Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What we're reading right now...

While Small Steps is the sequel to Holes, it is not necessary to have read Holes to lose yourself completely in Small Steps.  This 2006 follow-up addresses class, race, gender and physical disabilities in a refreshing and thoughtful manner not often encountered in children's literature.  Armpit, our protagonist, is an African-American teenager who spent time in a juvenile dentention center for commiting a violent crime that landed two victims in the hospital.  Back at home after incarceration, Armpit has plans, his "small steps" toward  a successful and honest life. We see Armpit continually striving to do the right thing, even when others around him try to block his path.  Overcoming stereotypes and respecting others are major themes in this work and Armpit's belief in himself and his kindness towards others make this an important (but not didactic) book for middle school and older readers.

School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-This sequel to Holes (Farrar, 1998) focuses on Armpit, an African-American former resident of Tent D at Camp Green Lake. It's two years after his release, and the 16-year-old is still digging holes, although now getting paid for it, working for a landscaper in his hometown of Austin, TX. He's trying to turn his life around, knowing that everyone expects the worst of him and that he must take small steps to keep moving forward. When X-Ray, his friend and fellow former detainee at the juvenile detention center, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme involving scalping tickets to a concert by teenage pop star Kaira DeLeon, Armpit fronts X-Ray the money. He takes his best friend and neighbor, Ginny, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, to the concert and ends up meeting Kaira, getting romantically involved, and finally becoming a hero by saving her life when her stepfather tries to kill her and frame him. Small Steps has a completely different tone than Holes. It lacks the bizarre landscape, the magical realism, the tall-tale quality, and the heavy irony. Yet, there is still much humor, social commentary, and a great deal of poignancy. Armpit's relationship with Ginny, the first person to care for him, look up to him, and give his life meaning, is a compassionate one. Like Holes, Small Steps is a story of redemption, of the triumph of the human spirit, of self-sacrifice, and of doing the right thing. Sachar is a master storyteller who creates memorable characters.
-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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