Monday, April 26, 2004

Fat Kid Rules the World

Going, Kelly. 2003. FAT KID RULES THE WORLD. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN 0399239901 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]


Seventeen-year-old Troy, depressed, suicidal, and weighing nearly three hundred pounds, gets a new perspective on life when he is saved and befriended by Curt, a legendary local punk rock musician.
In this gritty and intense novel, Going tells the story of Troy Billings, a suicidal teen who remains an eternal fish out of water. "First, the train is coming, its single headlight illuminating the dark tracks. I hear its deep rumble and take the fateful step forward. I want to picture myself flying dramatically through the air but realize I wouldn't have the muscle power to launch my body. Instead, I would plummet straight down. Maybe I wouldn't even get my other leg off the platform--my weight would pull me down like an anchor. That's how I see it." Told in first person, Troy is a winner narrator, and despite his problems—his struggle with weight, his sense of isolation from his family, and the daily torment he faces at school, he offers his story with candor and humor. The relationship between Troy and Curt becomes symbiotic as Curt tries to offer Troy a place in the world by recruiting him as the drummer in his new band. Like Troy, Curt, too, is the product of a dysfunctional family, and he has plenty of problems of his own, including a reliance on drugs. The secondary characters are effectively painted so they are not merely diversions from the story; their growth is recognizable and important. Going’s debut novel is often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and always poignant.

Teens could research the history of punk rock music and share ways this genre has influenced today’s music. As an extension activity, they could select a favorite song to share with others, making sure to include lyrics, which could be followed by a discussion.

Teens could read Chris Crutcher’s STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES to compare how the main characters in each work deal with the struggles of obesity. After reading, they could discuss the two works focusing on themes of friendship, tolerance, and loss.


If you like FAT KID RULES THE WORLD, try:
Murray, Jaye. BOTTLED UP. ISBN 0803728972
Nelson, Blake. THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL. ISBN 0670036447
Oates, Joyce Carol. BIG MOUTH AND UGLY GIRL. ISBN 0066237580

By Rose Brock

In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America's Bill of Rights

Freedman, Russell. 2003. IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY: THE STORY OF AMERICA’S BILL OF RIGHTS. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 0823415856 [Suggested Grade Levels 5 and up]

Once again, Russell Freedman has provided an informational book steeped in careful research while still reader-friendly in its presentation and style. Freeman weaves together the historical background for each Bill of Right along with contemporary examples of how each right has been tried and tested. He even discusses conflicting and ambiguous interpretations and leads young readers to understand that the Bill of Rights is subject to continuing re-interpretation.
The organization of information is clear and sequential and the book’s contents include a one-page listing of the full ext of the Bill of Rights (also available on the dust jacket). Nearly every two pages incorporate photographs and graphic images that provide visual interest as well as information. Freedman’s work is an outstanding example of a straightforward nonfiction book that presents information in clear, linear fashion and still manages to hook the reader with fascinating details and the author’s own passion for civil rights issues.


Divide into pairs or small groups with each pair/group taking responsibility for a different chapter and Bill of Right. They can read their chapter and dig for current examples of their Bill of Right in the newspaper or on the Web. Then each group can present their findings to the class/large group as a whole.
As young readers consider the civil rights issues presented in Freedman’s book, they can discuss which Bills seem to pertain most to children and to children’s rights. They could even brainstorm their own “Kid’s Bill of Rights.”

Other books for young people about the Bill of Rights:
Meltzer, Milton. THE BILL OF RIGHTS. ASIN 0690048076

Other books by Freedman that could be connected with this one:

By Sylvia Vardell


Griffin, Adele. 2003. OVERNIGHT. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN 0399237828 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-10]


The “Lucky Seven” is a group of popular girls at Fielding Academy. They are the ones that everyone wants to be like and be with. The night of Caitlin’s birthday party sleepover brings the girls a night they will never forget. Grey, the quiet one of the group, mysteriously vanishes. The story of what happens to Grey and how it affects the other girls of The Lucky Seven is the rest of the tale.

