Bog Child

•September 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

While stealing turf from across the border in Ireland, eighteen-year-old Fergus McCann discovers a BOG CHILD (Random House, $9.99), the body of a young girl preserved for centuries in the bog.  His discovery opens up yet another chapter in his already turbulent life.

On the one hand, this story is about Fergus’ involvement in the archeological dig surrounding the body, which belong to a girl who died in 80 AD whom Fergus names Mel.  The archaeologist and her daughter welcome Fergus to participate in their research.  His involvement leads to a romantic entanglement which sweetens Fergus’ otherwise gloomy situation.

Throughout the novel, Fergus is haunted by the Mel and the story of her persecution and political strife.  Her story mirrors his own life during the Troubles in 2oth century Ireland.  Fergus’ older brother, Joe, is a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.  In jail, Joe has decided to join a hunger strike which has already claimed one victim.  Finally, Fergus himself is pulled into a closer involvement with the political troubles when he is manipulated into delivering packages of unknown substances across the border.

Siobhan Dowd‘s portrayal of Fergus and his family’s personal moral and political struggles illuminates the history of the Troubles.  One of her last novels before her untimely death at the young age of 47, Bog Child is a brilliantly written novel that will keep you captivated until the very last page.

Kerri Poore

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Books about war

•September 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In elementary fiction this month, we’re trying out a new featured section of historical fiction about war.  A lot of these are books you probably read when you were a bit younger – books like Number the Stars and The Little Riders – as well as books you’d probably enjoy now – books like The Green Glass Sea, which is about the Manhattan project, and Bull Run, a series of monologues from sixteen people at the Battle of Bull Run.  All of this got me thinking about good war fiction (and some nonfiction) for teens.  Here’s a list of some favorites.

First of all, my favorite discovery in looking for war books was Marc Aronson and Patty Campbell‘s collection of essays, articles, personal recollections, and even a one-act play: WAR IS…: Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk About War. Aronson and Campbell explore the topic of war in general in two introductions, then turn the stage over to people across time and around the world whose lives have been shaped and changed by war.

Purple Heart was one of our favorites of 2009.  Here’s Jory’s review:

Matt Duffy is not sure he deserves the PURPLE HEART (HarperCollins, $16.99) he is given in an Iraqi combat hospital while recovering from traumatic brain injury. Back in combat, with the floating memory of a young Iraqi boy’s death haunting him, Matt tries to figure out the consequences of split-second decisions made by young, inexperienced soldiers.  Patricia McCormick leaves the reader pondering the unintended consequences of current policy in Iraq and Afganistan.  -Jory Hearst

For more about modern wars, try Walter Dean Myers books: SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH, which tells the story of a young Army recruit in Iraq, and FALLEN ANGELS, which chronicles seventeen-year-old Richie Perry’s Army duty in Vietnam.

There is no dearth of historical fiction about World War II, but here are a couple not to miss:

In SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER by Bette Greene, Patty Bergen, a young Jewish girl, meets a German prisoner of war at the prison camp in her Arkansas town.

Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis‘ new graphic novel, RESISTANCE, is the first is a series about a young brother and sister who get involved in the French Resistance when they try to protect their Jewish friend and neighbor.

If you’re interested in World War I, try Michael Morpurgo‘s PRIVATE PEACEFUL, which follows the thoughts of Thomas Peaceful, a British prisoner of war, as he struggles through the night toward a morning that promises nothing but horror.  In nonfiction, Russell Freedman‘s fantastic THE WAR TO END ALL WARS gives a history of the war from Sarajevo to Versailles.

The Wednesday Wars

•September 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

September is the perfect time to pick up THE WEDNESDAY WARS, Gary Schmidt‘s book about a kid and the Shakespeare-obsessed teacher who hates his guts.

Holling Hoodhood, besides being the possessor of the world’s most ridiculous name, is the only Presbyterian in his class at a Long Island junior high school in 1967.  That means that every Wednesday, when the other students head off to Hebrew school or Catechism, Holling is left behind to do battle with his teacher, Mrs. Baker.  After some misadventures involving two dozen cream puffs and a ton of chalk dust, Mrs. Baker decides to make Holling miserable by forcing him to read Shakespeare.  But her evil plot is foiled when Holling discovers just how exciting Shakespeare’s plays are.

The Vietnam War rages in the background, but it’s not the central focus of Holling’s story.  He lives his life the way any teenager would in 1967 – or 2010 – with a war going on: he’s aware of it, and every so often its violence and tragedy hit too close to home, but he also has his own problems.

Holling tells his story in a funny, tongue-in-cheek voice that feels like chatting with a friend, and his spectacular stage debut as Ariel in The Tempest made me want to go pick up the play.  This is the perfect relaxing read for the start of another school year.  –Dana Chidiac

Okay, Mockingjay now.

