Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SALT by Helen Frost

A Story of Friendship in a Time of War
The War of 1812 sets this novel about an unlikely friendship between an American boy, James, and a boy from the Miami tribe named Anikwa into motion. The story itself is written prose-style, with James' text resembling the stripes on the American flag, and Anikwa's resembling a pattern of the Miami tribe. The beauty of this book is that it will not only give readers the historical background on the War of 1812, but it is also engaging, providing the reader with the perfect balance between history and humanity. There is little human connection when reading through the pages of a history book, but SALT gives the reader a front line account of what happens on the human side of war. Living conditions were terrible, and the human toll was immeasurable, and I think Helen Frost captured that sentiment with the delicate nature that only a children's author can do. A surprising delight!

A little about the War of 1812:  In the War of 1812, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in a conflict that would have an immense impact on the young country’s future. Causes of the war included British attempts to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy’s impressment of American seamen and America’s desire to expand its territory. The United States suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian and Native American troops over the course of the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans, boosting national confidence and fostering a new spirit of patriotism. The ratification of the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, ended the war but left many of the most contentious questions unresolved. Nonetheless, many in the United States celebrated the War of 1812 as a “second war of independence,” beginning an era of partisan agreement and national pride.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

From the case files of, "what the heck took you so long to read this?", comes Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. June is a typical shy teenager, left in the shadow of her dramatic older sister. The year is 1987, and anyone who was around during this time knows about HIV/AIDS. There was a huge stigma attached to the virus, and there were people saying, "be careful drinking out of someone's cup-you could catch it! Don't sit on the toilet seat, you could pick it up off of the seat." Looking at it in retrospect, it seems so archaic to think that way, but I don't think our society has evolved all that much since 1987. mean, we have controversy over a biracial Cheerios commercial for goodness sake! In the book, June's uncle Finn, a famous painter, has AIDS. He also has a "boyfriend" who surfaces as a mystery man at Finn's funeral. When June befriends this man, and finds out more about her Uncle Finn, she finds the one true thing they have in common-their love for Finn. The story is so nuanced, complicated and perfect, it really satisfies the reader's thirst for an amazing book.