OVERNIGHT is told through the points of view of four of the main characters, with each chapter alternating narrators. This technique is effective in showing each of the girl’s personalities and the internal power plays occurring within the group. Grey’s chapters tell of her journey with a mentally unbalanced woman and her struggle to get home; Leticia’s tells of her struggle with being one of two African Americans at her new school and her designs to become the dominant figure in the Lucky Seven; ZoĆ« is shown as a shallow self-centered preteen girl with not much thought given to anyone but herself; and Martha’s chapters tell of a person who has no feelings of guilt or remorse, a young girl on the brink of being a sociopath. The language and self centeredness of these characters is right on the mark, as is the meanness which surrounds the girls of this group as they jockey for positions of power within their clique. While these are not necessarily likable characters, they are real ones and readers will recognize aspects of themselves and others in these well-drawn personas.


This book can offer an opportunity to discuss cliques and the struggle for popularity.

This tale could be used to discuss “stranger danger” and the need for families to have a code word or other safety measure in case of emergency.

Other books by Adele Griffin about unhealthy friendships:
AMANDINE. ISBN 0786806184

Other books about girls and cliques:
Koss, Amy Goldman. THE GIRLS. ISBN 0803724942
Sheldon, Dyan. TALL, THIN AND BLONDE. ISBN 1564021394

By Marianne Follis

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Wolves in the Walls

Gaiman, Neil. 2003. THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS. Ill. by Dave McKean. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0060530871 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]


Lucy hears wolves in the walls of her house. According to her family, “if the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.” Eventually the wolves escape the confines of the walls and chase the family into the garden. As the wolves wreak havoc in the house, Lucy realizes she left her beloved pig puppet in the house and sneaks back into the walls of the house. Lucy then proposes staying in the walls to her family rather than staying another night in the garden. The family gets to see the wolves destroying their house. Finally, Lucy’s family turns the tables on the wolves by coming out of the walls and chasing the wolves away. The mess is cleaned up, repairs are made, and life returns to normal for Lucy and her family, except for the muffled sounds of elephants in the walls.

McKean’s artwork, reminiscent of Salvador Dali and Edvard Munch, is a bizarre amalgamation of illustrations combined with photographs and other media. Juxtaposed with this dark and dreary scenery is Lucy’s sweet innocence. She believes the wolves are there when no one else does and she risks her life to save her favorite puppet. Multiple fonts of various sizes also contribute to the sense of the bizarre in the story. Despite the somber palette and creepy illustrations, the story is riddled with humor and silliness. Lucy’s dad is constantly playing the tuba, her brother is only interested in video games, and her mother is obsessed with making jam. The story is suspenseful and scary, but not horrifying or unnerving. The unique illustrations complement this quirky story.

“Everyone knows if the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” Discuss with readers what other similar sayings or expressions they have heard that they never quite understood. Encourage them to research these colloquialisms.

Lucy makes an unlikely hero for her family. What other stories can readers recall where the smallest or youngest character is the hero or the lone voice of reason in a story?

Other books by Gaiman that could be compared to this one:
CORALINE. ISBN 0380977788

By Lea Ann Gilbert

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Grape Thief

Franklin, Kristine L. 2003. GRAPE THIEF. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763613258 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

Slava Petrovich, better known as “Cuss” for his ability to swear in 14 different languages, lives for school, his family, and raiding the annual grape train. In Roslyn, WA in 1925, the local “ethnics” subsidize their meager coal-mining wages with bootleg alcohol made from California grapes. When Cuss’s older brothers must leave town due to an altercation with the mob, he finds himself confronted with the dilemma of staying in school or going to work to provide for his family. Cuss is an exceptional student, and his mother desperately wishes for him to go as far in school as possible. Just when he finally comes to a decision, the mines begin laying men off, and the search for work leads Cuss to attempt a drastic plan to runaway and find his brothers. Luckily, he changes his mind at the last minute and returns home to find that his dreams of pursuing his education may come true.

Because of the many different cultures represented in Roslyn, there is a strong theme of family devotion running throughout the story. Tied to that is the importance of religious faith. The somewhat unusual twist is Cuss’s tremendous love of school and learning while all his friends are eager to be finished with it. Humor helps propel the story, preventing too much sentimentality. The plot keeps the excitement level high. Fistfights, mobsters, train hopping, juvenile pranks, and of course, multilingual wisecracks provide variety and action. The uniqueness of this story makes it appealing and readable. Based on Franklin’s family stories, it is a historical perspective rarely presented.

Use this book when studying the 1920s to bring in a different perspective from the standard view of flappers, jazz, and economic abundance.

