March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | January 2017

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1701-mg-xpress-maccoll-lostonesMacColl, Michaela. The Lost Ones. 256p. Calkins Creek. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781620916254.

Gr 4-7 –The real-life drama of 12-year-old Casita and her younger brother Jack is the premise of this historical fiction novel about Lipan Apache children adapting to life at the Carlisle Indian School. It opens with a gratuitously graphic raid by the U.S. calvary on the young protagonist’s village, during which her mother is murdered. The incident is reminiscent of a similar scene from the Newbery Award–winning book Matchlock Gun (1938), in which American Indians attack white settlers. Unfortunately, the author’s descriptions of the two main Native children often borrow heavily from stereotypical depictions from that same era. The captured children are transported east to live on a military base in the care of a childless Quaker woman and her lieutenant officer husband. The couple accept the responsibility of “civilizing” Casita and Jack. The narrative consistently uses phrases that imbue the children with animal-like qualities. Further playing into troublesome stereotypes about Native people, the terms fierce and warrior are used to describe Jack, a little boy who is about eight years old. Also disturbing is Jack’s elation at being called a “mascot.” Though the author consulted with Native readers, she nevertheless projects a nonindigenous point of view, manifested most obviously in how the children think and why they react as they do in certain situations. VERDICT The complexities of Native cultures and the realities of the history of residential schools deserve to be addressed by someone with a deep and suitable knowledge of Apache culture. Not recommended.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery

1701-mg-xpress-westerfeld-horizonWesterfeld, Scott. Horizon. 256p. Scholastic. Dec. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545916776.

Gr 5-8 –While traveling to an international engineering competition, four young teens find themselves stranded when their plane crashes in a menacing, inhospitable jungle. Along with four other teens, the eight are the only survivors. They should be in the Arctic but are in a tropical jungle instead. How is this possible? Where are they? How do they get home? Westerfeld creates a world with vicious predatory creatures, malfunctioning physical forces, and realistic characters. The teens must work together to survive. Many are scientifically minded and frequently use math and science to solve problems. As the first of a planned seven-book series, this installment does a great deal of introducing (characters, setting, conflicts, etc.). This does not, however, detract from the pacing or development of the narrative. With a tie-in online video game, this sci-fi title will have multiple platforms to keep readers’ interest between volumes. VERDICT Buy where science fiction and survival stories are popular. Expect a hold list for this one.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.