Literature for Adolescents (Last update: January 7, 2011) Table of contents



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  • Vietnam War

World War II and after

Blundell, Judy. What I Saw and How I Lied. NY: Scholastic, 2008. Evie’s life has been great since her stepfather returned from the war, but her situation takes an unsettling turn when handsome Peter Coleridge, a GI who served with her stepfather, shows up while Evie and her parents are on a family vacation in Florida. Peter is very attentive to Evie, which seems to distress both of her parents; when Peter dies in an accident on the water and her parents are accused of his death, Evie starts to unravel a sordid past for both Peter and her father that forces her to question everything she held true. The National Book Award winner for 2008 and a strong read for high school.


Cheaney, J. B. My Friend, The Enemy. NY; Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Hazel’s friend Jed, a young soldier, tells her to keep an eye on his family and on the skies, looking for clues that might indicate a Japanese invasion of the state of Washington. Instead, Hazel’s sharp eyes find Sogoli, a young Japanese-American who has been taken in by Jed’s father. But can Hazel trust Sogoli; does she want to? A wonderful story of friendship during wartime. Middle School.
Cormier, Robert. Heroes. (1998). NY: Laurel-Leaf. Francis goes to war and returns without a face. In his shock and anger, he decides that he has no life to look forward to, and determines to get his revenge upon the man, his childhood hero, who made going to war look so good. Middle/high school.
Elliott, L. M. Under A War-Torn Sky. (2001). NY: Hyperion. Nineteen-year-old Henry Forester, an aviator for the Allies during WWII, faces a number of adventures after he is shot down. Aided by the French underground, Henry tries to escape back to Britain, but it is a difficult venture. Henry learns a great deal about himself, his parents, his comrades, and those connected to the underground as he makes his way around France. A great middle/high school read.
Fletcher, Christine. Ten Cents a Dance. NY: Bloomsbury, 2008. When Ruby is forced at fifteen to enter the work force, she finds a factory job that bores her to tears and seems to keep her from hanging out with any of her friends. So when bad boy Paulie tells her about the women who dance with men for a living, Ruby is all for it. At first, Ruby is simply enthralled by the idea that getting to dance—her favorite thing in the world—will help her make a living, but the longer she dances, the more she realizes that there are costs attached to everything, and Ruby has to grow up quickly when she’s pulled into a lover’s quarrel that threatens her safety and her income. High school.
Lester, Julius. The Guardian. HarperTeen, 2008. Ansel has grown up in the south in a town where old hatreds are still place. Still, even Ansel is shocked when his father refuses to tell the truth about who attacked and killed a local white girl—not the black man who has worked for Ansel’s father for years, but the white son of the man who owns most of their town. When Big Willie is lynched, his death sets forth a change in Ansel’s life, forcing him to see his father for what he really is and to gain a new appreciation of his mother, a woman his father has mistreated during their entire marriage. High School.
Salisbury, Graham. House of the Red Fish. NY: Wendy Lamb Books, 2006. Tomi has known his share of hardship in post Pearl Harbor Hawaii; his father and grandfather have been sent to internment camps because of their Japanese ancestry and the family’s main financial source lies at the bottom of a canal by a group of American soldiers who mistrust anyone who looks Japanese. Tomi and his friends decide that they will bring up Papa’s fishing boat, but Anglo former friends like Keet Wilson are determined to stand in their way. Excellent historical novel that will pique the interest of middle school readers
Salisbury, Graham. Eyes of the Emperor. (2005) NY: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House. When 16-year-old Eddy Okubo lies about his age to join the U.S. Army to prove his loyalty (called into question because even though he is an American citizen, his parents are Japanese), he doesn’t expect that he will be plunged into war so quickly. But when Pearl Harbor happens, Eddy and his friends find that many do not trust them; however, their opportunity to prove their loyalty comes when the group of Japanese American soldiers are sent on a secret mission where dogs are being trained to “sniff out” the enemy. Engaging book based on a true-life situation. Middle/high school.
Slayton, Fran Cannon. When the Whistle Blows. NY: Philomel Books/Penguin, 2009. Jimmy is the son of a railroad foreman who sees that the future of trains and train travel will be much different for his sons than it is for them. Keeping that in mind, he encourages them to look for a different line of work. But Jimmy is sure his dad is wrong, and plans his future around staying in his home town and working the trains. This story focuses on Jim’s evolution from willful child to teen to young adult and his adventures along the way. Middle School.
Smith, Sherri. Flygirl. NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. Ida Mae Jones has had the love of flying ever since her dad put her in a plane with him when she was a child. So at the beginning of WWII, when the Air Force creates the WASP—Women Airforce Service Pilots—Ida decides to go for it: the problem? She’s black, and the WASP aren’t accepting anyone but white women. But light-skinned Ida decides to take the chance, and her acceptance to the elite corps is just the beginning of her adventures. Great story! Middle/High school.

