In this bittersweet story set in the United States during 1942 and World War II, 10-year-old Manami—a Japanese-American girl—endures evacuation and internment at the dessert camp of Manzanar. Forced to leave Bainbridge Island with her family, she must abandon her beloved dog and settle in a harsh new environment.

The author writes in poetic prose of the heat, drought, crowding, and awful food. Poor Manami becomes mute due to the hardships, but she sends colorful letters (paper wishes) on the wind in hopes of better times.

This powerful story is a testament to bravery and fortitude. It is a touching and finely-executed glimpse into a difficult period in American history. Told in a simplistic style, this book would be a wonderful read for even younger middle graders.

Lizzie and the Lost Baby

Middle Grade Historical Fiction

10-year-old Lizzie and her 7-year-old brother Peter are forced to evacuate wartime London, due to the threat of bombs. They and a multitude of other children ride a train out to the distant country, where waiting families take the children into their homes. Some of the families are more welcoming than others.

Lizzie and Peter find themselves boarding with Elsie, a depressed woman who has lost her infant and husband. They are supervised by unfriendly Madge (Elsie’s sister who lives next door) and Madge’s friendlier husband, policeman Fred. Although they miss their mother, their Nana, and their absent father—who is away at war–Lizzie and Peter begin to settle into the routine.

The plot thickens when Lizzie finds a baby abandoned in a field. In her quest to find the baby’s origin, she learns of a band of gypsies, camping nearby. Young Elijah, one of the gypsies and the baby’s brother, is intent on finding his lost sister whom he left under protest. Lizzie, torn between helping her hosts who’ve taken her in and returning the baby to its rightful family, must face numerous obstacles in an attempt to do what is right.

The author, Cheryl Blackford, does a splendid job creating a rich period setting. Young readers will be intrigued by the children’s wartime story, told in such lovely lyrical style. They will cheer on the two main characters and be pleased with the satisfying ending.

The Biggest Book in the World

The Klencke Atlas is 350 years old and it is the biggest book in the world. It is 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The atlas was a gift to an English king, Charles II, 350 years ago. Six people are needed to just to lift the book–that’s some heavy reading.

For the very first time in 350 years, the atlas is going to be on public display at the British Library. The display will highlight 100 maps, showing off their wonderful artwork.

If you wanted to make a book as huge as the Klencke Atlas, what would the book be about? Think about how big you would need to make the book mark for such a book. And how would you read the Klencke Atlas? You certainly couldn’t hold it on your lap.

Just some interesting book stuff for Friday…what are you reading this weekend???

New Boy Books I’ve Been Reading

BIRD LAKE MOON by Kevin Henkes (published by Greenwillow) is a boy book that deals with issues of divorce and death. Twelve-year-old Mitch Sinclair reluctantly accompanies his mom to his grandparents’ lake house after his dad announces he wants a divorce. The tension mounts quickly as Mitch finds it hard to accept the divorce, and his grandparents seem less than enthusiastic about their long-term house guests.

Mitch adopts an empty house next door as his getaway place, but too soon the long-gone owners of the house return. They are a family of four–Mom, Dad, Spencer (10) and Lolly (7). They bring with them the sad memory of a first son who drowned in the lake eight years ago.
Mitch and Spencer become friends, even after Spencer discovers Mitch’s prank to release the family dog. They discover a bond in their losses–Mitch’s father and Spencer’s brother. Both of them come to realize they must rise above their problems and take control of their lives.
The book is well-written with characters many young readers can identify with. While this book is not a fast-moving action thriller, it offers a glimpse into modern life which many children can relate to and which they would find interesting. For those readers ready to try another Henkes’ novel, direct them to OLIVE’S OCEAN–another introspective book which deals with death and coming of age.
GHOST LETTERS by Stephen Alters (published by Bloomsbury) has a combination of adventure, supernatural, and historical elements. Gil–a fourteen-year-old who has just been expelled from McCauley Prep School because he copied a poem off the Internet and claimed it as his own–is exiled to seaside Massachusetts to stay with a grandfather he barely knows while his busy jet-setting parents decide what to do with him.
In the three-week interim, he finds a mysterious blue bottle at the ocean’s edge and begins sending messages back and forth over time to an Indian boy caught up in an 1896 British conflict in the tea growing area of Ajeegarb.
While Gil is trying to tying to make sense of these strange messages, he meets Nargis–a local girl his own age–at a trash dump where they discover another mystery–a smelly skeleton hand belonging to a 19th century local spinster, the victim of lost love.
There is also a mysterious ghostly letter carrier and a poetic genie involved in all this. Sometimes the fantastical elements seem a bit too much, but the book is a page turner. Gil and Nargis are determined to solve the mystery and to help their new friend in India escape the horrors of war as well as reunite the star-crossed lovers.
With the threat of being sent to military school looming over him, Gil manages to use the supernatural powers to his advantage, and in doing so a happy ending ensues for all.
This book provides interesting mysteries woven into a historical setting and interlaced with numerous fantasy elements. Boy readers should enjoy this fast-paced tale.