Which Book Is Right for You?

Most people love to read, or would love to read—if they knew how to choose just the right book. Sometimes we just do not know what sort of book we feel like reading. A reader has many options to systematically go about selecting a book. You can choose a book based on the setting—when and where the book is situated. You can choose by the subject of the book; e.g., a book may be based on art. You can choose based on whether you want to read a book with a boy or a girl as the main character. There are many more methods, as well, and a reader doesn’t even have to use the same method every time.

adam-of-the-roadYou can categorize books by setting. Medieval Europe is one such specific setting that many of us book-lovers enjoy reading about. The book Adam of the Road is set in England around 1295. Written by Elizabeth Janet Gray, it is the story of eleven-year-old Adam Quartermayne, son of Roger the minstrel, and his journeys around the south of England. Along with his father, who is a traveling minstrel, Adam experiences first the greatness of London. Later, his story takes an unfortunate turn as, one morning, at a town called Burford Bridge, his precious dog Nick is stolen, and that very evening at Guildford he gets separated from his father. He sets out on a journey, trying to track both his father and his dog, traveling alone all the way south to Winchester, and then north again, up until he reaches Oxford. With the help of kind people he meets and old friends and, most certainly, good luck, Adam manages to get his dog back and find his father again. This book tells us much about Medieval England of the late 13th century, from the view of a traveler, Adam of the road.

The setting of Britain is very popular, indeed. Another book that is set in Britain, but in Roman times, is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Silver Branch. War itself, is a setting—and that is involved in The Silver Branch, a stimulating story of two young men in Roman Britain. Tiberius Lucius Justinianus, a young cohort surgeon called as Justin, and Marcelus Flavius Aquila, a young Centurion called as Flavius, are cousins in Roman Britain. Theyus-rosemary-sutcliff-the-silver-branch-1993 serve under the emperor of Britain, Marcus Aurelius Carausius, at Rutupiae, a large Roman city north of present-day Dover, beside the English Channel. They discover that Carausius’s right-hand man, Allectus, may be plotting against the emperor. They try to warn the emperor, but the emperor seemingly does not believe them and instead sends them away to another post. (In fact, Justin and Flavius find out later that Carausius knew about what Allectus would do and sent them away only for their safety.) At the Roman fort Magnis-on-the-Wall (along Hadrian’s wall, on the border of England and Scotland), Justin and Flavius now are Cohort surgeon and Cohort Commander of the Eighth Cohort of the Second Augustan Legion. At Magnis-on-the-Wall, they discover for fact that their suspicions about Allectus were correct. They set off on a race against time, with the help of a native hunter, Evicatos, back to Rutupiae to try to warn Carausius. All at once, they learn they are too late—Allectus has already overthrown and killed Carausius. Disheartened, Justin and Flavius decide to leave Britain for Gaul (France in Roman days). Just as they reach the harbor at Portus Adurni, they decide to stay on instead and join a band of men in resistance against the new emperor Allectus. When the leader dies, they start to lead the band and move the headquarters to Flavius’s family’s farm, located at a perfect position. Finally, Roman armies from the mainland of Europe come from the Portus Magnus under the command of the Legate Asklepiodotus to conquer Britain and wrench it back from the grasp of Allectus. Justin, Flavius, and their men come up to join the Roman armies and help overthrow the tyrant Allectus. This novel gives a reader a good idea of Roman Britain, as the protagonists travel all over the country, and the setting of wartime is one that many people appreciate.

