MG/YA – Sylvie

Kantorovitz, Sylvie. Sylvie. Walker Books, 2021. 346 p. $24.99 978-1-536-20762-0. Grades 7-12.

In this graphic novel, Artist Sylvie Kantoritz shares her life growing up in France, living in an envied apartment that was part of the small teaching college her father directed. She shows the personalities of her father (easy-going), her mother (never satisfied), and her younger brothers and sister. She strives to make everything work: to be the perfect student, daughter, sister, and friend, while feeling uncertain of where she is headed. As the years pass, she changes friends, finds a boyfriend, and always tries to find her own place. Her fascination with art continues to grow throughout her life, and her father encourages her to seek a future in teaching and art. Finally, Sylvie feels that she’s found her own way to a life of her choosing. She ends the memoir with this thought: “Finding out who we are, and not who others think we are or want us to be, is the most important search in life.” The characters’ expressions are endearing and revealing, through anger and surprise to dismay and joy.

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy following Sylvie’s life and growth in this quiet homage to the ups and downs of family life.

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Inside Art Movements

Brooks, Susie. Inside Art Movements. Compass Point Books, 2020. $21.49 ea. $128.94 Set of 6. 48 p. Grades 6-8.

Cubism. 978-0-7565-6236-6.
Impressionism. 978-0-756-56237-3.
Pop Art. 978-0-756-56238-0.
The Renaissance. 978-0-756-56239-7.
Romanticism. 978-0-756-56240-3.
Surrealism. 978-0-756-56241-0.

In concise yet descriptive text, author Susie Brooks traces the history and aesthetic of impressionism,  the popular art movement of the mid-19th century. Each attractive double-page spread is dedicated to one of the key elements of this innovative art style. This slim volume presents information in short, labeled paragraphs accompanied by several colored illustrations from the major artists of the period. The author defines impressionism; describes the  different schools (Beaux Arts and Barbizon); provides pithy biographies of leading painters; traces the controversies, influences, advances, and legacy of the movement. be interactive. Ms. Brooks adds an interactive aspect to the text by posing a question to the reader to examine the artwork for comparisons. What raises this expository text above the typical informational book on art is Ms. Brooks’s ability to explain her subject succinctly and eloquently and to provide a well-rounded albeit condensed look at this movement from its controversial beginnings to its evolution and influence in post-Impressionism and modern art. Includes contents, index, glossary, and timeline. Artists included are: Monet, Manet, Degas, Cassatt, Cezanne, Morisot, Renoir, Pissarro, Caillebotte, Sisley, Millet, Corot, Boudin, Theodore Robinson, Turner, Seurat, Whistler, and Rousseau.

THOUGHTS: Adequate addition to art sections in elementary libraries. This selection is a brief, attractive, well-written overview. (Title Reviewed: Impressionism)

709 Art          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

MG – Village of Scoundrels

Preus, Margi. Village of Scoundrels. Amulet Books, 2020. 978-1-419-70897-8. 295 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

To the people of Nazi ocupied France, every step must be calculated and every risk weighed carefully. In this powerful novel, Preus explores how the young people of France band together in order to smuggle refugees across the border into neutral Switzerland. Henni, a Jewish girl in hiding, helps to protect children by hiding them in the woods during Nazi raids on their hiding spot. Celeste bravely travels across the country to procure items necessary to continue bringing people to safety. Although these girls are brilliant in their work, they also need someone who can provide legal documents and safe travel. Jean Paul is an expert at forgery, and Philippe is knowledgeable with the terrain and how to arrange passage. This group of children will assist the extrication of hundreds of people and stand up for what is right no matter the risk and danger associated with their tasks.

THOUGHTS: This novel is based on a true story and is thoughtfully written. The pages are filled with accurate details and French and German words. The author provides a Cast of Characters (almost like a Playbill) and a pronunciation guide at the start of the book. This proves useful because there are a variety of characters to keep up with, which at times is overwhelming as they jump from person to person within a chapter. A great read for those who enjoy reading historical fiction and the World War II time period.

Historical Fiction        Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

The Nightingale

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Hannah, Kristin. The Nightingale. New York; St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Print. 978-0312577223. 448 p. $27.99. Gr. 11+.

