Thursday, April 30, 2020

Review: The Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest

The Summer We Found the Baby
By Amy Hest
Publication Date: 08/2020
Suggested Retail Price$16.99 / $22.99
Age Range: 10 and up
ISBN: 0763660078

Eleven-year-old Julie Sweet never expected to find a baby on the children's library steps, and she certainly never expected to take the baby home with her and her six-year old sister Martha. But before she can think about what she's doing, she's running towards Belle Beach with a baby in a basket! Martha, who first thinks the baby is a doll, is mad at Julie for not letting her carry the baby, as if that is the biggest problem right now. Twelve-year-old Bruno Ben-Eli is on his way to NYC for his first trip on a train into the city after a secretive letter from his brother who is away in the military. Before he can get to the train, he sees Julie and Martha taking a baby off of the stops and running away. Does he follow the instructions in his brother's letter, or does he follow the girls with the mysterious baby to the beach?

Told in alternating narratives between Julie, Martha, and Bruno, Amy Hest presents a unique situation for these children that proves to be more than meets the eye. Julie, Martha, and Bruno have to face adult-like situations where they have to make tough decisions that only they can process in the moment. Not only do they face a tough situation with this mysterious baby, but Ben learns something new about his brother that changes his entire family. 

With a faced-paced triple narrative Hest creates a tenderhearted, yet suspenseful, book for young readers that features a famous historical cameo in the end. 

About Beverley Naidoo:

Amy Hest is the author of many beloved books for young readers, including Remembering Mrs. Rossi, Letters to Leo, and the Katie Roberts novels. She is also the author of many picture books, including Kiss Good Night, When Jessie Came Across the Sea, and On the Night of the Shooting Star. Amy lives in New York City.

On the morning of the dedication of the new children’s library in Belle Beach, Long Island, eleven-year-old Julie Sweet and her six-year-old sister, Martha, find a baby in a basket on the library steps. At the same time, twelve-year-old Bruno Ben-Eli is on his way to catch the 9:15 train into New York City. He is on an important errand for his brother, Ben, who is serving in World War II. But when Bruno spies Julie, who hasn’t spoken to him for sixteen days, heading away from the library carrying a baby in a basket, he has to follow her. Holy everything, he thinks. Julie Sweet is a kidnapper. Of course, the truth about the baby they’ve found is much more complicated than the children know in this heartwarming and beautifully textured family story by award-winning author Amy Hest.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Journey to Jo'Burg: A South African Story

By Beverley Naidoo
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Beverley’s Photo :: Jacket Art :: Beverley’s Website
HarperCollins; November 12, 2019; Paperback; ISBN: 9780064402378; 96 pages; $6.99

In my tenth grade class, I have been reading aloud Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, and when I read Journey to Jo'Burg, I couldn't help but notice the similarities in the stories and the suffering of so many people during apartheid in South Africa. While Trevor Noah's memoir is geared towards young adults and adults, Journey to Jo'Burg is perfect for older children to tweens. Siblings Naledi and Tiro must find their mother in Johannesburg, after their younger sister becomes sick, and they need to get to a hospital. The problem with finding their mother in Johannesburg is finding their way through apartheid borders. Traveling through Soweto (with much the same experience as Noah), Naledi and Tiro face unmistakable and unforgiving discrimination and injustice.

Heartbreaking and angry, Naidoo paints a story of struggle, racism, and poverty while also depicting characters who never give up and do what they need to do to save their family. While the book focuses on the journey to find their mother, Mma has her story told from the perspective of someone who works for the rich. She barely makes any money nor can she provide a lot of basic necessities for her children.

The reader simultaneously roots for the children to find their mother, and the family to survive and fight the apartheid system.

About Beverley Naidoo:
Beverley Naidoo is the award-winning author of several children’s books, including The Other Side of Truth, No Turning Back, and Chain of Fire. Her books center on political corruption, struggle, and injustices that occur in South Africa. After being exiled, Naidoo moved to England where she married and had children with another South African exile. 

Separated from their mother by the harsh social and economic conditions prevalent among blacks in South Africa, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother make a journey over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg. Mma lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village Naledi and Tiro call home. When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn't until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity that is taking place all around them.

Additional Praise for the Book

"Growing awareness of the sufferings of South Africa's black children brings renewed point to Beverley Naidoo's Journey to Joburg, a story for young readers, the more searing for its gentleness, that makes them ask questions we must learn to answer." 
-Guardian, UK

“ simple and straightforward that it makes accessible even to quite young children the difficult and the profound.” 
-Times Educational Supplement, UK