You may also choose a book based on the subject of the book. For example, you may want i-juan-de-parejato read about art. A very interesting art-related story is I, Juan de Pareja. It is set in the early 1600s— a great period of European history, featuring great people—playwrights like Shakespeare, artists like Rembrandt, and scientists like Galileo and Newton. In Spain, there was a talented artist known as Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez. He also had a slave, who later became his assistant. That slave’s story is Elizabeth Borton de Treviño’s novel, I, Juan de Pareja. Juan de Pareja started out as the son of a slave in Seville. When both his master and mistress were taken ill and died, Juan was sent to Madrid to be the slave of the artist, Velázquez, who was his master’s nephew. His new master the artist was very kind to him, and Juan grew to love him very much. He was always fascinated with his master’s art, and over time, he started to paint in secret, learning his master’s techniques. Unfortunately, such art was forbidden to slaves in Spain. Juan finally could keep his secret no longer, and told his master. Juan expected a punishment, but to his utter surprise, his master granted Juan his freedom! This meant that Juan’s painting was illegal no more. The story ends happily with how after Velázquez passed away, Juan settled down in Seville and worked as a painter for many long years.

Another interesting subject is theatre. It interests me particularly because I like to act in plays. Gary Blackwood’s The Shakespeare Stealer takes place in London, at the time of William Shakespeare. Widge is a fourteen-year-old orphan who has a fearsome master inshakespeare-stealer Leicester, England. His master, Simon Bass, has ordered him to copy down Shakespeare’s new play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, in the special shorthand Widge knows which allows him to copy words down as fast as they are spoken. Bass sends Widge to London, along with a man who works for Bass called Falconer. Widge tries to copy the play down twice. The second time, however, he loses his copybook. Trying to get another chance, he works his way into Mr. Shakespeare’s play company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Widge tries to get a chance to copy the play. But as he continues staying with the theater company, his fellow actors start becoming family to him—the first family he has ever known. Soon, Widge must make a choice—betray his new friends or disobey his master. Widge chooses that he shall never betray his friends. Instead, he closes the book by thwarting Bass’s plans of stealing Hamlet. As I actively participate in theater, I could very much relate to The Shakespeare Stealer. This heartwarming story leaves a reader with a good feeling of how a protagonist made the right choice.

Oftentimes, a mystery story thrills us all—especially when it’s a hilarious work like
Henry Winterfield’s sequel to his enchanting story Detectives in Togas, Mystery of the gr10-lRoman Ransom. Mystery of the Roman Ransom is set in ancient Rome. Seven schoolboys—Mucius, Caius, Publius, Julius, Flavius, Rufus, and Antonius—with the help of their master Xanthos (nicknamed Xantippus by the boys) set off on another adventure when the slave they get their teacher for his fiftieth birthday (which is actually long past!) is actually a secret courier, running for his life. He is carrying a message that calls the assassination of a Roman senator—the father of one of the boys. By decoding the letter that the slave carries, the seven of them must find out who it is, and then warn him before it is too late. Then, Caius is captured, and things get even worse. Finally, however, it seems like the whole problem is solved, as Caius is freed, and the senator has caught those who were plotting against him. However, just when there are only three chapters remaining in the book, things take a distressing turn of events, as an unprecedented problem arises, much to the surprise of the reader. As in most good mysteries, the story is eventually resolved, with a happy ending. Mystery of the Roman Ransom is a hilariously fantastic read.

There may also be a third way you or I might choose a book to read. A boy might want to read a book featuring boys. All the books mentioned above, in fact, do feature boys. This is, no doubt, because I, the reader, am a boy, and books about boys are what are more interesting to me. Linda Sue Park’s Newbery Award Winner A Single Shard is another book with a boy as the protagonist. Set in a small village called Ch’ulp’o on the west coast of ancient Korea, in the mid to late 12th century, A Single Shard is the story of a homeless
orphan boy, Tree-ear, who lives with his friend Crane-Man under a bridge. Tree-ear wants to become the master potter Min’s assistant, and so offers to work for him. Then, singleshard3an emissary from the capital arrives to appoint a royal commission to one of the potters. Tree-ear wants Min to get the commission, but unfortunately, another potter who had a revolutionary style of work, received the commission: “I would far rather have given you the honor of a royal commission,” the emissary tells Min. Then, he continues on to mention that if Min creates more vases with the new inlay work, and it is brought to the capital at Songdo, the emissary will take pains to carefully consider it. Tree-ear offers to transport the new vases, when they are made, to Songdo. On the way, though, he falls prey to robbers. All he has is taken from him, and, worst of all, the precious vases are broken. Tree-ear is disheartened, disappointed, and discouraged. But then, a surge of hope floods him—and an idea. He makes his way farther on to Songdo, and eventually reaches the emissary’s office—to show him a single shard of his master’s work. The emissary examines the single shard. It is but a fragment; yet, it shows all of the master potter’s skill. Well-pleased, the emissary appoints Min a commission—all thanks to the single shard. Upon reaching home, Tree-ear learns that, while he was gone, his good friend, Crane-Man, had died. He also finds that, from now, he is to live in the house of Min. And, best of all, he finds that his dream is to come true—Tree-ear will throw pots on a wheel sitting beside his master, and craft beautiful vases as he had always yearned to do.

