Tag Archives: war

Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson

Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson. January 15, 2019. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780399547614.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Forced to become a child soldier, a sixteen-year-old Somali refugee must confront his painful past in this haunting, thrilling tale of loss and redemption for fans of A Long Way Gone and What is the What 

When Abdi’s family is kidnapped, he’s forced to do the unthinkable: become a child soldier with the ruthless jihadi group Al Shabaab. In order to save the lives of those he loves, and earn their freedom, Abdi agrees to be embedded as a spy within the militia’s ranks and to send dispatches on their plans to the Americans. The jihadists trust Abdi immediately because his older brother, Dahir, is already one of them, protégé to General Idris, aka the Butcher. If Abdi’s duplicity is discovered, he will be killed.

For weeks, Abdi trains with them, witnessing atrocity after atrocity, becoming a monster himself, wondering if he’s even pretending anymore. He only escapes after he is forced into a suicide bomber’s vest, which still leaves him stumps where two of his fingers used to be and his brother near death. Eventually, he finds himself on the streets of Sangui City, Kenya, stealing what he can find to get by, sleeping nights in empty alleyways, wondering what’s become of the family that was stolen from him. But everything changes when Abdi’s picked up for a petty theft, which sets into motion a chain reaction that forces him to reckon with a past he’s been trying to forget.

In this riveting, unflinching tale of sacrifice and hope, critically-acclaimed author Natalie C. Anderson delivers another tour-de-force that will leave readers at the edge of their seats.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Violence, Torture

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
Abdi’s feelings of guilt begin when his brother Dahir is kidnapped by the jihadi group Al Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia, and he believes it is his fault. When American government operatives capture Abdi and his family and offer him a deal—their freedom in exchange for his infiltrating Al Shabaab—he believes he hasn’t much choice. Dahir has risen in the ranks, making Abdi useful to those hunting the group’s leaders. Abdi’s account shifts between his time undercover and his present in Sangui City, Kenya, following his escape. Sam, a white American working with the United Nations who is grappling with her own guilt over leaving a Christian cult, meets Abdi and finds him a place in a refugee girls’ boarding school by day, allowing him to sleep in her spare room. News of a possible placement in a foster family triggers an emotional deluge in which Abdi reveals all he’s been through. In a dramatic climax, Abdi must decide whether family and trust will triumph over fear. At times the dialogue between Sam and Abdi feels fanciful and the story drags with unnecessary detail, with some characters feeling underdeveloped. However, this is a riveting account of young people living through violence which successfully illustrates the nuance of intent among the jihadi fighters. Greed, guilt, and redemption are layered in a sober yet tender narrative showing the lengths one will go to for loved ones. (Fiction. 14-18)

School Library Journal (January 1, 2019)
Gr 7 Up-Abdi is just 12 years old when his older brother Dahir is kidnapped by Al Shaabab, an infamous Somali militia. Abdi feels guilty knowing that he might be the reason his brother was captured. Three years later, Abdi and his remaining family members are kidnapped by African Union Mission in Somalia. AMISOM is a collaborative effort between U.S. forces and the Somali army. After being brutally beaten by AMISOM soldiers for days, Abdi is brought before Mr. Jones, an American government official. Mr. Jones tells Abdi that Dahir is alive and is now a commander in Al Shaabab’s militia. Mr. Jones offers the possibility for a new life for Abdi and his family in exchange for his infiltration of Al Shaabab’s army. Abdi agrees, believing that with luck, he might save his family and his brother. Abdi infiltrates Al Shaabab only to learn that Dahir has been brainwashed completely. Abdi’s rescue attempt goes awry and he is forced to hideout in a refugee home for girls. The relationship he builds with the girls and his social worker slowly helps Abdi to remember who he is. An intriguing examination of ways familial loyalty and guilt can lead anyone to make desperate choices. Anderson uses the exploration of manipulation and coercion to craft a thought-provoking narrative.

About the Author

Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

Her website is www.nataliecanderson.com.

