Catalog Home Calendar Web Links Best Seller Lists News & Weather Online Databases

Featured Book Lists
Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog River, Cross My Heart
by Breena Clarke

Library Journal: YA-Set in Georgetown, this poignant coming-of-age story begins with the drowning death of six-year-old Clara Bynum. Johnnie May, at 12, was supposed to be minding her the morning the children went down to the river, knowing they were not allowed to play near it, much less swim in it. The Bynums had come to Washington, DC, from North Carolina looking for a better life, and life for the colored in Georgetown in the 1920s was better: plenty of work and good schools for the children. But Johnnie May's independent spirit causes trouble from the beginning. She is always asking why-why couldn't she swim in the pool on Volta Place, right across from Aunt Ina's house? Why does she always have to mind her little sister and clean up after her? Johnnie May is a natural leader, and "knowing her place" is a struggle. The story, which follows the Bynum family and friends in Georgetown for about a year, ends in triumph as Johnnie May wins a swim meet held in the new pool built for black people. Much of the book describes Johnnie May's relationships with her mother, her relatives, and her friends, painting a revealing picture of a river, a family, and a community.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publishers Weekly: Debut writer and Washington, D.C., native, Clarke has written a novel as lyric and alternately beguiling and confounding as its title. It is the story of the drowning of a six-year-old child, and the tragedy's ramifications for her family and neighbors in the black area of Georgetown in 1925 D.C. Clarke's scene-building skills are the novel's strengths and occasionally its weaknesses, as each chapter is an intense set piece that sometimes provokes more questions than answers. The story is ultimately that of the effects of Clara Bynum's death on her 12-year-old sister, Johnnie Mae, who was babysitting Clara at the time she fell into the river. Johnnie Mae suffers guilt, fear and loss, endures dreams, imaginings and confusion as she sees visions of her sister everywhere: in a trauma-stung classmate who wears braids like Clara's, and the vapor from a boiling pot of green beans that resembles her sister's face. Against a felt, poignant and meticulously detailed panorama of the African-American (then called "colored") community of Georgetown, Johnnie Mae struggles to find her bearings, to cope with institutional and family expectations, and with puberty and race. Johnnie Mae ultimately derives strength from her element, the water, as she becomes a talented swimmer, but her parents Alice and Willie struggle with inextinguishable grief. From the first vivid description of the Potomac, liquid elements provide themes and narrative tension in this plangent coming-of-age story, granting the reader a necessary, if temporary, distancing from the blunt fact of a dead child. Indeed, Clarke's research about African-American Georgetown in the early 20th century revisits a time and place as intricate as any, but so remote from most memories that the historical details are fascinating footnotes to an era. While authorial asides are sometimes intrusive, this is a haunting story. Agent, Cynthia Cannell.

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

...More

Sample List One
Click to search this book in our catalog Crispin, The Cross of Lead
by Avi

Book list Gr. 5^-9. In his fiftieth book, (see interview on p.1609) Avi sets his story in fourteenth-century England and introduces some of his most unforgettable characters--a 13-year-old orphan, seemingly without a name, and a huge, odd juggler named Bear. At first, the boy is known as Asta's Son, but when his mother dies, he learns from a priest that his name is really Crispin. He also quickly comes to realize that he is in grave trouble. John Acliffe, the steward of the manor, reveals himself to be Crispin's mortal enemy and declares the boy a "wolf's-head," which means he is anyone's prey. Clutching his only possession, a lead cross, Crispin flees his village into a vast new world of opportunity--and terror. At his lowest ebb, Crispin meets Bear and reluctantly swears an oath to be his servant. Yet Bear becomes much more than a master--he's Crispin's teacher, protector, and liberator. Avi builds an impressive backdrop for his arresting characters: a tense medieval world in which hostility against the landowners and their cruelties is increasing. There's also other nail-biting tension in the story that builds to a gripping, somewhat confusing ending, which finds Crispin, once weak, now strong. Readers may not understand every nuance of the political machinations that propel the story, but they will feel the shifting winds of change beginning to blow through a feudal society. --Ilene Cooper

