Monday, March 03, 2008

Reviews: Cybils Non Fiction (MG/YA)-Part II

Now for Part II of Alice's comments on the Cybils Non Fiction (Middle Grade/Young Adult) short listed titles! (You can see part one here.) Alice--my mother--was on the judging committee and wrote out capsule reviews to share with you here. So, here we go!:

Reviews by Alice Herold

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
by Peter Sis

Peter Sis, with The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, explains to his family and other young readers in words and pictures what it meant to live on the other side of the Berlin wall--the Iron Curtain. Sis includes journal entries and definitions (perestroika, Cold War, etc.) along with his compelling drawings. Sis connects his art to personal rebellion behind the wall. As a child, he loved to draw, beginning with shapes and then moving to human figures. He drew what he wanted to draw at home, but what he was told to draw at school. Children, as adults, were encouraged to report on their families and students. Slowly, though, Peter began to question authority. He joined a rock group and made a film, which was a target of the censors. But, Sis understood that art makes a difference: Peter explains that the Beatles made a crack in the wall, changing his own life via a smuggled 1966 copy of "A Hard Day's Night," and the lives of others. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain is a compelling, educational, and entertaining read.

Giants of Science: Marie Curie
by Kathleen Krull

Kathleen Krull's Marie Curie is a well-written, expertly researched, entertaining biography about a giant in science who overcame tremendous odds in order to do her work. Marie Curie is part of the series Giants of Science and is illustrated by Boris Kulikov who adds poignant pen drawings to the text. My favorite drawing was a picture of young Marie staring with longing into a cupboard of glass tubes and scales. Krull also keeps the young scientist in mind, dedicating the book to Caitlin Krull, "future neurosurgeon." Though written for young readers, Krull doesn't avoid scientific terms and explanations: Marie Curie (Giants of Science) is a smart book for smart readers ages eleven and up.

And now for the winning title:

Tasting the Sky
by Ibtisam Barakat

Tasting the Sky, by Ibtisam Barakat, is a memoir set in the aftermath of the Six Day War. Barakat divides the book into three sections. The first--"A Letter to No One"--describes the author's travels to a nearby town to go to the post office. Ibtisam has pen pals all over the world so she can "see the world through other people's words." The letter is written when she is detained several hours on her way home. In Part II, the author is three and a half years old. She describes looking for her shoes so she can run from the planes. She shows living two weeks in a shelter, a month in someone's kitchen, and a month in a classroom because she can't return home. She is sent to an orphange even though her parents were alive. Language becomes Ibtisam's refuge. She writes, "Paper and ink, poems, and the postbox are the medicines that heal the wounds of life," and "without the help of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, millions of children would not have gone to school and learned to read and write." Barakat dedicates Part III as "A Letter to Everyone" and writes of her eternal friend Alef, who helped her find the "splinters of my life and piece them back together." Tasting the Sky is a love letter to the power of language.