Book Review: These Hands by Margaret H. Mason


These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Joseph’s grandfather’s hands can still do so many amazing things.  He used to be able to tie knots very quickly, now he helps Joseph learn to tie his shoes.  He can play the piano.  He can show Joseph how to do a waterfall shuffle with cards.  He could pitch a curve ball in his youth, now he can teach Joseph to hit a line drive.  But there were things his hands couldn’t do when he was younger.  His hands were forbidden to touch the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory.  His hands could touch the broom to sweep the floor, work the line, load the trucks, but not touch the bread.  So his hands helped with the protests and organizing, and now all colors of hands can touch the bread dough.  His hands can do anything in the world.

This is a powerful book that speaks of discrimination in a very tangible way that children will clearly understand.  Mason writes from the point of view of that grandfather speaking to Joseph.  The book has a clear point of view, a ringing tone, and a wonderfully light hand.  Looking at a grandfather through his hands makes him so human yet so amazing.  This focused approach makes the book even stronger.

Cooper’s art is stellar.  The illustrations have a softness that is beautiful, all hard edges softer and rounder.  The light in the art is also particularly well done with its warmth that stays consistent even during the dark times of the story.  The art shows such strength, such vivid storytelling.

Highly recommended, this is a picture book about discrimination and civil rights that will work very well with small children.  There’s plenty to discuss here in a classroom or in a living room.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth


Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice lives the selfless life of a person in the Abnegation faction.  She wears gray, avoids mirrors, and tries to always think of other before herself.  But she feels that she isn’t any good at it, unlike her brother, who manages the strict lifestyle perfectly.  In this dystopian novel set in Chicago, there are five factions who keep the peace.  Now that Beatrice is 16, she is tested for suitability in different factions and then is given the choice of which faction she wants to join.  But her results are odd, indicating that she could be suitable for three of the factions, meaning that she is divergent.  It is something that is not only rare but could put her life in danger if others found out.  Now Beatrice has a choice, leave her family behind in Abnegation or stay and be selfless as she has always been taught.

I tried to keep any spoilers from my summary above.  You’ll find that all of that action happens in the first few chapters.  I avoided reviews of this novel, waiting to get my hands on a copy, and I was very happy to discover the world of Divergent myself. 

Roth has created a dystopian fantasy that is a wild ride of a novel.  There is lots of violence, tons of action, and scenes that are guaranteed to raise your pulse from excitement.  And just with any great teen novel, there is romance.  In this case, it’s a romance that may not surprise but builds and matures with grace.  Roth has created a world that is alarming and very different from our own.  The political intrigue of the novel gives it a wonderful depth.

Beatrice is a great heroine who has plenty of self-doubt, learns about herself, underestimates herself, and learns to make friends, depend on others, yet stay uniquely independent.  She is a strong heroine who shows her vulnerability too.  With that touch of doubt, she becomes a much more human character whom readers can relate to.

A delight of a dystopian fantasy, make sure you have this in your library teen collection.  Get it directly into the hands of Hunger Games fans, who will return begging to know when the next book is coming out!  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

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