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Build a Better World/Construye un mundo mejor: Summer 2017 Middle School

May 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | Summer

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. Scholastic, 2012

Fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano gets caught between her meek, mild-mannered mother and her fiery, activist grandmother when a group calling itself the Young Lords begins advocating for social change in Spanish Harlem in 1969. The neighborhood is neglected by the city—even garbage pickup is irregular—and many residents struggle to make ends meet. Evelyn’s abuela arrives from Puerto Rico just as the Young Lords are gearing up for action. Abuela has been a political activist most of her adult life, and Evelyn is at first a bit embarrassed and then inspired by her grandmother’s brassiness and her courage. She sees little to admire in her own mother, who spends her days and nights working in her stepfather’s store, cooking, cleaning, and nursing her dream of someday owning a house in the Bronx. Vivid descriptions of the time and place, wonderful character development, and realistic family tensions ground this vibrant story about a fictional family caught up in actual events: The Young Lords were real, and they really did occupy a church in the neighborhood, demanding space to provide social services for neighborhood residents. Evelyn and her grandmother become part of that occupation. To Evelyn’s surprise, so, too does her mother—at first to make sure Evelyn is safe, but eventually she becomes—in her own quite way—part of the push for change. Evelyn discovers that her mother’s strength is not relentless activism but emotional constancy—one of the few things she discovers Abuela is incapable of providing. (MS) ©2012 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon. Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2012

Fourteen-year-old Maxie spends a lot of time at the Black Panther office. She’s eager to become a full-fledged Panther like her older brother, Raheem. The Panthers have purpose and passion and she wants to be part of making a difference. Instead, she’s given menial tasks, from stuffing and sealing envelopes to babysitting. At home, Maxie’s family life is unraveling—her mother, marginally reliable at the best of times, has lost her job and is bringing home men to try to plug the economic hole in their lives. Raheem is trying to help make ends meet, but can’t do enough for the family to avoid an eviction notice. Meanwhile, an attack on the Panther office by police intensifies Maxie’s desire to become a real Panther and carry a gun—she was the only one not able to fire back in the chaos. Then it becomes clear someone is in the office is passing information to the police, and Maxie decides she’ll prove her worth by figuring out who it is. Kekla Magoon’s sequel to The Rock and the River (Aladdin, 2009) stands on its own, illuminating the discrimination and poverty that motivate Maxie, and the divide between the African American community in 1968 Chicago and white society, even whites such as war protestors who stand against the status quo. Magoon’s writing keeps getting better as she skillfully offers insight into this time and place through characters who represent a variety of perspectives and experiences.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Fire in the Streets!

Fire in the Streets (Whitehorse Middle School, Madison/Middle School/2013-14)

Fire in the Streets (Simpson Street Free Press, Madison/Middle School/2013-14)

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Houghton Mifflin, 2012

Geologist Steve Squyres knew that it wasn’t possible to go to Mars himself, so he did the next best thing: He helped create two robotic geologists that could make the journey and report back. Doing so took funding from NASA and an entire team of scientists. “It was so complicated,” he noted, “that not a single one of us fully understood what was going on.” After a six–month journey, the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (named by a nine-year-old girl), landed on different parts of the red planet and began their explorations, with scientists back on earth directing their moves and troubleshooting when things went wrong. Color photographs transmitted from Mars stand side by side with photographs of the scientists back home, who are watching, worrying, wondering, and celebrating throughout the rovers’ amazing explorations. The story itself is inherently dramatic, and the science is skillfully woven into the account. Readers will feel the same sense of discovery that Squyres and his team felt as the two Mars rovers opened up a whole new world to them.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Viking, 2011

Sunny, born in the United States to Nigerian parents, returned to Nigeria with her family when she was nine. Now twelve, she’s taunted by her peers because she’s an albino. Her West African physical features, at odds with her blond hair, hazel eyes, and skin “the color of ‘sour milk’,” make her the target of bullies. Then Sunny discovers it’s not just her physical appearance that’s unusual: She is one of the Leopard people, a “free agent” witch who possesses latent magical skills and the power to work juju. Unlike her classmate Orlu, and Chichi, a neighborhood girl, who both come from magical families, she knows nothing about the world of magic. Orlu and Chichi become Sunny’s initial guides, introducing her to their teachers and the community of Leopard people. No one at home knows Sunny is moving back and forth between worlds, let alone that she, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, a Leopard boy visiting from Chicago, have become an Oha coven, fated to confront the Black Hat serial killer terrorizing communities in the area. At the heart of Sunny’s journey into this distinctive realm of magic that coexists with the everyday world are the friendships she forges with other young Leopard people in Nnedi Okorafor’s fresh fantasy novel. The Nigerian setting and culture and well-developed characters have us hoping book two won’t be long in coming.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Akata Witch!

Akata Witch (Whitehorse Middle School, Madison/Middle School/2012-13)

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