Study some of the historical happenings of the 1920s that have a major impact on the story, such as Prohibition and the emerging use of oil instead of coal for fuel. Discuss how such “far away” events can affect a little place like Roslyn.

Other historical fiction with similar settings and themes:
Curtis, Christopher Paul. BUD, NOT BUDDY. ISBN 0385323069
Holm, Jennifer L. OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA. ISBN 0060278226
Lowry, Lois. THE SILENT BOY. ISBN 0618282319

By Amy D. Picard

Thursday, April 22, 2004

From Me To You

France, Anthony. 2003. FROM ME TO YOU. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763622559 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

Rat has been having a string of miserable days, and this day is no exception. He mourns the fact that he never sees his friends, until he finds an anonymous letter in his mailbox extolling his virtues as a friend. Intrigued, he gets spruced up (something he hadn’t done recently) and goes out to check in with all his friends to see who may have written the mysterious letter. Along the way he gets to visit with and help out his various friends, forgetting for a moment about his own problems and realizing how long it had been since he’d interacted in this way.

Rat never definitively figures out who sent the letter, though he sees a couple of friends exchanging winks along the way. At the end they visit their friend Bat, who’s down in the dumps the way Rat had been at the beginning, so Rat decides to pass along the letter to brighten Bat’s day in the same way.

Children will enjoy following Rat’s trip to see all of his friends and keeping track of the mystery that pulled him out of his slump. The author’s imaginative turns of phrase, such as the description of Rat’s sullen mood at the beginning as “the bathrobe blues,” will also entertain them.

The impressionistic illustrations complement the story nicely, and whimsical details such as Frog’s teapot house and Mouse’s bed in a shoe will delight children as well.

Children can follow the example of Rat and his friends and write a “secret admirer” letter to a friend or family member. They can write and decorate the letters and mail them, then wait to see if the recipient can figure out the mystery.

Other picture books about friendship
Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad are Friends. ISBN 0060239573
Marshall, James. George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends. ISBN 0395851580
Stoddard, Sandol. I Like You. ISBN 0395071763

By Shannon McGregor

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Florian, Douglas. 2003. AUTUMNBLINGS. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060092793 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-5]

This collection of seasonal poems by Douglas Florian contains various rhymes and reasons for loving fall. “Weather” it be the chill in the air or the “fall”-ing of the leaves, there is much to love about this time of year. Or not love, as the case may be in “What I Hate About Autumn:” “Summer’s done/Not much sun/Back to school/Air’s too cool….”

The text and illustration add to wry humor of the poems by using printed plays on words. This is a book that will lose some meaning if only read aloud! Write these poems down on the chalkboard! These poems need to be seen in order to be fully appreciated for their wit. The illustrations compliment the book using rough-hewn outlines. The heavy color adds further to the feeling of fall. AUTUMNBLINGS is a great book to have and hold and read aloud to help celebrate this colorful season.

This book would be a fun way to include poetry in your everyday classroom activities. There are 48 poems that can see you through a poem a day for most of the fall.

Many of the poems included in this book are visual. The pun of the poem “Symmetree” would be lost if it were only read aloud. Posting these poems around the class would bring the poem to life in print format and allow the subtle play of words shine through.

Other seasonal books by Douglas Florian:
WINTER EYES. ISBN 0688164587

By Marianne Follis

Sunday, April 18, 2004


Fleming, Denise. 2003. BUSTER. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0805062793 [Suggested Grade Levels: PreK-Grade 2].

Buster has a great life. His food dish is personalized, he has a big backyard that he can get to anytime he wants through the in-and-out door installed especially for him, and his owner, Brown Shoes, takes him walking in the park anytime he wants to go. It is a dog’s life! Life couldn’t be better for Buster! However, things change when Betty comes into his life unexpectedly. Betty, a fluffy white kitten who arrives one day in a big box, tries to make friends with Buster, but he is terrified of cats and wants nothing to do with her. Thinking that if he just ignores her, Betty will go away, Buster runs away from home when Betty continues to stay around. The lovely day Buster has on his own takes a frightening turn when he cannot remember how to get home, and then Betty comes to his rescue.

Fleming does an incredible job showcasing her trademark artwork, created from handmade paper, vibrantly colored. The personalities of the characters are captured through Fleming’s use of expressive facial features and lively body language. The way that this book is divided into six short titled sections creates the feel of a chapter book within a picture book, moving the action of the story along at a fast pace, along with the repetitive text, entices emergent readers to sit down and read this book on their own. The eagle-eye map that is included, highlighting Buster’s route from the park home is fun to follow and provides practice with map skills. This is a book that works well as a read-alone or a read-aloud.