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 6-9-As with Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice (Clarion, 1995), the power of a name is apparent in this novel set in 14th-century England. "Asta's son" is all the destitute, illiterate hero has ever been called, but after his mother dies, he learns that his given name is Crispin, and that he is in mortal danger. The local priest is murdered before he can tell him more about his background, and Aycliffe, the evil village steward for Lord Furnival, declares that the boy is a "wolf's head," less than human, and that he should be killed on sight. On the run, with nothing to sustain him but his faith in God, Crispin meets "Bear," a roving entertainer who has ties to an underground movement to improve living conditions for the common people. They make their way to Great Wexley, where Bear has clandestine meetings and Crispin hopes to escape from Aycliffe and his soldiers, who stalk him at every turn. Suspense heightens when the boy learns that the recently deceased Lord Furnival was his father and that Aycliffe is dead set on preventing him from claiming his title. To trap his prey, the villain captures Bear, and Crispin risks his life to save him. Avi has done an excellent job of integrating background and historical information, of pacing the plot so that the book is a page-turner from beginning to end, and of creating characters for whom readers will have great empathy. The result is a meticulously crafted story, full of adventure, mystery, and action.-Cheri Estes, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Gr. 5^-9. In his fiftieth book, (see interview on p.1609) Avi sets his story in fourteenth-century England and introduces some of his most unforgettable characters--a 13-year-old orphan, seemingly without a name, and a huge, odd juggler named Bear. At first, the boy is known as Asta's Son, but when his mother dies, he learns from a priest that his name is really Crispin. He also quickly comes to realize that he is in grave trouble. John Acliffe, the steward of the manor, reveals himself to be Crispin's mortal enemy and declares the boy a "wolf's-head," which means he is anyone's prey. Clutching his only possession, a lead cross, Crispin flees his village into a vast new world of opportunity--and terror. At his lowest ebb, Crispin meets Bear and reluctantly swears an oath to be his servant. Yet Bear becomes much more than a master--he's Crispin's teacher, protector, and liberator. Avi builds an impressive backdrop for his arresting characters: a tense medieval world in which hostility against the landowners and their cruelties is increasing. There's also other nail-biting tension in the story that builds to a gripping, somewhat confusing ending, which finds Crispin, once weak, now strong. Readers may not understand every nuance of the political machinations that propel the story, but they will feel the shifting winds of change beginning to blow through a feudal society. --Ilene Cooper

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 6-9-As with Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice (Clarion, 1995), the power of a name is apparent in this novel set in 14th-century England. "Asta's son" is all the destitute, illiterate hero has ever been called, but after his mother dies, he learns that his given name is Crispin, and that he is in mortal danger. The local priest is murdered before he can tell him more about his background, and Aycliffe, the evil village steward for Lord Furnival, declares that the boy is a "wolf's head," less than human, and that he should be killed on sight. On the run, with nothing to sustain him but his faith in God, Crispin meets "Bear," a roving entertainer who has ties to an underground movement to improve living conditions for the common people. They make their way to Great Wexley, where Bear has clandestine meetings and Crispin hopes to escape from Aycliffe and his soldiers, who stalk him at every turn. Suspense heightens when the boy learns that the recently deceased Lord Furnival was his father and that Aycliffe is dead set on preventing him from claiming his title. To trap his prey, the villain captures Bear, and Crispin risks his life to save him. Avi has done an excellent job of integrating background and historical information, of pacing the plot so that the book is a page-turner from beginning to end, and of creating characters for whom readers will have great empathy. The result is a meticulously crafted story, full of adventure, mystery, and action.-Cheri Estes, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

...More
Sample List Two
Click to search this book in our catalog How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff

Publishers Weekly This riveting first novel paints a frighteningly realistic picture of a world war breaking out in the 21st century. Told from the point of view of 15-year-old Manhattan native Daisy, the novel follows her arrival and her stay with cousins on a remote farm in England. Soon after Daisy settles into their farmhouse, her Aunt Penn becomes stranded in Oslo and terrorists invade and occupy England. Daisy's candid, intelligent narrative draws readers into her very private world, which appears almost utopian at first with no adult supervision (especially by contrast with her home life with her widowed father and his new wife). The heroine finds herself falling in love with cousin Edmond, and the author credibly creates a world in which social taboos are temporarily erased. When soldiers usurp the farm, they send the girls off separately from the boys, and Daisy becomes determined to keep herself and her youngest cousin, Piper, alive. Like the ripple effects of paranoia and panic in society, the changes within Daisy do not occur all at once, but they have dramatic effects. In the span of a few months, she goes from a self-centered, disgruntled teen to a courageous survivor motivated by love and compassion. How she comes to understand the effects the war has had on others provides the greatest evidence of her growth, as well as her motivation to get through to those who seem lost to war's consequences. Teens may feel that they have experienced a war themselves as they vicariously witness Daisy's worst nightmares. Like the heroine, readers will emerge from the rubble much shaken, a little wiser and with perhaps a greater sense of humanity. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

...More