Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: two middle grade recommendations

SugarWhile I was reading "Three Times Lucky,"Mill was reading "Sugar" by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  "Sugar" is about a young black girl in the late 1800's, after the blacks were freed from being slaves and many moved north to find a new, free future for themselves. But many stayed with their previous work; same work conditions, but less abuse and little pay. So Sugar is a young, middle-grade age girl who has lost her mother (who died) and her father, who was sold off as a slave somewhere else before he was free. 

Sugar develops a make-shift family with the other slaves working on the sugarcane plantation and also makes friends with Billy, son of the owner. When the owner buys/hires more help for his fields, Sugar's life changes. The new help are immigrants from China! The rest of the book is about the previous slaves adjusting to the Chinese workers and an interesting blend of culture at a time when all kinds of cultural and color-based ideas were changing.

I loved the blending of cultures in such an interesting and transitional time period. The initial hesitancy between Chinese and African-Americans felt true and honest. I loved the depiction of unity and sense of feeling within each group. Sugar was a fun, spunky character and I'm sure that's what drew my daughter into the story.

One draw back was word choice and sentence structure. It was really distracting for me. Some of the reading just felt like a bunch of fragmented sentences. I assume the author was just trying to use language as another way to demonstrate the culture and cadence of each group, but the loss of subject in many of the sentences really bothered me. 

This is a great middle-grade book, though not my first choice. Camille really loved it so that says a lot. And I loved that it introduced so many different cultures and also a very interesting introduction to an important period of history. 

Image result for cicada summer"Secrets of the Cicada Summer" by Andrea Beaty. The cute middle grade novel is full of secrets that are slowly doled out throughout the story. Eleven year old Lily had something traumatic happen in her past and now she doesn't talk, but she sure does think a lot. And we get to read all of it. When a new girl comes to town, Lily feels threatened. But when it appears the new girl also comes with a mysterious past, Lily puts the skills she learned from her favorite Nancy Drew mystery novels to use and figures out the story behind the newcomer. She also makes a few discoveries about her own past as well. 

I really enjoyed this novel, the sweet characterization of Lily and the supporting role of loved ones surrounding her. Although the story deals with a few heavy topics, such as death and abuse, it is all couched in the love of a small town and reliable, supportive adults. I can't wait for my girls to read it and talk about it together.

No comments:

Post a Comment