Kristin Hannah’s newest historical fiction novel is an excellent addition to the numerous titles that focus on WWII. Her story centers around the lives of two sisters living in France, Vianne and Isabelle. Their father fought in the Great War, and after the death of their mother, fully succumbs to his PTSD and sends both girls to Carriveau, a small village in southern France. Vianne marries young, but impetuous Isabelle is sent to one boarding school after another. The novel begins with Vianne’s husband Antoine leaving to fight with the French army, and Isabelle arriving in Paris after being asked to leave her latest boarding school. When Germans invade France, Isabelle’s father forces her to leave Paris, and on the march to Carriveau she meets and falls in love with Gaetan, a man who introduces her to the idea of the Resistance. When a German officer eventually takes up residence in Vianne’s home, Isabelle realizes that she cannot stay with her sister, and ends up leaving and joining the Resistance in Paris, leading downed Allied airmen across treacherous mountains to safety in Spain. Meanwhile, Vianne deals with the deportation of her Jewish best friend and living with a German soldier in her home. The characters of Vianne and Isabelle are expertly drawn, and the reader feels what each individual woman is going through and develops an appreciation for and better understanding of the roles of women during wartime. The novel is interspersed with short descriptions of one of the sisters as an elderly woman preparing to return to Paris for a reunion of survivors. The story is fast paced, well-written, and all-around an excellent historical fiction. Recommend this title to students interested in the Holocaust and female involvement in WWII.

Historical (WWII France)  Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

I randomly picked up this title, and I cannot believe that I had not discovered Kristin Hannah before. I absolutely love her style of storytelling, and wished that I had started this book in the summer so that I could sit and read for hours just to finish it!  Historical fiction is my go-to summer genre, since they are usually more lengthy than general YA fiction. Though this title is not being marketed for Young Adults, Isabelle is only 18, and I believe that her story will definitely appeal to young adults. They will identify with Isabelle’s adolescent angst and need for love and attention, but also will learn from her as she adapts and rises to various challenges that occur in her life. While I was reading this, our 10th grade Honors English classes came in to select historical fiction novels to read for an independent reading project. I book talked this book, and one girl immediately picked it up with excitement. I am eager to hear her thoughts, especially since I enjoyed it so much myself! This novel makes me want to read more first-hand accounts of non-Jewish female resistance fighters during WWII.

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister

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Sarn, Amelie. I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister. Trans. Y. Maudet. Delacourte Press, 2014. Print. 978-0385743761. 160 p. $15.99. Gr.11-12.

Amelie Sarn’s short novel about two Muslim sisters living in the projects in France is an engrossing story that will linger in the mind of the reader long after the story has ended. The author notes that it was inspired by the murder of a young Muslim girl in France in 2002.  Written in the first person point of view of one of the sisters, Sohane, the story jumps back and forth between the events leading up to the death of the other sister, Djelila, and the present. Sohane had a typical love/hate relationship with her outgoing sister. Sohane is the quiet and more studious of the two and often cannot identify with her sister. While Sahone tries to embrace her Muslim identity, Djelila seems to want to break free from the life her Algerian-French family wants for her. Sohane is especially enigmatic.  The reader grapples with defining Safone as an individual, which perfectly reflects how Sohane views herself- as an enigma of sorts, with multiple personas based on her current environment, be it  at school, home, or on the bus. Her personal identity struggle reflects what many teenagers experience at various times. Sahone decides that to fully represent her faith she wants to wear a headscarf to school, even though this is illegal in France and causes problems for her. Djelila, meanwhile, becomes a target for young men living in their projects who are offended by how Djelila acts and dresses and begin following her.  Due to the violent nature of Djelila’s death and the serious subject matter, I recommend this title for older, more mature teens who can understand the differences between moderates and fundamentalists in any religion. There is an author’s note and glossary included, and these assist with the understanding of the novel.

Realistic        Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

When I finished reading this book, a friend asked me what I thought of it. Immediately, I said that while it was a difficult read, it is one that I feel is important to share with teens in the United States. It can sometimes be hard to understand religious persecution in our nation, where we value our freedom of religion. I was, however, apprehensive about sharing this text with teens because I did not want them to come away from it with a negative view of the Muslim faith. It is important for teens to see that there are moderates and fundamentalists in every religion, which is why this text is for teens who have matured enough to realize that fact and understand that one violent group does not represent an entire people or faith. I did book-talk this book for students, but primarily Honors English 11 students. It is an approachable book because the chapters are so short and the novel itself is brief. The plot grabs you from the beginning and the reader finds her heart breaking for the quiet Sohane. She is a typical teenager trying to define who she is and how she fits into her world, and many teens will relate to her story, especially those who are wary of following in the path that has been laid out for them. This would be an excellent story to spark conversation about religious tolerance as well as religiously-based violence against women, which is something the author mentions in her note at the end of the novel. I look forward to hearing what students have to share after reading this text.