About Liz Parrott

I love the Kid Lit community: the authors, the illustrators, the editors, the teachers, the librarians. I love the blogs, the listservs, the twitter feeds and the pinterest boards. I'm in the process of creating the Kid Lit Navigator. I'm hoping this website will be a reference tool for navigating the Kid Lit world. I have a second project, Kid Lit About Politics, which isn't getting the attention it deserves these days. All my time is going into Kid Lit Navigator. Kid Lit About Politics combines my love children's and YA literature and my love politics. It's a blog in which I review children's and YA lit about politics. I have a BA in English from Oberlin College and an MLIS from UC Berkeley. I worked for a time as a school librarian in a Montessori school.

What Was the March on Washington?

What Was the March on Washington

Originally posted on Kid Lit About Politics.

What Was the March on Washington? Written by Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Tim Tomkinson. Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013. 128 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 8 to 12. ISBN: 9780448462875.

I was five years old on August 28, 1963. I remember that my brother and I stayed with neighbors while my parents rode on a school bus from New Jersey to Washington DC. My brother, who was almost two, cried all night long and kept me awake. I was forced to eat a tomato at dinner. My parents came home and talked about how hard it was to sleep on a school bus and how hot it was in Washington. I thought they had done something very important by going to the March. I knew they enjoyed the camaraderie of the day, but they never told me anything about the speakers or the singers.

In reading “What Was the March on Washington?” I found out much more about the March. I now know about the meticulous planning that went into the March. I know about the people, 250,000 people arriving on bus after bus and train after train. I know the path the March took. I’ve always known that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March. But now I know all the other speakers and singers, and I know that Dr. King stopped reading from his speech and started speaking from his heart when he began talking about his dream.

Krull presents all this information very clearly. She starts by describing the racism that existed in this country at that time, and also the key events of the Civil Rights struggle before the March. After that she explains the extensive preparation for the March, undertaken by Randolph and by Bayard Rustin. She talks at length about the March itself, and then addresses the time after the March: the death of JFK, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the death of Dr. King.

In the middle of the book are 16 pages of black-and-white photos. The book has many black-and-white drawings, mostly of the people involved. It helps to have those images in one’s mind when reading about the people. At the end there’s a timeline and a bibliography.

The book is fun to read, and I’m so glad to know more about what my parents saw and heard while I was gagging on a tomato.

Blog Reviews:

Helen Foster James

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Homeland

Homeland

Originally posted on Kid Lit About Politics.

Homeland by Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen (an imprint of MacMillan Publishing), 2013. 400 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 13 and older. ISBN: 9780765333698.

Homeland is a sequel to Little Brother. Marcus Yallow, still the narrator, is now 19 years old. He’s still dating Ange. His parents have lost their jobs in an economic crisis that has hit California. Marcus has had to drop out of college and is himself trying to find a job.

Marcus and Ange go to Burning Man in the Nevada desert. While there, Marcus runs into Masha, a character from Little Brother. She hands him a USB stick and tells him to release the contents of the stick onto the Internet if she is kidnapped. Shortly thereafter, Marcus sees her being forcibly led away from Burning Man by Carrie Johnstone, his arch nemesis.

There are 800,000 documents on the USB stick. Marcus and his friends try to figure out how to release those documents responsibly and in a way that can’t be traced back to them.

Marcus is offered a job by the charismatic Joe Noss, a candidate for the California State Senate running as an independent. Marcus believes in Joe. He believes California will be better off if Joe wins.

The book goes into a great detail of technical information about the Internet. It also goes into detail about the uses of the Internet. The central conundrum seems to be how to release the 800,000 documents anonymously and responsibly. It’s a conundrum Marcus didn’t ask for and doesn’t want. But the Internet is a powerful tool to disseminate information and Marcus knows how to use it. Along the way, we see the breakdown of society as we watch the way the city of San Francisco deals with peaceful protests.

The end is a little too pat for me. Besides that, the pace gets bogged down when Marcus explains technical details. Nevertheless, it deals head-on with political, economic and societal issues that are of immediate concern in this country.

The book contains two Afterwords that serve as calls to arms, one written by Jacob Appelbaum of WikiLeaks  and one written by the late Aaron Swartz. There is also an excellent bibliography by Cory Doctorow.

In the end, Marcus says “The system was people, and I was a part of it, part of its problems, and I was going to be part of the solution from now on.” This, I believe, is the take away line. In addition, the reader also takes away the memory of a fun story.

Blog Reviews:

Birth of a New Witch
A Librarian’s Take
Radish Reviews
System Overlord
Tor.com

Professional Reviews:

Kirkus
Publisher’s Weekly
Wired

Author Website:

Cory Doctorow’s Craphound.com

Little Brother

Little BrotherLittle Brother by Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen (an imprint of MacMillan Publishers), 2008. 416 pages. Recommended for ages 13-17. ISBN: 9780765323118.

