Book Review | Out of the Dust

5 of 5 stars 
This historical fiction book, told in narrative poetry, is about a fourteen-year old girl named Billie Joe, living in Oklahoma during the Great Depression.

Billie Joe and her family suffer through dust storms and poor crops, but as a family, until the terrible accident that causes her mother to die. Now, Billie Joe suffers with her identity and relationship with her father and has to make the ultimate decision: to stay or to leave?

The first thing that caught my eye is that this book is written with narrative poetry. We are inside the brain of Billie Joe and what she is thinking. I believe that Hesse decided to write this way because she mentions that Billie Joe keeps her mom’s book of poetry on the shelf for show. Billie Joe wants to be like her mom and keep her memory strong. It is a different perspective–kind of like the very stilted narration given by Death in The Book Thief.

I like the theme of this book: comparing herself to different aspects of the farm. Billie Joe is like the wheat, her father like the sod, but they are both (and everyone else) the dust that envelops their lives during the 1930s. Hesse did a wonderful job of describing the hopelessness and the dust that mid-westerners had to deal with during the Dust Bowl. This would be a good, quick read if a history teacher wanted to use it for their Great Depression unit. Otherwise, I would suggest reading it with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry because there are many similar themes and motifs (and they are both during the same time period, albeit dealing with different issues). I don’t see why sixth graders AND seniors can’t enjoy this book!

Book Review | Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

4 of 5 stars
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

This realistic fiction was a good book. It follows young Cassie and her three brothers as they deal with the prejudices against African-Americans in the South during the early 20th century. They learn first hand about the precarious situation of owning their own land and not depending upon the whites in the community, as well as how everything they do or say is judged by the white population.

This was a very good book–Taylor did a good job with keeping it interesting, and the climax kept me on the edge of my seat because in tough situations like these, you are afraid of what will happen because it has sadly happened far to often in real life.

However, I have also read Family by J. California Cooper who also writes about an African-American family, but during the Civil War era. She uses eubonics perfectly, whereas Taylor doesn’t. While the characers are actually speaking, some eubonics and Souther dialect are found, but when Cassie is narrating, it is perfect grammar, compared to the full eubonics of Cooper’s novel.

Since the main character is only in 4th grade, I would let any secondary education student (grade 6-12) read it. It deals with some heavy issues, but light enough that I would want an 11 or 12 year old to realize what happened in our past.

Book Review | Inkdeath

5 of 5 stars

Inkdeath (Inkheart, #3)
First of all, I love Cornelia Funke’s books. Especially her Inkheart Trilogy.
This trilogy follows Meggie and her father Mo (Aka Silvertongue). Mo has the gift of bringing stories to life with his voice. The third book, Mo, Resa, Meggie, and everyone else are in the InkWorld still. Mo has been becoming the Bluejay more and more. This book is the exciting ending in which Mo has to bargain with Death to save Dustfinger, Meggie, and the rest of the InkWorld before Orpheus and the Milksop ruin it for the Adderhead.
I love books about books, and Funke’s books are about bringing them to life. About stories that can breath. That are real. That is the main reason I love to read so much–because then I can travel to those places myself.
Funke shows her excitement and love of words and stories because of her writer, Fenoglio, and her silvertongues Mo, Orpheus, and Darius, and the bibliophile Elinor. I love how she describes, through these characters, her philosophy of how a story is created and how powerful words can be. I also really like how she uses quotes from other books and poems to highlight or foreshadow what each chapter is about.
This is a MUST READ for anyone who likes to read or write.

Book Review | Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

3 of 5 stars
Read in September, 2011 

This was quite the interesting non-fiction book. I didn’t really know what to expect while reading it, knowing it was non-fiction, however, I thought the topic matter was very interesting.

This book is about Ernest Shackleton and his ship, the Endurance, sailing to the Antarctic circle in hopes of being able to cross the continent and be part of the first team of explorers to do so. However, 100 miles from land, the Endurance became stuck in ice and the men were trapped their all winter. Things became worse as the ice moved and crushed the boat. Stranded on feet, Shackleton and his men were forced to find a way to return to the nearest whaling station island hundreds of miles away past a frozen wasteland and a treacherous ocean.

As I am a history teaching major, I kept looking at it from a history paper perspective rather than as a piece of literature. In doing so, I kept becoming disappointed and finding downfalls with the book. But then, I realized what I was doing, I looked at it from a literature perspective again. It is a very interesting story and I love how the author, Armstrong kept us in suspense. I loved looking at the pictures–it helped to bring the story alive.

Because it is a thick book, and there is a large part of their journey with no pictures, I would recommend it to at least 9th graders. I’m sure boys would love this type of story more than girls–rowdy men all on their own fighting against the harsh forces of nature.

Book Review | The Book Thief

5 of 5 stars
Read in September, 2011
The Book Thief

I read this realistic fiction on a recommendation of my roommate. It seemed interesting–I love books about books, readers, and writers.

The Book Thief takes an interesting view on World War II Germany. It is narrated by Death, but it is not in any sense a paranormal YA book. The main character is a young girl named Liesel who struggles with reading. Her young brother dies and she is put into a foster home in a poor part of Munich. Death tells us about her story–how she struggles to read, steals a few books, refuses a kiss to young Rudy, comes to love her foster parents, and hides a Jew named Max. However, in the end, as all books should, there are a few twists and turns in this macabre book.

This is now one of my favorite books and I regret i read it so fast. It is very creatively written–I mean to narrate with Death even though he is not an important character–genius! It is very creatively written–almost in the style of a stream of thought, journal-like, personal essay.

The book discusses right vs. wrong very well. Not all Germans are evil, it is ok to use bad words at those you love (it is a form of love), stealing is ok in circumstances…
Words. Words are another HUGE motif! It reminds me so much of Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. The power of words. Those who control the words, control everyone else.

To be honest, I cannot find weaknesses with this book. Maybe that is why it is a Printz winner!

Anyone who reads this would absolutely love it. However, since it does deal with heavy, deep, dark topics, I would suggest the book to high school students in the least.