On the other hand, a girl might prefer reading a book with a female as the protagonist. A noteworthy novel falling into that category would be Catherine, Called Birdy, written by 9780547722184_custom-679f44fcac3355aca4796f7c219b281ddd6b6ef2-s400-c85Karen Cushman. Catherine, Called Birdy is a diary, the story of fourteen-year-old Catherine, the daughter of the Lord Rollo and Lady Aislinn, of the village of Stonebridge in the shire of Lincoln, in Medieval England, 1290. Her mother wishes to teach her skills of a lady of the manor and to prepare her to be a gentle and patient wife. Her father wants only to see her married off, and profitably. Catherine herself hopes to become a painter, a Crusader, a maker of songs, a peddler, a minstrel, a monk, and a wart charmer… Catherine’s ways of making her loathsome potential suitors leave are hilarious. Eventually, however, she realizes that she cannot be someone else—she must meet with her fate and be herself. This book presents the period of the Middle Ages from a quite different point of view than most of us are used to reading about, because it’s not about knights in shining armor who ride around fighting others. It’s the quieter story of daily life in a Medieval English manor.

As we can see, it is really not that hard after all to choose a good story to read. And, if you might still not be sure what you want to read—why not try one of the six enchanting books talked about above? As Dr. Seuss once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”


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Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Mara, Daughter of the Nile is a story by Eloise Jarvis McGraw set in Ancient Egypt, during220px-mara_daughter_of_the_nile the end of the rule of Pharaoh Hatshepsut the Glorious, Daughter of the Sun. In this compelling story, Mara, the protagonist, is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns
for freedom. In order to gain it, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch-enemies—each of whom supports a different ruler for the throne of Egypt. Dangerous espionage and richly drawn background make this a thoroughly engrossing book that captures quick and lasting interest.

In Mara, Daughter of the Nile, Sahure is a spy who acts against Mara near the end of the book, bringing an unexpected twist to the story. The author,
McGraw, gave Sahure the profession of a juggler. This was the symbol at that point in the story that I am going to write about. A juggler can be thought of as wearing a mask, like a clown. Sahure had a mask on—that of a loyal friend and innocent juggler—but underneath the mask was a traitor. Also, jugglers are actors. The juggler in this story performs his juggling act and therefore is able to go all around the tavern. He doesn’t have to speak, so he is free to listen. That is why he makes a shrewd spy. Another symbolic use of this symbol is that, a juggler juggles with balls. However, this juggler is juggling with the fates of Sheftu, Mara, Thutmose, and Egypt itself. It is all in his hands—he is the one who can bring all these characters and Egypt itself crashing down. That is why I like the author’s choice of this symbol. It really has a very deep meaning. Instead of a juggler, the author could also have used the symbol of the innkeeper as Sahure’s profession at this point in the story. This is because, an innkeeper would also be trusted with secrets that could make him a valuable spy, and just like the juggler, he could go all over the inn to find things out and have a good excuse to do so. However, the author did not, because, although the innkeeper could make as good a spy as a juggler, the juggler itself is a symbol of hiding under a mask, playing tricks and acts, and juggling with the fates of all the protagonists in this story.


