Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick

Summary:  Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity.  But when his world suddenly interlocks--like the gears of the clocks he keeps--with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the train station, Hugo's undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy.  A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

With 284 pages of original drawings, and combining elements of picture book, graphic novel, and film, Brian Selznick breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience.  Here is a stunning, cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller, artist and bookmaker.  (Summary from book jacket and image from  http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com/)

My Review:  This book has taken the school world by storm--it was made into a major motion picture which is usually a positive sign and was a fairly good movie too.  Selznick said he wanted to combine his love of art and drawing with reading.  I believe he created just that.  This is the perfect book for the reluctant reader, especially male readers.  It's a graphic novel that pushes the envelope of an actual novel, albeit a short one.  The atmosphere felt dark, foreboding, and if I were a child reading it, maybe even scary.  I loved the idea of magic mixed with mechanical objects and movies.  All three of these things fascinate children.  Huge faces major obstacles to his safety, happiness, and future simply by being an orphan.  When his uncle inexplicably doesn't turn up, his life gets even more complicated.  He must overcome his own fears and branch out past his little world of winding clocks if he will ever manage to fix the mechanical man.  I also loved his friendship with Isabelle and the relationship that ensues from his interactions wit her godfather.  The overall message is one of hope.  And in today's world, I think this is a great message to build in children.

Rating: 4 Stars, although if I were a child reading this I would probably give this 4.5 or 5 stars.

Sum it up:  A graphic novel bordering on short novel that will entice your reluctant reader and give him the faith to see himself as a reader after finishing!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

And the winner is...

Congratulations to 
Patty Woodland,
winner of 
by Andrea Chesman 

We'll be contacting you soon to arrange shipping!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Goddess Test - Aimee Carter

Summary:  Every girl who has taken the test has died.  Now it's Kate's turn.

It's always been just Kate and her mom - and her mother is dying.  Her last wish?  To move back to her childhood home.  So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry.  Dark.  Tortured.  And mesmerizing.  He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld - and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy - until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead.  Now saving her mother seems crazily possible.  IF she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails...

(Summary from book - Image from www.lakewoodtimes.net )

My Review:  I love mythology.  Despite a professor in college that did his level best to ruin it for me, I just can't seem to pass up books that even hint at the Greek or Roman pantheon.  It's a weakness.  In this book, a young girl named Kate has a run-in with a boy who claims to be Hades, Lord of the Underworld.  To save a life, she makes a deal with him and soon finds herself thrown into a world of gods and goddesses that she never believed existed.  In this world Kate must complete seven tests to attain immortality and have the time she needs to save her mother.  Unfortunately, not everyone is rooting for Kate to succeed and her life, or what she has left of it, is in incredible danger.

The Goddess Test managed to soothe, if not entirely satisfy,  my craving for mindless, romantic, stress-free reading.  It might not be high quality literature, but it was an entertaining way pass the time as I soaked my injured knees in the hot tub at our local gym. (Note to self:  Running is lame.  Reading is much more fun and less likely to cause injury.)  Since this is only the first book in the series, I was worried that I'd be left hanging, and I was, a little.  There was enough resolution at the end to keep me from having a coronary, but there was also enough left unsaid that I have already put my copy of the sequel, Goddess Interrupted, on hold at the library.

My favorite part about this book I can't really tell you about because it would ruin a huge part of the story.  However, I will say that not everyone in this book is who they say they are or who they appear to be.  Some aspects of the story were thoroughly obvious, but others completely took me by surprise.  If you are truly evil and want to spoil things for yourself, make sure to look at the character glossary at the back of the book.  Seriously, don't do it.  It's more fun to be surprised.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  A few instances of profanity (one or two, I think).  Some violence.  A little bit of making out with extremely vague references to the sexual intimacy that followed.  Also, some might take issue with the whole "becoming a Goddess" thing.

Sum it up:  Mindless, romantic, stress-free reading.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spooktacular Titles - A Guide to the Best Halloween Reads

There's something about reading in the fall.  The crisp air, the lead-up to Halloween, fresh apple cider ... I think it may be my favorite time of year, and there's nothing better than indulging in some spooky classics to prepare yourself for Halloween.  There best part about reading these just might be the icy fingers of imagination running up your spine as you lose yourself in the words.  Here are some of my favorite perennial Halloween reads (in no particular order).

