Lucky Broken Girl

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Lucky Broken Girl (ebook)

by Ruth Behar

 

Lucky Broken Girl is autobiographical.  Ruthie is a Cuban immigrant during the mid-1960’s, and she is in the “dumb” class in New York City, because her English isn’t great yet.  Right before moving into a normal fifth grade class, she is in a car accident and breaks her leg.  Because medicine wasn’t as advanced back then, she is put into a half body cast and bedridden for nearly a year.  She learns to become very dependent upon her poor mother, but she also is given a tutor who helps her keep up and become advanced.  Ruthie deals with a lot of emotions, from the death of a friend’s brother, fear of becoming an invalid (and then not being one), and depression over being injured.  This story is full of hope for Ruthie.

What I liked about this book is that it taught me more about what life was like during the 1960’s for an immigrant.  It was scary for Ruthie’s family, and they were suffering from being away from all that was familiar, knowing they’d never return to Cuba because of the Cold War.  I appreciate slice of life stories.

What I didn’t like about this book was 1) the death of a child.  I cannot handle the death of a child, no matter how significant or insignificant the character is.  And 2) while I totally understand Ruthie’s horrible situation, I found her to be annoying.  Yes, she whined, and yes, it was a rotten position.  It might also be because I’m a mother of kids who are stubborn and don’t do what I need them to do.  It is like the book was written for much younger readers, but the content and theme targeted a middle grade audience.

Book 63 of 40

(Book 29 of 2018)

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Enchanted Air

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Enchanted Air (paperback)

by Margarita Engle

 

Enchanted Air is a memoir about a girl named Margarita whose mother is Cuban and father is American/European.  She spends her summers in Cuba riding horses, playing with cousins, and being an adventurous, outgoing girl.  Back in California, she is quiet, withdrawn, studious, and loves nature.  She is torn between two countries, two worlds, and two versions of herself.  Set during the Cold War, Margarita fears for her Cuban family when war breaks out, and she isn’t sure if she’ll ever see her relatives again.

What I liked about this book is that it teaches a lot about the time period that I wouldn’t normally know.  I got to see what it was like for a Cuban American living during this time- the hostility, the fear, etc.  There was mention of the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and she was afraid that would happen to her mother.  I didn’t think about having to write letters in code.  I think this would be interesting to teach students about since they don’t generally know much about wars other than World War II.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t as memorable for me.  It was very well-written and it had it’s merits, but I think memoirs aren’t my genre.  That isn’t a drawback of the book… it’s personal taste.

Book 28 of 40

Refugee

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Refugee (hardcover)

by Alan Gratz

 

It isn’t often that I preorder books.  Okay, that was a lie.  It isn’t often that I preorder books for ME to read.  I usually get them because they’re by popular authors (like Stuart Gibbs or Kwame Alexander) or because my daughter loves the book (like The Owl Diaries series).  I preordered Refugee, because it was in my Twitter feed for several solid months straight, meaning before it was even out, people were reading it and raving about it.  In my quest to read every single Newbery contender, I figured I’d order it before I forgot about it.  Oh my gosh, you guys.  You have to read this.  I’m not sure if it’s a Newbery contender (those tend to be like Oscar movies where you finish and you aren’t sure if you liked it or not, or you’re not sure if they were written for children or adults), but this is a must-read if you live on planet Earth.

Refugee follows the stories of 3 refugee children, all 11-13 years old, during different time periods.  Josef is a Jewish child living in Germany, when his father is taken by the Nazis and put into a concentration camp.  He is released, and the family reunites to board the St. Louis and said across the Atlantic in hopes of gaining entrance to Cuba as refugees.  Fast forward to 1994, and you’ll meet Isabel, a Cuban girl living in poverty under Fidel Castro’s reign.  She, with her family and neighbors, set out in a homemade “boat” to get to Miami after Castro says they are free to leave without being put into jail.  They face sharks, weather, a cargo ship, and several health issues that put their trip in jeopardy.  Our third story is Mahmoud, a Syrian boy living in Aleppo.  He leaves Syria and travels across the Mediterranean Sea to try to reach Germany with his parents, younger brother, and baby sister.  Each of these three refugee children have a long, tough journey, and lose a loved one along the way.  We find out later that their three stories are connected, and that although they’re living during different times, their struggles are similar, and their goals are the same- to find a new, safe place to live without fear of living in terror.

What I liked about this book… when I first started it, I thought it was interesting learning about their backgrounds and living conditions.  I enjoy historical fiction.  But I was quickly sucked into their stories, and I was rooting for them.  When Isabel was just yards away from the shore, the tears began, and continued through the end of the story.  It is a very emotional, powerful, and REAL book that needs to be in the hands of my students.  The refugee crisis isn’t something we’re hearing about on tv with the war in Syria.  It has been going on all throughout history, and this book brings that to the reader’s attention.  He could write Refugee part 2 and include refugees from Vietnam or Cambodia, Korea, the Kurds, the Christians in Muslim countries, etc.  There will always be refugees as long as there are wars.

What I didn’t like about this book… I can’t really think of anything.  It was engaging from beginning to end, and while heartbreaking, it is necessary.

Book 17 of summer 2017!