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Donner Dinner Party

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

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Title: Donner Dinner Party
Author: Nathan Hale
Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Publisher: Abrams

Donner Dinner Party is the third book in Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, but it is a self-contained story. Narrated by the famous spy Nathan Hale (not to be confused with our author), this graphic novel follows the Reed Family, one of the families that made up the now infamous Donner Party. The graphic novel begins when the Reeds are preparing for their journey and continues through all of the horrors that befell them until they are rescued and finally reach Sutter’s Fort in California.

This graphic novel is an excellent common core book. It explores the trials of westward expansion with historical figures (Abe Lincoln makes an appearance and so does Daniel Boone’s grandson) and includes context for what is happening during that time (such as the Mexican-American War). The Donner Party’s progress is mapped throughout the story, marking important landmarks and showing just how grueling of a journey it was (even without the horrors the party encounters). Hale also includes a bibliography of the books used while researching the Donner-Reed Party as well as an email for readers to send questions and corrections to Correction Baby, who clarifies some seemingly far-fetched parts of the story.

Hale’s choice to follow a family that survives the horrors of the Sierra Nevada Mountains was a wise choice and his blend of history and (often times morbid) humor will have middle grade students eating up this historical graphic novel that even most adults would find informative!

Friends with Boys

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

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Title: Friends with Boys
Author: Faith Erin Hicks
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second

After years of homeschooling, it’s Maggie’s first day of high school. Her mother (and teacher) has mysteriously left the family, leaving Maggie’s three brothers and father to help her through the transition. It’s anything but easy. Public school has new rules and new people who already seem to have high school life all figured out. Even with her brothers walking the same halls, Maggie finds it difficult to navigate her way through her new environment. Being haunted by a ghost from the local graveyard isn’t helping anything.

Friends with Boys is a fast paced story about transitioning from homeschooling to public school, but it’s a story that most everyone will be able to relate to. It speaks strongly to the struggle of trying to figure out not only who you are, but who you want to be. Faith Erin Hick’s characters and energetic illustrations are immediately engaging, drawing the reader into Maggie’s family dynamic. It’s a true coming of age story with a paranormal twist. As if life isn’t complicated enough!