Seek to gain life experience
Try these awesome books for older readers
Andre Gide wrote, "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
Isn't that what life's all about? Humans search for the meaning of life but, perhaps more strongly, also search to experience life. This desire is strong at all ages. Sometimes we're able to experience life by reading about someone else, whether in fact or fiction. It gives us an opportunity to try on their coat for size and, in some way, prepare ourselves through imagining how we would handle such a situation.
Today's reviewed books address this in a variety of ways. Each provides children with a new thought or a new experience, even though it may be indirect. The accumulation of these experiences ultimately provides the knowledge and courage to lose sight of the shore for a while in order to move forward and discover new lands. That path requires strength, honesty and humility, and those who choose it are far more alive than those who don't.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"Stargirl" by Jerry Spinelli, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, 186 pages, $15.95 hardcover
Read aloud: age 10 and older
Read yourself: age 10 and older
When Stargirl arrives at Mica High School, the student body is buzzing with questions. Why does she dress the way she does? Why does she have a pet rat, carry a ukulele and sing "Happy Birthday" to people in the cafeteria? (And how does she know it's their birthday, anyway?) Although Stargirl is completely different from anyone they've ever met, the students begin to like her and are propelled into a new school spirit they've never experienced.
But soon Stargirl's nonconformity begins to grate on a few of the students' nerves. Shortly thereafter, the whole school shuns Stargirl for everything that makes her unconventional. They also shun her once-popular boyfriend, Leo, and in Leo's panic to make things "right," he urges Stargirl to change, to become "normal." Then one day, Stargirl simply disappears.
A tense, emotional story about nonconformity, peer pressure, "popularity" and the thrill of first love, this outstanding story provides important lessons for adolescents on a variety of levels.
Library: Gridley Branch, Butte County Library, 299 Spruce St., Gridley
Library Director: Linda Mielke
Branch Librarian: Cynthia Pustejovsky
Children's Services: Christy Cooke-Williford
Choices this week: "The Star of Kazan" by Eva Ibbotson; "The Yearling" by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; "Pendragon" series by D.J. MacHale
Books to Buy
The following books are available at your favorite bookstores.
"The False Prince" by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic, 2012, 342 pages, $16.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 8 — 9 and older
Read yourself: age 11 and older
Trouble was brewing in the kingdom, and a nobleman named Conner was intent on reuniting both adversarial sides and restore peace. His plan, however, was less than honorable. Conner devised a scheme to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and have him take his "rightful" place on the throne. Of course, in return for the successful completion of his plan, Conner expected to be rewarded in more ways than he reveals.
Conner selects four orphans to train and compete for the role, and as time passes, each of the young men comes to understand that whoever isn't chosen will be killed. One of the orphans, Sage, is particularly clever, intelligent and defiant. As events unfold, layer upon layer of lies and deadly truths reveal themselves as the orphans tangle with one another in the desperate attempt to be the chosen one, stay alive, bring justice to the good and condemnation to those who are not.
Masterful, intelligent and brimming with adventure, danger, intrigue and a surprise twist ending, "The False Prince" will capture readers' attention from start to finish.
"Crow" by Barbara Wright, Random House, 2012, 296 pages, $16.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 9 — 10 and older
Read yourself: age 11 and older
In Wilmington, N.C., in 1898, young African-American Moses witnesses growing tensions between the black and white communities. His grandmother, Boo Nanny, believes in superstitions, and she tells Moses something big is about happen. She fears the omens that surround them and their city.
Wilmington had the most thriving African American community in the country, but there were far too many whites who were growing more and more concerned about what that really meant. Finally, it all came to a devastating head.
The Wilmington Massacre of 1898 and the events leading up to it are expertly woven into this outstanding, important novel for older readers.
Kendal A. Rautzhan writes and lectures about children's literature. She can be reached at her website: greatestbooksforkids.com.