Curriculum

Kids’ Books: Struggles of a Mayan Girl, and Tolerance Put to the Test

October 09, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

(Note: Links are to the publishers’ pages on featured books.)

The pursuit of knowledge and the anxieties renewed at the beginning of each school year are echoed in a number of recently published books for 8- to 12-year-olds. In Honeysuckle House (Front Street), by the prolific Andrea Cheng, a young girl tries to make sense of her best friend’s inexplicable departure and her father’s long absences. Sheri Gilbert’s The Legacy of Gloria Russell (Knopf) finds 12-year-old Billy James Wilkins grieving for his best friend after her unexpected death. He’s also looking for reasons, and he hopes to hear them from the town hermit, whom Gloria had recently befriended. And a clever, courageous teenager helps her grandmother “outsmart death” in Silvana Gandolfi’s Ald abra, or the Tortoise Who Loved Shakespeare (Arthur A. Levine), translated from the Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz.

The quest recounted in Ben Mikaelsen’s Tree Girl (HarperTempest) is based on that of a real-life Mayan native. In the novel, Gabí, a resident of Guatemala, watches helplessly as government and guerrilla soldiers plunder and destroy her village, leaving everyone for dead; she later discovers that her sister is among the living, many of whom hope to rebuild their community. Gary Paulsen, author of The Cookcamp, is someone who draws from his own past to create stories. In The Quilt (Wendy Lamb), his protagonist is now 6 years old and living with his grandmother in Minnesota while the men of the family fight overseas during World War II. Although his mother isn’t around much, “the boy” learns strength from the women of his extended family.

Aileen Kilgore Henderson’s Hard Times for Jake Smith (Milkweed) is set a decade earlier, during the Great Depression. The parents of MaryJake Wildsmith abandon their farm in search of a better life and compel their 12-year-old daughter to make her own way. But after disguising herself as a boy (hence the title), she’s able to reclaim her life—and her family. In David Almond’s The Fire-Eaters (Delacorte), Bobby Burns thinks himself a “lucky lad” and enjoys the simple pleasures and unusual characters of his quiet coastal town in northern England. His idyllic existence is threatened, however, by his enrollment in a brutal new school and the fears provoked by the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The threat of civil war pervades Fish (Delacorte), in which two aid workers and their young child, called Tiger, are forced to leave their adopted village. Author L.S. Matthews doesn’t reveal whether Tiger, the story’s narrator, is male or female or which ravaged country they’re fleeing, but the descriptions and the hardships endured are suggestive of contemporary Africa.

Looking toward the future, Helen Fox’s Eager (Wendy Lamb) features a new breed of robot that helps humans and makes them question what the word “alive” really means. And in The People of Sparks (Random House), Jeanne DuPrau’s sequel to The City of Ember, a community finds its tolerance tested after several hundred newcomers—refugees of unknown origin—arrive and attempt to assimilate themselves. Sounds a bit like the beginning of a new school year.

—Lani Harac

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Many Adults Did Not Learn Media Literacy Skills in High School. What Schools Can Do Now
Eighty-four percent of adults say they are on board with requiring media literacy in schools, according to a survey by Media Literacy Now.
4 min read
Image of someone reading news on their phone.
oatawa/iStock/Getty
Curriculum Is Your School Facing a Book Challenge? These Online Resources May Help
Book challenges are popping up with more frequency. Here are supports for teachers fighting censorship.
5 min read
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Amanda Darrow, the director of youth, family, and education programs at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Curriculum Q&A These Teachers' Book List Was Going to Be Restricted. Their Students Fought Back
The Central York district planned to restrict use of some materials last year. Here's how teachers and their students turned the tide.
8 min read
Deb Lambert, director of collection management for the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library for the past three years, looks over the books at the Library Services Center on Sept. 25, 2015. When a flap occurs at the library, the matter becomes the responsibility of Lambert.
More districts are seeking to restrict access to some books or remove them from classrooms and libraries altogether.
Charlie Nye/The Indianapolis Star via AP
Curriculum Sex Education: 4 Questions and Answers About the Latest Controversy
Why the touchy issue of sex education has erupted again, and what it means for schools.
4 min read
Image of condoms.
iStock/Getty