TeenLit Book Reviews

October 2000

Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II

Penny Colman

This book chronicles the women who reported news live as it ocurred during World War II. Before the United States entered the war, women were permitted to report on all aspects of the war. After 1941, women had to be approved by the U.S. military and were assigned a rank within the Armed Services. This was not easily gotten, in fact it was incredibly difficult. Individual women are depicted here with photographs. Colman starts at the beginning of the 1930s and proceeds through to the end of the war - as it was for the correspondents. This book is not only very interesting and very well-written, but exposes most of us to an area of knowledge previously unexplored and unknown. It is exciting. I would only wish that all of the women named could have been been put together with their photo in order to easily match a face with the reporter been talked about.
Reviewed by Katrina. Grade: ----- in Jaffrey, - Link directly to entry

Thursday’s Child

Sonya Hartnett

Thursday’s Child by Sonya Hartnett is an imaginative piece about a family during the Great Depression. I would rate this book a 3 ½ because of the small difficulty to really get into the book. Over all though, this book was amazing and will stretch your imagination. The book is about a young girl named Harper, who lives in a two-roomed shanty with her family. On the day that her brother Caffy was born, Harper was told to go and play outside with her other younger brother Tin. A mud slid on the banks of the creek somehow buries tin alive, almost, but Tin digs himself out. Harper realized then that Tin liked to dig and liked being inside the mud. Tin started digging under the veranda and making his own kingdom of tunnels, living away from his family. This book unfolds itself in the mind of a child and is truly awesome. This is a great beach book or one that you can curl up and read, it also has an amazing ending. Enjoy getting lost in Sonya Hartnett’s book, Thursday’s Child.
Reviewed by Arlene. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Goddess of Yesterday

Caroline B Cooney

Goddess of Yesterday, by Caroline B Cooney is an absorbing historical fiction novel. The rating is a 3.5 (1-4, 4 being the best). The most appropriate reader audience would be young adult females, ages 11-14. The main character, Anaxandra, lives in the early 13th century in a world full of rivalries and deception. Her self-reflection is brought to life in the widest range of historical settings. The story begins when King Nicander of Siphnos takes Anaxandra as a hostage. Early on, Nicander and his family are killed by pirates. Anaxandra takes on the role of Nicander's princess daughter so that she would not become a slave. She lives in constant fear of punishment by the Greek gods that she so firmly believes in. As the plot thickens, the story becomes complicated to follow, unless the reader is familiar with basic facts about this period in Greek history. Fortunately, the relevant information is included in the afterward. A major strength is the reader's insight into the inner-workings of Anaxandra's mind: the thoughts of a twelve year-old living in the 1200s. One weakness is the abrupt ending without even a reference to a sequel. I would highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in Menlo Park, - Link directly to entry

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History

Tonya Bolden

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History edited by Tonya Bolden, is a great historical non-fiction book. I would rate this book a 4, because it really showed me a lot about women’s history that I didn’t know already. I found it very interesting and would recommend it to anyone ages 13 and on, even if they aren’t interested in women’s history, both female and male. The book contains many short stories, poems, quotes, and pictures that all reflect the awesome women that have changed the way women act and think today. This book is also a great resource to use for projects, papers, research, and debates. There aren’t many books today that completely reflect women’s history, but this is one that does.
Reviewed by Arlene. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Catherine Called Birdy

Karen Cushman

Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman, takes place in the Middle Ages in A.D. 1290. The setting is the Village of Stonebridge, outside of London, England. It is the story of 14 year- old Catherine whose diary writings tell the story of her wish to be free of the suitors who her abusive father has chosen for her to marry. As the story develops, so does her keen, funny and disrespectful sense of humor. This is clearly needed as she tries dismiss suitors that she would never choose for herself. In the end she is content being herself and finds an acceptable man to marry. She continues to wish, and feels that she has wings and freedom, even if she never leaves home. The main character, Catherine, sees herself as a “plain gray and brown goose”(Cushman, 31). In deciding what “birdy” best describes her she says “I think I love geese more that any other birds because no one else does. They are not small and delicate like larks and sparrows, or swift and clever like hawks and falcons. They do not sing like nightingales, and cannot be trained to talk, or dance, or do tricks. They are cunning, greedy, shortsighted, and stubborn--much like me, now that I think on it.” (Cushman, 30). Her goal is to be different from other girls of her time. She wants to choose her own husband, and stop pursuing traditional girl’s roles, which she feels will not allow her to be comfortable with herself. Her biggest obstacle is carving out a unique identity free from the control of her father. She resolves this challenge by developing a better understanding of herself and learning that she doesn’t have to leave home to be free. She is able to hear this from the fortuneteller Madame Joanna who tells Catherine “You are lucky. Little Bird, for you have wings, but you must learn to master them. Look at the baron’s hawk there on her perch. Just because she doesn’t flap her wings all the time, doesn’t mean she can't fly” (Cushman, 104-105). Another challenge for Catherine is to find a safe way to express her feelings in a society where women are not outwardly emotional. She is able to do this by complaining to her diary. The reader learns about how medieval life is defined by social roles based on economic class and inherited position. Girls are born to grow up, be married off, and have children. Women’s work also consists of spinning, sewing, and making ointments and potions. Young boys have the right to play, and men can work at a paying job. In contrast, most modern women are free to make choices about their lives and it is not at all unusual for women to work outside the home. Young girls and boys both have opportunities to be educated. Catherine Called Birdy is highly recommended for readers ages ten to fourteen. It would be particularly fascinating for a young adult who already had background information about the Middle Ages. The greatest appeal would be to a female reader who could most easily identify with the emotional life of the main character. The many rich details of medieval life are a colorful addition to a simple story line. Katie R.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in San Francisco, - Link directly to entry

