A Stir of Bones
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
horror (5th and up)
This book is just creepy enough, just romantic enough, just complex and simple enough, for pre-teen and early teens. I LOVE the descriptions of the consciousness of the HOUSE and Susan’s relationships with the House, her friends, and Nathan, the ghost boy. When Susan leaves her shell (body) behind and travels in a magical new exterior, the imagery is so vivid that even a non-visual/graphic reader like me can visualize the pictures. It is also interesting that there is no real “pay off” of the sub-plot of the father situation — that Susan’s father is not quite “punished” at the end. (I would have LOVED to see that…) It makes the story more real. This was a Bram Stoker horror fiction for young reader nominee. It lost to the 5th Harry Potter… hmm…. I disagree.
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
by Suzanne Collins
fantasy, adventures, survival, series (4th-7th)
After a somewhat slow and not exciting beginning (um… for at least 1/3 of the book,) the book got really fast-paced and interesting. The “turn” of the events was suprising, and as the two books before in this series, no easy solutions were offered. I liked the somewhat cliff-hanging ending, too. Weaker than the first two, plot-wise, but definitely will keep me reading the last two titles.
To Be A Slave
by Julius Lester
nonfiction (7th and up)
This Newbery Honor, 1968 book was done superbly. Lester’s collecting, re-working, and threading of the slave narratives is careful and powerful. It kept me reading into dark nights, giving up sleep. The only troublesome selection, in my view, was the last entry — in which a former slave claims that there will NEVER be equality between the two races. No explanation or mentioning of any social progress accompanying this entry. Of course, at the time, Lester probably felt that was the case; he might still feel this way, even now, given the condition of this country and its people. It’s just that, it is such a downer ending and a child reader should have the opportunity to discuss this ending, and putting in the context of the last 30 odd years.