Friday, March 8, 2013


Special Feature: Review by a Middle School Student

Shank, Marilyn Sue. Child of the Mountains. New York: Delacorte Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-385-74079-1. $16.99 US, $18.99 CAN.

Child of the Mountains is a story about hardship and the perseverance of love for one’s family. Lydia, the main character, faces many challenges throughout the story, particularly figuring out how to get her mother out of jail.

It all starts when Lydia’s little brother, BJ, gets sick. He has a disease called cystic fibrosis, which makes it hard for him to breathe. They find out that the hospital will treat BJ free of charge as long as they can study him and his disease. The family jumps at the chance to help BJ and other kids with the disease. As Lydia and BJ’s mother is going over the paperwork, the nurse tells her to just sign it and not to worry about reading it. She signs it, only hoping that the doctors will help her baby boy. Everything seems to be going all right; BJ has to travel back and forth to the hospital, but he still gets to spend time with his family. Then tragedy strikes: Lydia’s grandmother dies. The family is devastated, but soon recovers and keeps trying to help BJ. When BJ’s condition worsens, Lydia and her mother go to the hospital to see him before he dies. But the nurses will not let him leave. So Lydia and her mother decide to break him out of the hospital. Once they get home with BJ, he dies. Lydia’s mother is accused of murdering BJ, and is sent to jail after an unfair trial. Lydia is sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Her teacher, Mr. Hinkle, and his fiancee, a lawyer named Mrs. Parker find out about her mother’s unfair trial and decide to help Lydia. They get Lydia’s mother another trial and this time it is fair. Lydia’s mother gets to go free and they both move back to their old house.

The author writes the story from Lydia’s point of view like it is Lydia’s diary. She writes it in the mountain dialect of West Virginia, which makes it difficult to understand at first, but also makes you feel like you are truly present and listening to Lydia and her family members. The author also talks about what is really happening to Lydia at that moment and Lydia’s thoughts and memories she has of her brother and grandmother, which makes the plot more interesting. Overall, the book was well written and a very intriguing story. The reader laughs at BJ’s antics and cries about the tragedies that happen to Lydia’s family.

Reviewed by Caroline Melancon, 7th grade

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SARASWATI'S WAY by Monika Schroeder

Special Feature: Review by a Middle School Student

Schroeder, Monika. Saraswati’s Way. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-374-36411-3. $16.99 US

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to experience the rough life, the harsh conditions, and the sheer terror of living on the streets? Akash certainly has. Coming from a poor family, he is not expected to accomplish much in life, but Akash doesn’t care what other people think. He has great ambitions and is the top of his 7th standard class at his small village school. But he has no idea what hardships await him.

For as long as he can remember, Akash has dreamed of the city. He yearns with nothing more or less than his whole heart to attend school in the city. Akash works so hard to keep his dreams alive; nothing could seem to deter him. Akash comes home every day to an abusive mother who piles the work and criticism and a father who has always backed his mother in arguments, but loves Akash all the same. Life is normal until his father, Bapu, falls ill and dies shortly afterward. A man shows up at their house and takes Akash away to work for him to pay off a debt that his father had failed to do when he was alive. Akash doesn’t want to leave because leaving means quitting school, which was Akash’s joy. Akash thought he must be being punished. He thinks to himself as he traveled with the stranger, “Had Yama, the god of death, taken Bapu to punish him?” (36).

Akash is taken to a quarry and set to work. He is paid every week, but a part of that amount is taken out of his check to pay for his food and water. Akash soon figured out that the rate of money that he got every week did not pay for his food and water, raising his debt even higher. He knows he is being cheated, so he escapes to Delhi. In Delhi, the most unlikely of people, such as math tutors and the policemen cheat Akash and he soon runs out of money. To survive, Akash cheats, steals, lies, and even deals drugs for money, which had become the source of his life. After all his plans were quashed he meets a man named Ramesh who befriends Akash. It seemed he had finally found a friend, and this time, it stayed that way. Akash remembers his final words with his father, Bapu, “What you desire is on its way,” (28). Now Akash knew that that was true.

Akash’s morale and emotions are a very important part of this story. Monika Schroeder manipulates Akash’s character to frame his emotions so they are relatable to most teenagers because teenagers are more likely to read this book. She writes, “The anger that rose in him was muted by embarrassment that he could have been so easily fooled.” Because Schroeder’s writing and character development is so vivid, the reader’s morale while reading the book is almost always identical to Akash. The reader also feels Akash’s happiness and anger. When Akash is cheated, the reader feels his anger and his feeling of betrayal. Akash’s emotions are very complex, but you can understand them because the reader is drawn so close to Akash.

As a middle school student myself, I can very easily identify with Akash’s feelings of betrayal, anger, and mistrust because I have felt them all as well. Because of this, I think most middle school students and maybe even some high school students would get the most out of this book. This book made me see the reality of the world through Akash and experience it with him. This book touched my heart and I will remember it for a long time, if not forever.

Reviewed by Samuel Mangin, 7th Grade