“Still I do not believe that traders in slaves are born worse than other men. It is the slave trade and the greed it brings that hardens men’s minds and kills their capacity for kindness.” page 81
The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano, adapted by Ann Cameron. (With an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1995. My edition reprinted, Yearling, Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2005.
Lexile: 840L .
AR Level: 5.7 (worth 4.0 points) .
Olaudah Equiano was an African prince from Benin who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, in which condition he traveled widely and had many different experiences. Ann Cameron abridged and adapted this book for young, modern readers.
Although this book has a great deal of adventure, the prologue is more of a moral lesson, and in the first chapter Olaudah describes home life during his early years. For this reason, I’d recommend getting through the first bit quickly to hook kids into the narrative. If you are in a library or another setting where you can’t, then tell the kids about Olaudah’s life so they stay interested.
After chapter two, the pace increases. Cameron breaks the narrative up into short, topical chapters. Some reviews complained about the narrative ending before Olaudah’s book finished, but the afterword summarizes the rest of his life.
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“She pitied people. She went inside the ships and saw that some of the people were chained below. She helped them escape and swim to the island.” page 116
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste.
Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade fantasy, 234 pages.
Lexile: 680L .
AR Level: 4.6 (worth 6.0 points) .
Corinne La Mer and her father have always lived near the forest, and she’s never questioned that… but she’s never entered it either. Until one day two boys tie her mother’s necklace to a forest creature and she can’t help but follow.
When this was first published, I had just started reading diversely. Most diverse books still flew right past me, but this book was published by Scholastic! And it’s a retold tale – one of my favorite genres! How did I ever miss this one? It might have been marked as horror. Recently I saw the second book in the series in this blog post by Shenwei. Seeing the cover of the second book made me realize that it was fantasy, not horror.
In an odd twist of fate, later that day I stopped by a library book sale, and snagged a used copy of the Jumbies for 25 cents just before closing!
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“There are memories you write down to get them out, to force them as far away from you as you can.” page 9
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2015.
YA realistic fiction novel, 263 pages including extras.
Lexile: not yet leveled.
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 8.0 points) .
15-year-old Magdalie’s been raised by her aunt in Port-au-Prince and is like a sister to her cousin Nadine. When a massive earthquake hits the country, they’re devastated, grief-struck, and struggling to survive. But then Nadine is offered an opportunity, and Magdalie cannot join her. Will their sisterhood survive? Will they?
If you’re reading this review far enough into the future then this book will no longer be realistic fiction. Just as novels about 9/11 are now historical fiction, this book about the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, a recent historical event, will one day be historical fiction!
The book opens with a scene of the actual earthquake, so it certainly starts off gripping. After reading the blurb, I thought this book would be told in two voices, but it focuses solely on Magdalie, the sister left behind in Haiti. This is an interesting twist on the usual immigration narrative. Typically we follow the immigrant and don’t get as much information on those who are left behind. In this book, the immigrant sister slowly and painfully fades away, while the focus is on the dire circumstances and overpowering need for survival in the country of origin.
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“I hardly ever saw anybody in a wheelchair really in the swing of things. […] I worried that when I grew up I’d be an invisible man.” page 105
This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability) by Aaron Philip, with Tonya Bolden.
Balzer + Bray imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2016.
Middle grade autobiography, 179 pages.
Lexile: 880L .
AR Level: 5.8 (worth 4.0 points) .
Aaron (pronounced Ay-ron) Philip is an ordinary kid who became famous through his tumblr and drawings, which led him to become a disability activist.
I had never heard of Aaron Phillip before, so despite seeing this book in the store, I didn’t pick it up until I started my diverse disabled booklist. And it would have been a real loss if I hadn’t.
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