I don’t know about you, but I find that there are certain books that seem to inspire a great curiosity in me: books that force me to pick up other books, to turn on the news, to head to the internet to learn more. Generally, for me, they are books that feature other cultures and important times in world history. These are books that make me want to be more informed about the world around me and all the things that have led the world to the point we are at right now. Here are some great examples of books that sparked a little curious research for me in the past few months:
Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
When Marlee meets a new girl at school that brings her out of her painfully shy shell, her family is thrilled. When it is revealed, though, that Liz is colored and was passing as a white student at Marlee’s school, all of the grown-ups in their lives tell them they can no longer be friends. Unable to accept this, the two girls meet in secret, until the tumultuous politics of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958 make it too dangerous for them to continue.
I had heard of the Little Rock Nine, the brave African-American students who were integrated into the schools in Little Rock in 1957, but I had no idea that the Little Rock government voted to close the schools the following year rather than have to integrate again.
A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
Y’Tin is the youngest elephant trainer in his village’s history. After the American soldiers left the Vietnamese to finish their war, Y’Tin’s village is invaded by the Viet Cong. When half his village is captured, Y’Tin and his elephant, Lady, must follow the others into the jungle to survive. But how long can any of them survive on the run?
As an American, I think we are mostly taught about the Vietnam War during the time period of our involvement. I had never before really stopped to consider the aftermath of not only the larger battles during that war, but also what might have happened to those that had worked in conjunction with the Americans after they pulled out of Vietnam.
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
In Alaska in the 1960s, indigenous children were sent to boarding schools hundreds of miles away from their families. Amidst tribal rivalries, stereotypes that teachers and administrators never truly attempted to overcome, and typical teen difficulties during puberty, these Alaskan children were used by the American government for medical research, with only the most loosely obtained parental permissions.
Other than learning about igloos, the multitude of different words used for snow, and the term “Eskimo kisses,” I had almost no knowledge about the founding and history of Alaska. I was amazed to learn that Eskimo and Indian tribes had so many troubles or that they had to deal with so many stereotypes before they were granted the rights to have schools in their own hometowns. This indigenous population is one that I had not realized occupied such a second-class citizen status until more recent American history.
Whether it be books set in London’s “Great Stink” during 1858 (when the human refuse so clogged the River Thames that the entirety of London was ripe with the most malodorous stench) or in Egypt during the dynasties of great Pharaohs and their polytheistic religion that greatly influenced art for generations after in not only their own country but throughout the world, these are books that become catalysts for future learning. These are the books that make me stalk the library stacks to glean more interesting information. Are there books that have brought for the curiosity in you? Any books that made you feel the need to be more informed?
— Jessica Miller, currently reading What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen and Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
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