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The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb

The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century by Neal Bascomb. September 25, 2018. Arthur A. Levine Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9781338140347.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1070.

At the height of World War I, as Allied and German forces battled in the trenches and in the air, any captured soldiers and pilots were sent to a web of German prisons. The most dangerous POWs, the ones most talented at escape, were sent to the camp of Holzminden–better known as “Hellminden.” Protected by every barrier imaginable, its rules enforced with cruel precision, the prison was the pride of a ruthless commandant named Karl Niemeyer.

This is the story of a group of ingenious and defiant Allied pilots and soldiers who dared to escape from Holzminden, right under Niemeyer’s nose. Leading a team that tunneled underneath the prison and far beyond its walls, these breakout artists forged documents, smuggled in supplies, and bribed guards. Twice the tunnel was almost exposed, and the whole plan foiled. But in the end, a group of ten POWs escaped and made it out of enemy territory in the biggest breakout of WWI, which inspired their countrymen in the darkest hours of the war

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 7-10. It is estimated that during WWI there were some 192,848 British and Empire POWs held in Germany. Here Bascomb recounts some of their stories of prison camp life, escape, recapture, and escape again. The most talented and persistent of these escape artists were sent to the Holzminden camp under the command of the vile Karl Niemeyer. Spurred on, perhaps in part, by his depredations, a core group of POWs determined to escape by tunneling out of the camp. Ultimately their nine-foot-deep tunnel extended more than 60 feet and offered escape to 29 POWs. But this was only the first part of their quest for freedom. They still had to traverse 150 miles across enemy territory to Holland and freedom. Bascomb does an extraordinary job of bringing the principal escapees to life, especially the “father of the tunnel,” David Gray, and his two companions, Cecil Blain and Caspar Kennard. His account of the Herculean task of digging the tunnel is fascinating, viscerally evoking the claustrophobic act. He also invests his account with page-turning suspense and colorful detail. The narrative is enhanced by the inclusion of generous period photographs and contemporary maps and charts. Altogether, the book is a marvel of research and an example of narrative nonfiction at its finest. It’s a grand adventure.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2018)
Allied prisoners of war stage a series of intrepid escapes from German captors in this young readers’ version of a true story from World War I. Established to hold captured Allied officers with histories of escape attempts, the camp at Holzminden, a “land-locked Alcatraz,” was 150 miles from the Dutch border and bristling with guards. Many of the inmates, though, were stimulated rather than discouraged by these obstacles and, from its foundation, made tries at freedom—most notably on the night of July 23, 1918, when 29 men crawled out through a narrow tunnel dug over the previous months. Only 10 eluded the ensuing manhunt, but the exploit made headlines in Great Britain and was, Bascomb (The Escape Artists, 2018, etc.) claims, “the greatest escape of the Great War.” Along with introducing a cast of colorful characters like RAF Lt. Harold Medlicott, “Britain’s answer to Harry Houdini,” who had already broken out of nine other camps, the author presents a picture of camp life as an oddly civilized affair in which the prisoners were so well-supplied from home that in the war’s immediate aftermath local residents came to them for food. The tales of the digging of the cramped tunnel and of the escape itself make suspenseful reading, enhanced by diagrams and photographs. A fine escapade related with proper drama and likely to be news even to well-read young historians. (maps, sources, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Neal Bascomb is a national award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of a number of books, all non-fiction narratives, all focused on inspiring stories of adventure or achievement. His work has been translated into over 18 languages, featured in several documentaries, and optioned for major film and television projects.

Born in Colorado and raised in St. Louis, he is the product of public school and lots of time playing hockey. He earned a double degree in Economics and English Literature at Miami University (Ohio), lived in Europe for several years as a journalist (London, Dublin, and Paris), and worked as an editor at St. Martin’s Press (New York). In 2000, he started writing books full time.

An avid hiker, skier, and coffee drinker, he is happily settled in Seattle, Washington with his family.

His website is www.nealbascomb.com.

Teacher Resources

The Grand Escape Discussion Guide

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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy. February 6, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544785076.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 560.