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Greek Myths



Greek Myths by Olvia Coolidge is an excellent retelling of many stories from Greek mythology, including some famous classics like the twelve labors of Heracles, as well as other, lesser-known stories, such as the story of Admetus, the “Fortunate King.” I have read a number of volumes of Greek mythology for young people; however, this one has so many favorite stories and others that are unbelievably captivating. Olivia Coolidge herself makes this book be so addictive by her writing style.

I have rewritten a Greek Myth from the book as follows.


Athene’s City

In the days when Greece was first being settled, Cecrops was king in Attica—a rugged, triangular little country surrounded by the sea on two sides, good mainly for goat farming and the culture of honeybees. Cecrops planned a great city here, around a steep rock that jutted from the plain a few miles inland. Down on the adjoining shore, there were two fine harbors, while around it spread great fertile country watered by two streams. The gods, always interested in the affairs of men, approved Cecrops’ idea and gave the new city their blessings, foreseeing that it would, in time, become one of the greatest cities of the world.

When the god Poseidon saw this, he declared at once, “This city will be a great naval power. As it relies on the sea, it must be under my care. I am the one who should rightfully be the patron god of the city.”

However, many other gods objected, especially the goddess Athene. “Great wars will surely be won by this city. It shall be a city of wisdom, as well as of the arts. These qualities come from me only, therefore I must take care of it,” decided the wise Athene.

Much time passed, and many claims were put forward in this fashion by many different gods, but at last, after much bickering, it was clear that the award must lie between grey-eyed Athene, goddess of wisdom, and the majestic emperor of the seas, Poseidon. Between these two gods, the other gods decided to have a contest. Each should produce some marvel in the Attic land, and each should promise some gift to the city that was to come. The greater gift would win the city.

The appointed day came, and the judges ranged themselves on the rock, as the two gods came before them. The twelve appointed judges were, some say, spirits of the Attic hills and rivers, while others maintain that they were the twelve Olympian gods. Be as it may, on one side stood Poseidon, with his flowing dark-blue beard and majestic stature, carrying in his hand the three-pronged trident with which he rules the waves. On the other side stood Athene, grey-eyed and serene, helmet on her golden head and spear and shield in her hands.

None made a noise; then the signal was given for Poseidon to begin. He raised his trident and struck the ground. Beneath the feet of the judges the earth was terribly shaken, and it split apart with a mighty rumbling sound before them. Then appeared a salt spring four miles inland where no water had ever appeared before—the marvel. The judges and spectators erupted in approval.

“This was my marvel,” proclaimed Poseidon in his booming voice, “and now hear my gift: I give you my power of supremacy over the seas—I shall bestow upon you a great empire, a mighty navy, famed shipwrights, and trading vessels which should make this town’s name known in every corner of the sea.”

One of the judges called out in Poseidon’s praise, “He must be the winner! What finer gift could we receive than this?”

“I fully agree—the salt spring and the earthquake are fine symbols of his power. What more powerful god could this city have as its protector?” exclaimed another.

“But wait!” interrupted a third. “Wait, and watch. Athene has not even started, and already you are jumping to conclusions!”

So Athene was given permission to start. She said nothing, but smiled gently to herself as she laid aside her spear and shield and, quietly kneeling down, appeared to plant something in the earth. Between her hands, as she worked, there gradually unfolded a little tree—a bush, rather—small and unimpressive, with grey-green leaves and grey-green berries about an inch in length. When it had grown to its full size, Athene stood up and looked at the judges. That was all.

The judges were silent. Was this all the power Athene would display? That would mean a unanimous declaration of Poseidon as the winner.

Poseidon himself glanced at the dusty-looking bush that had grown so quietly. He looked at the gaping hole in the earth that he had created with the thunder of earthquake, and he threw back his head and laughed. “This is all you will do?” he asked, laughing harder yet. Around the bay rumbled and re-echoed the laughter of the god like distant waves thundering on the rocks, while far out to sea in their deep, green caverns, the old sea gods, his subjects, sent a muffled answering roar. “A small shrub, something that grows ordinarily everywhere!” Poseidon laughed.

