Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder is a new middle-school title that will stay with you long after the last page. On a beautiful island, nine children live without adults or parents. Every year a boat mysteriously appears to the shores of the island bringing a young boy or girl. As the young child is the newest resident of the island, the oldest child now departs. It is the job of the oldest child (the ‘Elder’) to watch after and teach the youngest new arrival (the ‘Care’). The nine have all they need to eat. There is a book cabin supplied with books and eight cabins to live in. As the book begins, Deen (the current Elder) is departing as Ess (the new Care) is arriving. Jinny is now the new Elder in charge of Ess. She misses Deen and finds taking care of Ess to be a harder job than she thought it would be. Slowly, Jinny and Ess bond, but as time passes Jinny anticipates with dread the next boat to come. She doesn’t want to follow the rules and leave the island, the only home she remembers. When the boat arrives with the new Care, Jinny decides she will break the rules and stay on the island. Where do these young children come from? What happens to the Elder children after they leave the island? These questions and many more are considered in “Orphan Island.”
A new book by the Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures, is only owned by three libraries in the system. Michael Lindgren suggests in the Washington Post that the structure of the card catalog was the “underpinning of the Internet” and the “original search engine.” The book pays homage to a system that lasted almost a century and was available to all. I definitely have to check this out, the illustrations look amazing…
High school senior Gem has never lead a normal life. Her unreliable, cheating, drug-addicted father left years ago to chase his dreams and her selfish, party-animal mother have never been “normal” parents that she can rely on for security. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her little sister when no one else could. Gem sacrifices her own freedom to care for her mother just so that Dixie can have as stable a life as she possibly can.
But when their father suddenly re-appears in their lives it is clear that Dixie still holds onto the idea that he can be a good father and falls for his obvious lies and charms. Gem feels caught in the midd
le of trying to help her little sister see the light and her knowledge that she will eventually have to leave her family behind if she ever wants to move up in life.
The choice that Gem has to make, to stay or to leave, is a hard one and as a result she winds up shouldering all of the responsibility that should never be left to a teenager. When describing why she has never reached out to another adult for help, including her school therapist who knows that something is up at home with Gem, and instead isolates herself she explains, “Imagine: Your family is broken. Your family is addicted. You family is poor or sick or unstable in some other way….your mother doesn’t say, Hey kids let’s call Uncle Ivan, let’s send him a Christmas card….No, it’s more like your mom stares into space and says, Ivan went off to Idaho with his new girlfriend, who, by the way is pregnant, so I guess that’s that.” Gem feels that she has no one to reach out to – no one to understand.
This story is uplifting and beautifully written, five stars all the way.
Have you ever heard about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921? I hadn’t either. The incident serves as the impetus for the story that takes place in Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham.
The story takes place in Tulsa and alternates between the two narratives of mixed-race, upper-middle class teen Rowan Chase in present day and half-white half- Native American teen William Tillman in that fateful year of 1921. In the present day Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property. She has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past, the present, and herself. One hundred years earlier in a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.
This piece of historical fiction is touching and informative in addition to being a mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.
In an article by the Tampa Bay Times, the public library system in Hillsborough County, Florida, is allowing schoolchildren in the district to use their student id number to check out books. They have quadrupled the number of local kids who can check out public library materials by not requiring a separate library card. I have heard of this happening already in Washington state and California. The Hillsborough Co. library system reports having more than 1 million books available, as well as 57,800 audiobooks, 91,360 DVDs, 50,290 newspapers and magazines, 37,500 music CDs, and nearly 288,000 eBooks. The full story can be found here. It is quite an opportunity, maybe in the future it will become a more common occurrence…