A delightfully spooky read for the whole family.  I'm thinking it's time to introduce my son to this classic!
What can I say about Rebecca?  The mystery, the love, Manderley itself, what a wonderful October read!
Harry Potter is the perfect October read for families.  Spooky, fun, and magical!
If a book can scare me in the middle of summer in my backyard, it's a GIVEN for Spook Season!
For a work that Shelley meant to be a short story, this has stood the test of time, and can certainly scare anyone!
The battle between ourselves ... is there anything scarier than the shadows of ourselves we don't want to face?
 Shivers.  This will certainly give you shivers.
Has anyone else been watching the new BBC "Sherlock"?  
Oh, my goodness, the BBC does adaptions right!
From the first line, "Once upon a midnight dreary ..." I feel transported to a foggy, cold, rainy fall evening.  It just gets better from there!
Again, what can be more terrifying than facing ourselves?
Any Christie novel is good in October, but this one takes the cake!
Collins is wordy.  But if you can power through, this book will certainly get you in an Halloween-y mood.
I don't know what it was about the late 1800s, but they wrote some wonderfully scary novels!
In a complete departure from the lovely "Anne of Green Gables" series, Montgomery explores love stories that break the barrier of death.  Not "Sixth Sense" scary, but lightly spooky!
Okay, this one isn't so scary as it is simply thrilling, but it's definitely worth a read!
I don't like Wuthering Heights at all.  I don't.  
But if I had to read it, it'd only be in October!


I'm always looking for good spooky reads to add to my list.  What are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tender at the Bone : Growing Up at the Table - Ruth Reichl

Summary:  At an early age, Ruth Reichl discvoered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world.... If you watched people as they ate, you could find otu who they were."  Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and definied in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told.  Beginning with Reichl's mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the facinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first souffle, to those at her politically correct table in Berkely who championed the organic food revolution of the 1970s.  Spiced with Reichl's infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist's coming-of-age.  (Summary from book - Image from Goodreads.com)

My Review:  Tender at the Bone is Ruth Reichl's mostly true tale of the people, places, and food that informed her culinary character.  She recounts her experiences with passion and detail -- picking at her manic depressive mother's noxious cooking, discovering new appetites at a French boarding school, expanding her creativity at a new age commune in California, and relishing fine cuisine as a food critic. 

Reichl's journey from guardian of the guests at her mother's table to self-assured food connoisseur is delectable and fascinating, but each experience felt a little disconnected rather than part of a flowing memoir. I'm a bit stressed right now and it was less than emotionally southing to read about the distantly dysfunctional relationship she had with her family.   However, taken as a whole, I enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it as an interesting read for lovers of food lit.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  This book was read in stages over about two weeks and I took very little notes.  I remember some swearing, but not a ton.  I can't remember anything else "objectionable," but I wouldn't bet my life on it.

Sum it up:  A delectable culinary journey.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Pickled Pantry - Andrea Chesman + GIVEAWAY

Summary: Why limit yourself to cucumbers when pickling brings out the best in so many vegetables and fruits? Andrea Chesman offers dozens of zesty possibilities in this comprehensive guide to pickling that features recipes for the crisp cucumbers you've always loved -- dills, half-sours, bread and butters -- plus delicious ideas for pickling everything from carrots to rhubarb, cabbage to pineapple.

It doesn't matter whether you have a few fresh-picked cucumbers or ten pounds of beets. Single-jar recipes big-harvest ideas, relishes, chutneys, fermented pickles and krauts, and freezer and refrigerator varieties provide pickling solutions for every situation. And once your pantry is fully stocked, Chesman provides recipes for 35 delicious ways to use your pickles in prepared dishes. Cover image from www.BN.com, summary from book
 
My Review: I have to admit, I was hesitant when offered this book. I'm a huge Andrea Chesman fan, but pickling really isn't my thing. I accepted it out of pure curiosity, (and because I'm a huge Andrea Chesman fan) and was pleasantly surprised to have a to-do list stuck on the inside when I finished browsing through it. Like her other books, it's a great resource if you've got a fruit or vegetable you're not sure what to with. Plus, it's packed with all kinds of information about pickling and canning.

In addition to pickles (and pickled vegetables) she has recipes for salsas and relishes, which caught my eye. Next on my list is her tomatillo salsa and tomato relish! (Because my tomato plants have NOT gotten the memo and are still spewing fruit.)

I already tried her Homemade Sauerkraut recipe last spring because that recipe was also in Recipes from the Root Cellar (along with the Hot German Potato Salad with Sauerkraut which is also in both books). From this book I made the Napa Cabbage and Carrot Kimchi. My husband is a fan of kimchi, so I did it for him. (True love) While I don't think I'll be gobbling this stuff up by the bowl full, it's a great spicy-pickly garnish for salads, sandwiches, stir-frys, and even tacos. Yep, tacos.

