Cites & Bytes @ Bailey

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Four Books in Four Days....

It is my "duty" to stay current with various children's and young adult books--I know, poor me. For an upcoming visit from a children's literature class, I read the following delightful books. Each is poignant, brief, beautifully written, and hard to put down. A unifying theme? Loss and redemption.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
Lyrical, haunting allegory set in a post-apocalyptic, 9/11 world. You seldom find a book that is designed so well--the artwork, the font, the arrangement of text all complemented the story. Hoffman deftly invokes magical realism to create the story of Green, a 15-year old girl with a gift for gardening, who loses everything and fights her way back by focusing on other survivors.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Warm and beautiful portrait of an urban neighborhood, a loving family, and a young girl named Esperanza growing up in Chicago. The book is written as a series of small tales, little stories of Esperanza's neighborhood and childhood that make you know her. I love it when an author can make you remember and reflect on your own experiences. Esperanza is redeemed by her dreams and her writing.

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Narrative of a young girl in India forced into an arranged marriage and her subsequent struggle to be free. Koly is married and widowed at 13 and must live her days in servitude to a mean-spirited mother-in-law who actually abandons her to live in the streets. Koly's strong spirit helps her to find beauty in the worst of circumstances and helps her to express herself in embroidery. The descriptions of Indian traditions and customs were informative without being overly pedantic or intrusive to the narrative.

Witness by Karen Hesse
Riveting free verse account of the poisonous spread of hate in a small community, redeemed by love and compassion. The violence of the Ku Klux Klan is overcome by decent (but conflicted) citizens in a small Vermont town. Central characters include a young Jewish girl, a young black girl, a lonesome farm woman, a sheriff, a foolish young man, a misguided preacher, and an indifferent woman bootlegger. Powerful character portraits emerge in the beautifully written monologues.


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