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Genre 5 Historical Fiction/Biography
Children's and Young Adult Literature Review
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Christopher, Paul Curtis. Bud, Not Buddy. 1999. New York: Delacourte Press. ISBN 0385323069.

In Bud, Not Buddy, is the 1999 Newbery Award winning book. It is about a ten-year-old boy alone in the world relying totally on his own set of rules he calls "to have a Funner Life and Make a Better Liar Out of Yourself." Rule Number 87 is that "When a Adult tells You They Need Your Help with a Problem Get Ready to Be Tricked-- Most Times This Means They Just Want You to Go Fetch Something for Them." Kids will really identify with such humor, bringing them deeper into the story. These rules are insightful, often laugh-out-loud funny, and will remind many readers of what life is like as a child. Like all people, Bud has found himself in situations where he felt the need to hide the truth, giving rise to Rule Number Three: "If you got to tell a lie, make sure it's simple and easy to remember." In the four years he has been an orphan he has learned a great deal of useful information about how to survive.

Bud, Not Buddy is sprinkled with details about the Great Depression. Bud waits in food lines, spends the night in Hooverville, learns about the formation of Unions, and hears talk all around about how hard times are. These details are presented without a great deal of explanation, which could be confusing to the young reader. However, any possible befuddlement about the setting is redeemed many times over by the sheer fun of spending time with Bud.

Reader's find themselves constantly guessing about Herman Calloway's relationship to Bud and trying to put the artfully-inserted clues together. While Bud is surprised when he finds out the truth, he ends up learning a great deal about his mother, his past, human nature, and what it really means to belong. The book is an excellent introduction to the Great Depression, while at the same time interesting readers with a likeable character and

Bud, Not Buddy, is a great book for older elementary and middle school students to read. It touches upon all sorts of issues that are both historical (the Great Depression, Hoovervilles, hobos) and current (racism, KKK). Christopher Paul Curtis captures the feel and imagination of a child storyteller perfectly. A charming book to read, full of historical insight and youthful imagination.

Paulsen, Gary. NightJohn. 1993. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0385308388.

"To know things, for us to know things, is bad for them. We get to wanting and when we get to wanting it's bad for them. They thinks we want what they got ....That's why they don't want us reading."
- Nightjohn

Set in the 1850s Gary Paulsen's groundbreaking new novel is unlike anything else the award-winning author has written. It is a meticulously researched, historically accurate, and artistically crafted portrayal of a grim time in our nation's past, brought ot light through the personal history of two unforgettable characters.

The tale begins with Sarny a young African American slave girl who's learning average everyday slave life. Sarny was never able to grow up with her mother because she was sold. The novel depicts life of field workers along with the children forced into slavery. Sarny expresses no hope in her life until Nightjohn comes along. Nightjohn was known as a renegade slave who would rebel and try to run away. Sarny is drawn to Nightjohn when she learns that he had escaped to the North and homefree to where freedom awaited, only to voluntarily return to the South. He eventually begins to teach Sarny how to read. He begins teaching Sarny letters one by one. He educates her after the field work is done and everyone goes to sleep. Mammy finds out Nightjohn is teaching Sarny how to read and she becomes angered, but allows Sarny to continue her education. Sarny with tremendous happiness begins writing words in the dirt. However, Waller the master of the plantation, finds out Sarny is learning how to read and begins questioning Mammy. Mammy denies that anyone taught Sarny how to read. Waller brutally whips Mammy until Nightjohn steps in and admits to Waller that he educated Sarny.

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard. 2001. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN 0395978270.

This historical novel about twelfth century Korean potters tells the tale of a young homeless boy named Tree Ear and his friend Crane Man who live together under a bridge. While making restitution for an accident, Tree Ear becomes the assistant of one of the village's most esteemed potters, Min. Tree Ear wants nothing more than to become a potter himself.

When an emissary from the king comes to their village to view the works of the potters, Tree Ear is constantly busy helping Min produce the best pieces possible. The king wishes to see more, so Tree Ear agrees to transport the pieces overland to the king's palace. On his way he is beset by thieves who smash the beautiful vases Tree Ear and Min worked so hard to make.

Tree Ear is heartbroken until he realizes that one shard of a vase, about the size of his palm, is still intact. Although he fears that it is hopeless to do so, he carries the shard with him to the palace because he cannot bear to return and reveal his failure.

Along with Tree Ear, the reader learns about the ancient and fascinating art of pottery. Park tells just enough about the creation of celadon pottery to explain it without overwhelming the reader. Details of Korean life and culture are included where appropriate, but not in a dull manner.

The story may be a bit too slow moving for some readers - it's not written in the reach-out-and-grab-you style of so much Western fiction. Those readers who are willing to be patient will discover an excellent tale.

Stanely, Diane. Joan of Arc. 2002. New York: Harper Trophy. ISBN 00644374855.

Stanley tells the familiar story of Joan of Arc in considerable detail, but always with one eye towards understanding what was happening from the perspective of a seventeen year old girl who road into battle and was proclaimed the savior of France and the other on the historical context of these events. She also pays attention to the details, listing the specific charges for which she was tried and the "confession" that she signed, which are often omitted from similar juvenile biographies, and at the end of her story she pays as much attention to the aftermath of her martyrdom as she did to setting up her life.

Throughout the book Stanley makes nice use of historical texts, dropping a lot of quotations and specific lines from the trial transcript and other sources. The text is accompanied by Stanley's illustrations, which are done in the style of the illuminated manuscripts of the time.