Grayson by Lynne Cox
Long distance swimmer Lynn Cox recalls an event when she was 17 and had already twice swum the English Channel and once the Catalina Channel. Swimming off the coast of Southern California, Cox encountered an 18 foot long baby gray whale separated from its mother. As an act of compassion, Cox stayed in the 55 degree water most of the day to keep the still-nursing baby whale company until it could be reunited with its mother and receive nourishment. The beauty of Cox’ description of the ocean and its teeming animal and plant life, the compelling story of her communion with her fellow mammal, and the suspense of the tale where both her life and that of Grayson were at risk, makes this short book a classic in the making – reminiscent of The Old Man and the Sea. Knopf (2006), Audience: All Ages | Reviewed by Karen West.
Kingdom of the Golden Dragon by Isabel Allende
Young Adult fiction adventure lovers have a new star in the trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Allende. City of the Beasts, (2002) the first entry in the trilogy, is set in the Amazon and introduces American teen Alexander Cold, his reporter grandmother Kate who works for International Geographic, and the psychic preteen Nadia who can communicate with animals and indigenous people alike. The sequel, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, is of special interest to students of Buddhism. Set in a Himalayan kingdom, the three protagonists encounter a tribe of Yeti, an amazing Buddhist priest and his protege, and some really bad people! Woven through the adventure is commentary on Buddhism, spiritual communication, and Shangri-La. The final installment in the trilogy, Forest of the Pygmies, (2005) follows the three to Kenya for further adventures. HarperCollins (2004), Audience: Young Adult | Reviewed by Karen West.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Can a high school tolerate a girl in touch with the oneness of the world and addicted to performing daily acts of compassion? The narrator, a self-conscious boy who has grown up in the culture of the rural town, wavers between adoration of this new girl and his desire to be accepted by his peers. As he grows in knowledge of Stargirl and of himself, he has to make hard choices – ones that haunt him the rest of his life. This, from Newberry medalist Spinelli, is a must read for sensitive young adults learning to negotiate the social life of middle and high school America. Knopf Books for Young Readers (2000), Audience: Young Adult | Reviewed by Karen West.