The Bean Trees

Barbara Kingsolver

Marietta Greer, the heroine of the story, lives in Pittman County Kentucky and is convinced that it is a place “behind the nation in practically every way you can think of except the rate of teenage pregnancies.” Determined to avoid becoming another pregnant teenager, Taylor saves enough money to buy a ’55 Volkswagon bug, and with the support of her mother, leaves Pittman County. She renames herself, Taylor, acquires an unwanted and abused Cherokee baby girl outside a bar in Taylorville Illinois, where she ran out of gas. She names the baby Turtle for her habit of “holding on”. The story continues with the travels of Taylor and Turtle and of the people they encounter. This is an up beat story of life, adventure, and learning how to appreciate what we have.

Wolf By The Ears

Ann Rinaldi

This is an historical novel that explores the life of Harriet Hemings, a woman believed to be the daughter and slave of Thomas Jefferson. The story is based on authentic documentation, although the character of Harriet is largely fictional. We learn the plot through Harriet’s diary.

The action takes place at Monticello, Jefferson’s plantation, where he maintains slaves. Because Harriet is so fair that she can pass as white, she is favored by Jefferson, and so she feels secure and protected. Other less fortunate members of the slave community urge her to make plans to take her freedom when she turns 21, a freedom that Jefferson has promised to all of the children of his supposed mistress, Sally Hemings. Something very bad happens to Harriet which forces her to make decision to leave Montecello, realizing that this is her best hope for a decent life. It still doesn’t prevent her from feeling guilty over abandoning her race or grief over leaving behind all that she knows and loves. This story tells of the evils of slavery, love, passion, honor and respect, all of which have occurred in this country.


William H. Armstrong

The story begins with the character Sounder, who happens to be a dog. Sounder was found when he was puppy. He turned out to be a very special dog to his African-American family that owns him because he keeps them fed. Sounder is a “coon” dog. when The father is accused of stealing a hog and placed in jail, his family suffers the loss, and to make matters worse, Sounder is shot and disappears. The story then turns to the hardships the young son faces as he makes a transition into adulthood. This story won the Newbery Award, and has become an American classic. It tells of the resilience of the human spirit, and the triumph of individuals in the face of tragedy and the evils of racism.

Jim the Boy

Tony Early

This is a slow-moving story about a 10-year-old Jim Glass, coming of age in Aliceville North Carolina, in the early 1930s. Jim lives on a farm with widowed mother and three uncles, who school him in the ways of life as he encounters situations. Jim’s father died at the young age of 23. The story read as a collection of vignettes vaguely related to each other. For example, Jim accompanies his uncles to a carnival, his best frienD struggles with polio, his mother resists a suitor, and the introduction to electricity in the small town. In general this story has overtones of gentleness, and softness, of a boy having to cope with some of the harsh realities of life

Buffalo for the Broken Heart

Dan O’Brien

A true story about Dan O’Brien, who purchased the Broken Heart Ranch located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, and began running cattle on more than a thousand acres. This book tells of how he brought life back to the ranch and to himself. Though the decision ultimately cost him his marriage and, at times, his peace of mind, he feels a connection to the land and the lifestyle that continues to justify the decision. When necessary, he has even worked as an endangered-species biologist or English teacher in order to support his ranch.

The story includes descriptions of the life on a buffalo ranch, fellow ranchers, and captures the rugged beauty, and harshness of the land.

The Wig

Charles Wright

An unusual story about a young man, Lester Jefferson, whose repeated attempts to become a part of The Great Society are doomed in advance. His life includes people who support, thwart and confuse him in his struggles. Lester searches for happiness in a series of misadventures that begins with the transformation of the hair on his head into burnished curls, by using a wig.

Salt: A World History

Mark Kurlansky

The focus of this book is to explain how the ingredient “salt” has affected the history of the world. The book is divided into three parts, with a collection of vignettes grouped into chronological order. Part I is the history of salt in China and Rome, Part II the Middle Ages to the Wars of Independence and Part III delves into salt in modern society.

The tale is interesting and different.