Originally posted on Kid Lit About Politics.

Little Brother isn’t exactly science fiction. It could happen now. The story is told by Marcus, a 17-year-old expert hacker living in San Francisco. He and three of his friends skip class to go and play a game one Friday afternoon. There is an explosion. A bridge, we later learned it’s the Bay Bridge, has been blown up by terrorists. Marcus flags down what he thinks is an emergency vehicle to help one of his friends who has been injured. The vehicle belongs to the Department of Homeland Security. Marcus and his friends have sacks put over their heads. He and two friends are held for five or six days, then released. The fourth friend, Darryl, is not released. While in custody, Marcus struggles to maintain his rights under the Bill of Rights. Eventually, he gives up and tells the DHS what they want to know about him.

When Marcus returns to San Francisco, he finds the DHS is watching every person’s movements in an attempt to prevent another terrorist attack. His father, who has no idea that his son was imprisoned, thinks this invasion of privacy is fine. Marcus doesn’t, and neither do the thousands of kids he involves in his attempts to stop the DHS.

The political issues raised are very timely. When is it appropriate to give away our civil liberties in the name of preventing terrorism, and when should we fight for those civil liberties? Should congressional or judicial oversight of organizations like the DHS be in place, or should they be able to operate freely. Is it right to hold people without telling them why, and without telling their families where they are? Is it right to torture people? In this country, are people still innocent until proven guilty? These are the questions Little Brother raises.

The book has too much explanation of technology for me, but technology geeks would love the explanations. I am a political geek, and I love the political aspects of the book.

It’s clear Doctorow doesn’t know San Francisco well. The most glaring error is the constant reference to BART as “the BART.” I got pulled out of the story a little bit every time he referenced “the BART.”

With the exception of the long paragraphs about technology, this book is fun, and the political issues are even more pressing now than they were when the book was written in 2008.

Blog Reviews:

Fantasy Book Critic
Nerdy Book Club
Prometheus Unbound
Strange Horizons

Professional Reviews:

Kirkus
Publisher’s Weekly

Iqbal: A Novel

IqbalIqbal, A Novel. Written by Francesco D’Adamo. Aladdin (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 2005 (originally published in 2001). Translated by Ann Leonori. 128 pages. Publisher Recommends for ages 8-12. ISBN: 9781416903291.

This review was originally posted on Kid Lit About Politics.

This is a fictionalized account of Iqbal Masih’s life from the time he arrived at the third factory where he was enslaved until his death. Fatima, a young girl bonded into service for a carpet maker when her parents need money to pay off debts, tells the story. Although the term is bonded, the fact is more like slavery. Fatima works for a carpet maker in Lahore. Several other children also work for the same carpet maker. Some of them are chained to their looms all the time. Others, like Fatima, are able to leave their looms at night to sleep on a pallet. Fatima barely remembers her family. Although the man she is bonded to removes one of the marks that indicates her debt every day, the list doesn’t actually seem to become smaller. This is Fatima’s life. She has no hope that it will change.

One day Iqbal arrives as a new bonded servant in the factory where Fatima works. He believes that children should not be forced to work as slaves.  His courage and his charisma bring hope to the other children. He will not accept his fate and spent his childhood as a slave. His attempts to take action against his treatment lead to brutal punishment, yet he still hopes.

Iqbal brought freedom to hundreds of Pakistani children, and he brought hope to thousands more. He worked with the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan.  He won the Reebok Award for Youth in Action and was asked to speak at an International Conference on Labor Problems. He was also promised a free college education by a school in the Boston area. His ultimate goal was to become an attorney and use that position to free children from slavery. At about 13 years of age, he was killed by an unknown assailant.

The first 20 or 30 pages of this book are a bit slow. After that the pace picks up and the interest level rises. The last page of the book lists further resources on Iqbal Masih, Children’s Rights, and Child Labor.

After having read this historical fiction account of Iqbal, I’d like to read a biography of this remarkable young man.

Blog Reviews:

Crazy QuiltEdi
Gathering Books
Sitting by the Ocean

Professional Reviews:

Kirkus
Publisher’s Weekly

Gringolandia

Kid Lit About Politics

GringolandiaGringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Curbstone Books (now Northwestern University Press), 2009. 288 pages. Recommended for ages 14 and older. ISBN: 9781931896498.

In 1973, with the help of the CIA, a democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown and a military junta led by Augusto Pinochet took his place. The junta was responsible for violent repression of dissent. Many people were tortured. Many people were killed. Many people simply disappeared.

In the book, Daniel’s father, Marcelo, was an active dissenter. The book starts in 1980 when the military comes to Daniel’s house in the middle of the night, brutally beats and then arrests his father.

Daniel’s mother and his younger sister leave Chile to live in Wisconsin. In 1986, after six years of torture, Marcelo is released from prison and ordered to leave Chile and never return. Daniel and his mother pick Marcelo up from the airport in Chicago…

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