Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group.Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 172p.
In the age of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it can be easy to forget that in our nation's not-so-distant past, a homegrown terrorist organization held large parts of the country hostage. The Ku Klux Klan began with six young male members in 1866 and grew through the rest of the 19th and into the 20th centuries to include an estimated five million men and women. Bartoletti does not censor the hateful language of the Klan's threats or the depictions of their victims. From the chilling cover with a sweat-soaked hood to the picture of thousands of Klansmen marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1925, Bartoletti's juxtaposition of word and image brings to light a shadowy legacy that is with us still.
Fleischman, Sid. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World. Greenwillow Bks. 268p.
Charlie Chaplin was born into poverty yet became one of the richest and most successful entertainers of his age. Then his adopted nation turned on him, forcing him into artistic exile for the better part of 20 years. As he did for Mark Twain in The Trouble Begins at 8 (2009), Fleischman here treats his subject with wit and wisdom, bringing to light details that will surprise even the biggest silent film fan. For instance, did you know that Jim Henson's Muppets now occupy the studio that Chaplin built? Published posthumously, this last book from a master storyteller humanizes a Hollywood legend.
Dogar, Sharon. Annexed. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 341p.
Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is sacred territory, so it is with great skepticism that I approached Dogar's retelling of the story from Peter Van Pels's viewpoint. The result is both a fresh perspective on a familiar story and a meditation on the tragedy of a lost generation of Jewish youth. While Peter strains under the annex's cramped conditions for the better part of two years, another side of Anne is revealed. It might have been annoying at times to live in close quarters with a young aspiring memoirist. Knowing how the story ends does not stay the impact of the book's final pages.
Sedgwick, Marcus. Revolver. Roaring Brook Pr. 204p.
Sig is alone with the frozen body of his father, awaiting the return of his family, when a stranger comes to the door. Gunther Wolff claims that Sig's father owes him half a fortune in gold and will not leave until it is produced. To Sig's knowledge, the only thing of value in their tiny cabin is an ancient revolver in the store room. Should he use it, knowing that bringing a gun into this game of cat-and-mouse could result in his own death? I am deeply glad that I read Revolver in August, because it would take far more than a toddy and Snuggie to warm the chill that permeates every page of this Arctic thriller.
Reinhardt, Dana. The Things a Brother Knows. Wendy Lamb Bks. 245p.
Levi's brother Boaz returns home after three years in the U.S. Marines, unrecognizable to his family. The once-popular and -outgoing athlete now stays in his room all day with the radio turned to static andwon't get in a car. When Boaz announces that he will be hiking the Appalachian Trail for the summer, Levi knows that he is lying and follows his brother on a very different journey that leads from their home in Boston to Washington, DC, with stops to meet the families of Boaz's comrades. One of my all-time favorite books is Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country (1985; the 1989 film version stars a youngish Bruce Willis), so naturally, the story's conclusion at the Vietnam Memorial had me sobbing uncontrollably. Nevertheless, the power of this story is in the brothers' journey and their relationship, which builds step by step and mile by mile.