Module 6: Pink and Say

13 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This is the story of a black boy and a white boy fighting for the Union army during the Civil War. Pink finds Say wounded and left for dead from a battle and both boys make their way to Pink’s home to recover under the care of his mom. However all their lives are put in danger when marauding Confederates come to the house.

Citation: Polacco, Patricia. (1994) Pink and Say. New York: Philomel Books

My Impressions: I love the way the book was told, not just as a story, but as family history as told by the main character’s great-great-grandaughter. The pictures are vivid and bold, as the wounded boys travel the entire ground is red with bits of grass, as though the land itself is bleeding. The story itself is very moving and both characters are realistic.


“The figure of Pink’s mother borders on the sentimental, but the boys’ relationship is beautifully drawn. Throughout the story there are heartbreaking images of people torn from a loving embrace. Pictures on the title and copyright pages show the parallel partings as each boy leaves his family to go to war.” –Hazel Rochman, Booklist Online review excerpt

“Say, 15, had never seen a black person up close until Pink, also a young Union soldier, saves his life. During his brief stay in Pink’s home, the wounded boy comes to understand his friend’s unconquerable vision of freedom. A memorable family reminiscence with evocative paintings.” —School Library Journal review

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to teach children a little bit about the Civil War. It could even be of use to older children, to help them gain perspective on what the war meant for people. Children could discuss what they think the war meant to people on both sides and why those people were willing to die for what they believed in.


Module 6: Fever, 1793

13 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: Mattie Cook is a fourteen-year-old growing up in nation’s capitol of Philadelphia, Pa., at the end of the eighteenth century. She works with her mother, grandfather, and their cook Eliza at their coffeshop and wants nothing more than to stop being treated like a child. However, disaster strikes the Cook family and all of Philadelphia when yellow fever breaks out, creating the one of the worst epidemics in U.S. history. Mattie must fight for her own survival and that of her family’s as they wait the frost to come and the fever to break.

Citation: Anderson, Laurie Halse. (2000) Fever, 1793. New York: Simon & Schuster.

My Impressions: I’ve read and enjoyed Halse’s book Speak an was eager to see how she would transition to historical fiction. I am happy to say she did it well and with ease. Not only does Mattie’s character and her surroundings seem historically accurate, Mattie’s character and voice are crafted so that a teenage girl today could relate to her. When I first began this book I wondered how Anderson could take an outbreak of disease and make it seem interesting for 243 pages, but I had no trouble staying interested in the book.


“Anderson tells a good story and certainly proves you can learn a lot about history in good fiction. An appended section gives more background.” –Stephanie Zvirin, Booklist Online review

“Extremely well researched, Anderson’s novel paints a vivid picture of the seedy waterfront, the devastation the disease wreaks on a once thriving city, and the bitterness of neighbor toward neighbor as those suspected of infection are physically cast aside. However, these larger scale views take precedence over the kind of intimate scenes that Anderson crafted so masterfully in Speak. Scenes of historical significance, such as George Washington returning to Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, to signify the end of the epidemic are delivered with more impact than scenes of great personal significance to Mattie.” —Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestions: A great use of this book would be to compare Mattie’s life in 1793 to a fourteen-year-old today. Are different things expected from Maggie as a woman or a young woman than today? How did doctors and other people deal with sickness and disease?

Module 5: Ender’s Game

12 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: At some point in Earth’s future aliens that resemble giant bugs, a.k.a. Buggers, have attacked Earth twice and Earth is in fear of a third attack to finish humans off. Though he is only six military commanders believe that  Ender Wiggins is the answer to Earth’s survival and the destruction of the Buggers. For five years he is trained and tested to see if he has what it takes to command the fleets of starships. Ender must prove that he has what it takes to survive his constant hardships and save the earth.

Citation: Card, Orson Scott. (1991) Ender’s Game. New York: Tor.

My Impressions: I had no trouble breezing through this book, but I might have breezed a little too quickly because I definitely missed some key points in the scientific explanations. Despite that I was able to understand the book. Although I enjoy and read quite a bit of fantasy, I don’t often read science fiction so I don’t have a lot to compare Ender’s Game with, but I thought the book was interesting and different. At the same time it was a little unnerving to see how Ender’s freedom and childhood is stripped from him and how he is a pawn, albeit an important pawn, but a pawn nonetheless. While the book was definitely good, I was a little depressed by the end because I didn’t feel like Ender ever truly found happiness. However, I know that Ender’s Game is the beginning of a series so perhaps in one of the later books he truly finds happiness.


“Card has taken the venerable conceits of a superman and an interstellar war against aliens, and, with superb characterization, pacing, and language, has combined them into a seamless story of compelling power.” –Roland Green, Booklist Online review

“Now, in this novel, Card fulfills his early promise…and more.”–Ben Bova

Library Use Suggestion: In the book Colonel Graff suggests that the perpetuation of the war between the buggers and humans is because there is no way for the two species to communicate. This could open a conversation about communication barriers and how to breach them. How deaf people communicate with people who don’t know sign language and how people who speak different languages communicate could be discussed.

Module 4: Hatchet

29 06 2010

Book Cover

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Brian is going to visit his father for the first time since his parents divorce. But when his plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness Brian is left with the clothes on his back and a hatchet, a last minute present from his mother, attached to his belt. Brian must learn how to survive, make his own shelter, find his own food, while hoping for rescue.

Citation: Paulsen, Gary. (1987) Hatchet. New York: Simon Pulse.

My Impressions: Although I don’t read many survival stories, and when I do I prefer true stories, I enjoyed this book. Brian is a smart, resourceful boy and manages to survive 54 days by his own wits. I particularly like that Brian does not find the survival pack until the day he is found. Before that he had been forced to stop thinking like a city kid, to change the way he views world around him. Had he had the survival pack from the beginning he would have never learned how create fire using only a stone and his hatchet, he would have never had to create a fish trap, a bow and arrow, or a spear, and he would have never had to capture his own food. The reader can see Brian grow as a person, so that by the end of the book the boy consumed with the Secret and his parent’s divorce is much more mature and thoughtful. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story can enjoy this book.


“Readers may wince as Paulsen’s drama unfolds: as night blends into gray false dawn, the grip of the pacing never falters. Brian learns that while smiling at the humor of a funny mistake, he could find himself looking at death; learns that the driving influence in nature is to eat; learns to be full of tough hope. After a tornado ravages his campsite—destroying every fragment of his microcosm of civilization—he’s back to square one, with nothing left but the hatchet and what he learned about himself. Classic action-adventure fiction.” –Phyllis Wilson, Booklist Online Review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: Brian is left in the wilderness with only the clothes on his back and a hatchet. Children could imagine an climate or ecosystem in which they were stranded and come up with their own survival kit.