“The rice was harvested, and the poor were allowed to glean the fields for fallen grain-heads. It was an arduous, backbreaking task: hours of work to gather mere handfuls of rice.” p. 53
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.
Dell Yearling, Random House Books, New York, 2001.
MG historical fiction, 152 pages plus extra back matter.
2002 Newbery Award Winner.
Lexile: 920L .
AR Level: 6.6 (worth 6.0 points) .
This novel follows a 12th century Korean orphan who is happy at first just to scrounge enough food to survive, but gradually becomes immersed in the world of the master potters of Ch’ulp’o, known for their breathtaking celadon ceramics.
I was first given this book back when it was released and a friend told me I had to read it. For whatever reason I resisted. Perhaps because I didn’t care much for historical fiction at the time. Another reason could have been the nearly all-male cast. Tree-ear’s world is full of men and boys, with only one female character of any notice. While it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, the characters do come from a wide economic spectrum.
“Like you, I was brought to a family who loved me and whom I love. I cannot stop loving that family, and I don’t want to. I can only allow my love to increase.” page 377
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Algonquin Young Readers, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2016.
Middle grade fantasy, 386 pages.
Lexile: 640L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 12.0 points) .
Xan is the witch of the forest. Every year, the isolated people of the protectorate leave a baby in the forest for no reason she can fathom. Not one to let an infant die in the forest, she takes it on the perilous journey to the other lands, where the children are heralded as Star Children, and adopted into carefully chosen families. On the way, she feeds them starlight. Until one day the aging witch feeds a child moonlight instead…
I enjoyed this book, but wouldn’t recommend you buy it.
“I have come to believe that her life was ruined not by septic shock or noncompliant parents but by cross-cultural misunderstanding.” page 262
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, my edition 1998 (first published 1997).
Nonfiction, 341 pages +reader’s guide.
This is the story of a severely epileptic Hmong girl and the family and doctors who wanted what was best for her but disagreed about what that was. It’s also the story of the Hmong people in America, and their experiences with the medical establishment.
This is technically a re-read. However, I didn’t remember much, so it was like reading a new book. The primary story in this book is Lia’s life and the friction between her family and the medical staff caring for her, but it has a wide scope.
An unnamed little girl describes her favorite day of the month, when she and her grandmother visit her father in prison.
If you had to visit a prison, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite day. But what if your very favorite person was in prison? What if your Daddy that you loved more than anyone in the world was a person you only got to see once a month? For this little girl and her grandmother, Visiting Day is a celebration that causes them to wake up with a smile, and sadness only comes when they get off the bus home, alone without Daddy.
This book is full of vivid imagery that engages all the senses as grandma passes peppermints and kisses. Teeth are brushed and hair done in preparation for the visit. Woodson’s writing is, as always, lyrical and beautiful. Although it’s not presented as poetry, this book would also make a wonderful poem.
“It’s pretty. ‘Til you get close. Then sugar gets nastier than any gator. Sugar bites a hundred times, breaking skin and making you bleed.” page 6
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes, illustrations by Neil Brigham.
Originally published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette, New York, 2013.
My edition is Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade historical fiction, 272 pages + author’s note.
Lexile: 430L .
AR Level: 2.9 (worth 4.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the second book published (chronologically the first) in the Louisiana Girls Trilogy.
The ten-year-old narrator of this novel is named after the type of plantation she works on: Sugar. Slavery ending doesn’t seem to have changed much, other than all of her friends moving away. Orphaned Sugar doesn’t have the resources or family to leave. But she does have spirit and dreams – dreams of playing all day, going to school, and even of making new friends. When the plantation owner decides to bring Chinese workers in, are they competition or potential allies?
Since I’ve been complaining about historical fiction featuring black characters, I decided to try to find some good examples, so we took a trip to the used bookstore. This historical novel takes place over the course of a year, measured by the different seasons of the sugarcane cycle. It starts with winter in 1870 and moves through planting and then harvest in 1871. The epilogue takes place in spring of that year. Continue reading “Review: Sugar”
The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis.
Zondervan, HarperCollins, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.
Adoptive parent memoir, 223 pages.
This is the story of one woman who couldn’t become a mother even though all she yearned for was motherhood. This is the story of her three children, and the journey she and her husband went through to bring them home and accept them as forever family.
This was a fairly light and quick read. (I finished it in a few hours, your mileage may vary.) I think if I didn’t know so many people in situations very similar to hers, this might have had more impact. As it was, I felt like she kept the story extremely positive and glossed over a lot of the harsh realities. However, that makes sense given that the goal of this book is to reach as many people as possible.
In parts it is more obvious than others that Avis was extremely lucky. She glosses over the birth family of their daughter Truly Star, which makes sense because she is quite young yet and not ready to decide if she wants to disclose that information to the world. She has close and loving relationships with the birth families of her other two children. That’s fairly unusual, especially the birth family reaction to her. Perhaps it’s a different scenario because they have Down Syndrome as opposed to other challenges.
Many people go their entire lives without a thought to adoption or foster care. Perhaps they see a story on the news or have an acquaintance that decides to care for non-biological children. When fostering and adoption cross their path, well-meaning people think “what angels they must be” and “gosh, I could never do that.” (You don’t want to know what ill meaning people say to a parent or child’s face.)
Thus, I’m taking a moment to educate. In America, there are 3 main types of adoption: domestic – an American child removed from the home or placed for adoption at the parent’s request. international – a foreign-born child placed for adoption kinship – an American child under the physical custody of a family member other than their biological parent, often a grandparent.
Kinship adoptions can be informal (not processed through the court systems) and are often overlooked by a crowded system, or relatives ashamed to admit the parent cannot care for the child. As a result, these parents are less likely to have access to needed services and support. Some forms of kinship can later be overturned by birth parents.
No matter what form of adoption, each one begins with a trauma – the separation from birth parents. In some adoptions, that is the only trauma, and it is followed by much joy.