Category: General Fiction


Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper
ISBN-13: 978-0689842092
Simon Pulse, New York, 1999
320 p.

GENRE: General Fiction, Romance

TEASER: Can Romi and Julio avoid ending up like Shakespeare’s tragic couple?

SUMMARY: Romiette (Romi) Cappelle has been having dreams of drowning in water and fire. She meets Julio Montague in a chat room and they instantly hit it off. Julio has just moved to Cincinnati from Corpus Christi, Texas because of gang problems. In these dreams, there is the voice of a young man she does not recognize calling her. The evildoer, a local gang, opposes the relationship between Romi and Julio. They threaten the couple to break it off. Now Romi, Julio, and their friends must find a way for them to not end up like the classic couple in Shakespeare’s tragedy.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in third-person perspective and it is switched off mainly between Romi and Julio. However, there are instances where the story is told from outside the couple’s perspective. Unsurprisingly, the main theme and conflict in this book deals with the problems faced by biracial couples. they face challenges from a local gang and even their parents. Julio’s father doesn’t approve of his son’s relationship with Romiette because his first lover was killed by African-American gang members.

i appreciated that the story was not a mirror image of the original tale. I liked that they were learning about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet while their own story unfolds. I am not a fan of sappy romances so some of the book felt a little too cheesy for me. However, regardless of my personal feelings towards it, I feel it the language wasn’t overly flowery or romantic considering that it is a romance about star-crossed lovers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon M. Draper is an African-American New York Times bestselling author and teacher. She began writing after a student asked her to submit an essay to a magazine contest. She was awarded $5000 and her story One Small Touch was published. She describes herself as a creator, visionary, and poet.

Draper has won numerous awards for her work. She is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scot King Literary Award. She has also been honored as the National Teacher of the Year.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://sharondraper.com/

READING LEVEL: 15+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might object to the gang violence in this novel.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Shakespearian Literature

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel this retelling stands up to the original Shakespearian tragedy?

Do you feel that the ending was the right choice for a modern retelling given the outcome of the original tale?

WHY INCLUDED: I chose this book because I love redone classics. I feel that it is a great way for teachers and librarians to get teens to relate to the literature. I also admire that it is about the problems faced by biracial relationships.

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
ISBN-13: 978-0786838608
Hyperion Books, New York, 2009
304 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: Leela is a twelve-year-old widow. As a widow she is an outcast. But changes is looming in early 1900s India. Will Leela be able to make a life for herself after all?

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Leela has been doted on by her family all her life. She pays little attention to her country’s growing unrest. There is no point for her to. Her future has been mapped out for her since her engagement to Ramanlal at the age of two. They have been married since she was nine and soon she will move into his house and start her new life as his wife. But all of that changes when Ramanlal is bitten by a snake and Leela is made a widow. As a widow she is an outcast and is not allowed to leave the house. She must only wear a black sari and shave her head. Leela goes from being the prize of her family to the seat of their shame. But the activist Ghandhi is trying to take back their country and change the rigid social system that has been in place for centuries. maybe Leela will have a chance to fight for her rights and her future after all.

CRITIQUE: This story is told through the eyes of Leela in first-person perspective. Leela’s character develops quite a bit in this novel. She starts off as a naive girl who only cares about pretty bangles and sari. She is in one of the higher castes and pays little attention the inequalities in her country. When her husband dies, she is forced to see what it is like at the bottom of the social structure. She learns how to open her eyes to the ill-treatment of widows and the rising tensions between the British and her countrymen. She is able to take control of her future and ask her father to let her take the exams that will allow her to be educated.

Sheth’s prose are rich with Indian culture. There are however a good deal of Hindi words used. There is a translation section in the back of the book. I mentioned similar problems with Down to the Bone. I feel if might have helped to be at the front of the book. This is probably just a personal preference. I do feel that the language adds a richness and sets the atmosphere for the novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen to attend college at Iowa State University. She majored in microbiology. After college she worked as a microbiologist at Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Some of her other titles include: Blue Jasmine, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Monsoon Afternoon, and My Dadima Wears a Sari. The story of Keeping Corner is based on Kashmira’s aunt’s life.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/my_weblog/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Women’s Studies, Indian Culture

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the changes Leela goes through as she is forced to take a look at the social structure when she finds herself at the bottom.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included another cultural perspective in this database and I came across this book in my local library.

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
ISBN-13: 978-0316769174
Back Bay Books,
288 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: This is the classic tale of growing up and the fears and emotions we face along the way.

SUMMARY: Sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield has just been expelled from prep school. He decides to head to New York City earlier than his family expects him and stay in a hotel. This story follows his journey around the city and his quest to find his place.

CRITIQUE: The story is set around the 1950s and is told through the eyes of Holden in first-person perspective. Holden seems like a pretty typical confused teen. He is angry and sick of the adult world. This book is the classic tale of the teenage boy coming of age. Holden Caulfield is someone that many people can relate to. He is unsure how to handle is moods and emotions. he sees the adult world as phony and wishes to preserve the innocence of childhood.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J. D. Salinger was an American author born in New York in 1919. he dropped out of several schools before he decided to enroll in writing classes at Columbia University. His best known work was Catcher in the Rye. Other novels her wrote were Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, and Raise High the Roof Beam, and Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. He was known to be somewhat of a recluse. He served in world War II. Salinger died on January 27, 2010 of natural causes at the age of 91.

WEBSITE: N/A

READING LEVEL: General Adult

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Catcher in the Rye has faced multiple challenges for profanity, sexual content, and violence.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: American Literature

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the fears teens face on becoming an adult. Do you see any of yourself in Holden?

WHY INCLUDED: Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential coming of age novel of teenage boys.