Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“The Sittin’ Up” by Shelia P. Moses May 31, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:22 am
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Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

240 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Mr. Bro. Wiley, the last man living in Low Meadows who was born into slavery, takes his last breath. Twelve-year-old Bean, who loves him just like everyone else in Low Meadows, looks on with his heart breaking. Then, it is time for the community to grieve and to prepare for the sittin’ up, the night they will spend together with Mr. Bro. Wiley’s body before the funeral.

Review

Set in 1940, this quiet book explores a crucial pivot point in a community’s history. Mr. Bro. Wiley is a deeply beloved elder who was born a slave to the Wiley family. Freed by the Civil War, he has provided wisdom and leadership to the black community that transitioned from slaves on the Wiley plantation to sharecroppers for the Wiley family. When Mr. Bro. Wiley dies, 12-year-old Bean tells the story of a community that grieves, mixing in keen observation about the shifting dynamic between the black and white communities. He sees how the world is changing as two black families have settled into Rich Square in town and as Bean and his best friend, Pole, plan a future far away from sharecropping as a lawyer and a doctor. As the days march toward Mr. Bro. Wiley’s final homecoming, for the ritual of sittin’ up with the body at home on the final night before the funeral, a weather system is also moving in which will force the residents of Low Meadows and Rich Square together in a whole new way.

While there is not much action in The Sittin’ Up, Bean is quite a storyteller. His perspective on life and the changing racial dynamics in his community are riveting. It is a gentle middle grade introduction to what changed – and what didn’t – in the South in the post-Civil War era.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Many middle school classrooms during school visits
  • Middle grade teachers looking for diverse books to share with students
  • Younger teens interested in realistic or historical fiction
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“Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice” by Phillip Hoose March 1, 2013

Claudette Colvin cover

Images courtesy of GoodRead.com

The Facts

133 pages; published January 2009

The Basics

Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin, a teenager in Montgomery, Alabama angry about the systematic mistreatment of blacks. One day, she just plain refused to give her up seat on a bus to a white passenger. She was arrested and hauled bodily off the bus, all the while screaming, “It’s my constitutional right!” Her actions sparked the flame that eventually led to Rosa Parks’ more famous bus stand-off and to the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott that rocketed Martin Luther King Jr. to a national civil rights platform.

Booktalk

Have you ever been so sure you’re right that you would be willing to be hurt – maybe even die – for an idea? Claudette Colvin was only 15 years old when she took a stand. You see, in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, if you were black and riding a bus, there was an expectation. That expectation was that you would never sit in any of the first 10 seats on the bus and that – if those 10 seats were already full of white people and another white person got on – well, you and all the other black people sitting in the row they wanted would have to give up your seats. That was how they did things under Jim Crow in the South, when they tried to keep black people separated from white people and give black people less at every turn.

So, there was Claudette Colvin – 15 years old – sure it was wrong. So, one day, a white lady got on her bus and Claudette didn’t give up her seat. It was a big deal. She was hauled off the bus, arrested, mistreated, called names, threatened – even some of the people in her own community were against her.

A while later, Rosa Parks did the same thing and got herself in trouble in order to spark the Bus Boycott that led to the Civil Rights Movement and changed a lot of things in the South. But there was Claudette Colvin again. In order to end that bus boycott, a lawyer filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who had been arrested on Montgomery buses. Although she knew people might want to hurt – or even kill – her for it, Claudette Colvin put herself on the line again for what was right and agreed to testify.

Would you have the courage to do what she did?

Random Thoughts

Phillip Hoose does an excellent job of exploring Claudette Colvin’s story and placing in context for readers who may have little experience with bald racism and segregationist policies. Colvin is not a saintly or perfect subject. She had some rough times and awkward elements that had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement, but he doesn’t pull punches and handles the material very well.

In Her Words …

“Back then, as a teenager, I kept thinking, Why don’t the adult around here just say something? Say it so they know we don’t accept segregation? I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.”

Awards and Honors (from http://www.GoodReads.com)

  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2009)
  • Newbery Honor (2010)
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2009)
  • Cybils Award Nominee for Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-Fiction (2009)
  • Sibert Honor (2010)
  • An ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers (2010)
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2011)
  • YALSA Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults Nominee (2010)
 

“Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow November 25, 2011

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. New York: Tor, 2008. 365 pp. ISBN: 0765319853

Little Brother cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

Annotation:

Seventeen-year-old Marcus Yallow is accused, tortured, and targeted by the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack rips throughSan Francisco. Innocent and angry, he finds his techno-geek hacker skills and personal convictions lead him into a showdown in the name of freedom he never could have imagined.

Booktalk:

I have a question for you – what is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

We all have moments when we’re brave, but I’m here to say that none of you has ever been as brave as Marcus Yallow is about to be.

Five days ago, Marcus’ city was attacked by terrorists. Thousands died. Marcus – a techno-geek hacker who was skipping school to play an Internet game – was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was arrested. He was tortured. Now, he has been returned home and they’re tracking his every move.

They’re tracking everyone’s every move. The Department of Homeland Security is tapping phones, filming, and listening in every way they can. They’re pulling people over. Shaking people down. Making some disappear. Marcus finds himself driven by the words of the Declaration of Independence.

“Government are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

A solemn vow drives Marcus to declare a war of his own – on invasion of privacy, on intimidation, and on threats to freedom. Ignoring his fears about being tortured again – or worse – Marcus tunes up his tech tools and takes action.

Can you imagine it? What would it be like to fight against your own government to save the country you love?

Awards/Honors (source: http://us.macmillan.com/littlebrother/CoryDoctorow):

  •  Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
  • Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008)
  • John W. Campbell Memorial Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
  • Emperor Norton Award (2008)
  • Prometheus Award for Best Novel (2009)
  • Sakura Medal Nominee for High School Book (2010)
  • Florida Teen Read Nominee (2009)