As I have recently admitted I am a bit behind on my children’s fiction reading lately but I finally got to two books that had been on my list for quite awhile. I was really excited to finally get to read Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson which was a National Book Award Finalist and Scott O’Dell Award winner for historical fiction. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. I have always had a place for it even when I was younger. I think it may have started from my love of series like Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. It later progressed into my love of British literature of the nineteenth century and my Jane Austen obsession. I also took a great interest in college in slave narratives which might be why Chains appealed to me on so many levels. Chains is the story of a young slave girl named Isabel which is a message of both tragedy and hope.
Chains is a simply wonderful work of historical fiction and fictional slave narrative. Anderson’s voice and characterization is simply amazing. I think it is a wonderful contribution. I always get excited when I read good historical fiction because it is so often assigned in schools. The more good quality literature for children to choose from for assignments…the better! This work combines the subjects of slavery, early New York and the Revolutionary War in a great narrative. While the story is heartwrenching in some places…the action is continuous and keeps you emotionally invested until the end. The end also promises a sequel….which I am very excited about. There is no release date for Forge as of yet but I will keep you posted since it will definelty remain on my books to watch for list.
My other recent read was Scat by Carl Hiaasen. Kids love Hiaasen. Everything about his books seem to sing to young readers even at the level of shelf appeal. The bright covers and one word titles seem to get them excited and ever since Hoot, they are an easy sell even to the reluctant reader. Scat was a nice read with lots of twists and turns that even I did not see coming. We start out with the story of an unpopular teacher named Bunny Starch who mysteriously disappears on a school field trip. Soon we are led on an adventure into Black Vine Swamp which takes us on a wild journey to save an endangered species complete with heroic feats, inventive characters and some pretty impressive bad guys. There is also a nice environmental aspect to the book which could also appeal on an educational level. Conservation is a big theme throughout. I was also very impressed with the manner in which Hiaasen wove the story of Nick’s father into the story. Our main character’s dad is at war and returns home after being injured in Iraq. The family must deal with the emotional and physical toll that the event has upon the not only the father but also the son. I think it is great that Hiaasen chose to introduce this subject into a work. As a child who grew up in a military family I know only too well the lack of literature that addresses the experience of the military child. Even more rare is the work that addresses it in a appropriate and sympathetic manner. On a side note if you are interested in some recommendations for military children and their families, The National Military Family Association has some great suggestions.
However I was disappointed in some language choices in Scat. The use of the word “dumbass” bothered me not only for the age level that I know will be attracted to the book but also for the fact that I did not see the point of using that term. Another word could have been used and it would have not sacrificed the work in my opinion. However I know this book will be a hit with kids, especially boys who will love the character of Smoke and some of the more outrageous antics. All in all…another good read by Hiaasen.