August Carnival of Children’s Literature

This is a new group I have joined to expand my connection to other Children’s Lit bloggers. The theme of this month’s carnival is “Back to School”. It will have reviews of many Children’s books on this topic. It is hosted at Playbythebook
I have several middle-grade and Young Adult books that deal with going to school. These are some of my favorites:

Because of Mr. TeruptBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredibly funny and touching story about a 5th grade class that learns the dangers of bullying, and labeling their peers. This would be a great read-aloud to kick of the school year. I laughed and cried heartily through this story.

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Sylvia & AkiSylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one came in as a new acquistion at the school library this week and I quickly grabbed it up to review. It is a rather simple telling of the historical case of Mendez vs Orange County School Board. It was considered a ground-breaking case against school segregation. The story read more like a first person non-fiction narrative. The two girls in the story are Aki, a Japanese-American girl who must leave her home and family farm for an internment camp following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Sylvia, a Mexican-American who moves into the home and farm. The story does a nice job of touching on the issues of racial profiling and discrimination endured at that time in our history. I especially appreciated the emphasis put on the fact that Sylvia’s father took on the system for all the children and not just his own. There is a point at which the superintendent offers to allow Sylvia’s family only to attend the white school if the lawsuit would be dropped. Mr. Mendez refuses this offer.
Sadly, some of these issues continue to be relevant for many ethnic groups today. But I believe the actual historical setting would be new and interesting to young readers. It is a nice length and pace for middle graders.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another story of a minority student striving to succeed in the white world of education. This self-deprecating narrator is a Native American (Spokane) who chooses to attend the nearby white school instead of the reservation school. It is written in a combination of details of his life and the cartoons he draws to express his stress and pain. This really ends up being a sad story and commentary on the Native American culture.

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The Lions of Little RockThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure where I saw this book reviewed but I am glad I put it on my TBR. This was great. I was a little hesitant about the topic and worried it would be preachy. But nothing could be further from the truth. This historical fiction about Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958, the year after the Little Rock 9 started the integration process of Arkansas public school.
This was an endearing historical fiction that brought the fictional characters into your hearts. Rather than being preachy, the author focused on the themes of friendship, facing your fears and finding your voice. I think young middle graders and teens of today, will easily connect with these characters despite the difference in era. We all have strengths we are yet discovering and weaknesses we are always struggling to overcome.
An important factor to remember is that young people feel the stress of the world unrest around them far more than we realize as adults. So many issues are far better explained and discussed rather than hidden from them. Young people can either emulate our prejudicies (shame on us) or shoot holes through our facade of old thinking if we encourage their natural open-mindedness.
This book will make another great match up with some other fiction and non-ficiton books. I would really like to use this as a kick off for an inquiry project.

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