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HomeA&EBooks
Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

New books for children celebrate outcasts

This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by four area teachers of children's literature. Today's are by Barbara St. John, a retired Bowling Green State University professor of children's literature.

We have all felt like outcasts at one time or another. These newly published books introduce us to some intelligent, creative, interesting outcasts who confront their problems and deal with them effectively. You will enjoy meeting them!

PINDULI. Written and illustrated by Janell Cannon. Harcourt. $16. Ages 3-8.

Pinduli is a young female hyena with large ears, a fuzzy mane, and wavy stripes. The other animals of the African savanna make fun of her. Pinduli is devastated, but she decides to outwit them. Pinduli tricks the others who realize that they, too, have been teased. Mama hyena realizes that Pinduli is not only beautiful but also very smart. Cannon's illustrations capture the animals of the savanna.

SAM I AM. By Ilene Cooper. Scholastic. $15.95. Ages 10-13.

Twelve-year-old Sam wonders why religion plays no part in his family's life. What do his Jewish father and Episcopalian mother really believe? Talking with family and friends raises more questions. So, Sam talks with God. Then a study of the Holocaust in school raises more questions for Sam. Why does God allow such horrors? Sam's conclusions are appropriate and satisfying. Sam learns how important it is to listen.

THE CATS IN KRASINSKI SQUARE. By Karen Hesse. Illustrated by Wendy Watson. Scholastic. $16.95. Ages 7-12.

A little girl visits with the abandoned cats in Krasinski Square in this story set in wartime Poland. The child and her older sister work with the Jewish resistance. When their plan to smuggle food into the ghetto is discovered by the Gestapo, the cats provide an important diversion. Using watercolor, ink, and pencil illustrations done in soft browns and muted golds, Watson conveys the sadness and hope experienced by the Jews. Hesse's author's note explains the idea behind this story.

BIRD. By Angela Johnson. Dial. $15.95. Ages 10-14.

Thirteen-year-old Bird travels from Ohio to Alabama to find her stepfather Cecil, who left without saying goodbye. Her journey takes her to Ethan and Jay - and the three lives intersect. Bird's heart is broken, she loves Cecil. Ethan, Cecil's nephew, has recently had a heart transplant. Jay's brother was the donor. Each child is seeking answers and as their lives intertwine, they help each other deal with complex issues. Johnson's prose is poetic - another powerful novel from this Coretta Scott King winner.

THE OUTCASTS OF 19 SCHUYLER PLACE. By E.L. Konigsburg. Atheneum. $16.95. Ages 10-14.

Two-time Newbery Award winner E. L. Konigsburg has created another feisty heroine, Margaret Rose Kane. Margaret is sent to camp while her anthropologist parents are in Peru; however, she decides she would rather not engage in the camp's activities. Her great uncles rescue her, but once at 19 Schuyler Place Margaret discovers the three towers her uncles created in the backyard are to be destroyed.

Margaret is determined to save the towers that represent history, art, and individuality. Readers will laugh and cry with Margaret as she organizes her plan.

HERE TODAY. By Ann M. Martin. Scholastic. $19.95. Ages 8-13.

Eleven-year-old Ellie is certain that all those who live on her street are misfits. They endure acts of prejudice, which frighten them, and the children are victims of bullies in school. The death of President John F. Kennedy provides a catalyst for Ellie's mother to pursue her dreams of fame in New York City. After she deserts the family, Ellie's neighbors step in to provide stability in the children's lives. This is a great book for discussions about family values and bullies.



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