scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
I had fairly high expectations for this book, and was not at all disappointed with The Giver after reading it as an adult. Lois Lowry's world-building is both subtle and thorough, creating a believable futuristic community in which the seemingly trouble-free lives of the inhabitants are tightly controlled. Everything seems harmonious at first glance, but there are cracks of course, and Jonas, the main character, finds that his eventual "assignment" involves learning about some of the more unpleasant aspects of life, so that those around him don't have to.
He has to decide what to do with his new-found knowledge, especially when the life of a child hangs in the balance. I found it to be a very compelling, layered story -- though I would definitely recommend it more to young adults and adults than middle grade even though it won the Newbery Medal (due to some violence and thematic elements).
It was another sixteen years before this became a series and Gathering Blue was published. I liked this one too, also for the similarly intriguing world-building (in a different location than Jonas's), but while I loved the characters and most of the story, I thought the plot was ultimately a bit anti-climactic. Still, the introductions to the characters and place are important for the rest of the series.
Next is The Messenger which is set in the same place as Gathering Blue (with a different main character), but helps to widen the scope of the series' world. This one is bleaker than the last, with a sad ending, but I still really liked it.
The last book, Son, is my favorite of the sequels (though I would recommend all of them) as it gradually ties all the threads of the different locations of the world together (and introduces a new one), with a good mix of new characters without forgetting the familiar ones. The characters show love and determination, and experience a wide range of difficulties and triumphs by the end.
Scrounged From: PaperbackSwap.com and our local flea market
A Long Walk to Water tells the story of Salva, one of Sudan's "Lost Boys" who is forced to flee his village when violence breaks out. He then spends years walking through Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya, crossing rivers and desserts, spending some time in refugee camps just trying to survive. This story is fictionalized, but is based on the actual story of Salva Dut.
This narrative is interspersed with an almost-present-day story of Nya, who has to spend her entire morning walking to find water, and cannot go to school because of this. As the story progresses, these two narratives come together in a hopeful and redemptive conclusion. This book is an important look at some of the human cost in the Sudanese conflict, and brings these stories to life in a way that simple news reports cannot.
Scrounged From: PaperbackSwap.com
Author: Linda Sue Park
Content Advisory: Scenes of violence, though not graphically described, include characters being shot (and shot at), and killed in other ways. Loss, especially of family, is a consistent theme.
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler is the story of brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl, as well as some of their friends, who were beheaded by the Nazis for leading the White Rose resistance movement which involved sending out leaflets in many places in Germany, especially at the University of Munich where they were students. Though they were brought up in the Hitler youth, they came to see that their government was evil and that they had a responsibility to resist it in whatever ways they could.
I had never heard of this story before hearing of the book, so I'm glad to have discovered it and thought it was timely to read about the actions of citizens who had the courage to resist what they knew was wrong, knowing what it could cost them. The Scholls gave their lives for something that they had decided was more important than they were, and by the time the war was ending, their leaflets continued to be distributed far and wide -- their actions have truly outlived them and that is a powerful legacy to leave.
This book is geared toward middle school/high school ages, and so is not a long read but includes plenty of detail, not only about the primary events, but also the timeline and context of World War 2. There are also many photos, though mostly of the period in general rather than of the Scholls themselves. One of my favorite photos was of a memorial to the White Rose Resistance Movement in Germany which is built to look like a bunch of leaflets spread out on the ground.
Scrounged From: Our local library
Author: Russell Freedman
Content Advisory: Since this is a war story, it references acts of war, and also describes the beheading at the end, though not in gratuitous detail.
Confession: I've never been a big fan of Shakespeare. Hopefully I won't get my English degree revoked for saying that, but I didn't really encounter him much until college, and reading numerous lines of 400-year-old dialog full of words I didn't recognize just didn't excite me much. Of course, I still respect very much his contributions to the English language, but I suppose my interest in Shakespeare has been more historical than literary.
So I suppose the collection in Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare is perfect for people like me, or people who've never read Shakespeare at all, because it is basically his "greatest hits." (I know it says "for kids," but I imagine most readers will be teenagers or adults.)
There are some short snippets, some longer monologues, and some sonnets, but many recognizable pieces and lines can be found here -- from Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be," to Romeo and Juliet on the balcony, the three witches with their "Double, double toil and trouble," and "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Even aside from the major pieces, I was reminded of just how many phrases from Shakespeare are still around today, such as "mortal coil," "sound and fury," "the game is afoot," etc.
Each piece includes a list of its more unusual words/phrases after it, with definitions, which is very helpful. For those who would like more Shakespeare in their home but don't want to read entire plays, this is a great addition, and the illustrations are very nice too.
(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)
Scrounged From: NetGalley
Author: William Shakespeare, Marguerite Tassi
Illustrator: Merce Lopez
Content Advisory: None
I had never heard of Maria Sibylla Merian before, so this was a very interesting intoduction to her life and work. Merian was born in Germany in 1647, and spent her later life in Amsterdam, Holland. This book chronicles her artistic development as well as her scientific exploration. Her specialty was insects -- she would observe all the insects she could find and take notes on their life cycles. She also painted detailed, scientifically accurate pictures of many many insects and plants.
Around 1700, she and her daughter made a scientific voyage to Surinam to study, paint, and collect specimens of native plants and animals, something that was unheard of for a woman in those days -- as the book says, she was a woman "far ahead of her time." She and her daughters published several volumes of paintings, some of which ended up in the collections of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
This book includes many of her paintings (with detailed captions explaining the plants and animals in each one) as well as an overview of Maria Sibylla Merian's legacy at the end -- she's had several organisms named in her honor since her death. The book also includes a glossary and bibliography.
It is inspiring to read about the ways that scientific curiosity and exploration have compelled people (mostly men in those days) to observe, explore, and carefully record the world around them, even long before modern scientific framework or conveniences. It's especially inspiring to read about a woman doing the same thing even when it went against the social expectations of the day.
(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)
Scrounged From: NetGalley
Authors: Sarah B. Pomeroy and Jeyaraney Kathirithambi
Content Advisory: There are a few descriptions of slavery and mistreatment of slaves in South America during this time period.