At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.   Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. “In my lifetime, we have barely had any peace,” says 11-year-old Ali Fadhil as he braces for the impact of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, the second war he’s weathered in his short life. Ali loves the West and it’s many offerings: comic books, TV shows, and video games. He doesn’t love Saddam, Saddam’s war, or having to put life on hold while coalition forces strike Basra, Ali’s beloved, ancient hometown. Of course, Ali knows better than to criticize the dictator publicly or risk his family’s harm. Armed with a brisk first-person narrative, Roy (Yellow Star, 2006) captures Fadhil’s real-life recollections of the Gulf War. What strikes are the mundane aspects of the brief war: going out to play and explore a familiar but ruined neighborhood, the boredom and fear of awaiting scheduled airstrikes, living with uncertainty about loved ones returning home. Still, there’s room for optimism and humor despite Fadhil’s harrowing experience. Roy ends with Fadhil’s third war, and his role in bringing Saddam to justice is the poetic finale of a personal fight.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
Ali’s hometown of Basra, Iraq, is near the border with Kuwait, which makes it a dangerous place to live in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm.Eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil is a fan of American television and Superman comic books. He loves English class and playing football (soccer) with his friends. His Christian, Kurdish family’s affluent lifestyle is interrupted when a coalition of countries initiates military action to stop Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Because of the war, Ali’s father is away, bombs fall daily, and Ali sleeps in “the safe room” with his mother and siblings. The food supply is cut off, so the family depends on government rations once their own stores run out. When his older brother, Shirzad, is appointed head of the family in his father’s absence and his mother begins burning his precious comic collection for heat, Ali has nearly all he can handle. Based on co-author Fadhil’s own childhood, the novel reads somewhat like a journal, detailing scenes in the neighborhood and changes to daily life, but as is often the case with real life, it lacks a solid climax and resolution. While Ali’s voice and emotional life lack the vitality that would draw readers in to the story, the snapshot of his society at war is strong, and there are very few children’s books in English with Kurdish protagonists. A well-researched piece of historical fiction, just a bit flat as a novel. (Historical fiction. 8-13)

About the Author

Jennifer Roy is the author of the highly acclaimed Yellow Star, which won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, was an ALA Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, and a NYPL Top Book. She is also the author of Cordially Uninvited and Mindblind and the coauthor of the Trading Faces series.

Her website is www.jenniferroy.com.

Teacher Resources

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein Teacher’s Guide

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Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai. January 2, 2018. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9781481472173.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

Nadia’s family is forced to flee their home in Aleppo, Syria, when the Arab Spring sparks a civil war in this timely coming-of-age novel from award-winning author N.H. Senzai.

Silver and gold balloons. A birthday cake covered in pink roses. A new dress. 

Nadia stands at the center of attention in her parents’ elegant dining room. This is the best day of my life, she thinks. Everyone is about to sing “Happy Birthday,” when her uncle calls from the living room, “Baba, brothers, you need to see this.” Reluctantly, she follows her family into the other room. On TV, a reporter stands near an overturned vegetable cart on a dusty street. Beside it is a mound of smoldering ashes. The reporter explains that a vegetable vendor in the city of Tunis burned himself alive, protesting corrupt government officials who have been harassing his business. Nadia frowns.

It is December 17, 2010: Nadia’s twelfth birthday and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Soon anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and, one by one, countries are thrown into turmoil. As civil war flares in Syria and bombs fall across Nadia’s home city of Aleppo, her family decides to flee to safety. Inspired by current events, this novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Animal cruelty, Harsh realities of wars