If there's anything you've ever wanted to pickle, chances are you'll find what you need in this book. Plus recipes to use them in once they're finished!

My Rating: 5

Sum it up: The perfect book for all things pickled.

                                                                     

WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK?

It'll make all of your pickling dreams come true. We promise.

To enter to win you must:
  • Leave a comment on this post with your contact information and tell us how much you love pickles. Or sauerkraut. Or kimchi. Or just tell us how much you love Reading for Sanity. That works, too.

Eligibility:  This giveaway is open to US/CAN residents only.  It will run from October 22nd, 2012 to October 29th, 2012 at 8:00 PM, PST.  The winner will be chosen randomly, posted publicly, and contacted swiftly to arrange shipping. Reading For Sanity reserves the write to disqualify any entrant for not following the rules or just being a giant pain in the tush.


Friday, October 19, 2012

We Bought a Zoo - Benjamin Mee

Summary:  In the tradition of "Marley & Me" comes an unforgettable memoir about the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy in this chronicle of the Mee family's purchase of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. (Summary and book cover image courtesy of goodreads.com)


My Review:  This movie made me cry, and usually when movies make me cry and they’re based on a book, I’m so overcome with anticipation of getting to the library and checking out the book that I can’t sleep. 

The book didn’t disappoint.  Benjamin Mee was a journalist (as he mentions every page or two … a DIY expert!  Get that?!  DIY!!  That got old.), so his writing style flowed well, was appropriately pithy and poignant, and made a good summertime read.  It made me want to get to a smaller zoo with my kids as soon as I can.

There were a few things, however, that induced some serious eye-rolling.  As I mentioned earlier, Mee is overly fond of reminding his reader that he was a journalist.  A DIY expert, actually, so clearly a few articles equates to master mason.  It got old, fast.  He also goes off on tangents, and as someone who wrote my fair share of lengthy research papers, some of his tangents honestly felt like he had done the research for an article that hadn’t been published, and dang it, he was going to get it out there, by hook or by crook!  My only other complaint was his fractured timeline.  His writing of losing his wife was so touching, so poignant, that I was completely confused to be reading a conversation between her and some friends a few chapters later.  Discontinuity like that wasn’t rampant, but frequent enough that I need to keep a sharp eye on the text.

Overall, this was a really nice read, and perhaps someday, I’ll be able to talk my husband into a visit to Dartmoor.  Even though it’s in England.

Rating:  Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There are a few conversations with some pretty salty language, and some talk of heavy drinking.

Sum it Up:  This would make a great vacation or recovery read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Big Stone Gap - Adriana Trigiani

Summary:  Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the tiny town of Big Stone Gap is home to some of the most charming eccentrics in the state.  Ave Maria Mulligan is the town's self-proclaimed spinster, a thirty-five-year-old pharmacists with a "mountain girl's body and a flat behind."  She lives an amiable life with good friends and lots of hobbies until the fateful day in 1978 when she suddenly discovers that she's not who she always thought she was.  Before she can blink, Ave's fielding marriage proposals, fighting off greedy family members, organizing a celebration for visiting celebrities and planning the trip of a lifetime -- a trip that could change her view of the world and her own place in it forever.  (Summary from book - Image from www.goodreads.com)

My Review:  In the backwoods town of Big Stone Gap, where everything is everyone’s business, thirty-five year old pharmacist Ave Maria Mulligan is the Unthinkable.  Single.  When her mother dies and Ave discovers a scandalous family secret,  she is sent reeling into a world of emotion that she isn’t quite ready to handle.  Throw in a few unexpected marriage proposals and you have the makings of a terrific mental breakdown.  When Ave comes back to her senses, she knows it’s time to take control of her life and do the one thing she has wanted and feared the most; it’s time to leave Big Stone Gap.

I wish I could give you an in depth review of this book, but I decided to read this one without making very many notes and as a result I can only give you my vague impressions.  Note to self.  Take more notes.

Big Stone Gap is an exceptionally character driven novel.  Ave Maria’s circle of friends, family, and acquaintances about town feel both authentic and entirely off the wall.  I loved all the supporting characters and the little details the author used made them shine, but occasionally I wanted to smack Ave around a bit.  She was frustratingly dense when it came to understanding the emotions, needs, and motivations of herself and others.  It’s almost like she was a guy.  I say it with love, people.  I say it with love.

In all of this, there was a delightful romance simmering between Ave and I AM NOT GOING TO TELL YOU SO HAH!  I think it's cute that you thought I was going to tell you.  I will say that I was perfectly happy with the book’s ending.