Presently, silence fell, and the quiet, serene voice of Athene spoke up to the assembled judges: “This little shrub will be known from now on as the olive. It is both my marvel and my gift to the city, at the same time. With these berries the poor man will flavor his coarse bread and goat’s-milk cheese. With scented oil that will come from these berries, the rich man will deck himself for the feast. Oil poured to the gods shall be among their favorite offerings. With the olive’s oil, the housewife will light her lamp and do her cooking, and the athlete will cleanse himself from dust and sweat. This is the ware merchants shall carry in the ships Poseidon spoke of. Moreover, I will make the people of this city skilled in pottery, so that the jars in which the oil is carried shall themselves be a marvel, and the city shall flourish and be famous, not only in trade but in the arts. And I shall protect the people of this city with my helmet, spear, and shield—the helmet shall protect their minds, the spear shall kill all ignorance, and the shield shall protect their souls.”

So finished the great goddess, and the judges cried out in surprise at the richness of her dull-looking gift.

“Why, the humble olive has much more use and value than the god Poseidon’s gift of naval power,” cried the first judge.

“We must make Athene our goddess!” cried the second.

“Yes, yes, we will,” exclaimed the others.

And so the prize was unanimously awarded to the wise goddess Athene, who called the city Athens. Poseidon’s words came true—Athens gained great naval power—but the olive, Athene’s gift, was the greatest possession of Athene’s city.


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The Trojan War


The Trojan War is a delightful retelling of the classic Iliad geared towards a younger generation by Olivia Coolidge. Most of us know the basics of the Trojan War—Paris and Helen, Achilles and his heel, the adventures of Odysseus—but Coolidge’s version tells the reader all one may want to know. If you want to read the story of the Iliad, but want the text to be in a format that is easy to understand, the Olivia Coolidge’s The Trojan War is the book.

I wondered, what would have happened if the Greeks had not kept fighting after the death of the great hero Achilles? What if they had made peace, instead? What would the peace treaty that they could have made been like? I chose to write what I think could have been a peace treaty, based on The Trojan War.

(Note: the writing in this script is not part of the treaty, but is additional information for the reader.)
The following peace treaty has been made, establishing the peace between Troy and Greece. The handsome Trojan prince, Paris of Troy, kidnapped Queen Helen of Sparta. Therefore, the overlord Agamemnon and his Greek force arrived on the Trojan shore. Fighting ensued for ten years. Trojan hero Hector and Greek hero Achilles both perished. This has led to the following peace between the Kings Priam of Troy and Agamemnon of Greece.


The Greco–Trojan Peace

Following are the terms of peace, for both parties, following the peaceful end of the Trojan War.



This peace must last for one hundred years, during which time Greece and Troy may not wage war against each other, nor aid any other party fighting against the other. In case of disputes between the two parties, Greece and Troy are to resort not to arms but to negotiation.



This peace will send Queen Helen, the cause of this war, to her rightful husband, King Menelaus of Sparta. Greece will not pay anything in exchange for the queen as she rightfully belongs to Greece.


(The Trojans were tired of Helen, as all this trouble had been brought about them due to Paris’s desire for her. That is why they were happy to give her away and did not even once try to insist on keeping her during the peace negotiations.)



Prince Paris of Troy, who started this war, shall be relinquished to the Greeks, and he shall be slain at their hands. In exchange for this, the Greeks shall give back all the land they have conquered during these ten years, such as the island of Thebe.
(The brothers of Paris—the other princes of Troy—have grown weary of Paris, due to whom this war started, resulting in the death of the brave heir-apparent, Prince Hector. Also, Paris himself was a coward and fought little in the war (although he was responsible for the death of Achilles). That is why they have willingly cast him out and forced his father, King Priam, to agree to these terms.