•August 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There will be spoilers in this post.

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Seriously.  Spoilers.

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Stop here if you haven’t finished Mockingjay.

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Okay, you’ve been warned.

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The spoilers begin HERE!

The teen book group met on Sunday to talk about Mockingjay.  We had a fascinating conversation that, at least for me, was mostly therapeutic.  Every other sentence was a question: WHY was Katniss so crazy?  WHY did Prim have to die (and why did it, and Finnick’s death, feel so anticlimactic)?  WHY was the “real, not real” thing so sappy?

We talked about Katniss’ inability to admit that she was in love with Peeta and her PTSD.  How can one person be expected to survive that much violence and catastrophe without some seriously psychological scars?

We talked about the way the violence in this last book was different from the violence in the first two.  Without the arena, it felt more like war the way we know war, the way we see it on the news in real life.  We talked a little bit about how the violence in the Hunger Games trilogy is different from the violence in something like Harry Potter because it is more like real-world violence.  How does the type of violence here effect whether we pass these books on to our younger brothers and sisters?

We talked a little bit about the ways District 13 and its power-hungry President Coin were just another version of the Capitol and President Snow.  I wish we’d had time to talk more about this and the uneasy peace at the end of the book.

As always, it was a great discussion.  There are some other interesting blog posts and conversations going on all over the internet about this book.  Here are some links:

Also, DON’T FORGET! to come meet Suzanne Collins on Thursday, September 23, at 3:00pm.  You need to purchase a copy of one of the books in the Hunger Games trilogy from P&P in order to get a signing line ticket.  Do it.  You don’t want to miss this.

Not Mockingjay

•August 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Okay.  Wow.

We’re not going to talk about Mockingjay here.  There are great spoiler-filled discussions on other blogs.  But!  We will be talking about Mockingjay in REAL LIFE in the teen book group this Sunday, August 29 at 3:30pm, so come join us in the remainder room at P&P for the discussion.

And, don’t forget to pick up a signing line ticket with your copy of the book!  Suzanne Collins is coming to sign (well, really stamp) books and meet her readers on Thursday, September 23 at 3:00pm.  You do not want to miss the chance to talk with this author face to face.

You’ve probably already finished Mockingjay and are looking for something new to read, perhaps a bit of a break from the darkness.  So, now for something completely different!

Part of fourteen-year-old Austin Gray’s mission to redefine herself is to raise a prize-winning rooster for her Future Farmers of America project. If her rooster wins, she might be chosen to be THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY (Feiwel & Friends, $16.99) in the local Christmas parade. Jill Alexander’s rich cast of endearing characters and a particularly well-drawn mother-daughter relationship make this slice of teen life in a small town a compelling read.  –Mary Alice Garber

The Sweetheart of Prosper County was just released in paperback this week, so come check it out!

Genesis

•August 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Here is one of our favorites from last year, recently released in paperback.

Set in a futuristic, post-Apocalyptic society founded on the principles of Plato’s Republic, Bernard Beckett’s GENESIS (Houghton Mifflin, $20) is a novel of ideas and an intense page-turner.  Anaximander faces a life challenge as she presses for admission into the Academy. The questions she must answer, however, pale in comparison to those the reader must face: Should a founding ideology—even one that has kept society safe for generations—be retained at the expense of humanity? What does it mean to be human?  –Sylvan Bongi

If you liked Genesis, listen to this interview with the author from the BBC World Service.

The Sky is Everywhere

•August 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Here are two reviews of Jandy Nelson‘s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE (Dial, $17.99), one from a reader and one from one of our staff.

Since last year I have been receiving a book once a month from Politics and Prose.  A couple weeks ago you sent THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE.  I read the whole book in about three hours and read it again the next day.  I then kept reading parts over and over until I literally forced my friend Morgan to read it.  That was last Thursday.  I could not fall asleep Thursday night because I was so excited to talk about the book with Morgan the next day.  The Sky is Everywhere is officially my favorite book of all time, and I am seriously in love with Toby.  Even though I realize he is a fictional character, all my friends are teasing me, and it is probably unhealthy, he is amazing.  —Justina

Lennie is overcome with grief when her older sister, Bailey, dies suddenly. Lennie refuses to change anything in the room the sisters shared. At school, she abandons the clarinet. She writes poems and leaves them behind wherever she goes. Lennie finds comfort in sharing her sorrow with Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby, but their need for each other turns in a direction Lennie never anticipated. In the midst of all this confusion, her new friend Joe is a joyous relief, and when she is with him THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Jandy Nelson laces this sexy novel with humor, compassion, and characters who will steal your heart.  –Mary Alice Garber