The Plot In 5 Sentences Or Less: Polly lives in a bustling house full of children and loves to read and think about ghosts. Ruby has the opposite problem in that she feels abandoned by her family but has the unwanted power of seeing the dead. By accident one day, the girls discover that they are neighbors and that their attics connect. As they began to secretly visit each other through the attics, they began to learn about the tragic past of Ruby’s family. An aunt that passed away years before begins to visit the girls and brings with her a frightening message.
My Take: This was great children’s book to read in the fall. I appreciated the rotating narration between the two girls and also how the author kept us in suspense as to whether Ruby was actually a ghost or not. I did feel that the book bogged down in certain places, but overall I would recommend this to children looking for a ghost book.
One Interesting Note About the Author: Charis Cotter lives in Newfoundland and has an abiding interest in ghosts.
Fallout by Todd Strasser
The Plot in Five Sentences or Less: Recounts the experience of one middle American family during the nuclear standoff of 1963. The plot alternates in time between the family preparing a nuclear fallout shelter and then actually using it during a nuclear strike. 9 people make it into the shelter and tensions run high as time passes. The story is told from the point of view of a teenage boy whose father constructs the shelter.
My Take: Fallout is enjoyable and also educates readers on the widespread fear during the early sixties of a nuclear strike. Strasser does an excellent job of building up the anxiety and claustrophobia in the fallout shelter. He also does not dodge the difficult topics of burgeoning teenage sexual feelings nor the bathroom issues involved with 9 people trapped in a room. This cannot be considered strict historical fiction as there was never a nuclear strike on American soil during the 1960’s.
One Interesting Note About the Author: Fallout is based on Strasser’s father constructing a bomb shelter in the family’s backyard in 1962. Strasser revisits this in the author’s note at the end of the book.
The Plot in Five Sentences or Less: During the Summer of Love in 1967 in the Haight District of San Francisco, Joanne falls in love with a hippie named Martin. Their relationship develops as Joanne watches her family and world change around her. Her sister Denise enters a loveless marriage and is sexually harassed at work while her brother Dan is interested in joining up and going to Vietnam. As Joanne’s relationship with Martin develops, she experiments with drugs and protesting against the war while also carving out time to excel at her piano practice.
My Take: Against my own predictions, I enjoyed this book and believe that young adult females interested in the 1960’s will get a kick out of it. When I began this book, my fear was that it was going to simply be about a silly, moon-eyed girl pining over a boy. Janet smartly puts in the side plot of Joanne’s burning interest in the piano and, because of this, I felt much more interested in this character. My one quibble was the placement of the characters at the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. The scene was too short and inserted rather desultorily into the narrative. Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised by this story of young love in the 1960’s. Ages 13+ due to drug use and profanity.
One Interesting Note About the Author: Music plays a big part in Janet’s life. She has been taking piano lessons since the age of 7. She plays guitar as well, but feels most inclined to play classical piano. Find out more about at her website.
The Plot (in 5 sentences or less): Father Groppi was a leader in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s in Wisconsin. While he attended seminary as a young man, James Groppi worked in youth centers in underprivileged areas in segregated Milwaukee where he learned about the travails of the African American population. After becoming ordained, he traveled the south during the 1950’s and early 60’s where he witnessed first hand the violent racism of the south. Deciding to bring the civil rights movement to Milwaukee, Father Groppi began organizing marches demanding treatment in equal housing and public education. His most famous moments came when he marched a group of blacks over the Sixteenth Street Viaduct into the working class white enclaves.
My Take: This is a straightforward book that will not only introduce young readers to Father Groppi’s struggles in Milwaukee, but also to the broader struggle of civil rights. Throughout the book, the author defines and explains terms and concepts such as “boycotts” and “civil disobedience” that may seem unfamiliar to younger minds. If you are looking for a biography on a lesser known civil rights advocate, this would be an excellent choice. ages 10+
One Interesting Note About the Author: Stuart Stotts is not only an author, but also a dynamic speaker, performer, and early childhood educator trainer! Check out more about him at his website: stuartstotts.com