Saturday, October 17, 2009

Book Review 36: The Totally Made-up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish by Claudia Mills

I really enjoyed this one. The main character is Amanda MacLeish, and her school does thematic units where all the classes are doing something about the theme, in this case it is the Civil War. There was a time when middle school teams were supposed to do this, and lately, we've gotten so far away from this that it saddens me that our students don't get to experience this as much any more. I think some elementary schools may still do this, but with all the emphasis on testing and meeting No Child Left Behind standards, it is sad that kids don't get as many of these kinds of experiences. Anyway, for Amanda's favorite class, English, each student is given a person from that time period and they must write diary entries for what that person sees and goes through during this time. Amanda loves this assignment as she loves to write, and from her diary entries, you can tell she loves it and is good at it. Her math class is more normal, fractions, and all that stuff, and Amanda is not good at math. The music class however is learning songs that have to do with the Civil War time period, so it is fun to hear what songs they're learning, along with what those songs have to do with history. I also love the 2 "trouble-maker" students in the book, Ricky and Lance. It especially amuses me because their behavior, reminds me of a similar behaving student I have this year, also named Ricky. The things these 2 boys did are so like what my more immature students do sometimes that it made the book realistic for me, and I'm sure would be for kids for the same reasons.

Now, the meaty part of the book is that Amanda's parents are fighting all the time, and her father moves out after a really tense Monopoly game. Amanda seems to be losing her best friend Beth to a girl that she does Irish dancing with. There is a black boy named James that Amanda looks to throughout all the Civil War and racism talk to see how he is reacting to everything, and what he thinks. James is also good in math, so Amanda ends up getting his help as well. Soon, Amanda learns what really happened with her parents, and learns that even the way she looked to James about the Civil War talk could be considered a little bit of racism in a way. While there isn't a "happy" ending for the parents, Amanda gets her friend and a couple new ones with James and Meghan, Beth's Irish dancing friend. So it is one I hope makes the list. I enjoyed it even just for Amanda's diary entries.

I'm now reading the Sherlock Holmes Files: The 100-year-old Secret by Tracy Barrett.