I love books by Mary Casanova, so I was thrilled when my friends at University of Minnesota Press sent me a few of her books to review.
In STEALING THUNDER, young Libby loves the horses at the stable next door. She’d like one for her own, but her parents can’t afford it. One day her friend and riding teacher, Jolene, is not there, and the owner tells Libby not to come back. Libby discovers that he is cruel and heartless with the horses and other animals and she fears for the safety of her beloved horses, especially Thunder. Libby decides to save Thunder by stealing her, but can this possibly lead to a happy solution?
Mary Casanova is a wonderful writer and her books should be in all classroom libraries. They often take place in Minnesota and always portray realistic and strong protagonists.
RIOT, which is based on true events, follows the story of Bryan Grant, a sixth-grader, whose father gets involved in some violent occurrences when non-union workers are brought in to work at his father’s work, leaving his dad unemployed. Bryan befriends a young girl in his class, but then discovers that her father is one of the non-union “rats”. Meanwhile, tensions escalate and violence breaks out. Ultimately, Bryan needs to decide if he will do the right thing.
Casanova does a great job, as always, in creating realistic characters and situations. Bryan is a likable and sympathetic character, and one ends the book asking, “What would I do?” I think this would be a great choice for a classroom discussion, and it would also engage reluctant readers.
The other book by Casanova that I received was CURSE OF A WINTER MOON. This takes places in the 1500’s in France. Twelve-year-old Marius tries to protect his little brother who villagers are scared could be a werewolf (because he was born on Christmas Eve). There is a strong subtheme in this book of going against the establishment, and Marius’ father is accused of being a heretic as he reads the Bible and has sympathies for Martin Luther. There’s lots to discuss in this book, which can be read on several different levels. My ten-year-old is enjoying it now as an exciting adventure, but I would also use it with middle schoolers to discuss life in 1500’s Europe and the events leading to the Reformation.