May 27, 2010
by Anne Laurel Carter
More than anything, Amani wants to be like her grandfather, Seedo. She wants to be a shepherd on the mountain. She wants to mirror his calm ways, his loving, peaceful heart.
At first it is her family that stands in the way. Shepherding is not a job for a proper Palestinian girl. She should go to school so that she can learn, among other things, English. Finally, Seedo makes it clear. Amani will continue her time with him on the mountain, shepherding is clearly in her soul. There begins her time learning to care for sheep, bringing in a government vet, documenting the introduction of hardier stock.
Unfortunately, Palestine is now part of Israel and as Seedo grows ill and eventually dies, the family is faced with the threat of Israeli settlers with guns and army backing. As the family weather’s one crisis after another, Amani befriends an Israeli boy who is as in love with the local wildlife as she is. She also learns that Seedo’s heart was not always as tranquil as she thought and that the world is a complicated, scary place.
Admittedly, I picked up this book because of attempts to ban it in Canada. As is most often the case, I found the claims of the would-be banners to be inaccurate at best. Really. Hint: Anyone who complains about the scene where a soldier shoots one of Amani’s sheep has not read the book. Or, if they have, their reading comprehension is shameful.
Yes, the book touches on some very controversial issues — the Israeli occupation of Palestine, their treatment of Palestinians and terrorism. But Carter’s characters, both the Palestinians and the Israelis, are realistic and fairly drawn.
Instead of keeping this book from your child, why not use it as the stepping off point for a thoughtful discussion? Carter gives you plenty to think about and does it in a very good, age appropriate story.
May 19, 2010
by Sharon Shinn
Daiyu feels out of place but that doesn’t surprise her — she was adopted from China and has grown up in St. Louis, Missouri where Asians of any kind are in the minority. When she agrees to deliver a necklace to one of the vendors at a fair, she never imagines it will whisk her through a portal (the Gateway Arch) to another world where she will be in the majority.
Not that she fits in. The customs and everything about this world are alien to her, everything except the feelings she has for the first person she meets. He has been sent to bring her home and makes her feel safe. She has been brought to this world to help rid it of a tyrant but Daiyu struggles with her mission. Attractive, intelligent and charming, he seems like a good leader. How can she be sure she is on the side of good?
Not many authors can transition between novels for adults and novels for teens but Shinn does it and does it well. This young adult romance features Shinn’s usual attention to character and setting, both of which she brings alive with great skill.
On the AR test, this book is labeled as middle grade but it has more of a young adult feel. That said, it would be suitable for an advanced middle grade reader.
This would make a fabulous summer read for someone traveling to a distant land or simply settling down at home to explore a great book.