Create an obstacle course to follow, similar to Buster’s journey home from the park.
Create a map showing the area around your neighborhood.
Write a sequel to the story. What is the next adventure for Buster and Betty?
Create a venn diagram of the similarities and differences between cats and dogs.
Learn about the responsibility of having a pet.

Other books about dogs and cats:
Boynton, Sandra. DOGGIES. ISBN 0671493183.
Price, Matthew. PATCH FINDS A FRIEND. Illustrated by Emma Clark. ISBN 0531302644.
Robertus, Polly M. THE DOG WHO HAD KITTENS. Illustrated by Janet Stevens. ISBN 0823409740.
Spires, Elizabeth. THE BIG MEOW. Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar. ISBN 0763606790.
Other books about maps:
Chesanow, Neil. WHERE DO I LIVE? Illustrated by Ann Iosa. ISBN 0812092414.
Leedy, Loreen. MAPPING PENNY’S WORLD. ISBN 0805061789.
Other books by Denise Fleming that could be compared to this one:

By Kirsten Murphy

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Hollow Kingdom

Dunkle, Clare B. 2003. THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC. ISBN 0805073906 [Suggested Grade Levels 7 and Up]

This story begins with a historical fiction premise: the setting is 19th century England, and orphan sisters Kate and Emily are moving to stay with their great-aunts and near their guardian cousin Hugh at Hallow Hill, the family estate. Very quickly they realize that something is out of place: Kate especially has the feeling of being watched and senses that something isn’t right. Soon she encounters Marak, the Goblin King; it is here that the story begins to take a more fantastic turn. She discovers that Marak’s purpose is to steal a bride per goblin tradition and sire an heir to the goblin kingdom. Kate is scared and disgusted by this abnormal creature, but through him she learns about various other races (goblins, dwarves, elves) and discovers that she is half elf herself.

Kate’s opinion of Marak begins to shift when events with her guardian Hugh unfold. Hugh thinks that Kate is going insane and kidnaps her sister Emily, but Marak and his cronies use sympathetic magic to help her, after Kate promises herself in marriage to him.
From this point the story turns from semi-reality to utter fantasy as Kate goes to live in the goblin realm under the hill. The marriage ceremony is described in full detail, as is the world of the goblins; readers can easily envision this created kingdom. It takes some adjustment for Kate to get used to her new life; she has nightmares in the beginning, which Marak soothes, making Kate warm to him more.

Kate eventually returns the favor for Marak’s help with Emily by saving him and his minions from a spirit-stealing sorcerer who tries to turn Marak against her. Kate breaks the sorcerer’s spell by telling Marak that she’s to bear his heir. At the end of the story she bears the future goblin king, and the stage is set for a future story of this amazing world.

This book contains elements of both historical fiction and fantasy. Readers will love learning more about the fascinating world under the hill, and about the different races of fantasy characters. The author does a fine job of differentiating the traits, strengths and weaknesses of each of the magical races, so it isn’t hard for readers (even those not overly familiar with fantasy writing) to see the differences and the purposes of each.

Children could create their own race of fantasy characters, assigning traits, customs and characteristics unique to them. Illustrations of their world or kingdom could supplement the written descriptions.

Other books containing elements of magic and/or fantasy races
Jones, Diana Wynne. The Merlin Conspiracy. ISBN 0060523182
Pattou, Edith. East. ISBN 0152045635
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. ISBN 0261103288
By Shannon McGregor

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Where is My Mommy?

Downing, Julie. 2003. WHERE IS MY MOMMY? New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0688178243 [Suggested Ages 3-7]

In this endearing storybook, adorable little animals ask the same question, “Where is my Mommy?” From a sleeping bunny, a timid skunk, three melodic blue birds, a frightened squirrel, a mischievous dog, a frisky kitten, and a playful toddler, all nine engage in a tender moment with their mothers. Common animals are easily identifiable and children will enjoy the anticipation of turning each page to discover the next baby animal and its mother.

