Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two Caudill nominees about boys: Bamboo People and Boys Without Names

Chiko and Tu Reh are both Burmese teenage boys caught in the middle of modern day Burma and civil war. Told in the first person, the reader will live the ordeal of being kidnapped into the army and forced to become a soldier. Chiko is well educated and longs to become a teacher. He uses his education and intelligence to survive and cope, never forgetting his family. He gets to know Tu Reh, a Karenni rebel soldier, when he is severely wounded in a battlefield.  What happens next decides the rest of Chiko's life.  Themes of war, friendship, family, compassion and resilience weave a fast paced story about the lives of young people in Burma today.  Be sure to read the endnotes by the author about the current situation in Burma.
11 year old Gopal moves to present day Mumbai, India with his family. The family has lost their farm and rural way of life. In hopes of finding work through a family member in the big city they head out. Nothing is as expected in the city.  Money quickly runs out leaving the family homeless and hungry. Baba, Gopal's father, goes in search of the family member only to disappear. Desperate to help his family survive, Gopal tries to find any work he can. His trust in the wrong person gets him kidnapped into child labor.  Locked away in dark, airless loft Gopal and five other boys are held captive. All day with little food or water, the boys are forced to glue beads onto frames.  They call their cruel and dangerous boss, Scar. Gopal is determined to escape. Slowly, even in the face of hopelessness, he manages to befriend his fellow captives.  His resourcefulness and resilience ultimately changes the course of life for all the boys. This is a serious story about child labor and children's' rights and the power of friendship.

Two Caudill Nominees about modern girls: The Running Dream and I, Emma Freke

 Jessica is a star high school runner who loses her leg in a school bus crash. Her journey from complete despair to new dream realized is a believable story of determination, family and true friendship. I personally learned so much about what amputees go through that I never knew before. The story gave me a new appreciation for our veterans and bombing victims who overcome these sorts of injuries. It is an inspirational story on many levels.

Emma thinks it is terribly ironic that her name is pronounced "freak" because she often feels that way about herself.  Living with her free thinking and not very responsible mom, Emma would rather not interact with the world if she can help it.  All this changes when she is invited to attend the Freke family reunion. She knows very little about her dad and accepts the invitation. The reunion is overwhelming at first with hundreds of members in attendance but Emma soon makes several key connections that will change her self-image forever.  Joining Emma on her journey of self-discovery and acceptance is at times frustrating and funny but ultimately joyful.