The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

Here Today

 

Here Today

Author: Ann M. Martin

Page Length: 308

Reading Level: 5

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connections: Teacher, Model, Construction  

PLOT SUMMARY: Living on Witch Street in 1963 with a mother who dreams of being an actress is not the ideal life Ellie Dingman would ask for, but she appears to deal with her circumstances in a very mature manner for a sixth grader. While her mother Doris participates in community plays and takes dance lessons, Ellie makes sure her little brother and sister, Albert and Marie are fed and nurtured.  It is after the assassination of JFK, that Ellie sees her family unit beginning to dissolve.

The inhabitants of Witch Street are ridiculed by the home townspeople.  The children are of Jewish descent and are raised by an unwed mother. Ellie’s mother is an eccentric model/actress.  There are also two unrelated women who live together who are accused of being “lesbians”.  The children are hazed daily on their bus ride to school and frequent malicious incidents happen in the neighborhood.

Unaware of these events, Doris Day Dingman, searches for her identity while abandoning her husband and children.  Desperate to see her mother, Ellie uses her savings to travel to New York City to find out where her mother is living and working.  Ellie discovers that her mother has taken a job at a department store and lives in a small one room apartment.

Upon her return home, Ellie begins to stand up for not only herself but for her family and neighborhood.

REVIEW: Set in 1963, the book was interesting for me to read as I could relate to the exact time of JFK’s assassination and the feelings of the country that are reflected.  The story is tragic in that it characterizes a mother who seeks her own wants and needs rather than those of her family. Also, the ridicule and humiliation the children endure at school is cruel.  However, Ellie’s character rises above all the hurt to help her family and friends overcome obstacles.

There is an interesting Afterward in the back of the book.  I believe teen girls would enjoy this book, as well as, any women who remember the year of 1963.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Setting, Character, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: So B. It, Becoming Naomi Leon, The Center of Everything

RELATED WEBSITES:

 www.pecentral.org/lessonideas/health/familysocialhealthunitplan_smiller.pdf

http://www.edu.warhol.org/pdf/ulp_hcc_hm_s2.pdf 

www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=36

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Soft Fruit (1999), This Boy’s Life (1993), JFK (1991)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 1, 2008

The Other Side of Truth

The Other Side of Truth

Author: Beverley Naidoo

Page Length: 252

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve year-old Sade and her brother Femi are living in Nigeria during times of political unrest. Their father writes about freedom from oppression in his at times underground newspaper. One morning their lives take an awful turn when a militant group fires upon their home. Desperate to save the children, they are secretly spirited out of the country to England. Refugees on the run; the children arrive only to discover that their uncle is nowhere to be found. With no one to turn to the children must fend for themselves on the streets of London. Will they ever be reunited with their family?

Placed in foster care, Sade finds that she too must fight battles. She is bullied and threatened. With no one to turn to and the whereabouts of her family unknown, Sade must face these trials alone. Will she find the courage and strength to endure the hardships that will follow? Can she save herself and her father before it is too late?

REVIEW: This novel was really interesting to read. I’ve seen movies about political violence in third world countries but never read about it really. The horrors these children face when their mother is gunned down and their father falsely imprisoned are unthinkable.

I like how Naidoo interwove Sade’s own conflict with oppression so that both father and daughter are fighting for truth and justice. This book is action packed. Many questions are left unanswered until the end which is a great hook for reluctant readers (and works well for making predictions and questioning with students). This book is an interesting read and a look at political issues that are often glossed over in history textbooks. Through it all, the children survive and learn to overcome the atrocities they have witnessed. I would recommend this book for its perspective, eye-opening value, and the lessons that it teaches. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: author’s purpose, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, compare/contrast, sequence of events, symbolism, summarization, theme, setting, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Beginning of the novel – shooting, death threats, conditions of people in prison

RELATED BOOKS: Purple Hibiscus, Things Fall Apart, Graceland, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.beverleynaidoo.com/theother.html

http://eyeonafrica.wordpress.com/

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-other.html

http://www.crossingborders-africanwriting.org/writersonwriting/beverlynaidoo/analysisoftheothersideoftruth/

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IB98046.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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