Friday, December 19, 2014

Counting Down til 2015: Maria's Top Ten of 2014


Maria, our ambassador of children's literature, is here and her picks are not to be missed!

Every word is exquisitely selected in Jackie’s autobiographical new book in verse.  Growing up in the south and having moved to New York in the sixties and seventies we learn about her loving family, her struggle to read and how she found solace in writing at which she is now a master.  Exquisite.

Even if Russian history is not your thing you will be enthralled with this book.  It is nonfiction at its best.  The opulence of the Romanovs and the poverty of the Russian peasants are vividly portrayed and if it is possible to feel sorry for people who seemingly have it all you will.  This family was set for doom and it came soon enough.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
We all know that high school is tough.  Funny, irreverent Gabi Hern├índez has a lot going on in her life, such as friend Cindy’s pregnancy and friend Sebastian’s coming out; her first kiss, her own doubts about sex, not to mention her home problems with her father’s meth habit and her mother’s toughness.  In diary format we get to know Gabi and if you liked Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass you will get a kick out of Isabel Quintero’s debut novel too.

If you like romantic stories this one if for you.  Victoria Darling is an upper class young lady growing up in England in 1900’s.  She yearns to be an artist in spite of her parent’s opposition.  They want her to marry a man she doesn’t love.  And of course she falls for a lowly constable.  I didn’t want this novel to end.

Injustice time 50!  You may have never heard of the Port Chicago 50 before but after reading this story you won’t forget them.  These young African-American men who refused to return to the bomb loading dock at Port Chicago after a horrible explosion that killed 300 and hurt an additional 400 people is masterfully told by historian Steve Sheinkin.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles
This is the second part of Wiles’ planned trilogy about the 1960’s.  Is such a wonderful way to acquaint yourself with that era. When white and black activist start arriving in Greenwood, Mississippi to register blacks to vote life gets complicated not only for Sunny Fairchild but for the town as a whole.  Wonderful mix of history and fiction.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
This is a different kind of a “music” story.  Harry is writing his college essay when the story opens.  We learn of the bullying he endured as a young boy.  Now he is part of The Scar Boys, a band he named after himself.  Each chapter begins with the title of a song, who wrote it and who sang it.  Ultimately a story of hope.

Again, if you want romance, this story will fill the bill.  Lara Jean has a box full of love letters.  These letter she has written herself to boys without meaning to send them.  But when they accidentally get distributed Lara Jean has a lot to answer to.  This is not just a story of romance but also a story of family and the ties that bind them.  Very endearing.

When her father is killed in a coup, Leila tries to adjust to her new life somewhere near Washington, D. C. along with her mother and young brother Bastien who was supposed to be the heir to the dynasty.  Full of intrigue and suspense.   The end is a surprise.

How in the world did former Olympian Louis Zamperini manage to survive a crash in the Pacific for 47 days just to be rescued by the Japanese and then being imprisoned and tortured by a despicable Japanese commandant in not one but two internment camps and once being returned to freedom having to face his own demons?  Louie’s spirit couldn’t be broken.  An inspirational story if there was ever one!


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