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Adler offers great insight into the conflicts not only of this time period, but also of adolescents who are experiencing different issues in their lives. Through Tommy’s viewpoint, the reader can understand the difficulties faced by the characters in this book. This is a thoughtful and provocative novel, appropriate not only for middle grades but also for high school students, college students, and adults. Hannah M. Heller Baltimore, Md. 17-4-0514 Applegate, Katherine Home of the Brave. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2007. 250 pp. ISBN 978-0-312-36765-7, $16.95. Applegate presents a story of a preteen immigrant’s journey from a warring nation to one of hope. As in many immigrant tales, she shows the humor in the cultural mistakes of the recent arrival and the hosts in the new country. The book underscores the need for greater U.S. sensitivity to people who have experienced life differently. Arriving in the “dead” of winter in Minneapolis from a burned-out Sudanese village, Kek struggles with adjusting to U.S. culture. Although he knows that his brother and father have been killed, his mother is missing. Throughout the story, he keeps asking the Resettlement Center staff to locate his mother. To assuage his loneliness, he finds a job working on a small farm with a cow. He begins to build a “family” from those around him—first his one-armed cousin, then the girl next door in foster care, and finally the widowed farmer. Applegate writes that she hopes readers see Kek’s experience as one common to their neighborhood and school and that the U.S. “home of the brave” remains open to refugees. This book is written well with a strong message. The poetic chapters are like culture capsules. Unfortunately, the author provides no clues about Kek’s background. Near the end the reader learns that Kek is from Sudan. This writing strategy appears to mislead readers concerning the African continent. To use this book effectively, an adult will need to provide a great deal of background about Sudan, Darfur, the Arabs, Nur, Dinka, and the 20-year civil war. Patricia S. Kuntz Madison, Wis. 17-4-0515 Fireside, Bryna J. Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder. Minneapolis: Lerner/Kar-Ben, 2008. 48 pp. Illus. by Shawn Costello. ISBN 978-0-8225-9050-7, $6.95 (pb).

17-4-0516 Martinez, Claudia Guadalupe. The Smell of Old Lady Perfume. El Paso, Tex.: Cinco Puntos Press, 2008. 256 pp. ISBN 978-1-933693-18-7, $15.95. Chela Gonzalez is an 11-year old girl, one of four children in a Mexican-American household in El Paso, Texas. She sensitively tells us her story in the first person; the narrative begins when she is entering the sixth grade, her last year of elementary school. She is excited about the school year and hopeful that she will have a chance to win the coveted “All-School Girl Award.” Her father tells her, “Chela, be proud of who you are. You’re going to win that trophy because you’ll work hard to be the smartest. It doesn’t matter who your competition is.” This story sympathetically covers such issues as the loneliness of being ostracized by girlfriends, the dynamics of families and siblings, and the development of breasts and menstruation, which are highly relevant to girls that age. Chela’s year is further complicated when her father, whom she idolizes, suffers a devastating stroke. The story of Chela’s family and their cultural heritage, including religion, foods, and Spanish words, are woven into a poignant tale of loss and overcoming obstacles in the life of a sixth-grade girl. Despite her troubles, Chela is eventually rewarded for her academic achievements, and her best friend Nora comes back into her life. She also comes to terms with her father’s illness and her own personal development. “My last year in elementary school was over and so many things had happened. Some were terrible. But sixth grade didn’t matter any more. I was bigger. The world was bigger.” Kathleen Saso Delmar, N.Y. 17-4-0517 Perry, M. Lavora. Taneesha Never Disparaging. Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 2008. 208 pp. ISBN 978-0-86171-550-3, $8.95 (pb). A sequel to Taneesha’s Treasures of the Heart, Taneesha Never Disparaging continues the story of Taneesha Bey-Ross, a ten-year-old, African-American Buddhist. Although the religious practices and models of Taneesha’s family differ from those of most African Americans, the issues she faces are all too familiar—self-doubt, friendships, and voice. From being an unwilling candidate for class president, coming to grips with her Buddhism, and coping with an ogre of a bully, Taneesha uses the lesson of a Buddhist monk, Never Disparaging, to see the humanity within everyone. By exercising profound respect for herself and others, Taneesha is able to embrace her religion and befriend the bully.



Though there are many fictional accounts of the Passover seder meal, few (if any) are set in the 1860s during the American Civil War. This historically accurate setting follows Jewish soldiers in the 23rd Ohio Regiment stationed in the mountains of West Virginia. In simple text and colorful illustrations, this story draws the connection between fighting to free slaves from their masters in the Confederacy and the Passover holiday celebrating the end of Egyptian slavery for the Jewish people during biblical times. At the beginning of the book, the regiment’s soldiers gain permission to hold a seder; later chapters detail the efforts the soldiers take to create the seder far away from home and to remember everything traditionally found on a seder menu. Though they have to improvise and compromise, their efforts allow the elements of the Passover seder to be well explained.

