Review: India Unveiled

India Unveiled
India Unveiled by Robert Arnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considered a pictorial essay, this book is like a walk through all of the amazing and varied regions of India. Seeing the world through the eyes of Robert Arnett gives readers the feeling that they are seeing daily life unfold before them and the cultural diversity within the country is organized and displayed in a way that lets readers really gain knowledge of the people in that country.

As coffee table or travel books go, this is top-shelf. The images are unique and vivid, not tourist-oriented but revealing and true works of art. The information, going from region to region, and details regarding the people of India in their homes, in their school and in their individual lives illustrate beautifully the many facets of the people who call themselves “Indian.”

Hardcover, 216 pages
Published July 1st 2006 by Atman Press (first published January 1st 1999)
ISBN 0965290042
ISBN13: 9780965290043
Price: $71.00 (through Baker & Taylor)
Literary Awards:
Independent Publisher Award for Best Travel Book of the Year; Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Travel Essay of the Year
Annotation: Take a walk through India with one of the best guides around. See what life is like for the people of this beautiful country, steeped in cultural diversity, spirituality, and wonder. An amazing visual feast for the eyes, India Unveiled will show you things you will never forget – and you will never want to forget!

Review: Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is based on the real-life experiences of author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who spent three years as a young teen in the Manzanar Relocation Camp in southeastern California. The story starts in 1941 when Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and by 1942, the US War Department had adopted the Japanese-American relocation act and Wakatsuki’s family was forced to move. The horrible conditions, humiliation dehumanizing experiences of those held in the Japanese internment camps is captured in vivid description in this book. Jeanne’s perspective and memories of the toll on families and entire generation of Japanese Americans has great impact for all readers, not just teens.

Farewell to Manzanar follows Jeanne and her family to their life after they are released from Manzanar and this glimpse into the return to “normal” life is an important and impactful one. The prejudice and injustice of the internment camps is easy to comprehend; the subtleties of racism and oppression suffered in quieter ways by Jeanne and her family after their release are more difficult to see right away but once recognized, they are impossible to ignore. The difference in high school experiences for Jeanne and her best friend Radine bring into focus the stark differences for the two girls who share everything but their ethnicity. The prejudices Japanese Americans face, as immigrants to this country before and after the war, are part of the fabric of our country. Stories like this remind us that these prejudices have not all disappeared. Racism and justice, through action and inaction, define who we are as a nation and a species and novels like this help teens shine a light on who they are and who they might want to become.

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Ember; 1 edition (February 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307976076
ISBN-13: 978-0307976079


Review: Bat 6

Bat 6
Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bat 6 is a very unique novel and almost reads like a non-fiction recount of eye witnesses who were on the field the day the two 6th grade girls’ softball teams met for the first and only time to play the traditional game for the 50th time in the history of the their two home towns. For all the girls, this game is the culmination of an honored tradition for their grade. Nine girls are chosen from each town to represent it and play a friendly softball game. They have all year to prepare for this one game and then the torch is passed on to the next group of 6th grade girls. But this year is different: it is 1949 and for some, the scars of WWII are beginning to heal; for others, the wound is still bleeding. The two towns in this story represent the to polar ends of the reality of a recovering nation following the war, particularly in the west, where Japanese families returning from internment camps were faced with both welcoming arms and resentment from their neighbors.

This story is told by all 21 players who were there for the game, including Shazam, whose father was killed at Pearl Harbor, and Aki, whose family has just returned to her home town after several years in a Japanese internment camp. That these two have something to fight about seems obvious after the incident, but leading up to the game, none of the players would have guessed there would be a conflict on the field. Now that they all are forced to admit there is something wrong, they all must see the point of view of both of these players and acknowledge their own feelings in the process.

This book is really fascinating in its use of the voices of these 21 6th grade girls. Author Virginia Euwer Wolff uses these authentic perspectives to draw in young readers and give the story its authentic and true-story feel. This story presents the difficult issues of intolerance, injustice, prejudice, and racial discrimination in a way that tweens can understand. Some of the characters had some clues about how Shazam felt about Japanese people but they did not know how deeply those feelings ran or how violently they might be axpressed. For Aki’s friends, they were happy to have her back – a missing part of their community and their school, she is welcomed home after her family is released from their imprisonment.

This story and others like it open up a conversation about discrimination and unfair treatment that gets tweens thinking of their own feelings and perspectives. Aside from conveying important facts about the Japanese internment camps and life after WWII, this story brings up basic things like actions and consequences, prejudices, fairness, conflict and anger, and gives young readers an opportunity to consider where their own judgments and conflicts might be. Multicultural novels like Bat 6 are critical in providing perspectives other than our own, and this is especially valuable for tweens and teens. By placing young people in the shoes of others, they are given a glimpse into that person’s feelings and experiences. This is one of the most effective ways to experience empathy and this type of literature plays an important role.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 1, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0590898000
ISBN-13: 978-0590898003

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