The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 17, 2009

Book review: ‘Graceling’ a brilliant, unforgettable story


By Kirstin Cashore

(Young adult)

Katsa lives in a world where certain people are born with an extreme skill, or Grace.

Her Grace of killing, which she loathes, announced itself unexpectedly when she was 8 years old and it makes her the most feared individual in her uncle Randa’s kingdom. Katsa is not happy being her uncle’s thug, but he expects her to punish and torture anyone who angers him and up until she meets Prince Po from a neighboring kingdom, who is also Graced with exceptional fighting skills, she cannot see a way around carrying out her uncle’s dirty work.

Debut novelist Kristen Cashore has written a brilliant, unforgettable story. Katsa and Po are extraordinary characters and they will stick with the reader long after the story has ended.

“The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks”

By E. Lockhart

(Young adult)

Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at Alabaster, a private boarding school. As a freshman she was pretty much invisible, but during the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, she blossomed into a full-figured knockout. Upon returning to Alabaster she catches the eye of senior heartthrob, Matthew Livingston, and he quickly becomes her boyfriend.

Frankie is not simple a piece of eye candy. She has a brain and when Matthew refuses to tell her about the secret all-male society on campus, she takes matters into her own hands and secretly infiltrates the society.

Lockhart has written a clever novel for sharp teens who enjoy humor, wit and a strong female character who refuses to take “No” for an answer. Frankie’s personality may catch readers off guard but they will soon be cheering her on and waiting with anticipation to see what antics she will dream up next.

“The Boy Who Dared”

By Susan Campbell Bartoletti

(Grades 4 through 8)

Death row in Nazi Germany is not where one would want to be in 1942, but that is exactly where 17-year-old Helmuth has been imprisoned for 264 days.

However, readers must wait to find out what Helmuth has done to be awaiting his execution, with the full story being flushed out through flashbacks to Helmuth’s childhood.

Helmuth was once a happy, naive German citizen, enamored with his country; and when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he, along with many others, thought that Hitler would solve Germany’s problems. At first, things improve, but after awhile things take a negative turn and Helmuth must make a difficult decision. Find a way to voice his concerns and face imprisonment or worse yet, death; or remain silent and watch innocent people suffer.

This book is based on a true story that came to Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s attention while researching her Newbery Honor book, “Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow.” Bartoletti’s portrayal of Helmuth’s story is though-provoking and provides a rare look at what it is like to be an average German citizen caught up in a World War that is careening out of control.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.