Sam Hobbs

We do not know the stars. Civilization has illuminated the night, and we don't know what a dark night really looks like; we haven't for at least a century. “47” knows the night, though. He lives in an era when electricity is still a dream, and when the sun goes down the sky is as black as a lump of coal. He knows that the lights in the sky are stars, but he doesn't know what that means. He doesn't know anything beyond the fact that he is a slave child in the Deep South, given a number instead of a name, and that he has been torn from the arms of the only mother he has ever known, cruelly branded and put to work in a cotton field.

Fate, however, has unexpected plans for 47, and they arrive in the form of Tall John, a mysterious runaway slave, who looks, talks and acts differently than anyone 47 has ever met. We learn all this at the beginning of 47, the first young adult novel by acclaimed writer Walter Mosley, who has created a wonderful, genre-bending exploration into life, destiny and what it means to be free.

Master Tobias Turner's plantation is far from the false, happy vision of Gone With the Wind. Slaves are treated with offhand cruelty, on a par with animals. It is, in fact, when a slave is “put down” that young 47 inherits his “name.” Shortly thereafter he is running errands in the cotton field, and it is while he is so employed that he meets Tall John, a golden-skinned slave who seems to know him. Is he the “healer” who escaped from a nearby plantation? Is he an African god, as his friends speculate? Or is he something else? And what does Tall John mean when he calls 47 a “hero”? Mosley, best known for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, has penned a fascinating novel for young people, part historical fiction, part science fiction and part fantasy. The enigmatic Tall John leads both 47 and readers on a quest for freedom, and on the way takes readers to some startling places they won't soon forget.

We do not know the stars. Civilization has illuminated the night, and we don't know what a dark night really looks like; we haven't for at least a century. “47” knows the night, though. He lives in an era when electricity is still a dream, and when the sun goes down the sky is as […]

If there's one time of life when things come into focus your self-image, your relationships, your beliefs, your fears, your triumphs, your loves in short, everything that is you, it has to be your high-school years. It is for many the crucible of our personalities, where the "me" of existence is forged for all time. In his first novel, Looking for Alaska, John Green captures that feeling with freshness, candor and heart. 

Miles Halter is a rising junior in a boarding school in rural Alabama. The Florida teen is used to the sun, but not the stifling, sticky heat of the Deep South. He's also not used to being one of the gang, but at Culver Creek this shy, gangly boy is accepted for what he is, albeit after being wrapped in duct tape and thrown into a lake. Like any school, there are cliques, the biggest two being the rich locals who go home for the weekend and the kids who are there 24/7. 

The latter group adopts Miles, and within that group his particular circle of friends is certainly unique: there's The Colonel, his brilliant but slightly insane roommate; Takumi, the Japanese kid with the Southern accent; and Alaska Young, "the hottest girl in all of human history." Apart from a demanding academic load, their main amusements consist of smoking, drinking and the Culver Creek tradition of playing pranks on the other group all while avoiding the searing gaze of The Eagle, the school's headmaster.

The experiences come fast and furious to Miles, but the center of his universe is definitely Alaska. Alternatively flirty and distant, friendly and angry, unattainable (with a boyfriend in college) and available, and fiercely intelligent, the force of her personality leads Miles and his friends into a labyrinth of emotions that, after a shattering tragedy, leave him wondering if there's any way out.

Green has written an inventive novel, one that will help young readers assess their place in the world and how they deal with one another. Looking for Alaska is funny, sad, inspiring and always compelling.

If there's one time of life when things come into focus your self-image, your relationships, your beliefs, your fears, your triumphs, your loves in short, everything that is you, it has to be your high-school years. It is for many the crucible of our personalities, where the "me" of existence is forged for all time. […]

There's something about Louisiana that just breeds stories, from its swampy terrain to its storied history, from the Old World feel of New Orleans to the plantations and cotton fields. And there's always the Mississippi River for atmosphere. It should come as no surprise then, that a man like James Carville would have a few stories to tell. The Louisiana-born-and-raised Democratic political consultant, best known as Bill Clinton's campaign advisor, television commentator and one-half of a mixed political marriage with Republican consultant Mary Matalin, recounts a childhood tale in Lu and the Swamp Ghost, his first children's book.

The best stories are those handed down, and in the case of Lu, it's a story with origins in something that happened to Carville's mother Lucille during her Depression-era childhood. Lu is a poor girl who doesn't know she's poor; like all children with a loving family, she's rich in all the things that matter. All except one she has no friends her own age. One day, while helping her Papa check turkey traps, she meets what may or may not be the dreaded swamp ghost she's heard about. Ghost or not, he's definitely hungry, and Lu finds that in feeding him, she may have found the friend she's been looking for.

Carville's charming story is brought to life with the help of Newbery and Caldecott winner Patricia McKissack, and accompanied by the delightful drawings of political cartoonist and children's illustrator David Catrow. Southern in its origins, but universal in its appeal, Lu and the Swamp Ghost is a fun and spooky book about the value of friendship in hard times. Youngsters should love it, whatever the political affiliations of their parents may be.

There's something about Louisiana that just breeds stories, from its swampy terrain to its storied history, from the Old World feel of New Orleans to the plantations and cotton fields. And there's always the Mississippi River for atmosphere. It should come as no surprise then, that a man like James Carville would have a few […]

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