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 4-7. Nadia is enjoying the best day of her life as her friends and loved ones are gathered around her, ready to sing “Happy Birthday,” when news arrives of Mohamed Bouazizi, a young man who set himself on fire to protest harassment and corruption of government officials in Tunisia. Nadia is not aware, but the elders in her family look on as the protests of the Tunisian Revolution begin to grow and spread into the Arab Spring, which soon finds its way to Nadia’s doorstep. As her family attempts to flee to Turkey and reunite with her father, their home is bombed and Nadia is left behind. With her cat, Mishmish, and the help of an old, mysterious man—Ammo Mazen—Nadia begins the journey. Flashbacks of Nadia’s life before the war are interspersed with those detailing her struggles to find her father. Nadia gains courage and trust throughout her journey, thanks to her companions, all while struggling to understand why there is such sadness and unfairness in this world. Filled with kindness and hope, but also with the harsh realities of the horrors of war, this heartbreaking book is a necessary reminder of what many people live through every day.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2017)
Senzai (Ticket to India, 2015, etc.) tells the story of 14-year-old Nadia’s narrow escape from the ancient city of Aleppo in war-torn Syria as she desperately seeks her family, who accidentally left her behind.Two years into Syria’s civil war, the many armed rebel groups and the government forces are descending on Aleppo. Traumatized since her bomb injury, Nadia is pulled from under her bed as her family prepares to leave their home for a safer place. Although a relative has been assigned to monitor her, another bomb falls as they are exiting, and in the confusion, Nadia is left behind. Now she must recover from the shock and rely on her instincts, a seemingly kind old man she meets, and, ultimately, her own intelligence to make it out of Aleppo alive and find her family at the Turkish border. All of this she manages to do in fairly short order, with a series of rather abrupt changes in her psychological state. Through Nadia’s conversations with other characters and through extensive exposition, readers learn about the impressively vast and complex history of Aleppo and of Syria. The Arab Spring is also treated in detail. Nadia’s flashbacks give insight to life under dictatorship and the drastic changes introduced by war. Arabic words are italicized once, then printed in Roman type. Despite narrative hitches, a valuable introduction to the issues plaguing modern Syria and the costs of war in historically rich locales. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

N.H. Senzai is the author of Shooting Kabul, which was critically acclaimed and on numerous award lists. Publishers Weekly called it “hard hitting, emotionally wrenching.” Her second book, Saving Kabul Corner, was nominated for an Edgar Award. She is also the author of Ticket to India and Escape from Aleppo.

Ms. Senzai lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. Her website is www.nhsenzai.com.

Teacher Resources

Escape from Aleppo Reading Group Guide

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Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz. October 3, 2017. HarperTeen, 376 p. ISBN: 9780062642745.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Smoking, Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 8-11. Based on true events and figures from WWII, Katz’s novel offers a fictional tale of a Russian airwoman called Valka and her childhood friend Pasha and how their lives are disrupted by the war. Kind, peace-loving Pasha is sent to a war-hungry veteran commander as a radio operator, while Valka eventually becomes one of the famous Night Witches, supremely successful regiments of all-women pilots, stealthily flying over enemy lines each night to drop bombs in strategic places. Pasha and Valka’s steady stream of letters—which become increasingly desperate as they’re both moved closer and closer to the front lines and, miraculously, each other—is what ultimately gets them through the war. Katz’s debut doesn’t skimp on the terrible realities of war, as described in Valka’s first-person narrative and the intermittent letters between the two characters, and she nicely weaves historical events through the fictional narrative. This beautiful, emotional entry into a key moment in Russian history will appeal to lovers of adventure novels, as well as historical fiction fans.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Katz’s highly readable novel offers an entry into the story of the Soviet Union’s famed WWII squadrons of airwomen, the “Night Witches.” An accomplished pilot of a quirky, unreliable small plane, Valka leaps at the chance to sign up for the Motherland’s first all-women fighter and bomber regiments. Soon she’s operating as a bomber pilot, assigned to one of the slow, low-flying planes used for night attacks, with her beloved cousin Iskra as her navigator. Nazi fire, terrible weather, darkness, the loss of comrades, even commands to bomb their own countrymen all come into play, exercising Valka’s aeronautical and emotional resources with dramatic effect. Most notably, though, Valka worries about her sweetheart Pasha in the infantry; when the chance comes to save him, she commits treason to do so. Katz is skillfully informative, interweaving historical figures and facts without losing emotional propulsion and suspense; at the same time, she opts to stretch credulity with an expansive correspondence between Valka and Pasha, the chattiness of which would have seriously endangered their comrades, and whose liberality with locations shows a naive–or incredible–disregard of the censors. But that very correspondence is part of what makes this story accessible to American YA readers–as does, no doubt, its suspenseful, Hollywood ending. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Gwen C. Katz is a writer, artist, game designer, and retired mad scientist easily identified by her crew cut and ability to cause trouble. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband and a revolving door of transient mammals.

