Ten year old Kenny lives with his family in Flint, Michigan. He has an older brother, Byron, and a younger sister, Joetta. Byron is getting into trouble a lot--skipping school and doing other things he shouldn't do--so his parents decide to send him down to Birmingham, Alabama to live with his no-nonsense grandmother for awhile. The story in Flint about what is going on with Kenny and Byron leads up to the big family trip down South. In The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 (Lexile: 920; Interest Level: Grades 4-7), Christopher Paul Curtis describes one family's life during the 1960s, including specific events of the Civil Rights Movement. Not everything in everyone's life revolved around this movement, but lives of everyone were touched by the events of the 1960s, no matter where you lived.
Kenny uses humor to shed light on things that happened in his life, from being bullied at school to talking to his dad about shaving (yes, he's 10) to what happened when he and his siblings were punished by their parents. Students who are interested in history (or have been assigned to learn about it), may want to include this book in their reading lists. It is certainly deserving of a 1996 Newbery Honor! (224 p.)
Blue Fire by Janice Hardy (Lexile: HL 570; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) is the second book in The Healing Wars series. If you haven't read The Shifter, you should stop reading this review now, as it will mention things you should learn in the first book!
Nya and her sister Tali are living in the townhouse of the man who tried to get Nya to shift pain for profit. Now, however, the Duke is after her, and has put a bounty on her head. Even though she has tried to disguise herself, people are bound to figure out that the reward of 5,000 oppas the Duke has offered are for her. When the landlady demands rent just a week after they paid, they know they must leave quickly, but they just aren't quick enough!
Now separated from her sister and her friends, Nya must use her wits to figure out how to find them, save them, and escape whatever plan the Duke has in store. She will need to make some tough decisions about who to save when and what they should do next. Are there really right and wrong answers? What if she chooses wrong? Follow Nya on her journey as she faces some of the hardest truths about being human--especially when put in a "you or me" situation. (384 p.)
Carley Connors has had more things happen to her than most 12 year-olds, and certainly more than she should ever have to face. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Lexile: 520; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) begins with Carley on her way to a foster home after just getting out of the hospital. As a seventh grader, Carley knows what people think about foster kids, and she doesn't look forward to starting a new school as one. Not feeling like she can share intimate details about her family life leaves Carley feeling out-of-place and awkward.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt does a wonderful job sharing Carley's point of view about her life, in all of its imperfections. To find out what really happened to Carley's family and to discover how Carley grows into her new life with the Murphys, you will need to read this wonderful book. Readers with experience with the foster system or who have had serious family troubles, and those who are friends with them should definitely read this book! (256 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.