Yonder

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Yonder ali standish

Prejudice..... seen any in your city, your town, your school .... your house....yourself...lately?  Interesting how easy it is to feel better ...bigger, more important..when you have someone else to look down upon.  Interesting how hard it is to listen to the little voice inside yourself that says something is wrong here and I should not go along with this. How much easier it is to go with the crowd and not stand out making yourself a target ...  or is it really easier?

Danny knows what it's like to be down on the ground getting ridiculed, humiliated, punched by a bully.  In Danny's case the bully's name is Bruce Pittman and his lieutenant, his henchman, the guy who goes along with everything Bruce says ...his name is Logan.  Bruce's dad owns a lot of farms in the community and he sits on the draft board so he has some power.  That power is important right now because we are talking 1942 and 1943 and the war is raging in Europe and American men are being drafted into service.  People in Danny's town don't want to be Mr. Pittman's target.

In Danny's world his father has gone off to serve overseas and his mother is running the local newspaper in his absence and is expecting a baby.  Danny has seen heroism in his community - there was the day that Jack Bailey jumped into the raging river and saved two sisters from drowning while the rest of the community stood waiting on the bank of the river...and while Bruce Pittman's dad, a noted swimmer, did not jump in to save the girls.  Take the measure of the man.  The Pittmans have had it in for Jack since that moment.

For Danny Jack is a hero twice over - he jumped in to save the girls and Jack jumped in to save Danny when Bruce had him pinned on the ground yet again.  Danny has treasured every minute he has had with Jack ever since.  Until now.

This morning when Danny got on his bike and rode to the spot where he and Jack always meet to pick up the newspapers for their newspaper routes Jack does not show up.  Maybe he's just late.  So Danny goes on.  But after a few days Danny knows Jack is missing and he decides to solve the mystery of where Jack might be - and to figure out if  there has been foul play.

Seems fairly straightforward.  But Ali Standish has a couple of arrows in her quiver here and she is going to aim them straight at every reader.  Every reader is going to be faced with a self reckoning.  Do you stand up for others when they are being humiliated?  Do you trade off someone else's life because it's easier for you to stay silent and not "be the one" to stand up for what is right?

What does it mean to be a hero?  Can you be a hero and a coward at the same time?  If so, what does that make you?

This is an exceptional story that challenges every one of us to dig a little deeper and to look at little harder at our own choices, our own fears, our own bargains with the world.  There is a brilliance here that is born of the clear explanations the characters spell out for us. Even the most unaware human beings will see the truths dug up from the layers of muck we bury them in.

Danny - I wish you well.  Lou - I know you will succeed.  Jack - bless you.

Come on along... you need this one...it's a book for our time.

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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From Ali Standish, award-winning author of The Ethan I Was BeforeAugust IsleHow to Disappear Completely, and The Mending Summer, comes a captivating historical fiction middle grade novel about a boy on the home front in World War II who must solve the mystery of the disappearance of his best friend. Perfect for fans of Alan Gratz and Lauren Wolk, this riveting adventure explores what true heroism means.

Danny Timmons has looked up to Jack Bailey ever since Jack saved two small children from drowning during the Great Flood of 1940. Now, with his father away fighting in World War II and his mother about to have a new baby, Danny relies on Jack’s friendship and guidance more than ever.

So when Jack goes missing without a trace from their small Appalachian town, Danny is determined to find him. He wonders if Jack’s abusive father could be behind his disappearance, or if it has anything to do with Yonder—a hidden magical town Jack once spoke of, where flocks of rainbow birds fly through the sky and they’ve never heard of war. As answers elude him, Danny begins to fear that he didn’t know Jack as well as he thought.

Ultimately, Danny’s investigation forces him to reckon with even larger questions: What is America fighting for in this war? What role do each of us play in stopping injustices, big and small? And is there such thing as a true hero?---from the publisher

368 pages                             978-0-06-298568-2                             Ages 9-13

Keywords:  historical fiction, adventure, heroes, World War II, Appalachia, coming of age, prejudice, friendship, missing people, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old

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“Ooh maybe tomorrow

I'll find my way

To the land where the honey runs

In rivers each day

And the sweet tastin' good life

Is so easily found

A way over yonder

That's where I'm bound”

– Carole King (1971)

“I turned my gaze back toward Jack. I thought he might wave or cheer or grin, the way he might if he’d hit a home run or won a round of capture the flag. Instead, he tilted his chin toward the sky and closed his eyes against the rain. Like that water might baptize him anew, even though he’d already been washed clean by the river. Like it was him who had needed saving that day instead of the Coombs twins.

No one else saw the rawboned boy point his face skyward. They were too busy clutching each other and laughing in relief, already telling one another the story, as if we hadn’t all just seen it for ourselves.

Daddy put Jack on the front page the next day, LOCAL HERO SAVES TODDLER TWINS FROM DROWNING DEATH, read the headline.

And from then on, that’s what Jack Bailey was. Not a boy. A hero.

We argued over the specifics. How long Jack went under the water (some people swore he’d been down there a full two minutes). How much the twins must have weighed soaking wet. Whether he’d found the strength from within or whether it was given to him by the Lord, whom Pastor Douglass had called down to help not a minute too soon.

