This 550 page novel has a big surprise once you open it…the fact that many of the pages are pictures! It’s a little bit like reading, and then turning the pages like a little movie, and then reading some more. The pictures are drawn from interesting angles and perspectives and are as much fun as the story. It is not a pictures book, but an illustrated novel, like a comic book or graphic novel.
12 year-old Hugo is an orphan living in a train station in Paris, but he doesn’t live out in the bustle of the station, he lives in the walls! Hugo is an appretice to the clock keeper, who happens to be Hugo’s uncle, but the uncle has disappeared leaving Hugo to tend the clocks. Afraid of being discovered, Hugo continues to do his uncle’s job collecting his uncle’s paychecks, even though he can’t cash them. Hugo scavenges for food and sometimes has to steal. Hugo has a big job just to survive alone, but in his free time, Hugo enjoys working on a project begun by his father. He tinkers with a mechanical man, called an automaton (a robot), trying to get it to work. The small mechanical parts of the automaton are like the parts in the clock…each piece fitting with the next piece to make the machine work correctly. Hugo’s life is like one of these mechanical pieces… he just doesn’t know where his piece fits with the next…until he meets a girl and a crotchety toy shop owner…then the pieces of his life begin to fit together. Author & Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Eleven year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada in the 1850s. Buxton is a town made up entirely of runaway slaves that have escaped from America on the Underground Railroad. Elijah’s parents are former slaves, but Elijah himself was born free in Buxton. He leads a school boy’s life keeping up with his lessons and doing chores alongside Mr. Leroy, a community handy man who is working hard to save up enough money to buy his family’s freedom. Elijah is well known in his town for being sensitive, quiet and easily moved to tears.
A devastating turn of events brings Elijah face to face with the fear and horror experienced by his parents and the former slaves in his town. A sneaky preacher steals Mr. Leroy’s money, and his dream of being reunited with his family. Elijah sets off after the thief in a desperate attempt to recover the money. The chase brings Elijah to America and the constant threat of being captured by slave bounty hunters. In one memorable scene Elijah stumbles across a group of slaves who have been re-captured. Shackled together in a barn the group is starving and thirsty. One of the slaves holds a baby out to him. Should he take the baby and run, or try to rescue the group? It is one of many heart wrenching scenes that shows the horrors of slavery. Elijah proves that being brave doesn’t mean not being scared, being brave means that even when you are scared out of your mind, you do what needs done anyway. Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is a revealing look at the Civil War from the perspective of a feisty young Southern girl. The author says that she was interested in writing about the Civil War and not “prettifying” it. There isn’t a single pretty thing about the war in this book, but at the same time, it is filled with people to care about who are caught up in one of the most defining moments in our country’s history.
When the Civil War begins India Moody’s school closes and she is sent to a neighbor for tutoring. A natural scientist, India studies biology and chemistry rather than the Bible and handwriting like other young girls of her time, despite the fact that her book learning might make her “a spinster fit for no man.” There is a college in Ohio that accepts women and India is determined to go there, an impossible dream for a girl in the 1860s, even without a war.
While her father is off fighting, India and her mother are forced out of their home as the Union Army approaches. India’s studies come to an end as she takes on the work of women in wartime; helping to nurse the wounded, comforting the grieving, and always, always, looking for food. While helping tend the wounded, India’s dedication to the confederate cause and to science are put to the test. She has a front row seat for truly horrifying medical procedures without anesthesia or antiseptics on boys, both Union and Confederate, that bleed the same kind of blood and carry pictures of loved ones in their pockets.
As India makes her way to an uncertain future with her characteristic determination, she finds that her world is not as black and white as she once thought, and that her dreams, even for a girl, just might be possible. Author: Rosemary Wells
In 1887, Annie Sullivan leaves Boston by train to travel to Alabama. Annie is a teacher on her way to her first teaching assignment, but it isn’t just any student Annie will be teaching. The child Annie has been hired to teach is both deaf and blind and no one knows whether the little girl named Helen will ever be able to learn. Annie discovers her new student to be stubborn, uncooperative and violent – she even knocks Annie’s teeth out! But really, who can blame her? How frustrating would it be to be stuck in a silent and dark world? Helen doesn’t know how to ask for things or tell someone if she doesn’t feel good. Lucky for Helen, Annie isn’t any pushover – that’s how she got the knickname “Miss Spitfire.” Annie doesn’t give up. Helen doesn’t give up. A miracle happens.
Based on the true life of the very real Helen Keller. Annie Sullivan did what most people thought would be impossible, she taught Helen to read and write and speak. Helen Keller graduated from college and became a lecturer and champion for the causes of blind and deaf people everwhere. If you like this story, told from Annie’s perspective, you might also like reading the real story from Helen’s point of view. Helen wrote an autobiography about herself, The Story of My Life: Helen Keller. Annie and Helen, two people who never gave up and accomplished the impossible. Author: Sarah Miller
It is with a lot of sad feelings that we read about the flooding in Indiana and the tornado in Iowa that killed four boy scouts. As the story of those events continues to unfold, a single message is very clear: knowing what to do saves lives. The story of the boy scouts in particular points out the fact that kids like you can, and do, make a difference in an emergency. It’s good to know about the different kinds of disasters so you can be prepared to take care of yourself, and maybe some of the people around you:
Thinking about these disasters can be scary. Sometimes, it helps to read about events that are scary in a fiction book. Reading about the event helps us live the experience…without actually having to live it. We can envision ourselvs in the situation and ask good questions while we have time to get good answers. Where should I go at home if a tornado is coming?
There is a fiction book some of you might be interested in called Night of the Howling Dogs. It is the story of a boy scout troup that is camping in Hawaii on Kilauea (a volcano) when an earthquake strikes and their campsite is overrun by a tsunami. It sounds like an, “oh, that would never happen” kind of story…but it is based on the true experience of a boy scout troup in 1975. One of the boy scouts that was actually there, is the cousin of the author. Like the boy scouts in Iowa, the scouts in this story use their knowledge of first aid & search & rescue, as well as courage and strength, to help each other survive. Author: Graham Salisbury
Two thumbs up to all boy scouts and the skills they learn, and our sympathies for the losses they have suffered this week.