I am participating in a group of Twitter friends that are reading, sharing and responding to recent middle grade novels. Hopefully, we will be able to find books that will excite the young readers in our classrooms and help us to teach important literacy skills and concepts in the coming year. Our group's handle is #BookRelays if you would like to see what we're reading and how we respond to these books.
I am really happy that I had the opportunity to read Liberty by Kirby Larson because I think it is going to be a terrific book for middle grade readers. This is a historical fiction novel that I'm really looking forward to sharing with students. It has characters and situations that kids will recognize from their own lives and from other middle grade novels that they're likely to have read. It also will allow kids to step back in time to the 1940s and learn more about World War II and what it must have felt like to grow up during this time. Readers of all ages will appreciate the important lessons and messages of this story that will leave them feeling hopeful and uplifted.
Fish is a boy who loves to spend time tinkering with contraptions and inventing new things. When he falls in love with a stray dog in his New Orleans neighborhood, he and his next door neighbor, Olympia, find a way to trap the dog and turn her into a pet. While learning how to take care of Liberty, Fish also is finding ways to overcome his mobility issues brought on by polio in his earlier childhood. The author does an awesome job of dealing with issues of race relations in the Jim Crow South, having loved ones fighting in a war far away from home, and rising above difficult circumstances to accomplish great things.
Character development is the centerpiece of this book. Fish, the main character, not only becomes physically stronger, but learns that he's capable of helping to invent real solutions to big problems. We also meet Erich, a German prisoner of war who will cross paths with Fish at a critical point in the story. I love the inclusion of a German soldier in the novel because it allows the reader to develop empathy for those we see as our enemies, as Fish and Erich see the human side of each other in their love and concern for Liberty.
This book will be an awesome addition to my classroom library. My fourth and fifth grade students will need some background information about World War II. But then, they'll certainly be able to relate to the other aspects of the story.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: October 11th 2016 by Scholastic Press