The Children's Book Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Lee & Low Books

The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango. (2011). 352 pages. Delacorte Press. Ages 12-adult. Realistic Fiction.

This moving novel is based on the life experiences of Farinango who at seven was taken from her rural, very poor family in Ecuador and made a servant to a family in the city.  In the face of very difficult challenges the girl manages to teach herself to read and write and finally escapes when she is  a teenager.  The story shows the cost of being caught between two cultures.

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle.  (2011).  145 pages.  Henry Holt.  Ages 12-adult.

The setting is 1510 in the Caribbean.  A young boy of Spanish and Taino ancestry is a slave on a pirate ship that is eventually shipwrecked during a hurricane. The boy speaks the language of the native people who save him.  He suddenly is given power over his former captors who also survive the storm.  Engle tells her story in lyrical verse in the voices of five different characters.  This book would make an effective choice for readers theater.  Historical notes at the end provide a fuller picture of the events.

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.  (2011).  224 pages.  Lee & Low Books.  Ages 12-adult.

This is another novel told in verse.  The story is about a Hispanic family whose mother is battling cancer.  The oldest daughter, Lupita, tells how she becomes responsible for her seven younger siblings.  However, she is still able to enjoy her passion for acting in her high school drama classes.  The author captures the loving tenderness of the family.


Only the Mountains Do Not Move: A Maasai Story of Culture and Conservation by Jan Reynolds.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Lee & Low Books.  Grades  1-6.  Nonfiction.

This book is another in a series that author-photographer, Jan Reynolds, creates with stunning photographs and informative text about different cultures.   In this book the reader learns about the Maasai, their traditional life style and how it is threatened by changes in their environment.  Reynolds includes Maasai Proverbs throughout the text.  The proverbs, “Daylight follows a dark night,”  “The children are the bright moon,” demonstrate the Maasai’s wisdom and sense of humor.  Reynold’s rich, powerful photographs show the daily life of the people.  The book appears to be authentic because Reynolds and her son lived with one of the Maasai tribes who allowed her to ask questions and take pictures.   Added features like, a map of Africa, an Author’s Note, a Glossary and Pronunciation Guide as well as Source Notes and Acknowledgments enrich the text and the reader’s understanding.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.  Illus. by Randy Du Burke.  (2010).  94 pages.  Lee & Low Books Inc.  Grades 6 and up.  Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction.

The graphic novel format is an excellent choice to dramatize the true story of an eleven year old boy, Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, who murdered a girl and then was killed by his own gang.  The black and white illustrations give the story a gritty realism.  Neri creates a narrator, Roger, who is Yummy’s classmate.  In telling Yummy’s tragic story Roger tries to sort out how such a thing could have happened.  Roger describes his neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside as feeling like a war movie.  Gangs ruled the neighborhood, “if you go out at night, you might get yourself shot.”  The gang was the only real family Yummy knew.  To belong he carried a gun and followed the orders of his gang leaders.  After he mistakenly shot a 14 year old girl instead of the intended gang rival, his gang hid him from the police.  When the police pressure became too intense the gang executed him.

In this note in the beginning of the book Neri writes, “I invite you, like Roger, to sort through all the opinions that poured in from the community, media, and politicians, and discover your own truth about Yummy.”  Neri gives a detailed list of these sources at the end of the book.

The even manner presentation of Yummy’s story shows that there were no winners, only losers.  Neri asks in his Author’s Note at the end, “So, was Yummy a cold-blooded killer or a victim?  The answer is not black-and-white.  Yummy was both a bully and a victim – he deserves both our anger and our understanding.”  DuBurke’s pictures add power and tragedy to the story.  The multiple illustrations on each page are framed in different sizes and presented in a variety of lay-outs on the page which moves the story along at a fast pace.  Close-ups of faces add to the drama.  Speech bubbles alternate with Roger’s boxed narration to clearly show who is speaking.  After youngsters have read this book, guide them in discussing the story to come up with their own answers to the question about Yummy being a cold-blooded killer or a victim.

Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

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