Monday, November 26, 2007

Sacajawea, The Story of Bird Woman, by Joseph Bruchac (Audio edition)

We loved Joseph Bruchac's Winter People so I was really looking forward to this story about Sacajawea, who helped Lewis and Clark find their way. Unfortunately, we got the version on cd and we just couldn't listen to it. The voices were so sing-songy and the enunciation was so pronounced that it was completely distracting. I'm going to try to find it on paper.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

After our visit to Philadelphia and as we moved on to the early 19th century, I stumbled upon this book at the library. We had just read about Blanchard's balloon launch from what is now Washington Square in Philadelphia, so it was fun that the book opened with the main character, Mattie, attending this same launch.

The balloon quickly fades into the background, though, as one of Mattie's childhood friends dies of a mysterious fever and soon, terror has gripped much of Philadelphia. Mattie is separated first from her mother then from her cherry grandfather, and has to figure out how to get through the crisis on her own.

I really appreciated how Anderson describes late 18th century city life and how it breaks down when fear causes people to abandon the people in their communities. I also liked Mattie's friendship with Eliza, the (free) black cook at her mother's restaurant, with whom she is reunited when she finds Eliza nursing the sick in a poor neighborhood.

It's a strong, interesting book with a smart, courageous 14-year-old girl at its center. Definitely worth a read.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac

This novel tells the story of Robert Rogers' Rangers Raid (say that three times fast) on the Abenaki at the town of Saint Francis on the Canadian border in 1759 during the French and Indian Wars. It is told from the point of view of a young Abenaki boy of 14 years of age.

I found the book compelling and well written. While the topic is difficult and some graphic scenes are represented... including burned bodies, killed dogs, and kidnapped children, none of which are easy to take... the main character does not pursue gratuitous violence, or even revenge. Indeed, one of the themes that I appreciated was how dangerous it was to listen to 'spin' and how important to trust one's instinct and to act honorably and justly.

The depiction of the Abenaki and their reliance on French religion, customs, and culture was fascinating and revealing.

Highly recommended