the 5th grade teacher--reads L's essay aloud.  (The essays are to be about a favorite hobby) and Leslie has written about scuba diving…again unusual and different for "a girl."  But L.'s family doesn't have a TV so again she's the odd person out amid her peers in 5th grade.  In this way she and Jess bond.

            Jess and Leslie go off after school and are enjoying the woods between their homes.  L. suggests they need a special place "just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it…It might be a whole secret country and you and I would be the rulers of it" (38-39).  Jess is a bit afraid of the deeper, darker part of the woods.  L. names the place "Terabithia”; she also tells Jess it will be like Narnia; she also loans Jess her books about Narnia.

            Jess and Leslie become good friends; they sit and talk; they share many values.  Both are artistic and gifted and misunderstood.  Leslie's parents are both writers; L. calls them by their first names, Bill and Judy.  That's a piece that Jess doesn't feel at ease with. 

            Around Christmas time Jess wants so much to get L. a gift; he doesn't really have money; he also doesn't know exactly what to get her.  He gets a free puppy; L. loves the dog and calls it Prince Terrien, or PT.  L. gives Jess paints and art paper.  Jess finds it hard to express how deeply he is touched, how grateful he is. 

            Jess has a lonely time when L. is helping her parents renovate the house; they make a "golden room" that catches the light beautifully.  Eventually Jess helps them work; Mr. Burke is always impressed with all Jess knows how to do.

            After a month, J and L get back to Terabithia.  They also deal with Janice Avery, a bully type 7th grader.  Janice eventually needs help because her two "friends" tell everyone that Janice's dad beats her.  May Belle discovers Terabithia.

            Easter time--Leslie goes to church with Jess's family.  There's lots of rain and it gets harder and harder to get across the creek by swinging on the rope.  Jess is frightened and afraid to tell L. of his fears. Thurs. after Easter, (J.'s dad has been out of work now for a while) J. is invited by Ms. Edmunds to go to Washington and an art museum.  It is a perfect day for him; he is captivated by the beauty of the art.  He's also a little scared by an Native Am. Exhibit where buffalo are driven over the edge of a cliff. He loves the whole day, but does worry that he didn't ask Ms. E. if L. could go along.  When he returns, he finds out that Leslie has died; she was found drown in the creek; the rope broke.  His father and mother are both so good to him at this time; so is Mrs. Myers who shares about her own grief. 


92. The Sign of the Chrysanthemum by Katherine Paterson

            Muna -- Japanese for "the nameless" --age 13, is digging his mother's grave as the novel opens.  Old Sato's (Sato is a serf) wife is washing the body.  Muna is now an orphan; his father, described only as a "tall Samurai who'd come to the island (Awa) on a special mission for his Excellency, Heike no Kiyomori" had fathered Muna and then left.  With his mother now dead, Muna wants to leave the island for the capital city (Heiankyo) and begin the search for his father.

            His opportunity comes quickly; he's called to help unload a ship and in the process, hides on the ship.  He is seasick and is discovered by Takanobu, "king of the pirates" who is on the ship as a ronin (sort of guard).  Though Takanobu discovers Muna and reports M. to the ship's captain, Taka…protects M. and argues that M. should be kept aboard.

            When they land, Taka…tells M. to run and meet him (Taka.) at the Rashomon Gate.  The boy is not sure where to go; he is not sure what to do in this large city; passes through a section of the city which is poor and a center for prostitutes (Rokujo Avenue).  M. is taken in by Kawaki, a sandalmaker, who has a beautiful daughter, Akiko.  The next day M. does locate Taka in the Rashomon Gate area.  M. learns that Taka is a thief and lives in a rough area of the city.  Muna gets hired on as a stable boy for the horses of the guardsmen.  M. always has the notion of finding his father, but he does grow to like Taka who did get him to the city.  Weeks pass; the boy goes as often as he can to be in contact with Taka and T's rough friends at a place called the Red Dog.

