The time in this book is right before the Revolutionary War. Isabel and her sister Ruth are slaves owned by an old woman in Rhode Island. When their dying owner promises them freedom after her death, the two see the possibilities of a new life. To there horror, the old woman’s nephew refuses to free them after his Aunt’s death. He instead sells the girls to an abusive couple in New York. While the property of the Lanktons, the girls know only pain and work.
The Lanktons are Loyalists, people who are loyal to King George. New York is a hotbed of discontent between the Loyalists and the Patriots, people who want to break away from English rule. At first, Isabel is drawn to the Patriots and their beliefs in liberty and freedom. She agrees to spy on her Loyalists owners for the Patriots until she realizes that their beliefs about liberty and freedom don’t apply to her, a slave. Isabel realizes that if she wants freedom, she’s going to have to fight for it herself. This is a gripping story of one girl’s fight against what seem like impossible odds. Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Catherine tries to be patient with her brother David but sometimes it’s really hard, because sometimes, well, he’s embarrassing. Sometimes David acts in unusual ways; saying certain words over and over, only wanting to do one particular thing over and over or only playing with one particular toy. Catherine can handle David at home…most of the time, although she thinks she has to be in charge of him too much. But it’s out in public that she has the most trouble. She’s embarrassed, but sad and guilty too because, really, she loves David – and what kind of sister wouldn’t want to have her brother around? Catherine writes things down to help her figure out her feelings. She starts a list of rules for David, in hopes that she can someday teach him what they are:
If the bathroom door is closed, knock! (especially if Catherine has a friend over).
Say thank you when someone gives you a present (even if you don’t like it).
Don’t stand in front of the TV when other people are watching it.
A boy takes off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts.
These rules are pretty basic…but you can tell by reading them that David has broken them before. David has autism, which makes it difficult for him to follow Catherine’s list of rules. The author has an autistic son so it makes sense that she could write such a good story that captures Catherine’s feelings. I liked Catherine because she was so honest. She’s having trouble dealing with David and she says so. She loves David and she says so. Catherine doesn’t always make good choices in this book, which makes her a very believable character. Author: Cynthia Lord
“There was a hand in the darkness and it had a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.” And you know why the blade and handle are wet, even though the book doesn’t say. Scary. Really scary.
But one person escapes the house, a toddler who makes his way to the neighboring graveyard and is taken under the protection of the resident ghosts to keep him safe from the mysterious man with the knife. And that, this very unconventional family, not the knife, is the heart of the story.
At first, the ghosts in the graveyard have a discussion about whether or not it is OK to keep the baby and raise it in the confines of the graveyard. A childless ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, agree to raise the baby as their own. But as one of the graveyard inhabitants points out, “It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will take a graveyard.” And so the group agrees to offer the little boy protection from the danger that lies outside the graveyard fence and raise him as their own, a living boy in a village of spirits, ghosts and ghouls.
The Graveyard Book is a really delicious story about what makes a family and how that family raises up a child to go out into the world and face the dangers there. This book was just named this morning as the 2009 Newbery Medal Winner. One of the links below is to a set of online videos of the author, Neil Gaiman, reading the whole book outloud. Yes, you can listen to the whole thing. Cool! Author: Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book Trailer Narrated by Neil Gaiman:
And here is a review of this book from Bethany, a reader of IMCPL’s Readers Connection:
A murderer goes after an entire family, but the youngest member — just a toddler — manages to slip away… and toddle into a nearby graveyard. There, the toddler becomes Nobody “Bod” Owens and is raised as a living boy among the dead. Bod is taught the secrets of the graveyard, how to Fade and frighten people, but he craves human companionship. As he grows up, it becomes clear that those who originally wanted to do Bod harm want to see the job finished.
This is another one of those books that shouldn’t be labeled as a kid’s book, becaus grown-ups really should read it too. Gaiman’s spooky riff on Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” is great storytelling, with a full cast of delightful characters. Bod’s struggle to figure out what it means to be human among a graveyard full of dead people from different times is poignant and surprising.
David Macaulay is the guy who wrote and illustrated The Way Things Work – the book that explains how all the machines we use work, like telephones and televisions and computers and cars. This time, his book is about how the human body works, like how the heart pumps blood, how digestion works, how our arms and legs move and how the body fights infections. It is full of his usual illustrations that show every detail of every part. His writing and pictures help make hard things easier to understand. Author: David Macaulay
This book is the last in the Inkheart Trilogy (Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath). The series is about twelve-year-old Meggie and her father, who binds and fixes old books for a living. The two of them love books, yet Meggie’s father will not read outloud to her. Meggie discovers that when her Dad reads outloud, he brings book characters to life. The trouble is, when book characters come into our world, people from our world go into theirs (like Meggie’s Mom, who has disappeared into the book world). When one of the book characters comes looking for Meggie’s Dad because he wants to go home, a dangerous and exciting adventure begins.
The Inkheart world is a world of castles, kings, outlaws and travelling entertainers that walk tightropes and eat fire. Meggie and her Dad manage to read themselves back and forth between their own world and this fantastical book world as they try to defeat bad guys and rescue people they love. Inkdeath is a great ending to the whole series. It’s really very long, but hang in there for the second half – it’s worth it. If you haven’t read any of the series yet, I think you will want to begin with Inkheart and Inspell. It will be easier to understand who each of the characters are, plus the story and characters are so good, you won’t want to miss any of it. The movie version of Inkheart comes out January 23rd. Author: Cornelia Funke