An Ocean Apart, A World Away

Lensey Namioka

The book An Ocean Apart, A World Away is basically about a young Chinese girl of sixteen who dreams of being a doctor someday, in early 1920s china. The young girl, nicknamed Yanyan, meets a handsome young man, who she develops feelings for. This young man, in turn returns the affection, but later on, she finds out that the boy has plans to change the state of government in china. She is invited to go on this dangerous adventure with the boy, but in order to, she has to leave everything behind, including her dreams of being a doctor. This book is suitable for children 12 years and up. It is an interesting book, and teaches a lot about our differences, morals, and growing up. On a scale of one to four, this book is rated a solid three.
Reviewed by . Grade: ----- in Silverspring, - Link directly to entry

Both Sides of Time

Caroline B.Cooney

Any novel by Caroline B.Cooney should be read between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. Her writing is simple yet includes masterful created conflicts that may take a few minutes to clew into but, are worth it in the end. This novel has no specific gender aim. I think this is an excellent novel to read in the classrooms. Annie Lockwood, a fifteen year old romantic living in 1995. When she travels back a hundred years she is faced with difficult situations even more complicated than 1995. Strat, a young man about to embark on the adventure of his life. Devonny, Strat's younger sister who although loves a great mystery, can't keep herself from revealing the truth. Throughout this novel we are taken back to a time where manners and thoughtfulness were a necessity in everyday lives. In a novel where romance begins young and morals are the logic of the story, we learn from the characters. Both sides of time is an amazing novel, it brings life to a young spirit and hope to a forgotten heart. The knowledge throughout the novel is thoughtful and has a great significance to manners in today's society. Rating: 4
Reviewed by Julie Ann . Grade: ----- in Wallaceburg, ON, Canada, - Link directly to entry

Dear Papa

Anne Ylvisaker

Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker is an absorbing, emotional and sensitive novel that would appeal to readers of any age and in particular, eight years and above. This novel-in-letters set during World War II revolves around Isabelle, who is highly individualistic and independent and keeps her ‘Papa in ‘heaven’ up-to-date with what is happening in her family. For a debut novel, the caricature of the characters, especially that of Isabelle is par excellence. The heroine of the novel is created with much care and imagination coupled with a pinch of psychological insight, especially while she struggles to cope with the loss of her father. Dear Papa unfolds itself in the mind and heart of Isabelle and this is the unique feature of the book. Emotionally-charged words, innocent actions, the fear of God, dilemma between Lutheran and Catholic beliefs, conflict between idealism and reality – all these are very finely fabricated to produce a honest and powerful book. The major strength of the book is the readers’ insight into the child’s mind: how an eight-year-old girl perceives her immediate environment in the absence of her beloved father. I would rate this impressive fiction as 4+ (1-4, 4 being the best).
Reviewed by Prathiba. Grade: ----- in Canberra, AUSTRALIA, - Link directly to entry

Flags of Our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima

James Bradley (adapted by Micheal French)

When I first saw the cover of the book, the words "adapted for young people" stared out at me. This was a major disappointment for me because I hated most adaptations and abridged versions of popular novels. However, as I read through the first chapter, I was completely taken in by the events in the account. Little did I know that this would prove to be one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read. This book primarily focuses around the lives of the six flag raisers in the famous photograph captured during the American invasion of Iwo Jima in World War II. Personally, I've never really paid much attention to this picture before, even though it's in all my history books. We mostly remember World War II as the Holocaust, when millions of Jews suffered in Europe. Images of Hitler and concentration camps race across our minds. No one remembers the war in the Pacific. In fact, I've never heard of Iwo Jima before I read this book. It's very interesting to see a part of WWII that I haven't heard about before. Also, when we think about war, we connect it with the army. In this book, we get to see how the marines played a big role in one of the most destructive wars in history. James Bradley, the author, is the son of one of the flag raisers. Through many interviews and years of research, he is able to write down an account of what went on during the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima. We follow the six flag raisers, as well as their fellow comrades, through a series of dark and painful events that happened during the war. I can't even remember how many times I cried when reading this book. Every time a soldier dies, I just can't help but shed a tear for the loss of an innocent life. Then there are passages that tell of the self-sacrifice of one soldier to save his buddies, which brings more tears to my eyes. Bradley did a wonderful job by filling this book full of emotions. Be sure to have tissues ready when reading! Flags of Our Fathers is truly one of the best nonfiction pieces for young adults today. I highly recommend that everyone, especially those interested in history, give this book a try. My suggestion on who should read this is the 12-16 age group. For some teens, however, this book might be a bit graphic. If you can't stand to hear about deaths, don't read this book! Those older than 16 could still try this book, but I really think that the original would appeal more to them. I can't wait to check out the original, unadapted version at the library. I hope that every teen who picks up this book will enjoy it as much as I did. rating: 4 (scale of 1-4, 4 being highest) who should read: age 12-16
Reviewed by Rachel. Grade: ----- in E. Brunswick, - Link directly to entry
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