Her website is www.gwenckatz.com

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. June 6, 2017. William Morrow Paperbacks, 503 p. ISBN: 9780062654199.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 820.

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Suicidal thoughts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
In May 1947, Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair and her mother have crossed the Atlantic so the unwed Charlie can discreetly end her pregnancy in a Swiss clinic. A chance to search for her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared during World War II, gives Charlie the courage to break free and head to London. Rose may have been involved in the French Resistance, and her last known connection was a woman named Eve, who carries her own war secrets. Even with the background detail given at the novel’s outset, there is so much more to learn as these characters are thoughtfully developed through interior decision making and the actions they take. Allowing Charlie to describe present events, while Eve shares her experience as an English spy for the real-life Alice Network during World War I, creates a fascinating tension that intensifies as the finale approaches. VERDICT A compelling blend of historical fiction, mystery, and women’s fiction, Quinn’s (“Empress of Rome” series) complex story and engaging characters have something to offer just about everyone. [See “Summer Escapes,” LJ 5/15/17.]-Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

About the Author

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network.” All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox. Her website is www.katequinnauthor.com

Teacher Resources

The Alice Network Discussion Questions

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How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana. May 16, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062470140.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

In this powerful memoir, Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tells the incredible true story of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. The rebels had come at night—wielding weapons, torches, machetes. She watched as her mother and six-year-old sister were gunned down in a refugee camp, far from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rebels were killing people who weren’t from the same community, the same tribe. In other words, they were killing people simply for looking different.

“Goodbye, life,” she said to the man ready to shoot her.

Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped into the night.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this profoundly moving memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, and of her hope for the future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Graphic description of refugee-camp massacre, Racism

 

Book Info

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 8-10. As America’s doors threaten to shut against refugees, this memoir could not be timelier. As a 10-year-old in 2004, Uwiringiyimana (pronounced oo-wee-ring-GEE-yi-mah-nah) and her family fled conflict in their native Congo for a U.N. refugee camp over the border in Burundi. The stay, overcrowded and miserable as the sanctuary was, proved short-lived: on the night of August 13, armed rebels attacked the camp, slaughtering 166 people. Uwiringiyimana’s narrative starts with a terrifying moment-by-moment account of that horrific event. Her ability to summon the chaos and terror is extraordinary, but then, so is she. Plagued by PTSD and severe, recurrent depression in the years since—the U.N. succeeded in bringing the surviving members of her family to the U.S. in 2007—she has emerged as a powerful spokesperson for the plight of the dispossessed. Her account of the family’s first few years in upstate New York, where she was made to feel again unwanted and alien at school, is almost as heartbreaking as the memory of that one world-shattering night.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Congolese refugee Sandra Uwiringi-yimana recounts life before, during, and after war. At ten, Sandra sees her sister gunned down along with others at the camp where she and her family were temporarily staying. Before readers can find out which of Sandra’s family members survived, she takes us back to her life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where, as Banyamulenge people, they were considered stateless foreigners. Despite the discrimination, Sandra spent much of her childhood in a comfortable middle-class home, although frequent civil unrest would require the family to enter refugee camps for a time and then return home. After the night her sister was murdered, she and her surviving family members began the long process of applying for asylum in the United States. From there, Sandra recounts her American adolescence, trying to make sense of what race means in America and how she fits in as an African but not an African American. The prose may be workmanlike, but the politically and culturally complex picture of Africa that the author paints is welcome, and the complexities of black identity for recent immigrants versus that of diasporic black people are not often touched upon in YA literature. sarah hannah gómez

About the Author

Sandra Uwiringiyimana is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She came to America as a refugee with her family, and started middle school in New York. She has shared the stage alongside Charlie Rose, Angelina Jolie, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Tina Brown at the Women in the World Summit. She also addressed the United Nations Security Council. She is a graduate of Mercy College.

