Monday, February 24, 2014

Book of the Week

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice

by Gail Bush, editor and Randy Meyer, editor

Published by Norwood House Press, 2013
94 pages
ISBN: pbk 978-1-60357-417-4

Age 15 and older

“America is not easy. It’s a land of high ideals and stirring icons, but it’s also a land of harsh realities … This is where poetry comes in. We celebrate the incredible achievement of individuals as we turn our gaze from hunger and homelessness in the streets. We have a difficult time matching our words with our actions” (from the Introduction). Is poetry the answer? Not necessarily. Not always. But the poems here offer the opportunity to deeply consider the disconnect that often exists between the ideal and reality of our nation, whether it’s rooted in the actions of government or the interactions between two human beings. A number of the topics touched upon, such as race and gender discrimination, are expected, but the ways they are explored can surprise. One poem may feel like a slap in the face it’s so bold; another tickles the consciousness with its subtlety. A broad and diverse range of poets are represented in a dynamic collection that may affirm and challenge, enlighten and inspire.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book of the Week

The Milk of Birds

by Sylvia Whitman

Published by Atheneum, 2013
363 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4424-4682-3

Age 14 and older

Nawra is a fourteen-year-old Muslim girl living in a refugee camp in the Darfur region of Sudan. Through a nonprofit called Save the Girls, she is paired with K.C., a Richmond, Virginia, teen, to exchange monthly letters. A novel that moves back and forth between the two girls chronicles their correspondence and their lives. In the camp, where living conditions are awful, Nawra cares for her silent and barely functional mother, who has been traumatized by what she and Nawra have gone through—events that are gradually revealed. Eventually Nawra tells K.C. that she’s pregnant—she was raped on their journey. Later she almost dies giving birth. K.C. is initially furious her mother signed her up for the correspondence program and doesn’t write Nawra for the first four months. She struggles in school with undiagnosed learning disabilities and faces constant pressure from her mom to try harder, while her dad seems uninterested. Sylvia Whitman’s novel is effective and compelling on multiple fronts. Both girls try to understand each other’s culture without judgment. But the truth is their experiences are vastly different. Once K.C. begins exchanging letters with Nawra in earnest, a genuine friendship develops, and she goes from reluctant correspondent to a teenager deeply moved. The pain of Nawra’s story is intense, but her voice is engaging and vivid, and the back-and-forth of the narrative provides respite from the horrors she sometimes describes.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center