All of the captives, slaves, riches, and other plunder that were gained by Greece over the course of these ten years shall stay with the Greeks. All of the captives, slaves, riches, and other plunder that were gained by Troy over the course of these ten years shall stay with the Trojans. However, Troy shall pay all of the Greek Chieftain, or their families (for those who have died, such as Achilles and Ajax Telamon) for all of the trouble caused to them. A certain payment shall be given to each Greek chieftain, as follows (portions of each payment may later be divided by the individual chieftains to give to their men as they see fit):
Each chieftain shall receive a brazen chest, inside which shall be the equivalent of fifty thousand gold coins in beautiful garments, jewels, cups, weaponry, or gold itself.
(With the Articles 2 and 3, Agamemnon the Overlord and Menelaus King of Sparta had both been satisfied. However, the other Greek chieftains, who had just lost all their conquered land, were not. That is why this Article 4 was written. The Trojans tried to protest that only they had to pay the Greeks and not the other way around, but to no avail, for in truth, Greece held the upper hand and could continue war and sack Troy if they wanted.)



This treaty is agreed to by the two sides of Troy and Greece. Below is the formal listing of all participants of importance:
TROY (and its allies)
Trojans of Importance:
  • King Priam and Queen Hecuba (Rulers of Troy)
  • Prince Hector (Foremost leader of Trojan Forces before his death)
  • Prince Paris
  • Prince Helenus
  • Prince Deiphobus
  • Aeneas of Troy
Allies of Troy:
  • Cycnus and his Trojan Allies (defeated)
  • The Amazons (defeated)
  • Memnon, Lord of Ethiopia, son of Dawn (defeated)
Greek Heroes: 
  • King Agamemnon (Overlord of the Greek forces)
  • King Menelaus of Sparta (Husband of Helen)
  • King Odysseus of Ithaca
  • Diomede the Hero
  • Ajax, son of Telamon (dead)
  • Ajax, son of Oileus
  • Nestor the Ancient
  • Antilochus, son of Nestor (dead)
  • Achilles the Great
  • Patroclus, Friend of Achilles


So closes this treaty establishing a hundred-year peace between Greece and Troy.


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The Golden Goblet


The Golden Goblet is an invigorating historical fiction by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Set in ancient Thebes, Egypt, during the New Kingdom of Egypt and in the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. It follows the story of a fictional boy by the name of Ranofer, son of Thutra the Goldsmith, who was forced to live with his half-brother Gebu after the death of his father.

A main theme in this book is friendship. I believe that Ranofer was very lucky to get such a priceless friend as his great companion Heqet. There are four qualities that Heqet possessed that showed that he was a true friend: 1) He cared for his friend’s feelings. 2) He was trustworthy. 3) He made sure that his friend’s self-esteem was not injured. And 4) he was willing to put his own life in harm’s way for his friend. Heqet, the friend of Ranofer, had all four of these qualities.

In the very beginning of the book, Ranofer was a poor boy who lived with his abusive half-brother Gebu and worked in the shop of Rekh the Goldsmith. There, he met a new apprentice named Heqet. Heqet tried to start a conversation with Ranofer, but Ranofer didn’t like people inquiring about himself. So when Heqet started asking a lot of personal questions, Ranofer got angry and walked away. By the next day, Heqet had realized that Ranofer didn’t like questions. So, he didn’t ask any more personal questions, and Ranofer found that Heqet’s warm, amiable personality was much to his liking. So, thanks to Heqet, the two became fast friends. This is an example of how Heqet cared for Ranofer’s feelings and would not do something that does not please his friend.

A little while after Heqet and Ranofer became fast friends, a problem arose in front of Ranofer: He wanted to tell his master, Rekh the Goldsmith, about how he had discovered that the porter Ibni was smuggling gold away in wineskins to deliver to Ranofer’s half-brother Gebu. However, he didn’t dare do so, for fear that Gebu would come to know about it and would either beat him to death or throw him to the crocodiles. Then Ranofer told Heqet of this. Heqet offered to take over the responsibility of telling Rekh instead of Ranofer, and trustworthily did not mention Ranofer’s involvement in any way. Ibni was caught and thrown out, and Gebu knew nothing of Ranofer’s connection to the incident. This shows, again, how Heqet was caring and offered to take on his friend’s responsibility. It shows even more Heqet’s trustworthiness, how he did not tell at all about Ranofer’s involvement.

