Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson

I didn't want to read this book. It sounded too depressing, honestly. However, I am signed up for a writing workshop conference in a few weeks and one of the books they will be discussing is Chains, for the YA portion of the discussion.

I like to escape when I read, but this book is set during the American Revolution and told from the POV of a young female slave. I was unhappy from the start because when her master dies, she knows she is supposed to be freed according to her owner's will, but the paperwork is missing and so she and her little sister end up being given to the next of kin, who are loyalists to Britain.

But I found myself drawn in against my will, almost, and the story really is quite brilliant. The historical facts are woven throughout and reveal both sides of the war from a new perspective to many people. I don't think my history class ever addressed how slaves were treated in the north during the American Revolution, or what rights they had or didn't have. It made me want to read up on that period of history, which is really quite an accomplishment. I cried a lot throughout the book (is it me, or do I seem to say that a lot?)but was happy with the ending.

This would be a fabulous book to use as a way to teach American History in a classroom or for a homeschooling family. Thumbs up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beautiful, Precious Middle Grade Books

I have two books for you today. Since the last book was a silly, fun mockery of Sci-Fi and horror, I figured I ought to offer a variety of choices for those who might not find the other books to their taste. You'll love these, even if you loved Attack of the Killer Bunnies. I did.

1. The Penderwicks: The Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall
2. Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry

Both of these have a sweet innocence that at first made me think the setting was in the 1950's or earlier, but then in the Penderwicks, when one of the sisters says, "Cool!" I thought, "Wait a minute!" And Heart of the Shephard also seemed like historical fiction-- until I realized the father had been sent to Iraq as an officer in the Reserve.

Both are sweet, precious novels. Heart of a Shepherd deals with spirituality with grace (so to speak) and respect for its readers. Nothing is shoved down anyone's throats. The POV is just perfect and the writing is lovely. The protagonist is also an eleven year old boy who lives on a cattle ranch, so it's a nice choice for upper elementary boys who might be ready to wrestle with the Big Questions in life.

The Penderwicks took me back to reading Little Women or The Bobsey Twins. The ending is just awesome.

I cried at the end of both books, so be warned. Of course, I cry easily (Mr. Holland's Opus made me BAWL at the end), so it doesn't mean that YOU will cry. Just sayin'...be prepared.

And most of all? Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cool Microsoft Word Tricks link

I don't want to forget these cool Microsoft Word Tricks by the Intern. One of them was alluded to in a previous post, but The Intern's post includes screen shots! Awesome!