Culture: Values, Beliefs, & Rituals
Banks, Lynne Reid. One More River.
Spoiled, rich Lesley, 14, moves with her parents from Canada to an Israeli kibbutz because her father feels that the family has lost any sense of what it means to be Jewish. They leave behind Lesley's brother Noah, a family outcast because he has not only married his Catholic girlfriend, but also because he has converted to her religion. A large part of the novel, set during the days before, during, and after the 1967 Six-Day War, chronicles Lesley's gradual, difficult adjustment, and her growing friendship from afar with Mustapha, an Arab boy. Caught between her father’s beliefs, the beliefs of the culture into which she is unwillingly thrust, and militancy where she would rather find friendship, Lesley is forced to make individual choices.
Bauer, Marion Dane. On My Honor.
Twelve year old Joel doesn’t really want to bike out to the state park and climb on the bluffs, but Tony is adamant and persuasive. Joel promises his father, “on his honor” to be careful, but when Tony decides to swim in the dangerous river instead, Joel is caught between his promise and peer pressure. Tony’s death by drowning leaves Joel to face his conscience and his father alone, and leaves him with the torment of what would have happened if he had taken a firm stand and opposed Tony. (Newbery Honor)
Brittain, Bill. The Wish Giver.
Thaddeus Blinn, mysterious and magical, says he can give people whatever they desire…they just need one of his cards. Polly, who has a sharp tongue, asks to be well-liked. Rowena wants Henry to stay in town long enough to put down roots. Sam, sick of hauling water, wishes for water on his folks’ farm. They all get their wishes, with some truly horrible side effects, in Brittain's Newbery Honor Book. A retelling of the King Midas tale, this stresses that you have to be careful as to how you shape your wishes. To wish is to share your values, and you have to deal with the consequences if they come true.
Coerr, Eleanor. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.
Sadako was an active Japanese child, loving to run, loving her friends, loving life…until the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Now she cannot run, nor will she live for long. Will folding 1000 origami paper cranes enable her to return to the life she once had? Her belief in this sustained her until her end.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham.
Winner of the Newbery Honor Medal and the Coretta Scott King Honor Award, Curtis blends the fictional account of an African American family with the factual events of the violent summer of 1963. The Weird Watsons, an African-American family from Flint, Michigan, seek to rehabilitate Byron, who is thirteen and an "official juvenile delinquent," by taking him to his grandmother in Alabama, a decision which places them in the middle of one of the most chilling moments in America's history- the burning of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church with four little girls inside. Family values and dysfunctional societal values collide in a story told with love and humor.
Cushman, Karen. The Midwife’s Apprentice.
Brat, a homeless wanderer of undetermined age, is taken in by a midwife who sees her more as free labor than a human being. Always practical but initially timid, the girl expands in courage and self-awareness, acquiring a cat as a companion, naming herself Alyce, and gaining experience in the ways of midwifery. From the delight of helping a boy to deliver twin calves, to the despair of failure during a difficult birth, to the triumph of a successful delivery, Alyce struggles to develop the values and beliefs which will give her the determination to reach for her own place in this medieval English world.
De Angeli, Marguerite. The Door in the Wall.
Robin is the son of a knight, and destined to become a knight himself until an illness cripples his legs and the plague kills his caregivers. With the help of a monk, Robin learns to function within his disability, and in the process changes from the arrogant young man he was in the process of becoming. In a society that believed that an active knight had much more value than a crippled youth, Robin is an unlikely candidate to save the castle and win approval from the king. (Newbery Award book)
DeClements, Barthe. Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You.
Good in math and gifted on the pitcher's mound, Helen is not looking forward to the first day of sixth grade. A nonreader diagnosed as a behavior problem, she feels that she could be stuck in sixth grade forever. When a teacher gives her the option of getting help in a special education classroom, Helen must decide how she can deal with her friends’ teasing about her reading and taunts that she is a “retard” about the special ed class. Helen needs to believe in herself and her abilities, or her acting out behaviors will get her in even more trouble.
Fitzhugh, Louise. Nobody’s Family is Going to Change.
What can you do if your parents simply refuse to listen to, let alone accept, your hopes and aspirations? Overweight Emma wants to be a lawyer like her father, while slim Willie wants to be a Dancer. Emma's father is against female lawyers, and finds Willie's dancing most irritating. Written in 1975, this reflects the women’s movement and issues facing African American families ; the issues of personal identity and the role of the family in shaping children’s attitudes and beliefs transcend copyright date.
Fleishman, Sid. The Whipping Boy.
Because he is so rotten, and because it is forbidden to strike the heir to the throne, Prince Brat has his own whipping boy, an orphan named Jemmy, who is forced to take Brat’s punishments. In a Prince and the Pauper switch, Jemmy is perceived as the prince when they run away and are seized by prince-nappers, because he can read, and Brat cannot. Brat’s values and beliefs of his own importance and invincibility have shaped the way he has always behaved. Now they will have to change.
Gray, Elizabeth. Adam of the Road.
"A road's a kind of holy thing," said Roger the Minstrel to his son, Adam. "That's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It's open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle." Adam must demonstrate perseverance in the face of discouragement, courage and positive attitude in the face of failure and disappointment, and ability to adapt to change if he is to live with his father’s beliefs and values and if he is going to survive going on the road alone in 13th century England after his father disappears and his dog is stolen. (Newbery Award winner)
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars.
The Germans had occupied Denmark, and Annemarie must draw on all of her courage and strength when she discovers that her family has been smuggling Jews out of Denmark and to safety in Sweden, and that the next family they must help is that of one of her best friends. The evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark is one of the great untold stories of World War II, for within hours of finding out that the Jews in Denmark were to be detained and sent to death camps, the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to herd Jews to Sweden, a demonstration of cultural and social values of by the population of a small nation.
McGraw, Eloise. The Golden Goblet.
Ranofer’s conflicts with his half-brother escalate when Ranofer is apprenticed as a stonecutter instead of being allowed to remain in the gold shop in which he had been working and he discovers that Gebu has been stealing from tombs and desecrating them. Ranofer can close his eyes to his brother’s sacrilege or he can take a stand in opposition to his brother, and attempt to enlist the help of Queen Tiy in preventing the destruction of her parents’ sacred tombs.
Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game.
A millionaire is dead, and to be his heir, you must discover which one among you is the murderer. Akin to the current “reality” shows on television, in which contestants struggle against each other, this examines the believes and values of individuals within a group when they are striving against each other to achieve the profit of a common goal. (Newbery Award winner)
Richter, Hans Peter. Friederich.
Hans and Frederich have been best friends since early childhood, but now everything is changing because Hitler is in power, and Frederich is a Jew. Hans watches as Frederich and his family are denied education, work, place in society as Frederich’s story spirals toward its horrifying conclusion. This asks the question about societal values and the necessity of an individual or individuals in standing against the larger group. It would be interesting to compare the different actions/ behaviors by societies regarding the treatment of the Jews in Frederich and in Number the Stars.
Winthrop, Elizabeth. The Castle in the Attic.
Ten-year-old William, distraught because his beloved housekeeper/nanny, Mrs. Phillips, is returning to England that, with the aid of a magic token, he shrinks her into the size of the toy knight which inhabits a wooden castle that has been passed down in her family for generations. To undo his rash deed, William must be miniaturized himself and accompany the silver knight, Sir Simon, on a quest to overthrow Alastor, a wicked magician who long ago usurped the throne of what should have been Sir Simon's kingdom. (School Library Journal) William’s innocence, values and beliefs enable him to triumph over the sorcerer and his own childish wish to keep Mrs. Phillips.