Friday, January 21, 2011


Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award
Winner (picked May 2010/JLG date February 2011)
 By:  Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon 
Candlewick, 2010 
978-0-7636-4300-3, Middle Grade

Zora Neale Hurston was one of the most important African-American writers in our literary history.  She was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance and became the only black student at Barnard College.  Most of her childhood was spent in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black township in the United States.  Authors, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon have imagined what that childhood and that young girl must have been like for their historical novel, Zora and Me
     Readers of Hurston’s famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, will recognize the young Zora’s imagination and spirit in this middle grade book.  Even readers not familiar with the real Zora will be captivated by the early storytelling abilities of this girl as she weaves a tale of shape-shifting gators and gator kings for her friends. The authors have deftly managed to craft a story that feels like Zora herself could have told it.  The voice is engaging and believable. The pacing keeps readers turning the page.  Most importantly, Zora and Me is a wonderful read with likeable characters and provides readers with an accurate depiction of life in Eatonville at the turn of the century. 
     Back matter includes a biography, timeline, and bibliography.  Although extremely informative, I would have liked an author’s note telling the readers what was imagined in the text and any historical facts that were included in the novel.  

(This review was previously published in Historical Novel Society's REVIEW)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

 Sharon Dogar, Houghton Mifflin, 2010, 17.00hb, 341pp, 978-0-547-50195-6, 12 and up

Author Sharon Dogar has bravely entered Anne Frank’s annex to tell Peter Van Pels’ compelling story. Readers might be hesitant, as I was, to cross the boundary into such hallowed ground, but it is well worth it.   Dogar has fleshed out the account of the families hiding in the Amsterdam attic during World War II and given us another view of Anne, through Peter’s watchful eye.  She has taken great care to keep events historically accurate, while at the same time providing Peter with a depth unavailable in Anne’s diary.   Dogar tells Peter’s story in first person narrative and begins his tale as he is dying in the camps after being found in the annex.  Readers who followed Anne’s journey along in her diary will feel the same pull and compassion toward Peter.  This can be read as a stand-alone book, but will work as a wonderful companion to The Diary of Anne Frank.  Dogar provides readers with additional information in a preface and author’s note.  A list of books, dvd’s and websites is also included, which teacher’s will love.