Archive for July, 2010

Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen

 

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  281

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa Teen Award

Holly writes her story in a diary style format as she escapes from an abusive foster home and goes on the run.  She describes how she travels, finds food, and avoids capture from police.  The life of a runaway is more difficult than many teens probably realize because many shelters will not help you unless you are accompanied by an adult.  As Holly weighs her possible choices, her main focus is always on survival from starvation, bullies, and even the haunting memories of her drug addicted mother who left her in this position.

Life on the street is much harsher than most teens realize and this book accurately describes what it would be like to have to fend for yourself at the age of 12.  The reasons for why Holly chooses to live on the street instead of a foster home are made clear as well as her fears of asking anyone for help.  The details begin to feel a little long at times as the reader waits for things to change for Holly.  The ending is satisfying, albeit a bit too easy after such a difficult journey.  Readers who like journal style entries like in Go Ask Alice will find this interesting.  Also, fans of A Child Called It will enjoy this quick read about a similar topic.

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Elephant Run by Roland Smith

 

Genre:  Historical fiction

# of pages:  318 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

Nick Freestone is living with his mother in London during 1941.  When the blitz begins she sends him to live with his dad in Burma, only life isn’t much better there as the Japanese invade his father’s plantation.  Nick is held captive and forced to work as a slave and his father is sent to a prison camp.  Mya, a native girl whose family has always worked the plantation, is trapped as a slave with Nick because her brother has been sent to a prison camp as well.  When life begins to get worse for them on the plantation they decide to make a clever, but risky escape attempt in order to save Nick’s father and Mya’s brother.

Roland Smith always does a nice job of telling unique stories from different cultural places and times.  Elephant Run is no exception as Smith delves into WWII from an angle many adults and students do not usually hear about.  The invasion of Burma by the Japanese will be interesting to young readers studying this time or who just like adventure books.  The cultural aspects of life in Burma are described well and the characters are well developed.  A very unique adventure story that will keep Roland Smith fans coming back to find out what he will write about next.   

Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  290

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Addison and her mother have just moved into a trailer because her mother divorced Addie’s stepdad and he got custody of her two little sisters.  Dwight, her stepdad, promises to check up on her and bring the girls to visit, but Addie is not convinced that this will happen.  She misses them so much because she knows that life with her mother is unpredictable and hard.  As time goes on, Addie befriends the two people who work in the mini-mart across the parking lot.  Her mother disapproves, but Addie enjoys hanging out with them and knows she can always count on them.  Addie’s mom starts spending more and more time away from the trailer working on a new “business” and Addie begins to wonders when she’ll ever have a normal life and a normal family.  She begins to think she should stop thinking about it in case it never happens. 

Addie’s story is very believable as there are many young people out there who live in unstable homes with unreliable parental figures.  Due to the fact that Addie is very responsible, her mother takes advantage of her and treats her like another adult instead of like a child.  The characters are compelling and interesting.  Addie’s problems continue to get worse and it’s easy to see how she might begin to feel hopeless, but there is always a glimmer of hope and the story has a satisfying ending that will leave young readers happy.   Highly recommended for late elementary and junior high readers.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell

 

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  163 p.

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Twelve-year-old Jamie is excited when she hears her older brother, T.J., has enlisted in the Army.  Their father is a Colonel and they have lived all of their lives on army bases.  She would love to go fight for her country too if they would let her.  She is surprised when their father does not want T.J. to go to Vietnam.  He does everything he can to convince her brother to back out of his enlistment agreement, but T.J. persists and is sent to Vietnam almost immediately after basic training.  He sends generic letters home to his parents, but he sends rolls of film to Jamie.  She learns how to develop film by herself so that she is the first one to see the prints and she is surprised by the content of the film.  First of all, the war does not look at all as glamorous as she thought it would.  Secondly, there are many pictures of the moon, which make her wonder what her brother is trying to show her with the pictures.  Jamie soon decides she is not so thrilled about her big brother fighting in the war anymore. 

This Vietnam tale is a great way to introduce the Vietnam War to students this age.  Jamie’s perspective of the young child who sees war as glamour and heroes quickly changes when she starts seeing what is going on over there.  Her father is a well-written character as he is the one who describes some of the errors in the strategy used in the war.  The emotions and feelings of soldiers and families help the reader to truly get into the story and feel what it would be like to be in their position.  A very well-written book on a very difficult topic.