Every Falling Star
By Sung Ju Lee
Amulet Books: New York, 2016.
Genre: Non-Fiction North Korea
Grades: 7 and Up
There not many books written about life inside North Korea and when this one debuted a couple weeks ago I knew I needed to read it! This a powerful memoir of Sung Ju Lee’s life in North Korea. In the beginning of the book there is a brief history of 20th century North Korea which helps to set the stage for the story. The country of North Korea is home to about 24 million people and of that 24 million about 72% belong to the military. Military service is mandatory for women to serve 7 years and men to serve 9 years. This is where 10-year-old Sung Ju Lee’s story begins, as his father was in the military and his mother a school teacher. They had a very comfortable life, a roomy apartment, a good education, a pet dog and occasional trips to the amusement park. But one day his mother told Sung Ju that they were going on an “extended vacation”—they packed up some belongings and took a train north. What Sung Ju did not know that his family had been sent away (somehow his father had offended the government)—they now lived in deplorable conditions and since North Korea was in the midst of a famine, food soon ran out. With no food and little hope Sung Ju’s Father tried to sneak over the border to China to find work and mother went to visit a sister to see if see could find food—neither of them returned. Now at the age of 12,
Sung Ju is an orphaned and had to run the streets with hundreds of other boys just like himself. They formed gangs in order to effectively steal so that they could get enough food to exist. This is a survival story of a young boy determined that there was something more in life for him. The amazing part for my students reading this book will be that this book takes place in the early 2000’s—it is North Korea as it exists today. The author often states that some facts he cannot give as it would mean certain death for friends and family that still live in North Korea today. It is an eye opening book not to be missed.
Some violence in this book and they refer to Night Flowers (prostitutes) but no details are given. It is a great book for grades 7 and up!
By S.A. Bodeen
New York: Feiwel and Friends Book, 2015.
Grades 5 and Up Pages 137.
It has been a Bodeen Week. After finishing The Compound this week I went right into the second book of the Shipwreck Island series! Shipwreck Island starts off like most shipwrecks—a deserted island and minimal supplies. But Bodeen spins a new blended family together with a somewhat creepy island—with some unexplained weirdness.
In this second installment the weirdness turns sinister. The family ends up with an addition as they find a girl, Cashmere, who became stranded on their island—a pirate robbery of sorts. But once on the island she tells of a story that she was held captive by the “curator” and just narrowly escapes. Next, Dad, one of the brothers go missing causing Sarah and Marco to head off to find them but they find more than they bargained for—weird and dangerous animals — like a shark that comes ashore because it now has legs.
Stay tuned as island becomes more dark and sinister than you ever thought possible! A great, quick read for reluctant readers!
Next in the series, Trapped.
By K.A. Holt
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014.
Grades 6 and Up Pages:
Genre: Realistic Fiction Themes: Bullying, Friendship,
Family and Librarian
Kevin is the baby of the family and he is a seventh grade bully! He bullies other kids, under his breath he bullies teachers and he just is a mixed up kid.
Kevin’s only outlet is his poetry. There he expresses his inner most feelings and thoughts! Then disaster strikes and he has lost his journal—then the bullied begin to bully Kevin. He becomes known as Poetry Boy. Kevin is sentenced to library duty for his past deeds and that is when he becomes connected to his school librarian, although he will never admit to it! His life begins to turn around as he embraces his poetry.
Kevin’s voice is told in verse—so it is a quick read that guys should love!
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer
By Rick Riordan
Read by Christopher Guetig
So I might be a really bad librarian for not reading any Rick Riordan books before now– but when the kids already love the books and read the books with no promoting by me, I sometimes pass them by for books that need to be read so I can promote them!
So I broke down to see what all the hubbub was about and found that I too love Riordan’s books! Tons of action, adventure and magic–everything our students crave in great books!
This is the first book in the Norse god mythology series. Here we meet all the great gods Odin, Freyja, Thor and Vanir. Magnus whose mother was killed by mysterious wolves has been living on the streets for a couple of years until he sees missing posters hanging all around town. Miffed at why his only relatives–his uncle Randolph and his cousins are
looking for him. Magnus does not want to by found but once Uncle Randolph corners him, he warns Magnus of great dangers that await him now that he has turned 16 years old. He talks about Magnus’ birthright and the need to find the sword.
Just moments later, with no time to consider what his uncle has just told him, Magnus finds himself on a bridge fighting Sert,a fire throwing giant that is trying to him, his friends and innocent bystanders. Magnus, somehow summons the “lost sword” from the river and thrusts the sword into Sert as they both topple into the river.
Magnus Chase dies. But that is where the story really begins! Magnus ends up at Valhalla Hotel in Asgard. Here in “hall of the slain” is where the adventure begins as Magnus and his friends, his trusty new sword that he calls, Jack take on giants, dwarfs in an attempt to ward off doomsday!
Pure magic and fun!
Alia Muhammad Baker: Saving a Library From War
By Lindsay Bacher
Mankato: The Child’s World, 2016.
Pages 24 Grades 3-4 and Up
I think I like this book a little more today than I did about a month ago when I read it. It is a short book best suited for grades 3-4 and up but I was looking for interesting biographies and this one—about saving a library caught my eye. The author makes an attempt at being politically correct but I think that she falls short. I felt that she was placing blame somewhat to the United States for what was happening in Iraq—placing emphasis on “thought that Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction” rather than on crimes against humanity—the author eludes to this when she states, “many of the people in Basra did not like President Hussein…”
The story of how one selfless women was able to remove almost all the books by encouraging others to help her remove and hide the books. Some of these manuscripts were hundreds of years old—some as old as 1300 A.D. Muhammad Baker was able to save 30,000 books that helped to save and preserve Iraq’s history and culture. The author does a good job describing the conditions under which Iraqi’s lived during this time of turmoil in history.
I like this book more since I have been reading, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas who goes in-depth in her realistic fiction book on the power that surround oil rich countries and how human rights can suffer at the hands of leaders who are more interested in advancing an oil agenda than on being a just leader.
This book would stir up some great conversations about libraries and the power of books.
Once Was a Time
By Leila Sales
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2016.
Grade 4 and Up 322 Pages
This is a great story of friendship, loyalty, and time travel. Lottie and Kitty are best friends during a tumultuous time in history; World War II. The German Nazi’s were desperate to win the war at all cost and they were looking for a secret weapon—they thought it was Lottie’s father. Mr. Bromley was a British scientist studying time travel and a great storyteller. He would keep Lottie and Kitty on their edge of their seats and filled their dreams with traveling back in time, always together, to make the world a place with no war. The Nazi’s kidnapped Bromley, Lottie and Kitty. They threatened to harm the girls in order to get him to spill the secret of finding a time travel portal. The men are ready to harm the girls when Lottie notices a portal and jumps in. Finding herself in the grass not in 1940 but 2013 and Kitty is nowhere to be found. A British girl, now in the United States, seventy-three years into the future and alone. Join Lottie and those along the way who helped her grow and understand that friendship is timeless.