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Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott. July 25, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 448 p. ISBN: 9780316344418.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series!

Choose between your parents.
Choose between your friends.
Choose between your lovers.
Choose who you are.
 
On the run from the murderous King Nikonos, Jessamy must find a way for her beloved Kalliarkos to take his rightful place on the throne. Only then can he end the oppression of the Commoners by their long time Patron overlords. But Kal’s rise to power is fraught with manipulation and shocking decisions that make Jes question everything they promised each other. As their relationship frays and Jes’s family and friends beg her for help, will she cast Kal and her Patron heritage aside? Will she finally join–even lead–the rebellion that had been burning among the Commoners for years?
This heart-pounding finale of World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s Court of Five series forces Jessamy to confront an inescapable truth: with or without her, the revolution has begun.

Sequel to: Poisoned Blade

Part of Series: Court of Fives

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

 

About the Author

As a child in rural Oregon, Kate Elliott made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction, often with a romantic edge. It should therefore come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight.

When he gave up police work to study archaeology, they and their three children fell into an entirely new set of adventures in dusty Mexican ruins and mouthwatering European pastry shops. Eventually her spouse’s work forced them to move to Hawaii, where she took up outrigger canoe paddling.

Her website is www.kateelliott.com

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Buried Heart on Amazon

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Buried Heart on JLG

Buried Heart Publisher Page

American War by Omar El Akkad

American War: A Novel  by Omar El Akkad. April 4, 2017. Knopf Publishing Group, 333 p. ISBN: 9780451493583.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 890.

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be.

Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Discrimination; War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol; Description of torture

 

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Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
In 2074, the American South has once again attempted to secede from the Union, this time in ferocious opposition to the Sustainable Future Act, even as the ravages of global warming—severe storms, prolonged drought, and a massive rise in sea levels— cause waves of coastal refugees to pour into the Midwest as the federal government abandons deluged Washington, D.C., for Columbus, Ohio. The Chestnuts are getting by, living in an old shipping container in Louisiana, until Benjamin is killed in a bombing. Martina flees to a Mississippi refugee camp with her soon-to-be-rebel son, Simon, and twin daughters, fair and pretty Dana and dark, curious, and intrepid Sarat, the focus of this vigorously well-informed, daringly provocative speculative first novel by an Egyptian-born Canadian journalist. As Sarat grows into a six-foot-five, shaved-head warrior, she is radicalized by agents of a new Middle Eastern and North African superpower, the Bouazizi Empire. The war between Red and Blue is further compounded by raging plagues, while captured insurrectionists are tortured in a domestic Guantánamo. Catalyzed by his reporting on the Arab Spring; the war in Afghanistan; racial violence in Ferguson, Missouri; and environmental disasters, El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
A dystopian vision of a future United States undone by civil war and plague.El Akkad’s debut novel is set during the tail end of the 21st century, with the North and South at it again. Southern states have taken up arms to protest a Northern ban on fossil fuels, and the war-torn secessionist “Mag” (Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia) has forced civilians to herd in refugee camps. (South Carolina, attacked by a weaponized virus, is “a walled hospice.”) Among the refugees is Sarat, who as a young girl in 2075 escaped a much-diminished Louisiana (climate change has swallowed the coasts) with her family to what seems like an endless occupation. But in the years tracked by the novel, Sarat becomes a daring young woman who leads a resistance against the Northern military. El Akkad, a journalist who’s reported from hot spots in the war on terror, has a knack for the language of officialdom: news reports, speeches, history books, and the like that provide background for the various catastrophes that have befallen the country. And he’s cannily imagined Sarat, who is at once a caring daughter and sibling, freedom fighter, and sponge for the wisdom of one old-timer who dispenses tales about occupations decades past. But above all, El Akkad’s novel is an allegory about present-day military occupation, from drone strikes to suicide bombers to camps full of refugees holding “keys to houses that no longer existed in towns long ago deserted.” He imagines this society in some creative ways: battles royal are major entertainments in an internet-free society, and Sarat’s brother becomes an interesting and peculiar folk hero after he’s injured. But El Akkad mainly means to argue that these future miseries exist now overseas. A well-imagined if somber window into social collapse.

