Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fitting In

Ever feel like you just don't fit in?
In the newest Dear America book, "The Diary of Piper Davis: The Fences Between Us" by Kirby Larson, Piper Davis' life has totally turned around. Her brother Hank has enlisted in the Navy and is stationed at Pearl Harbor. It's 1941 and blackouts are standard fare. Her Japanese neighbors have been sent to incarceration camps and her pastor father has decided to join them to show his support. There's no word from her brother, food rations have been cut, and Piper is learning how intolerant and fearful people can be. My favorite quote:
"...even if we can't do much about the fences that get built around people, when fences get between people, it's our job to tear them down." You'll find this book in our new book section. It is appropriate for 4th thru 7th graders.

"The Gnome's Eye" by Anna Kerz tells the story of Theresa, an Austrian girl whose family has emigrated to Canada after World War II. According to Hazel Rochman of Booklist, Kerz immigrated to Canada as a child in the 1950s, and she drew from her own experiences of the journey in this lively, detailed novel that follows a Yugoslav family from a refugee camp in Austria through a horrific ocean crossing in a crowded ship and finally to their arrival in Toronto. Young Theresa personalizes the struggle, as she describes in her honest narrative her anger at having to leave her friends behind, her failure as she gets Ds at school, her hostile classmates who tell her to “go back to where you came from,” and her grandmother, who calls her “homely.” Theresa's mother finds works as a cleaner and her father as a tailor, but even after they are employed, the family tension and fighting remain. Theresa knows some German, and that helps her reach out and connect with Yiddish neighbors. The immigration drama will hold readers: at first “she cannot talk and understand” in the schoolyard, but it is a milestone when she learns to stand up for herself and say, “Shut up!” This may be found in our new book section. It, too, is appropriate for 4th thru 7th graders.

Last but not least, "Carmen Learns English" by Judy Cox is a great way to introduce tolerance to our smallest readers. Carmen begins school speaking Spanish, her native language. She is teased by other students because of her accent. Her teacher, la senora Coska, speaks Spanish and realizes that Carmen is being teased. She asks Carmen to teach the class simple Spanish words, thus bringing peace and harmony to her class and most of all to Carmen. Carmen brings her understanding of English home to her little sister, completing the cycle. While this is a picture book, I think it is appropriate for anyone, even adults.