Charming and soft illustrations create a soothing and engaging atmosphere for children to enjoy. This lovely and tender storybook will give children the reassurance of mommy’s love each time the story is read. The broad, white spread pages with only the words, “Where is my Mommy?” leave the reader with a peaceful expectancy. Downing has effectively created a welcomed answer to every child’s question in breathtakingly beautiful scenes of mother and child, which creates a serene, safe, and cozy feeling. Children will linger over the short phrases and the large font mingled into the delightful artwork. This book is a wonderful bedtime choice.

Downing’s WHERE IS MY MOMMY? offers young children opportunities for active participation and response. Young children might discuss what they know about the different animals showcased and make the appropriate sounds of each animal. Discussion about the differences in a domestic animal versus an undomesticated one could be beneficial. Not all children might understand the possible dangers when playing with a baby skunk or squirrel.

Activities can be developed to help children pair baby animals with their mothers. A counting game would be fun (e.g. first just count the babies and then count the mothers and follow with counting all of the animals). They might enjoy a read aloud of related books.

Other books that invoke a nurturing and cozy feeling between a baby and its mother:
Fox, Mem. TIME FOR BED. ISBN 0152881832
Munsch, Robert. LOVE YOU FOREVER. ISBN 0920668372
Tafuri, Nancy. I LOVE YOU, LITTLE ONE. ISBN 0590921592

By Rita Pickett

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A Northern Light

Donnell, Jennifer. 2003. A NORTHERN LIGHT. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0803727356 [Suggested Grade Levels 7 and up]

Undecided about whether she should attend college and be a writer against the wishes of her father and boyfriend, sixteen-year-old Mattie takes a job at a hotel where the death of a guest renews her determination to live her own life.

Donnell sets this ambitious coming-of-age historical novel in upstate New York in 1906, and she chooses as a backdrop a story which includes the murder of a pregnant young woman (the same true crime story that inspired Dreiser's An American Tragedy). The story unfolds as Mattie, a waitress at an Adirondack hotel, shares the events of the day that the body of a young hotel guest is discovered. As she learns Brown's story, her narrative shifts between the goings-on at the hotel and her previous year at home: her relationship with her harsh, remote father; her obligation to care for her younger siblings; her pain at being forbidden to accept a college scholarship which will take her away from home. A true lover of learning and language, Mattie chooses to begin the chapters that are told in flashback with a “word of the day”, which she seeks out from a dictionary with hopes of improving herself. Donnell’s attention to the secondary characters is notable; they are well developed and help strengthen the work as well as reflect the limited choices available to women and people of color at that time. Though Mattie ultimately realizes she cannot live her life for others, her heart breaks with the guilt she must carry, and her pain is poignantly portrayed.

Teens could research the 1906 case using both the related books listed as well as primary source documents. From this research, they could script a scene from the trial from either the perspective of the prosecuting attorney or the defense attorney.

Other stories about the Grace Brown murder:
Dreiser, Theodore. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. ISBN 1931082316
Grunwald, Lisa. LETTERS OF THE CENTURY: 1900-1999. ISBN 0385315902

By Rose Brock

Monday, April 12, 2004

Dog's Noisy Day: A Story to Read Aloud

Dodd, Emma. 2003. DOG’S NOISY DAY: A Story to Read Aloud. New York: Dutton Children’s Books. ISBN 0525470158 [Suggested Grade Levels Preschool-Kindergarten]

Dog wakes up and hears a bird singing. His whole day consists of exploring the farm and listening to all the different noises. The rooster goes, “COCK-A-DOODLE-DO.” Dog tries to imitate the rooster’s crow but does not succeed. All the animals from the cow to the bumblebee have their own unique sound. At the end of the day, all his friends say goodbye in their own way. Dog eats dinner and goes to bed. However, he hears a new sound.

The text is in bold letters which makes it easy to read. Since the animal sounds are in capital letters, that makes it easy for kids to join in the reading. The pictures consist of simple shapes that are filled in with bright colors. She used a mixture of traditional drawing and digitally applied color. All the illustrations are so vivid that they could almost tell the story on their own. Dog’s wide eyes and big grin confirm his enthusiasm and curiosity. Dog is like a small child that is exploring the world around him.

The kids could reenact the book by making the sounds. Each child can imitate a different animal. Someone could also do the banging of the spoon on the plate.

