Monday, September 27, 2010

And the Hits Just Keep Coming

I'm definitely on a roll; three more excellent books in a row!


I was mesmerized by this book. Priscilla Cummings observed students at a school for the blind in preparation for this book, and it shows. Natalie has coped very well with her gradually fading eyesight, but at the age of fourteen, her eyesight has declined dramatically. With her doctor's recommendation, and against her desires, Natalie enrolls in a residential school for the blind, where she learns Braille and how to use assistance devices.

This is an insightful and eye-opening read, marred slightly by two adrenaline-pumping scenes. Including one (particularly the first, which illustrated the vulnerability of blind people) is fine; adding a second (involving a bear) soon after the first stretched my suspension of disbelief (not the fact that it could happen, but the fact that it occurred not long after the first incredible incident). However, this look into blind culture is a worthwhile read.

The Other Half of My Heart

I adore this book, and I guarantee that if you read it, you will love it up. Keira and Minni are twins, but while Keira has dark skin like their African-American mother, Minni has inherited a very light complexion and red hair similar to that of their Irish-American father. Although their family is known in their small artsy Washington State community, they inevitably draw looks and assumptions (that they are friends rather than sisters) when they venture beyond their community.

At their grandmother's insistence, the girls go down south to North Carolina to compete in the Miss Black Pearl Pre-teen program (not *pageant*, as the officials constantly remind everyone). Outgoing and academically-minded Minni is excited, while shy Keira, who struggles with schoolwork, is dreading the program. Not to mention the fact that their grandmother is not exactly "child friendly."

During preparations for the program, Minni realizes what life is like for Keira back in Washington. Minni is not immediately accepted by most of the girls due to her light skin; her shyness is misinterpreted as snobbery over her light skin. Keira can't understand why she won't mingle with the other girls, which eventually turns into a dreadful misunderstanding between the sisters.

The outcome of the pageant (sorry, program!) may be a *little* predictable, but it's ultimately hopeful and satisfying, and I wouldn't have had it otherwise. It's a lovely sister story. It addresses issues about skin color and hair within the African American community without moralizing or preaching. In one short but significant episode at an upscale clothing store, it shows subtle racism to heartbreaking effect. It's a sensitive look at biracial children. It's a terrific multigenerational story. It's a positive and proud portrayal of African-American southern life. There are moments of great humor and mischief, but also moments of sadness and joy. I love it.

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

Now, reading the Constitution may not be the most engrossing read. All right, I'll say it. It isn't a terribly engrossing read. It's a necessary read for Americans, though, either encountered in a Civics class or for one's own personal education. Thankfully, we have this neat book to give us a broader perspective on this important document, as well as historical insights into the making of the Constitution, the fight between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, and the addition (and in the case of the 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol, the eventual repeal) of the amendments. This would be an excellent tool for civics class. If you've ever wanted to read through the Constitution, but were inhibited by the language of the document, try this book.

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