About the Author

Omar was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar until he moved to Canada with his family. He is an award-winning journalist and author who has traveled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantànamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

His website is www.omarelakkad.com

Teacher Resources

American War Reading Guide

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American War on Amazon

American War on Goodreads

American War on JLG

American War Publisher Page

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard. February 7, 2017. HarperTeen, 528 p. ISBN: 9780062310699.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

When the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Sequel to: Glass Sword

Part of Series: Red Queen (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
The “lightning girl” who once led a revolution now toils, powerless and imprisoned, in this continuation of the Red Queen series. After turning herself over in exchange for the lives of her friends, Mare Barrow becomes King Maven’s puppet. She waits, locked in a room, her lightning drained by Arvens—Silvers who leach power. But Maven has grander plans for her. And if she wants to keep the newbloods safe, she must comply. Mare broadcasts a lie that she willingly surrendered herself to the king after the Scarlet Guard forced her into servitude. She paints the Scarlet Guard as murderers, paving the way for Maven to offer refuge to newbloods in hopes of amassing an army. Otherwise, he’ll just keep hunting them. Political machinations rumble while both the king and the Scarlet Guard form new alliances. As Mare bides her time, she confronts uncomfortable feelings for Maven—she’s his greatest weakness, but can she kill him? Complementing Mare’s narration, Cameron, a newblood, relates the movements of the Scarlet Guard, and Evangeline, Maven’s betrothed, offers insight into the deadly House Samos. Few bursts of action stir up this slow-burning installment, allowing the dizzyingly large fleet of characters room to gain new depth. Mare’s romantic entanglements shift and sizzle, but the true intrigue lies in the ever expanding war for the crown as the players grow and change games. Aside from dark-skinned Cameron, the principal cast appears to be white, although the caste system based on the distinctions between Red and Silver blood holds more sway in this fantasy world than race. Simmering with internal conflict and well-devised courtly scheming—but readers new to the series had best start with Book 1. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Publishers Weekly Annex (February 13, 2017)
Leashed like an animal and trotted out as a trophy of war, Mare Barrow passes her 18th birthday imprisoned by King Maven and turned into a puppet of a propaganda machine bent on destroying the Scarlet Guard. In this third installment of the Red Queen series, Aveyard’s frenetic action sequences initially take a backseat to the patient study of Mare’s captivity. But there are still plenty of schemes amid royal fissures and ill-fated rescues, an assassination attempt, and raging battles on multiple fronts to help this story keep pace with the previous installments. A newblood struggling with her deadly abilities and a princess begrudgingly betrothed to Maven narrate a few chapters of their own, but the majority of the tale is again seen through the eyes of Aveyard’s “little lightning girl,” who remains a relatable and deeply flawed heroine. Concluding as hope dwindles that the Reds will ever be free of the Silver crown, Aveyard adeptly sets the scene for a fourth book to follow, amid a war not yet won. Ages 13-up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Feb.)

About the Author

Victoria Aveyard graduated from USC, where she majored in screenwriting. She splits her time between Massachusetts and Los Angeles. The genres she’s into include YA, Fantasy, Historical, Adventure, Apocalyptic – “if people are dying, I’m buying”.

Her website is www.victoriaaveyard.com.

 

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King’s Cage on Amazon

King’s Cage on Goodreads

King’s Cage on JLG

King’s Cage Publisher Page