Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is a modern-day story about the civil war in Burma and the young boys who are forced to fight in it. The first half of the book is Chiko's story.
Chiko's father is in prison (they hope) and his mother is running out of money for food and rent. When Chiko answers an ad for a teaching position, he is tricked by the government and shipped off to a military training camp. At fifteen years old, Chiko is one of the older recruits.
In addition to learning kickboxing and strength training, Chiko experiences first hand the cruelty of the captain and the wisdom of a savvy street-fighting friend. Sent on a mission in the jungle, Chiko is seriously injured by a mine. He is found unconscious by Tu Reh and his father. Tu Reh and his father belong to a small ethnic minority, the Karenni, aka the enemy.
Tu Reh narrates the second half of the story. He must choose whether to mercifully end Chiko's life, or bring him back to the refugee village just across the border, risking the wrath of his people. Tu Reh listens to his father, makes his decision, and has to stand before a village council to defend his choice.
Bamboo People has a good amount of violence. There are beatings and deaths. A Karenni girl that escaped the Burmese soldiers has experienced some horrible things that are never disclosed. Her gentle and peaceful spirit is a wonderful point of contrast to her love interest's desire for revenge.
For middle-schoolers and up, Bamboo People is a compelling story of war and forgiveness set in a region that I knew little about.
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer opens with 12 year-old Foster and her mother fleeing the mother's abusive Elvis-impersonating ex-boyfriend. They leave Memphis and end up in a small town in West Virginia.
Foster dreams of having her own cooking show. Since her father's death while serving our country in Iraq, Foster has looked up to Food Network cooking star, Sonny Kroll. She learned to bake from his show; cupcakes and muffins are her specialty. It's good that Foster has a talent to develop, because she has a severe learning disability and barely passed 5th grade.
The new townspeople support Foster and her mother, helping them find a place to live, a job for her mother, and Foster even gets the help she needs with reading. Foster and her mom have their own effect on the town too, making friends, saving lives, changing the world one cupcake at a time.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio is just. incredible. I cried. A lot.
August Pullman is going to attend a real school for the very first time, and he's going into 5th grade. The reason he has homeschooled until now is because he has had so many surgeries. On his face. Because he was born with severe birth defects. On his face. Facial abnormalities. Severe facial abnormalities.
Wonder is about acceptance, suffering, and seeing people with your heart instead of your eyes.
|I was reminded of this episode when I read Wonder.|
Augie has a sister is in high school. She has a boyfriend and they do occasionally kiss, but this story is much more about how his sister deals with feeling eclipsed by her brother's needs her whole life, and her struggle to figure out her own identity in a new school where no knows her as "the sister of that deformed kid."
Reports state that author "R. J. Palacio wrote Wonder as a sort of "penance" When she was getting milkshakes with her two sons in Brooklyn one afternoon, they saw a girl with a facial deformity. Her three-year-old started to cry and she rushed her kids away, and instantly regretted that she hadn’t stayed to talk to the girl."
The same WSJ blog article that reported the above, also declared Wonder to be a "crossover hit." Generally, a crossover hit is a book written for one age group that appeals to another age group. For example, the Twilight series and the Harry Potter books are all examples of crossover hits.
In other words, I'm not the only adult who loves this book.
Don't miss out on a chance to win $15 in coupons from the berry people at Driscoll's!
Looking for that last minute book purchase for the Easter basket? Or need a unique First Communion gift? I reviewed two books on Monday that would be perfect.