“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.
“The southwest wind in Hallelujah’s face blew pieces of flaming cloth and chunks of blazing hay high above her head.” page 33
Children of the Fire by Harriette Gillem Robinet.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 2001. Originally published 1999.
MG historical fiction, 134 pages including author’s note.
Lexile: 590L .
AR Level: 4.0 (worth 4.0 points) .
In 1871 Chicago, Hallelujah wants nothing more than to watch one of the fires burning around the city, but has no idea how one of those fires will change her life.
I hadn’t been reading much historical fiction so I impulsively bought this. We’ve visited Chicago, so I thought it might make a good family read-aloud.
The cover was so irritating. Why did they include the rich white girl? Once I started reading, I also noticed that Hallelujah’s hair was wrong on the cover. In the book it specifically states that her sister redid it into loose braids, not twists (and the cover looks more like ponytail poofs to me) A large theme of the book is that Hallelujah is able to blend in with different groups because she wears a simple dress, but custom-made shoes, is the daughter of a slave, yet can read and write. Different people see her in different ways.
“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.
“Although everyone at Weltimore wore the same school uniform, it somehow made the differences more obvious.” page 73
The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.
Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Middle grade sports fiction, 127 pages.
Lexile: 810L .
AR Level: 5.5 (worth 3.0 points) .
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing this on Fiction Friday, it is a work of fiction.
Jake’s mother has finally decided they need to spend more time together. He whole-heartedly agrees, but doesn’t like that this means moving off the reservation, being the only Native in a fancy school, and giving up lacrosse. Is there any way to make his new classmates understand the true spirit of the game?
Well, it had to happen eventually that I would read a book I didn’t love! So far all the books I’ve reviewed for my #100indigenousbooks project have been great, I must really have been picking them!
To be fair, this is a sports novel, and I dislike most sporting fiction. I felt about the same as I would about a Matt Christopher sport novel, which is pretty similar to this book.
This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.
The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life. But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care. What will happen to their family? Can Pete’s gang become their new family?
This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals. Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family. So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.