Other stories about animal sounds:
Fleming, Denise. BARNYARD BANTER BOARD BOOK. ISBN 0805065946
Hort, Kenny. THE SEALS ON THE BUS. ISBN 0805059520

Other books by Dodd that could compared to this one:

By Christine Cortez

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Tale of Despereaux

DiCamillo, Kate. 2003. THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Ill. by Timothy Ering. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763617229 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-5]

This is a story of a mouse that is in love with music, books, and a princess. Despereaux was born to Lester and Antoinette Mouse and the only one of the litter to survive. But with his looks, his parents fear Despereaux will not survive. He is the only mouse to ever be born with his eyes wide open and his ears, according to his Uncle Alfred, as large as that of a donkey’s. Other than his uncanny appearance, Despereaux is extraordinary in other aspects. As he ventures out into the castle, he discovers his supernatural ability to read. He reads a wonderful story about a beautiful princess and wishes to find a princess of his own. As he reads the story, he hears a sound that entices his senses. He draws near the sound until he is sitting at the feet of the king playing his guitar. The music is enchanting and hypnotic to Despereaux. But as hypnotic as the music is, Despereaux’s trance is broken by the beauty of Princess Pea. Despereaux falls deeply in love with the princess and speaks to her, which causes him to be ex-communicated from his mouse community and thrown into the rat-infested dungeon of darkness. It is in this dungeon that Despereaux becomes a mighty mouse, saves the soul of the peasant girl, Mia, and the life of Princess Pea.

Kate DiCamillo has created two previous works of art, THE TIGER RISING, a National Honor Book Award Finalist, and BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, a Newberry Honor Book. THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX should win her the Newberry Book of the Year. The simple elements of this book a mouse, a thread, and a girl, make for a fast turning page thriller. All who read Despereaux’s story will be enchanted by the teeny creature with tremendous spirit and courage. Timothy Erigs frolicsome illustrations add to the conflict that builds between the characters.

Children will draw and label portraits of each of the characters in the book, and discuss how all of them are connected.

Children will discuss how looking or being different from others makes a person special.

Other stories about brave mice:
Avi. POPPY. ISBN 0531087832
Hoeye, Michael. TIME STOPS FOR NO MOUSE. ISBN 0698119916
King-Smith, Dick THE SCHOOL MOUSE. ISBN 0786811560

By Jill Howell

Thursday, April 8, 2004

The City of Ember

In Jeanne De Prau’s riveting debut, the city of Ember and its inhabitants stand at a crossroads as the 241-year-old city’s antiquated electrical grid threatens to plummet them into obscurity forever. Flickering lights and serious food shortages are constant reminders of their impending doom. It was not what the “Builders” envisioned for their children hundreds of years before, but the map they had placed in a locked box outlining an escape route has vanished. As in THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, the twelve year olds receive assignments. Lina and Doon, the futuristic protagonists, realize that serving in their “assigned” positions will enable them to pool their wits and energies and save their beloved city. Working through human flaws of pride and contrariness and deciding to work together as a team, they find fragments of the map and are able to piece together enough information to find a way out. Fighting greedy, corrupt governmental officials, Lina and Doon locate a cave surrounded by a river filled with boats, and after a scary and frightening journey emerge into another world and witness their first sunrise. De Prau has eloquently left a possibility for a sequel. The triumphant conclusion will leave readers clamoring for more.

Powerfully written and thought provoking, this survival story with its realistic writing style will find a memorable place in the hearts and minds of fantasy lovers. De Prau’s unforgettable and stunning visual imagery and her vivid characterizations make this novel more than just another subterranean adventure. The barrage of imagination that springs out of this novel will invite readers to muse on the “what ifs” long afterwards. De Prau’s ability to convey a message that individuals need to be vitally aware of their freedoms and their interdependence on each other is poignantly accomplished.

Readers could discuss the effects of a national blackout. They can research the strengths and weaknesses of our national electrical grid and of other countries around the world. A science unit dealing with the issues of a failed electrical grid would be effective in posing questions and opening discussions about possible solutions. Also, eliminating the vulnerability of such a catastrophe would be a beneficial thread to discuss.

Books that deal with other worlds and our interdependence on each other:
Chabon, Michael. SUMMERLANDS. ISBN 0786808772
Funke, Cornelia. THE THIEF LORD. ISBN 0439404371
Lowry, Lois. THE GIVER. ISBN 0395645662
Nix, Garth. SABRIEL. ISBN 0064471837

By Rita Pickett