Despite the fascinating characters and small town charisma, once I finished Big Stone Gap I didn’t feel the overwhelming need to keep it for my personal collection or hand it out to all of my friends. It was a good, one-time read.  I enjoyed it, but after I finish this review I’ll move on to another book and likely never give Big Stone Gap or its inhabitants a second thought.  Here I go.  This is me.  Moving on.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Some sexual references and/or dialogue and a few instances of profanity (only one F-bomb…I think).

Sum it up:    Good while it lasted.  An interesting characterization of small town dynamics.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Barnaby Bennett - Hannah Rainforth

Big brother moaned.  Sissy Girl mumbled.  Dad muttered on and Mom, well, she grumbled.  But Barnaby said, "I'm Barnaby Bennett.  I only wear red."  (From back of book - Image from barnesandnoble.com - Book given free for an honest review.)

My Review:  Barnaby Bennett is stinkin’ adorable.  He’s also rather determined, and will only wear the color red despite the pleadings of his parents.  Since red clothes are in limited supply at the Bennett house, Barnaby soon becomes quite dirty…and stinky.   Will his parents be able to change his mind, broaden his wardrobe, and banish the stench?  Read it and see!

Some books come and go and our house, but Barnaby Bennett is staying on our bookshelves.  It’s alliterative, rhyming prose, colorful illustrations, and varied fonts make it fabulous for little readers – all three of mine adored it. 

My Rating: 4 Stars.

Sum it up:  Super cute.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Scent of Rain and Lightning - Nancy Pickard

Summary:  One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder receives shocking news:  The man convicted of murdering her father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas.  It has been twenty-three years since that stormy night when her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead.  Neither the protective embrace of Jody's three uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents' ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night.

Now Billy Crosby is free, thanks to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father's innocence   Despite their long history of carefully avoiding each other in such an insular community, Jody and Collin find that they share and exclusive sense of loss.

As Jody revisits old wounds, startling truths emerge about her family's tragic past.  But even through struggle and hardship, she still dares to hope for a better future -- and maybe even love.  (Summary from book - Image from www.randomhouse.com)

My Review:  One quick look at my review list makes it obvious that I don't read a lot of mysteries.   I mean, I only need to know so many creative ways to kill someone and I reached my fill during Season 3 of CSI.  However, when a friend dropped this mystery off on my doorstep with some chocolate and her recommendation, I decided to give it a try.  I snarfed the bag right away, but it took me four months to get around to reading this book.  Hey, I have my priorities.

The Scent of Rain and Lightining kept me up very late.  I tore through its pages in less than 24 hours because I just had to know if Billy Crosby was the real killer or if someone else had gotten away with murder.  Most of the main characters in this book were part of a small town aristocracy that could do no wrong in the eyes of many of the townsfolk.  On the surface, their life seemed idyllic but as the story progressed it was fascinating to watch the layers peel away and expose the cracks underneath.   The author sprinkled delicious bits of dramatic foreshadowing alongside intentional misdirection so that,by the time I was halfway through, the clues were pointing every which way, I had a mile-long list of potential suspects, and was wound pretty tight.    

The one major drawback to this novel is that I can’t recommend it to every reader.  There was frequent profanity and some sexual situations, including a rather graphic scene in the last few chapters.  I’m sure there are arguments for character authenticity and plot integrity, but I just didn’t like that I couldn’t recommend this book to my family and most of my friends.  Otherwise, I enjoyed almost every inch of this book, and loved finding out what really happened the night of that fateful storm.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Plenty of profanity, some sexual situations, including one rather graphic scene.

Sum it up:  A delicious mystery not suitable for all readers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Printz Award and Honor Books (aka Best Books for Young Adults)

The Michael L. Printz Award is an annual award given out by the ALA for the year's "best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit."  I found this great list here, but have linked all the Winner and Honor books (2000-2012) so that you may browse.  Have fun!

2012 Winner: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Honor Books: 
Why We Broke Upwritten by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
The Returningwritten by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Joneswritten by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Raceswritten by Maggie Stiefvater






2011 Winner: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Honor Books: 
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Please Ignore Vera Dietz  by A.S. King
Revolver written by Marcus Sedgwick
Nothing written by Janne Teller







2010 Winner: Going Bovine by Libba Bray






2009 Winner: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
2008 Winner: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
Honor Books: 
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill






2007 Winner: American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
Honor Books:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
Surrender, by Sonya Hartnett
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak  (RFS REVIEWED HERE AND HERE)






2006 Winner: Looking for Alaska, by John Green  (RFS reviewed HERE and HERE)
Honor Books:
Black Juice , by Margo Lanagan
I Am the Messenger , by Markus Zusak (RFS REVIEWED)
John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, a Photographic Biography,  by Elizabeth Partridge
A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson






2005 Winner: how i live now, by Meg Rosoff

Honor Books:
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel
Chanda’s Secrets, by Allan Stratton


2004 Winner: The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson

Honor Books:
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
Keesha’s House, by Helen Frost
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going


2003 Winner: Postcards from No Man’s Land, by Aidan Chambers

Honor Books:
My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos








2002 Winner: A Step From Heaven, by An Na

Honor Books:
The Ropemaker, by Peter Dickinson
Freewill, by Chris Lynch
True Believer, by Virginia Euwer Wolff







2001 Winner: Kit’s Wilderness, by David Almond

Honor Books:
Many Stones, by Carolyn Coman
The Body of Christopher Creed, by Carol Plum-Ucci
Stuck in Neutral, by Terry Trueman






2000 Winner: Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

Honor Books:
Skellig, by David Almond
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (RFS REVIEWED)
Hard Love, by Ellen Wittlinger

Monday, October 8, 2012

Publish Like the Pros - Michele DeFilippo

SummaryPublish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing is a must-read for new authors who want to get it right when self-publishing their books.  Self-publishing is a perplexing and ever-shifting landscape; it's easy for new authors to get taken in by self-publishing companies that promise the moon but don't deliver.  In just 88 pages, Publish Like the Pros takes the confusion out of self-publishing and gives authors the six steps to publishing quality professional books that don't scream "I'm self-published!"  The self-publishing author will find everything he or she needs to get started, including cover design, book titles, typesetting, editing and proofreading, and a special chapter on book distribution, pricing and marketing.  (Summary from of the book and image from http://anglophilereads.blogspot.com/  )

My Review:  I'd never read anything on self-publishing before this book, so my audience must realize that I'm a complete novice to this world.  I've also never tried to publish anything from a publishing company.  I do have friends who've published, but everything I've seen has been second hand.

This book is just what it says it is--a quick guide.  The project oriented person that I am wanted more details, specifically names, companies, details on proofreaders, editors, designers, cover artists, etc.  But, I do realize that this is supposed to be a quick reference guide, not a reference book for contacts.  I liked the emphasis it gives on how a novice would assume certain things about publishing (I think I would have easily fallen into these assumptions) and what you can do to prevent these missteps.  As a teacher I can also see why she put emphasis on the editing and proofreading.  It's amazing how many tiny details your eye doesn't see because your mind will fix it since you know what you meant to say even if it doesn't show up on the page.  Her caution that there are a lot of up front costs, but that you end up with a better deal if you pay for it to be done the right way the first time, was also very helpful.  The frugal side of me probably would want to cut corners with these costs.  It's good to see the reasons why not to.  I also really liked the chapter on distribution, pricing, and marketing.  While, again, I think there could be more information on marketing, this gets the readers feet wet in what to expect and why prices, etc. are set the way they are.

For someone wanting to know more, wanting to understand if the self-publishing route is the right one for them, I would highly recommend this guide.

Rating: 4 stars

Sum it up:  A quick reference for self-publishing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Banned Books Week: Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa - Mark Mathabane


Summary:  Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered "Kaffir" from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do -- he escaped to tell about it.  (Summary from amazon.com - Image from www.marshall.edu)

My Review:  I told my husband I’d chosen this book to review for Banned Books Week, and one glance at the cover elicited a “Whoa!! I can tell why that book’s been banned!” from him.  He served a two-year mission in South Africa, and “Kaffir” (the Arabic word for “infidel”) has the same connotation as the N-word here. 

Kaffir Boy was written during Apartheid’s final years, and I found myself having to remind myself of that.  All told, however, it is a difficult read.  The conditions forced upon the Africans were atrocious, and the measures that Mathabane’s family and acquaintances had to resort to were unspeakable.  It didn’t take long before I saw why this book has been banned, the standard practices and ways of coping with Apartheid were so atrocious, I’m not sure I’d want my (younger) kids reading about it.  It was fascinating, however, to read of Mathabane’s “escape” from the Bantu-approved way of life through tennis and education, to relive the townships’ reactions to the death of Steven Bilko, the education riots, and to see Apartheid through Mathabane’s eyes. 

Sum it Up:  An invaluable history of Apartheid, told by one who survived the worst of it.

My Rating:  Four stars for education value.  However, I wouldn’t pick it up again.

For the Sensitive Reader: Graphic descriptions of beatings, murder, and illnesses. Mathabane also recounts a near escape of child prostitution.  Keep in mind that this novel was written to shock the Western World into realizing how atrocious Apartheid really was.

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