            There is tension in the city between the Genji and Heike clans.  Eve before his 14th b'day; the eve New Year's eve, Taka and friends are drunk; they give M. a message he is to take to the peddler Plum Face.  It's a rainy, drizzly cold night.  When M. finally gets to Plum Face's shop, he finds out PF has been dead for 2 months.  As M. is heading back toward Rokujo Ave., he realizes the area is on fire. M. attempts to find Taka, but is overcome by smoke and collapses.

            Fukuji, a swordsmith and a famous one, finds him, takes M. in and provides a place for M. to heal.  When M. does start to heal, he believes the Taka is dead, lost in the fire.  In the fragile state as M. is gaining consciousness, he remembers a special place in Awa, his home.  There was a tree which a huge limb that reached out; whenever M. was frightened or sorrowful or angry, he'd go and climb in the lap of the tree where the huge limb grew out. 

            The swordsmith is 50, but doesn't consider himself old.  He never lets M. do anything with the forge; M. sometimes feels so inadequate because all he is allowed to do is housework for Fukuji.  In the evenings though Fuku sings and M. loves this.  Fuku also tells about the swords he creates: "the iron for the long sword comes from the belly of the earth.  The metal is put to the test of the fire and the hammer and the water, and if it submits to the trials and endures, it emerges from the final tempering a pure and powerful spirit."  For this reason, Fuku doesn't sell the swords to "just anyone." 

            On a April day amid the cherry blossom season, M. is sent to carry a message to a soldier at the palace.  The soldier is so pleased, he gives M. some coins to spend on sweets. He also goes to see Kawaki the sandalmaker and his daughter.  He takes the young woman some of the sweets.  He learns that Kawaki is very ill; when he asks Akiko who will care for her, she vaguely mentions an uncle.  This uncle eventually, when Kawaki dies, "sells" Akiko as a prostitute.

            Returning to Fukuji's M. runs into a man he thinks is a comrade of Taka's.  Later it turns out that Taka and his friends are indeed alive, but Taka has lost his sword.  When M. first runs into Taka, Taka is dressed like a monk. When Taka learns that M. works for the swordsmith, he keeps urging M. to get a sword for him (T.). M. struggles immensely under Taka's pressure and under his desire to serve Fuku.  M. also keeps trying to visit and encourage Akiko and her ailing father.

            When M. learns of Akiko's fate, being "situated" at a house of prostituion, he tries to go there and save her.  He is beaten up by a bodyguard.  He sulks inside since he hasn't been able to get any response from Fuku that F. will ever take M as an apprentice.  When F. has finished the sword for the soldier of the guard, he shows it to Muna.  M. is awed and asks about taking word to the soldier.  M. nows has a plan.  He tells the soldier the sword will only be ready in a month.  He does steal the sword and take it to Taka; he tries to get Taka to swear that M can have his name and can be with him.  Taka laughs scornfully. M in anger strikes at Taka and runs away.

            M. runs to a wooded area and finds a place to bury the sword.  Now M. can't return to Fuku; he lives among the poor and eventually becomes like a poor youth, raggy, dirty, hungry. Taka comes to Fuku and bargains about getting a sword for bringing the boy back. Fuku protects M., saying the sword is not gone.  Fuku learns that Taka would never want M.  Fuku also learns later that many men had the tattoo of the chrysanthemum, so there is no way for M. to really find his real father.

            One day M. sees the woodcutter who had been around in the woods when M. buried the sword.  Now a sense that the sword must be saved, drives M. to go back, dig it up and bring it back to Fuku.  Fuku takes the boy back, protects him as the war breaks out, eventually apprentices M. and engraves on the sword with the motto: "Through fire is the spirit forged."

Good book.  Possible world lit. text


93. River Cross My Heart -- Breena Clarke

Set in the late l920's in Georgetown; the Bynum family: Willie, Alice, Johnnie Mae (main character), Clara, and later Calvin are African Americans who have left North Carolina where Alice believes they will have more freedom.  They do in fact, but there is still segregation--a major element in the novel is the separation of the swimming pool areas--the white children have their own swimming pool at Volta; in the novel Johnnie Mae and her friend Pearl Miller go there at night, climb the fence and go swimming.  They are seen by a white policeman, but escape his clutches.  It becomes fairly obvious to the family and the Mount Zion church community that Johnnie Mae has been involved.  This action causes Willie to become harsher in his reactions toward Johnnie Mae, but Alice always defends her daughter.

