A Boy Named Trout
In 1976, in the fields of Northern New Mexico’s scrub grass and coyote fences, a twelve-year old boy named Trout searches for integrity in an increasingly volatile family that is free of moral inhibition. Trout takes it upon himself to protect his mute younger sister, Heaven, and seek out a better life for the two of them. All the while, he must avoid abusive anger of his parents.
I Am Terezin
I Am Terezin is a memoir unlike any other, written as a gripping narrative in the voice of the concentration camp itself.
Situated in Czechoslovakia, Theresienstadt, or Terezin, as the locals called it, was touted by the Germans as a model city where Jews could live their lives in tranquility. Despite the sheer audacity of the claim, the world chose to believe this and ignore the truth looming behind the granite walls encircling the fortress-town.
In I Am Terezin, the collective voice of its 140,000 inmates reveals the true story of the camp, imploring that we must look past all deceptive facades shrouding human suffering.
The Black Alabaster Box
The Last Crystal Trilogy, book 1
by Frances Schoonmaker
Westward ho! It had been quiet along the Santa Fe Trail for more than a year when the Stokes Company set out for California in the early 1840s, the Willis family among them. A reluctant traveler, twelve-year-old Grace Willis longs for her comfortable, safe, and privileged life at home. Just as she is learning to negotiate life on the trail, Grace is kidnapped by fellow travelers and taken into Oklahoma Territory. She must decide if she will cave in to despair or muster the courage to run away and search for her parents. Grace finds help in unlikely places. She discovers that there really is such a thing as magic and there are some things only a child can do.
The Alabaster Box is an historical fantasy about growing up and facing terrible circumstances without being overcome by them. Grace learns to face her fears with courage, and that even magic can’t rescue her from the consequences of her choices. Written for middle grade children, the book is one the whole family can enjoy together. Grace’s experiences can provide a springboard for talking about grief and loss as well as the wonderful, funny, and magical adventures life has to offer. The setting and attention to historical accuracy make it an ideal read-aloud for the schoolroom where children are studying the great migration West.
The Red Abalone Shell
The Last Crystal Trilogy, book 2
by Frances Schoonmaker
James finds himself on the steps of a church with no idea who he is or how he got there. His only clues are a map, a red abalone shell, and a dog, Old Shep. Adopted by a German-American pacifist family, James and Old Shep take to life on a farm. Patriotism is running high in Western Oklahoma as the United States considers entering World War I. James and his family are proud to be Americans, but not everybody sees it that way, especially Claude Higgins. Claude bullies James unmercifully in and out of school. As James tries to stand up to Claude without fighting him and struggles to regain lost memories, he discovers that his identity is linked to mysterious, magical events that define both his past and his future.
Book II in The Last Crystal Trilogy, The Red Abalone Shell follows Grace Willis’ son, James. Written for middle grade and above, it looks at a part of the Nation’s History that is seldom discussed in history classes, the plight of German-American immigrants who were suspected of being disloyal to the U.S. Pacifists were particularly suspect. As war looms nearer, his family has reason to question whether or not a democracy has room for divergent perspectives. James is confronted with what it actually means to live in a democracy. Like James, middle grade and teen-age children must decide whether or not they affirm the beliefs of their family. The book provides opportunity for family or classroom discussion of values, forgiveness, the meaning of democracy, and what a community can become when it supports and affirms all of its members.