Wednesday, September 8, 2021

I Read Books for Young People

I love Miss Silver, a "personal inquiry" agent of old. She features in books that were written before I was born. She is genteel, old-fashioned even for her time, and very clever. People tell her things. But, her books were not written for young people.  (Kids could read these books. The author hints so broadly at certain characters' misdeeds that even I wrinkle my brow. Kids would probably be bored, though. Just saying.)

I do read books for young people and here are three that I read in the past month.

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price. Jane Austen's character, Elizabeth Bennett, appears here as a feisty 17-year-old, who desperately wants to work in her father's law office. When a young gentleman acquaintance is accused of murdering his scoundrel of a brother-in-law, Lizzie "takes" the case. Being a young woman of the early 19th century, (please read the author's notes at the back of the book if historical accuracy is important to you), Lizzie is discouraged from investigating the murder by every single male in her sphere and even some of her female friends. Does that stop her? Indubitably not!

Her would-be client is represented at the bar by none other than the arrogant and irritating Darcy. Yep.

So we have all kinds of evil-doers here and a lot of social practices are flaunted. There is a bit of melodrama when the culprit is exposed. But it's the 19th century when footpads and villains of every stripe traveled the byways and alleys of London. 


Three Keys  by Kelly Yang. If you read Yang's triumphant debut Front Desk, then you will be all ready for this sequel. Mia and her parents are now the proud owners of the Calivista Motel - along with their many investors. BUT the year is 1995, and immigrants are not particularly welcome in California. A bill to severely restrict immigration into the state is up for a vote. Mia's sixth grade teacher is not impressed with Mia's writing at all and appears to approve of Proposition 187. And even though the Calivista Motel was on TV, a sign saying Immigrants Welcome causes business to drop. 

Mia and her best friend, Lupe, have to find ways to help the motel thrive, protect fellow students whose families are not here legally, and convince their teacher that Mia has talent. 

The book addresses an issue that still raise hackles here in the USA. A country of immigrants still fights over whether or not to keep our doors open.  Mia's family is stalwart in their support of other immigrants. When problems arise, it is Mia's friends who find the answers.

The book is an inspirational read. For us hardened adults, it may be too optimistic. But kids love it when kids save the day and the kids save the day in Three Keys.


Linked by Gordon Korman. Korman addresses vandalism, anti-semitism and racism in his latest book. This is a lot less fun that Korman's usual fare. When Michael runs back to school to fetch his forgotten phone, he discovers a huge swastika painted in the hallway. Michael is the president of the Art Club and his locker is full of paint so, guess who comes under suspicion.

This book concentrates on Michael, his circle of friends, Link, one of those friends who is a popular athlete and prankster, and Dana, the only Jewish student in the whole school. As more swastikas appear all over the school, Link discovers his family's connection to anti-semitism, the community revisits its shameful racist past and Dana finds herself the center of unwanted attention.

Then a social media vlogger moves into town to cover the frenetic attempts to "solve" this by making a paper chain to represent the Jews killed during the Holocaust. Michael spearheads this attempt. But the swastikas keep coming.

The ending stretched my credulity a bit. Then, I saw how Korman laid the framework for his climax. This is not my favorite Korman book, (The Unteachables is awesome), but it is a worthy effort.

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