But we all agreed on the main thing. Jack Bailey was a hero.

We didn’t stop to wonder what that made us.”

YONDER, set in Appalachia during WWII, is told from the point of view of Danny Timmons. When you read YONDER, pay close attention to Danny’s mother.

Dorothy Timmons is the unsung hero of this powerful and unforgettable piece of historical fiction. In an era when white men hold all the power, Danny’s mom is an outsider; an independent and college-educated woman; and an honest and loving mother. Anyone would be lucky to have this woman as a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or a parent. She stands up to people, when necessary, and stands up for people in a manner that changes lives and makes the world a better place.

It’s a tough world that we live in. And this was a tough time, during World War II, with millions of human beings being systematically exterminated in Europe by Hitler, while millions more were being denied basic human rights in America because of the color of their skin; and when too many Americans were turning a blind eye to what was going on in both cases.

Danny’s best friend is Lou Maguire, a young lady who fashions herself after her literary hero, Nancy Drew. (Don’t tell anyone, but Danny reads Lou’s books, too.) Young readers will relate to the bullying that Danny endures, and will understand Danny’s growing attachment to Jack Bailey, the older boy who saves those toddler twins from drowning in the Flood of 1940.

Following a prologue involving Jack’s heroics in the summer that Danny turns ten, the story leaps forward three years, to Jack Bailey’s unexpected disappearance. Danny and Lou, the self-styled mystery solver, have a real case on their hands. The story then criss-crosses back-and-forth over these three years, filling readers in as to how Jack and Danny became close, and helps us understand the possible causes for Jack’s sudden disappearance. In the process, readers learn great details about life on the homefront during WWII.

Thoughtful readers will see well beyond the action in Foggy Gap, North Carolina, to the deep questions and conflicting ideas examined here relating to war, prejudice, serving one’s country, and treating others as you would want to be treated. YONDER resurrected my own long-ago memories of being bullied, of growing up with a war going on, and of draft boards, which thankfully were abolished just as I graduated high school.

One thread of the story also reminded me of what Mildred Taylor’s Paul Edward Logan and his descendants endured as Black farmers in America.

The bottom line is that YONDER is something special. A coming-of-age story featuring well-researched history, stellar character development, heartbreaking loss, and tough questions about what humanity is all about, make this one not to miss.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of Richie's Picks <http://richiespicks.com/http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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It's 1943, and Danny is dealing with several different issues in his small town near Asheville. His father, the editor of the local paper, is off fighting in the war, and his mother, who is heavily pregnant, has taken his place, since there are no men who are stepping up to do the job. His best friend was Lou, a girl who loves Nancy Drew mysteries, but since her brother is a conscientious objector, the whole family is having a hard time. Another family that was close with his, the Musgraves, has actually left town because of the discrimination they faced for being Black. Danny delivers the newspapers along with Jack Bailey, a local boy who once saved twins from a flood, and who lives with his neglectful and abusive father. Jack lived with Danny's family for a while after one particularly bad beating, and in flashbacks, we see how different situations in town played out in the past. When Jack doesn't show up for his paper route, and also misses school, Danny is concerned that his father might have had a hand in his older friend's disappearance. World War II figures largely in the life of the townspeople, with rationing, scrap collecting, and blue and gold star flags in many windows. Local bullies Bruce and Logan, who have given Danny a hard time in the past, cause troubles in the town, and Mrs. Wagner, who lives at the edge of town, comes into their sights because she is German. Danny's mother is very accepting of other people, and encourages him to keep an open mind about people who might be different from him. He and Lou start to investigate Jack's disappearance, but Danny starts to wonder if Jack has gone "Yonder", based on stories that his friend told him about a different place, and some clues that Danny finds. The truth is much more utilitarian, and despite the understanding attitude of Danny's family, life in Foggy Gap is hard for people who are different, and the war is just making it harder. Strengths: There are many good details about every day life during World War II, and I especially liked the details about delivering the newspapers and going to school. Jack's life is unfortunately probably fairly common for that time period, and there is a good note at the end of the book with resources for young people today who might be struggling with similar circumstances. When I finished the book, I thought that if Jack had been a little bit older, he would have been a good fit for the Civilian Conservation Corps. There aren't a lot of older WWII titles that deal with conscientious objectors, treatment of people of color, or child abuse, so it was interesting to see these placed into a historical setting. This is done in a realistic and yet progressive way that was very well done. Seeing this all unfold from Danny's point of view is a good choice, and adds a nice coming of age feel to the book. Weaknesses: There are a lot of flashbacks that are essential to the plot development, so readers who don't do well with story that aren't linear may struggle with this one. I thought for a while that there would be a magical element to the story, with Yonder and the jewel birds, but there really wasn't. This is fine, but threw me a bit. What I really think: While books set on the home front don't circulate as well as books involving battles, this is a good choice for readers who like stories about the home front during WWII and who enjoyed Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest, Peck's On the Wings of Heroes, Wolk's Wolf Hollow, or Larson's Code Word Courage. 

Recommended by:  Karen Yingling, Teacher Librarian, Ohio USA

See more of her recommendations:  msyinglingreads.blogspot.com

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