Monday, December 18, 2017

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THIS IS OUR CONSTITUTION by Khizr Khan

THIS IS OUR CONSTITUTION: Discover America with a Gold Star Father by Khizr Khan (Knopf 2017)

Khizr Khan burst onto the national stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. With his wife Ghazala standing next to him, he told the story of their son, Captain Humayun Khan, who died at age 27 in Iraq in 2004. Captain Khan took the brunt of a suicide bomber and saved his men by doing so. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star medal and a Purple Heart.

During his speech, Mr. Khan drew a copy of the US Constitution from his jacket pocket and addressing the Republican party's presidential nominee famously asked. “Have you even read the United States Constitution?" To rousing applause, he concluded: "I will gladly lend you my copy.”

(Sales of the pocket constitution spiked after this speech.)

Mr. Khan is a lawyer. As a young man, he and his family immigrated to the US from Pakistan. He marveled at the freedoms and the system of government of his new home. Now, in this book, which in my opinion should be required reading for every citizen, he explains the history behind the Constitution  and details all the parts of it. He also visits important legal cases. At the end of the book, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the other amendments are printed in full.

Opening Lines:
Our nation has always looked toward the future. History matters, of course, but the founding documents of the United States are more than history lessons. They point the way forward to a more free, more peaceful, and more just nation. They challenge each generation to build a better United States.

My Thoughts:
I became a citizen in 2008, and wish I had read this book while studying for my citizenship test. (If truth be told, because I had to study for that test, I seem to know a lot more about civics and government than my natural born American friends.)

The book is very well-organized. It's target audience is middle schoolers, and it does a great job of keeping them interested in what, potentially, could be a dry subject. Along with the easy to comprehend text, there are illustrations, photographs, and many speech bubbles throughout the pages, where Mr. Khan often contrasts the United States and the rule of law with his experiences growing up in an undemocratic Pakistan.

I will definitely share this book with my current 5th grader. Democracy flourishes only when there is an educated and engaged citizenry.

About the Author:
Khizr Khan was born in 1950, the eldest of ten children in rural Pakistan. He moved to the United States, with his wife Ghazala, in 1980. The couple became United States citizens and raised their three sons in Silver Springs, Maryland. Mr. Khan holds an LLM from Harvard Law School. He and his wife now live in Charottesville, Virginia.

This will be my last post for 2017. The Don and I wish all our readers a happy holiday season, and look forward to reviewing many more wonderful middle grade books in 2018. Buon Natale!

Monday, December 11, 2017

CHILDREN OF REFUGE by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September, 2017)

What It's About, via Goodreads: 
After Edwy is smuggled off to Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana are stuck alone—and in danger—in Cursed Town in the thrilling follow-up to Children of Exile from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

It’s been barely a day since Edwy left Fredtown to be with his parents and, already, he is being sent away. He’s smuggled off to boarding school in Refuge City, where he will be with his brother and sister, who don’t even like him very much. The boarding school is nothing like the school that he knew, there’s no one around looking up to him now, and he’s still not allowed to ask questions!

Alone and confused, Edwy seeks out other children brought back from Fredtown and soon discovers that Rosi and the others—still stuck in Cursed Town—might be in danger. Can Edwy find his way back to his friends before it’s too late?

Opening Lines:
Nobody had told me that my parents’ neighborhood was built on top of a secret tunnel up from the creek. So when the man dragged me into an innocuous-looking hole—and kept going and going and going—I instantly wanted to know more. We passed sputtering torches that seemed to throw off more shadows than light. The stench of the man’s hand seemed to grow nastier and nastier. But we were deep underground before he finally eased his hand off my mouth and nose and jaw and I could manage more than grunts.

My Thoughts:
This moves at a cracking pace. Haddix is a master of chapter endings, which propel the reader into the next chapter, and the next.

I was unaware, when I started reading, that this was book 2 of a trilogy, but found that it stood well on its own. Haddix creates an unsympathetic trio in the Watanaboneset siblings, but as the novel progresses we begin to understand the reasons why they behave like they do. Edwy, the youngest, has a bad attitude, but is redeemed by his desire to help his friend, Rosi.

The novel ends with a cliffhanger, and I am definitely primed for book three. (But first, I really should read book 1!) A good, quick read for those who like dystopian novels, with a flavor of sci-fi.

About the Author (from Amazon):
Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at