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Because I Am Furniture

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Anke lives in fear of her father and his wrath. He abuses her brother and sister in a variety of ways, but Anke is invisible to him. He pays her no attention at all. She begins to wonder what is worse, abuse or being completely ignored as if she is nothing. Then Anke joins the volleyball team at school and finds her voice. Her growing strength of body and spirit means that she can no longer be the silent witness at home. Told in poems, this novel explores the damage of abuse in a family and what happens when one person changes her role.

Chaltas’ poems capture small scenes in Anke’s life, adding up together into a full picture of a teen girl and the strange world she survives in. There are poems that hurt to read, changing the way breath moves out of your body. The poems are built to ebb and flow, not all have that crippling pain in them, allowing readers to breathe once more. But all carry the knowledge of a tortuous existence. Beautifully written, wonderfully paced and vividly done.

Recommended for readers of A Child Called It, this book uses poetry to bring emotions and pain directly to the reader. Not for the faint of heart, this book is powerful and bleak, but will leave readers with hope in the end. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Freeze Frame

Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe

Kyle can’t remember what happened in the moments before his best friend Jason died.  He tries to write the scene many different ways in the styles of his favorite film directors, but nothing fills in that blank in his memory.  Did he mean to kill his friend?  What happened in those few seconds?  And why can’t he remember?

Ayarbe’s first novel is a dark nest of tension, doubt and fear.  Her ingenious use of film and novels as a language to psychology will make the book very accessible to teens who enjoy movies.  Kyle is a fascinating protagonist who feels such guilt for what happened, no matter his own personal role in it.  His family’s reaction as well as the reaction of Jason’s family is so well done and gut wrenching that it could be a novel of its own.  Beautifully, taut writing with great characters.  No one could wish for more.

I just have to mention the inclusion of a vivid school librarian who is a large part of Kyle’s recovery.   What a joy to have the librarian be not only a character but an intriguing and strong one.

Highly recommended for teens who enjoy a good psychological mystery.  Even better if they enjoy films too.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Flying Eagle

Flying Eagle by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

In rhyming couplets, the story of an eagle hunting in the Serengeti National Park is told.  He has been hunting all day for food to feed his chick back in the nest but has had no luck.  Now it is sunset and different animals come out in the emerging darkness.  Readers will see hippos, rhinos, gnu, crocodiles, and even a human with a gun!  How can the exhausted eagle father find food with all of the dangers he faces?

The poetry is grippingly brief, making this a great book to share with young children looking for an African adventure filled with animals and danger.  Ray’s illustrations are deeply colored, evocative of the African world, and depict the tension of the book perfectly.

Recommended for both African and poetry units, this book is a tense tale told with vibrancy and depth.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.