Bringing Asha Home

Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib.

This is a picture book for older children which celebrates adoption.  Arun is celebrating Rakhi, the Hindu holiday special to siblings, and wishes that he had a little brother or sister.  Soon he finds out that his wish is coming true and his family is adopting a baby from India.  But the family faces many delays in Asha joining their family.  It is almost a year before Asha finally joins their family.

In the year that Arun has to wait for Asha to arrive, he experiences lots of genuine fears and feelings about his new sister.  It is well written and offers a real look at the ups and downs of an older sibling facing an adoption, especially an international one. 

Recommend this to families adopting, but also to teachers and others who would like to use it to discuss feelings or families.  It is the right length to use with first through third graders for reading aloud. 

Black Duck

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle.

If you have been looking at the top books of 2006 lists that are floating around on lists like YALSA-BK, you will have heard of Black Duck.  It seems to be one of the top choices of the year.  And I completely agree. 

Black Duck tells the story Ruben, a teen boy at the height of Prohibition and rum running along the New England coast.  Ruben and his friend Jeddy find a dead body floating along the beach and are caught up in the question of who the man was and why he was murdered.  Ruben, son of the manager at the local grocery store and Jeddy, son of the local chief of police, rarely see eye to eye about whether something has to be reported or not.  As their friendship crumbles, Ruben is drawn deeper and deeper into the world of the rum runners, especially the legendary Black Duck.

The writing here is perfect, unobtrusive and brisk.  It captures the beauty of the setting filled with fog and uninhabited coves, as well as creating a world where the story surges forward carrying readers along.  This is a great feat of writing where you get a strong feeling of place but also find that the action is unburdened by it. Readers will find it easy to read along at a breakneck speed as they are caught up in the adventure, but they will also find that they have learned a lot about the Prohibition Era on the way. 

Recommend this novel to older elementary age and teens who enjoy a good adventure story, especially ones who will appreciate the fact that this is reality-based and could have happened.  It should also be recommended to kids who enjoy historical fiction.