Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review-Selling Hope

By Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Published by Feiwel and Friends
To Be Released November 9, 2010
Source: Author/Publisher
4 Stars- great book to read both at home and in the class room

It’s May 1910, and Halley’s Comet is due to pass thru the Earth’s atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe. Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a "normal” life—or as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents "anti-comet” pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, she’s joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?

I love this cover and I really enjoyed reading Selling Hope. Kristin did a fantastic job at weaving together a wonderful story with historical fiction. Selling Hope is a book that I would recommend for classroom reading as well as at home. Not only does Kristin take the reader back to Chicago in the year 1910, she enchants you with a beloved strong willed, says how it is, young female character, Hope.

Hope and her father Nick, are part of the circuit, who travel from city to city with a large group of other performers, putting on shows for the locals. It's not a pretty job by any means, but it's one that provides Hope and her father a roof over their head. Wanting to provide more for her father and herself, Hope decides to sell anti-comet pills.

Selling Hope starts 17 days before Halley's comet passes the earth. With mass hysteria over the comet's approach to earth, many people fear it's the end of the world. Hope's idea of giving the people some sort of comfort resorts in her teaming up with an other performer, Buster. Together Hope and Buster offer the people a little bit of Hope with the comets approach, when everyone around of them fears the world will end.
There's a sweet relationship between Buster and Hope that I really liked and wanted to read more about after I had finished the book.

What I liked about Hope, is she became a true source for Hope to those whom she sells her pills (mints) to. Many people are looking for some sort of answer and will pay anything to be "saved" from the comet's fury when it strikes earth. Through the course of the days leading up to the comets approach and even the night the comet appears, Hope reflects back on a few things she's learned about herself. What starts out as a way to earn more money for her and her father, turns out to be a mission in giving people a real sense of Hope.

Hope is a character that I think young readers will really adore. I think Selling Hope will captivate young readers, as Kristin gives her book a real 1910's feeling with the language and the setting. With a wonderful cast of both fictional and non fiction characters, this a book I would definitely recommend for readers 10 years and older.

Book Review - If America Were a Village

Author: David J. Smith
Illustrator: Shelagh Armstrong
Publisher: Kids Can Press (August 1, 2009)
Age Level: Grades 4 to 6 (but can extend down to 2nd grade)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
America, with all its diversity, is not easily defined. David J. Smith's If America Were a Village takes a snapshot - past, present and future - to help define America for children. Using the same successful metaphor of the international bestseller If the World Were a Village, the book shrinks down America to a village of 100. The metaphor helps children easily understand American ethnic origins, religions, family profiles, occupations, wealth, belongings and more. Shelagh Armstrong's expansive illustrations imagine America as a classic, vibrant small town. Who are the people living in this vast and varied nation? Where did they come from? What are they like today? How do they compare with people in other countries? The book's simple statistical analysis provides a new way of learning about where people live in America, the state of their health, the shapes and sizes of families, what they use and more - forming a concise picture of a country. If America Were a Village is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

It seems it is much easier to find great fiction stories than non-fiction. Hence my passion for locating fun, creative, and well developed non-fiction. As I was cleaning up my office bookcase, I re-discovered David J. Smith's If America Were A Village. I was introduced to this book and it's predecessor If the World Were A Village at a teacher book event last September at a local indie bookstore. Smith took a difficult concept for kids - imagining 306 million Americans - and made it tangible and real. Sheer brilliance.

Smith equates the United States as a village of 100 people. Here is an example from the inside jacketflap:

In this village:
75 people are white, 12 are black, 1 is Native American, and 4 are Asian. The remaining 8 consider themselves members of some other race or mixed race.

Children have a much better chance of understanding a breakdown of 100 people than trying to explain that in terms of millions of people.

Each two page spread answers a question such as Where do we come from? What religions do we practice? How wealthy are we? or What are our families like? Once again, the percentages are broken down to the number of people who practice a particular religion or who is rich. Additionally, Smith includes a paragraph telling the reader how America compares to other countries in the world.

Now there are some questions about Smith's breakdowns. Some critics would questions Smith's inclusion of Hispanic individuals within the White people count. Others may question his statistics. Though this may keep the book from being a 5 Star for me, I do feel that there is incredible information here which can facilitate some deep discussion with children and be integrated into various curriculum standards. For this reason, and that there are several pages at the end that provide additional facts and resources for a teacher to use with his/her students, I still place it on my recommended book list.

In addition to Smith's text, Armstrong's acrylic paintings are beautiful and provide almost a dreamy back-drop to the book.

This book may be hard to locate at your local bookstore but it is readily available on various on-line book vendors. I would encourage teachers to seek out If America Were a Village and it's companion If The World Were A Village as part of their classroom collection.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~