Review: Ninth Ward

“Outside, the neighborhood has been torn apart. Trees, snapped like toothpicks, are lying on the ground.” page 139

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
MG speculative fiction, 218 pages.
Lexile:  HL470L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  3.3 (worth 4.0 points)  .

Twelve-year old Lanesha is different from her peers in one major way: she can see ghosts.  And several minor ways: she was raised by Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife who birthed her, but without the formality of kinship or an official foster care relationship.  She loves to learn, tackling difficult math problems and learning new words with glee.

Ninth Ward cover resized

The book covers nine days directly before and during the events of Hurricane Katrina over 14 chapters.  Within the chapters the text is further broken into sections, and the sentences tend to be short.  Although Parker Rhodes doesn’t shy away from challenging words, they are decipherable with context clues if not defined in the text.  These explain why this has a low reading level, but it’s not meant for very young readers.  Children closer to Lanesha’s age would be a much better fit, because the novel does include deaths, extreme peril, hunger, destruction, and family rejection.

The story starts slowly, establishing Lanesha’s character, neighborhood, and routine before tearing everything apart.  It’s a first person novel, and Lanesha is smart, independent, and loving.  She’s in an unofficial kinship situation with Mama Ya-Ya since her mother died in childbirth without revealing her father and her mother’s family refuses to accept or acknowledge her.

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Review: The Lost Boy

“Leaving Duinsmoore was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. In a matter of months, in the tiniest fraction of my life, Duinsmoore had given me so much.” page 278

The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family by Dave Pelzer.
Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1997.
Memoir, 340 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  5.1 (worth 9.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, this is an adult book, not suggested for MG readers.

Peltzer’s first book is all about the inhumane treatment he suffered at the hands of his mother.  The second, after a brief recap of the abuse, focuses on his life in the foster care system.

Pelzer - The Lost Boy

I believe this was the first book that I ever read about foster care.  Many years later, I found some of the series in a thrift store and decided to read through it again.  After the sensational story of the first book, this one is significantly milder.  Peltzer’s mother still has a lot of power over him – mentally, emotionally, and legally.  But her physical control of his body is limited and he starts to heal in some ways.

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Review: Forever Mom

“Kids may need years of consistent, loving care before they begin to trust, and they may resist trusting even in the face of much love and care from new parents.” page 107

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting by Mary Ostyn.
Nelson Books, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2014.
Nonfiction, 241 pages.
Not leveled.

Mary Ostyn shares her experiences as a mother of ten, six adopted, children.

Forever Mom

I’m always interested in reading books about adoption and foster care.  Initially when I got this, I thought it would have more about fostering or domestic adoption.  While Ostyn did go through the initial process of domestic adoption, in the end all of their six adopted children were foreign adoptions.

This is part memoir and part advice book.  Ostyn writes from a Christian background so there are scripture quotations and references to Jesus and prayer.  I didn’t realize before reading this book that like many international adoptive parents, she feels particularly called by Jesus to adopt the children who ended up in her home.

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Board Book Review: Tango Makes Three

Our 35th board book was enjoyable, but would read better in a larger format.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.
Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015, orig. pub. 2005.
Picture book converted to board book format, 32 pages.

The true story of two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a family, and their adopted daughter Tango.

And Tango Makes Three cover resized
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.

This is a picture book converted to a board book.  Such conversions are always tricky.  Some cut valuable information and lose the meaning of the story or the grace of the illustrations.  Others simply shrink down the size of the book and create a hybrid that might not work for either the original picture book audience or the babies and toddlers that typically use board books.

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Review: Understood Betsy

“He sent his marble straight to the mark, pocketed his opponent’s, and stood up, scowling at the little mothers. ‘I guess if you had to live the way he does you’d be dirty! Half the time he don’t get anything to eat before he comes to school, and if my mother didn’t put up some extra for him in my box he wouldn’t get any lunch either. And then you go and jump on him!’ ” chapter 8

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield, illustrated by Ada C. Williamson.
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1917 (orig. pub 1916)
Children’s literature, 271 pages.
Lexile:  1000L  .
AR Level:  5.9 (worth 8.0 points)  .
NOTE:  The references above are to the print edition, however I read the free ebook edition available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5347? .

Nine-year-old Elizabeth Ann’s parents died when she was a baby, so she’s lived all her life with her great-aunt Harriet and has been raised by her cousin (whom she calls aunt) Frances.  However, since Harriet’s taken ill, she has to go live with another branch of the family while Frances nurses her mother.

Understood Betsy cover

At my new job I’ve been getting to know some homeschooling parents.  Many are more concerned about other aspects than diversity, but one asked my opinion about a few booklists.  Most of the books I was able to find reviews of on other sites, but a few I wasn’t able to find good critiques of, so I found copies to read them myself.

Friends, it was dismal.

After reading so many books that were at best unconsciously perpetuating stereotypes and untruths, and knowing they’re on modern day reading lists and staunchly defended by certain parents, I was feeling rather depressed about America.  So I decided to try to find some better books.  Most don’t fit on this blog, but since this book deals with kinship fostering/adoption, I’ve chosen to review it.

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Board Book Review: Good Night Families

Between a rambunctious good morning to adoptive parents to a good night to everyone, our 39th board book manages to show a wide variety of families.

Good Night Families by Adam Gamble, illustrated by Cooper Kelly.
Good Night Books, 2017.
Board book, 20 pages.

A showcase of a wide variety of families going through their days.

Good Night Families cover resized
Good Night Families by Adam Gamble, illustrated by Cooper Kelly.

This book is a bit of a mixed bag.  First, let’s get some of the negatives out of the way.  The font is awful – a dead giveaway that this wasn’t produced by a regular publishing house.  There also isn’t a great flow to this book, it’s a series of vignettes that at times feels choppy and awkward.

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Review: We Are Family

“Each family is different; it may be large or small. / We may look like each other – or not alike at all.” p. 21

We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Ryan Wheatcroft.
Tiger Tales, Caterpillar Books Ltd., Wilton, CT, 2017.
Picture book, 22 pages.
Not yet leveled.

A sweet vintage-style picture book depicting similar moments in the lives of ten very different families.

We Are Family cover

This British book is a bit off the beaten path.  I think I was looking for family books that were inclusive of foster and adoptive kids, and this certainly fits that mold.

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