March 5, 2015

On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:36 am by suebe2

On a Clear Day
by Walter Dean Myers
Random House

Dahlia has always loved math — the numbers and formulas are dependable and help her understand the world even as things fall apart.

The year is 2035.  The C-8, eight huge businesses, control everything from food to health care.  Not only do they control who has access to what, the profit margin for these companies determines what even comes into being.  On the surface, that doesn’t mean much for the wealthy.  They live in their suburban gated communities were everyone looks like them (white).  They shop, they party and they plan.  What very few of them do is see.

Those like Dahlia who aren’t wealthy have no choice but to see.  They have to keep their eyes open for the gangs roaming city streets.  They also have to watch out for opportunities that are actually traps.  The free tablets everyone was so happy to recieve?  Once everyone was online and could access classes that way, the government had no reason to keep the schools open.   There was simply no profit in it.

Dahlia dreamed of becoming a teacher.  She would be able to help kids like herself see the beauty of math.  Now, there’s no point. No gater (gated communities) would pay her to teach their children.

Then two boys show up in a van.  From the van to their clothing, it is obvious that they have money. They may have money but they see.  They see what C-8 is doing around the world — controlling who makes it in government, who has access to health care and who has food to eat.  They are going to take on C-8.

They tell Dahlia and that they need her help.  They’ve read the paper she published in a math journal.  They know she has the computer skills needed to help them predict what is going to happen next.  They are putting together a team of young people who believe that they can make a difference and they want Dahlia to be a part of it.  Before she can decide if she can make a different, Dahlia has to find the nerve to leave behind all she knows and trust two boys she’s only must met.

This is one of the those books that is almost impossible to do justice in a review.  It is rich and it is complicated.  It is more gritty than lyrical but teen readers will love it because it is true.  Walter Dean Myers was clearly an author who could see the dangers of big business, of the 10% and of the reliance that people place on the Web.

I wouldn’t call this book post-apocolyptic but it is walks up close to the apocolypse and dares the reader to see how far they can see On a Clear Day.

–SueBE

August 21, 2014

At Her Majesty’s Request by Walter Dean Myers

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:03 pm by suebe2

At Her Majesty's RequestAt Her Majesty’s Request
by Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic

She was only a small child when almost everyone in her village was killed by women warriors.  They took the princess and several other people back to their king, Gezo.  He told the girl she would be safe.  The people who took care of her told her tales of human sacrifice.  Two years later, she was brought out to be part of a very special blood sacrifice.  The Dahomans honored their ancestors through sacrifice.  This sacrifice was also designed to show a British military officer the might of the Dahomey.  He was there to put a stop to slavery but even the might British empire couldn’t stop King Gezo whether he chose to sacrifice these people or sell them.

Fortunately, Commander Forbes was determined not to let this child die.  He made it clear that Queen Victoria would never kill an innocent child.  Furthermore, she would never respect a ruler who did.  The girl, named by the commander Sarah Forbes Bonetta, was given to Forbes as a gift for Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria took a special interest in the girl’s life, paying for her education.  When she returned to Africa, she was better educated than the missionary women who thought that Africans were not capable of teaching their own children.

As is always the case with a historic figure, there are gaps in this somewhat sparse story but it doesn’t make Sarah’s life any less fascinating.  Here is a girl who escaped both slaver and human sacrifice, only to have almost no control over her own life.  In part, this was because she was upper class in Victorian England.  Where a poor woman might support herself, an educated woman had to marry.  But Sarah may have had even less control than other upper class women, not because of her race but because she had attracted the attention of the Queen.  When Victoria decided you should move from England to Sierra Leone and back again, it wasn’t an item for discussion.  Happy with the decision or angry, you packed up and moved.

I’m not sure how I missed this book when it came out in 1999.  I recently learned about it when Walter Dean Myers died.  I wanted to sample his work but through a wholy unfamilear book.  I’m not sure this book is still in print but it is worth finding.  I requested it from my local library.

–SueBE

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