            The river, the Potomac, plays a constant role in the novel.  In the beginning of the novel J. M., Clara, and several friends are going to the river to swim since they can't go to the swimming pool (and don't have their own pool at this point).  J. M. who is 12 is in charge of Clara, her 6 yr. old sister.  As J. M. is swimming, the branch Clara is sitting on breaks and Clara is thrust into the river.  When J.M. realizes Clara is gone, J.M. dives desperately to try to find her sister.  J. M. is unsuccessful and eventually pulled out of the water by her friends.  Clara drowns.  The novel focuses so much on the impact of this death on the family, on J.M., and the community.  Very powerful…lots of river imagery and quotes.



94. Waiting for the Rain: Sheila Gordon—the main characters are Frikki, an Afrikaner/Dutch, who comes frequently to his uncle’s (Oom Koo) farm; and Tengo, a Black South African boy.  Though the boys become friends, their worlds are indeed separate.  Tengo’s mom works in the house of the Koo family; his father works as a hand.  Tengo and other natives are referred to by the term: “kaffir.”  Tengo is a voracious learner; he eventually gets to go to Johannesburg and study; it is the time soon after the massacres like Soweto.  Joseph, Tengo’s cousin, is an active member of the resistance groups like the ANC (African National Congress).  The novel traces the two boys’ stories up through young adulthood; ultimately they end up with Tengo unknowingly beating Frikki (now a soldier in the Afrikaner military—doing his two yrs. of mandatory service) over the head to prevent F. from killing him (T.).  Neither knows the other right away—when they do recognize each other, T. is holding F.’s gun and has the power most Blacks in South Africa never know.  Great novel to pair with Cry the Beloved Country.


95. Letters from Rifka: Karen Hesse—Rifka is 12 as this work opens; the time is l919-20.  It’s a series of letters, written to her cousin, Tovah.  Rifka and her family are trying to flee Russia, since three of R.’s older brothers have already gone to America and have escaped conscription into the Russian army.  Now, Rifka, her parents and other brothers, Nathan and Saul, are fleeing.

            At the Polish border they are stripped and searched.  Only then can they board the train for Warsaw.  First Rifka contracts typhus; the rest of the family, except Saul, gets it as well.  After they are all better and are en route, Rifka sees a Polish peasant girl with a baby.  Rifka tells the young woman she (R.) will help style her hair.  In doing so, unbeknown to R., she catches ringworm.  Thus when the rest of the family is “cleared” for passage to America, R. must stay behind and be treated for the ringworm.  People from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) help Rifka get settled in Antwerp.  A Catholic sister helps with the treatments for Rifka; time passes and R. gets more accustomed to Belgium.  One problem is that she loses all her hair; it seems never to be growing back even after she is cured of the ringworm and able to go to America.  Her family though is all in America and R. is constantly homesick.  One of R.’s strengths, in addition to surviving on her own, is her ability to learn languages.  She gets a grasp of Polish, then learns Flemish; when she finally gets to travel to America, she picks up English fairly quickly also. 

            She is also writing in a book of Pushkin’s poetry; eventually she also writes some poetry, which she doesn’t feel is very good.  On the ship over, she grows to love Pieter—he is drowned though in a terrible storm at sea.  R. experiences loss after loss/ She also befriends those in need.  Ilya, a Russian peasant boy, is one she befriends while on Ellis Island.  She is detained there since she is without hair, and the officials fear she’ll become a “social responsibility” – unable to get a husband.

            Ultimately she is allowed to go, but it’s at this point that her hair is actually starting to grow.  She fears a return of the ringworm, since her head would itch; she learns that the real reason is that as her hair grows back, her head itches.  Powerful young heroine based on a real person, Karen Hesse’s great aunt Lucy.