Fireside has created a book that will grab the attention of middle grade readers by tying the religious holiday of Passover into an action story set during wartime. The soldiers bring an element of humor to the tale and offer a touching look at the loneliness of war and the comfort of religious faith. This easy-to-read book is a fictionalized retelling based on a magazine article by J.A. Joel, “Passover – A Reminiscence of the War,” published in the Jewish Messenger, April 1866. Sandra Szekely Hillel School of Tampa


The example of coping with violence that Never Disparaging offers would serve as a point of discussion for most middle school classes. Laretta Henderson Univ. of Wisconsin—Milwaukee 17-4-0518 Sofer, Barbara. Keeping Israel Safe: Serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Minneapolis: Lerner/Kar-Ben, 2008. 56 pp. Illus. with photos. ISBN 978-0-8225-7222-0, $7.95 (pb). This relatively simple, yet detailed and informative description of the Israeli military system is sure to be another acclaimed title by renowned author and journalist Sofer. The book opens with a historical look at the development of today’s IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the crucial roles the fledgling military has faced since the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. Later chapters explain the various branches of the IDF and the rules and requirements for service expected of Israeli citizens. Interwoven throughout the book is a personal tale of four young Israeli high school students making their individual choices for military service. The personal story starts each chapter and is printed on light green stock making it easy to find and avoiding any confusion in reading. This format should allow middle grade students to scan and follow easily. It also will serve to pull young readers into both the book and the topic, regardless of their interest in the military or in military history. Subheads in each chapter make the book useful for research into some of the well-known successes of the IDF, such as The Six Day War, Entebbe, and the Israeli Intelligence division. As with her book about Ilan Ramon, Sofer again has written a book that will have great appeal to older elementary and middle school students of all backgrounds. Sandra Szekely Hillel School of Tampa

Young Adult (Gr. 7 and up)


17-4-0519 Bruchac, Joseph. March Toward the Thunder. New York: Dial, 2008. 298 pp. ISBN 978-0-8037-3188-2, $16.99.


It’s the summer of 1864, and 15-year-old Louis Nolette, an Abenaki from Canada, is living in New York with his mother. Lured by the promise of good wages and a “fine, clean uniform,” and the North’s stated commitment to end slavery, Louis signs up with the 69th New York Volunteers: the “Fighting 69th,” the “Irish Brigade”—known for its courage and ferocity—marching from New York to Virginia. An “eager boy going into battle,” what Louis finds out during this long summer is that war is not about heroes and villains: it’s about scared kids on both sides of the trenches, killing and dying for a “cause” that becomes further and further removed from their realities. “Aye,” Sergeant Flynn tells Louis, “war’s a dirty business and never ye forget that.” A dirty business in more ways than one. Constant attacks by lice and fleas. The unavailability of water for bathing. And the slaughters on both sides that result from incompetent officers and generals whose political careers dictate their military judgments. “God save us from MULTICULTURAL REVIEW | WINTER 2008

all generals,” Sergeant Flynn says. March Toward the Thunder is not a blow-by-blow description of some of the major battles of the Civil War, though they are here: Cold Harbor, the Crater, the Bloody Angle, the Wilderness, Petersburg. It is not a roster of the famous names, though some make an appearance, too: Abe Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and Seneca General Ely Parker. Rather, it is about the exhausted, homesick young people who do the fighting and whom readers will get to know and like—before almost all of them are killed. And many of those others who might survive find parts of themselves left at the hospital tent, with the doctors’ sawbones-approach to medicine: A grisly pile of arms and legs of men [who] would never shoulder a musket or march again to battle lay stacked four feet high behind the operating area. If and when there was a lull in the action, those lost limbs would be buried in the same earth where men were digging trenches. In some places, compassion emerges from the bloody chaos. There are informal truces between Blue and Gray, young men who share the little they have. There’s a hushed, nighttime break together, where Louis is wished luck by a young Cherokee Reb, whose cousin Louis has pulled to safety (“I do hope you don’t get kilt tomorrow,” he says). There’s the deep friendship that develops between Louis and a young Mohawk named Artis, who, in another war in another time and place, might have become a deadly enemy. And there’s this: As Louis’s companions settle into their trenches for the night, they hear a familiar song floating from the enemy camp, “as sweet a version of ‘Amazing Grace’ as he’d ever heard… Then, up and down the line of trenches, Union men began to join in until at least a thousand voices and hearts of men in both blue and gray were lifted above the earthly battlefield by a song.” Louis Nolette is based on Bruchac’s great-grandfather Louis Bowman, who served in the Irish Brigade in 1864–1865. He was gravely wounded and left for dead, surviving because Thunder came and he was able to drink from the rain pools. Here, Louis, his mother, his comrades—and his “enemies”—are real people. Through them, readers will find no “good guys” or “bad guys,” no simplistic declaration of “mission accomplished.” Rather, with the assistance of a skilled teacher, they will be able to relate to the historical and contemporary issues of military recruitment and war. Bruchac dedicates this book to “our grandchildren; may they live to see a world in which there is no war.” Through the eyes of a 15-year-old Indian boy become a man, he has crafted a profound statement against warfare. March Toward the Thunder should be required reading for every preteen in this country, for every youngster who is addicted to violent video games, and for every 18-year-old who is contemplating serving in this country’s armed forces. Beverly Slapin Oyate, Berkeley, Calif. 17-4-0520 Carter, Anne Laurel. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter. Toronto: Groundwood, 2008. 192 pp. ISBN 978-1-88899-902-3, $17.95. The title suggests a benign pastoral life, and indeed the story starts as an idyllic scene of traditional sheepherding and agriculture in the hills of present-day Occupied Palestine. From childhood on, Amani has accompanied her grandfather wherever he takes his flock. She, too, chooses this path, and wisely the old man agrees. At

Taneesha Never Disparaging by M. LaVora Perry  

Review of middle grade novel Taneesha Never Disparaging by M. LaVora Perry, Multicultural Review, Winter 2008