The 1950’s
Holm, Jennifer L. Penny from Heaven. NY: Random House, 2006. 11-year-old Penny dreams of independence during the summer of 1953, but instead finds her until the overprotective eye of her mother. Penny increasingly turns to her dead father’s family, a lively group of Italian-Americans, who know how to live life with gusto. But when an accident puts Penny in the hospital, she must confront her mother’s anger at her father’s family, the truth of what happened to her father, and the possible loss of her independence forever. A wonderful story of the repercussions of intolerance against Italian-Americans and their families during WWII.
Krisher, Trudy. Fallout, NY: Holiday House, 2006. For teachings looking for a great contemporary bridge to either the McCarthy Trials or to the Salem Witch Trials, this is it. Gen is confused as she considers her daughterly roles to her mother’s Tubberware-organized life and her father’s bomb shelter mentality. Further, her new friend, Brenda, recently arrived from Hollywood, is shaking things up at school with her parents’ full support, stunning Gen and leaving her to wonder how far one should go in support of a friend, especially when one isn’t sure she agrees with that friend. Against the backdrop of an especially active hurricane season and the McCarthy trials, Gen’s life takes a turn that she doesn’t expect, but in responding to it, we get a strong sense of how teenagers made sense of the Cold War. Great for high school.
Moses, Sheila P. The Legend of Buddy Bush. 2004. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. Life is much more exciting when Uncle Buddy comes back home to live. But the excitement turns into danger when Buddy, who has moved aside on the sidewalk so as not to bump a white woman walking down the street, is accused of raping her in 1950 North Carolina. Told through the eyes of his niece Pattie Mae, Buddy’s story unfolds in a manner that both educates and charms younger readers. (Buddy escapes his captors during a botched KKK attack on his jail.) Middle school read.
Park Linda Sue. Keeping Score. NY: Clarion Books, 2008. Maggie is a die-hard Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and she religiously keeps track of all of their stats. She also knows that if she just keeps the faith, that she will be able to will the Dodgers to a World Series win. Helping her in her aspirations is her friend and mentor, Jim, a fireman at the firehouse where Maggie’s dad worked right up until he was injured. When Jim is sent to Korea to fight, he promises Maggie that he’ll keep in touch. But after a steady stream of mail, Jim’s letters stop, and Maggie is determined to find out what happened to her friend. A wonderful story of baseball and war; middle school.
Vietnam War

Hamilton, Virginia. Plain City. NY: Scholastic, 1994. A 12-year-old learns that her father is not MIA in VietNam

but is alive and living in her hometown. Both must then struggle with the effects of the war on the father. Middle/high school.
Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels. NY: Scholastic, 1988. This story of five young soldiers presents a true-to-life

account of the Viet Nam War. High School.


Paterson, Katherine. Park’s Quest. NY: Lodestar Books, 1988. 11-year-old Park visits the VietName Wall Memorial and then travels to Virginia to his grandfather’s farm to learn more about his father who died in the war. But the farm holds additional questions that Park must respond to before he can truly be at peace with his father’s memory. Elementary/Middle school.





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