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Because the family is running out of money, Rachel, her siblings and her Pop must move from their New York apartment to an abandoned farm upstate. When they get there, Rachel’s Pop discovers that a promised job is no longer his, and so he must leave the siblings on their own for several months to go find work. Rachel and her younger brother and sister are on their own, determined to prove to their Pop that they can care for the family’s new farm. If you love historical, survive against the odds, fiction as I do, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a perfect choice for upper elementary and middle school girls.

Homeland is told entirely through letters.  Susanna, a Southerner, and Cora, an islander from Maine, meet briefly in Tennessee before the start of the Civil War.  They strike up a correspondence that spans the duration of the war.

It took me a 20 pages or so to get into the book and get some characters sorted out.  But once I got going, I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s one of those books that just keeps getting better and better as you go on, and then the ending is so perfect, you wouldn’t change a thing.

Through Susanna and Cora’s letters, Hambly dives into some huge issues: the effects of the war on women; the competing loyalties that people felt as they were torn between love of homeland, their state, the Union, family and their family’s land and livelihood; the choices, or lack of choices, that women had to support themselves and their families; the power of books to teach and comfort; the power of writing to bring clarification and healing during times of pain; the power of friendship to sustain through the darkest times.

Book Overload

08th October 2009

The stack of books on my desk, waiting to be reviewed, is insurmountable.  I will never get to them all.  So for the sake of time, I need to do a combo post.  Here are the books I’ve been reading the past few weeks.  Most of them have been fantastic:

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf–Two young girls are missing in the woods.  Told through multiple perspectives, the families work to find their girls, and one of the girls, Callie, works to regain her voice.  I had a hard time putting this one down.

Day After Night by Anita Diamant–A fictional account of the October 1945 rescue of Jewish detainees from the Atlit internment camp in Israel.  A grim reminder that the plight of the Jews didn’t end with the surrender of Germany.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam–The autobiographical account of Somaly Mam, who was sold into prostitution in Cambodia as a young girl, was able to escape, and returned to help other girls.  An amazing and heartbreaking story that continues today.

While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty–A college student and her mom try to figure life out.  I love the way Moriarty writes about mother-daughter relationships.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone–A fictional account of Samuel Collier, page to Captain John Smith and his journey to Jamestown.  I read this after having visited Jamestown Settlement.  The book brings the familiar story to life.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick–I can’t believe I didn’t discover this book earlier!  A love of reading and writing saves a dystopic civilization.  Great book.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements–Twin brothers take turns going to school, and in the process, discover who they are as individuals.  Not my favorite by Clements, but well done nonetheless.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan–One of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever read, based on the real journey made by Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they attempted to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914.  Highly recommended.

Kyra is 13 years old when her community’s leader orders her to marry her 60 year old uncle and become his 7th wife.  With her family unable to rescue her, Kyra’s only hope for escape is herself.

This book was exciting and tense.  Kyra is a strong girl, and I wanted her to be free from the cult in which she was trapped.  At times, I felt as if the violence and control in the cult was over the top.  I was curious to know if the cult, its beliefs and its rules were based at all on real situations.

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

18th August 2009

If you can breeze past a few sermons about global warming and polar icecaps melting, this was a great book.  Mara’s town is a tiny shrinking island in the Atlantic.  As far as the people in her town know, their island is the only dry land left on earth.  But as the waters keep rising, they must find a new home.  Mara convinces the islanders to set off in search of a rumored refuge–sky cities built high above the wet earth.

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