Then, when Gebu suddenly took Ranofer out of the goldsmith’s shop and transferred him as an apprentice to Gebu’s own stonecutting shop, Ranofer started leading a miserable life, because he hated stonecutting and loved working with gold. But Heqet was such a good friend that he found Ranofer, and they started meeting each other at midday from then on! Thanks to loyal Heqet, Ranofer started feeling much better, as he now had someone whom he could confide in daily, and whom he could pour out all of his troubles to when he needed to do so. And on the days Ranofer’s self-esteem would come in the way of sharing his secrets, Heqet would respect that and wouldn’t press him to tell everything. Even more than that, Ranofer was given only a small loaf of bread and a wilted onion or two for his midday lunch, but his pride made him pretend that he had already eaten the rest of it on the way. However, Heqet had a comparably wealthy family and had a full meal. Heqet tactfully made sure not to say outright that Ranofer needed the extra food that Heqet could give him; instead, he pretended that he didn’t like his own food and wished he didn’t have to eat it. He pretended it was too much, that he could never finish all of it. He said that he wished Ranofer could have it. So he managed to give Ranofer his food without letting him know that Heqet felt sorry for him. This shows, again, how Heqet cared for his friend’s self-esteem—Ranofer didn’t want to appear hungry or deprived, and Heqet was able to respect that fact.

Then Ranofer found out that Gebu, along with a friend of his called Wenamon, was a tomb robber! So he took the decision to go to the Valley of the Kings, to follow Gebu inside the tomb of the great noble Huaa and his cherished wife Tuaa, the parents of Queen Tiy of Egypt. He forgot how helpful and reliable Heqet had been before, when the wineskin incident had taken place. He told Heqet nothing about this. But Heqet still deduced where he had gone, with the help of the Ancient, an old man who had become party to their midday meetings. They went after Ranofer to the Valley! This showed true courage, for the Valley of the Kings was an eerie, forbidden place, filled with the bas (spirits) of the dead pharaohs and other nobles. It would also have taken real concern for his friend, Ranofer, which made him choose to go to his aid in the desolate Valley rather than to enjoy the High Nile Festival, where all of Thebes would be partying. This is proof that Heqet valued their friendship above all things.

Later, when Ranofer came out of the tomb, Heqet, along with the Ancient, finally found him and offered to guard the tomb, to keep Gebu and his partner Wenamon from coming out and escaping, while Ranofer went to get help. This was, again, a sign of real selfless friendship, as a young boy with little strength was offering to take on two full-grown, strong men (Gebu and Wenamon).

I believe that everyone should have a friend like Heqet was to Ranofer. Heqet was considerate, trustworthy, tactful, and willing to put his life in danger. I wish I had a close, loyal friend like Heqet.

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The Hidden Treasure of Glaston


The Hidden Treasure of Glaston is a historical fiction by Eleanore M. Jewett. Set in the medieval monastery of Glastonbury, England, it is about a boy with a crippled foot, Hugh, and his good friend Dickon. They find out about legends of the Holy Grail—the cup the the Lord drank from in the Last Supper—and yearn to find it for themselves. It leads them searching all around the monastery, and is a fascinating read—with the reader hanging on until the last moment to find out when the characters will find the Holy Chalice.

I imagined how the wonderful monastery of Glastonbury would look at dawn to a visitor like me:

The dawn sun, as it rose, brought forth light on the previously pitch-dark monastery of Glaston. Rising from the east at daybreak, it first lit up the Marshes of Avalon, the golden light bringing radiance to the swamps and revealing the hermit Bleheris’ hut on the Isle of Beckery as bold but dull, monocolor gray stone. The kitchen building was also lightened now—glimmering pots and pans were ready for cooking the morning meal, and the Brother John the armarian’s quarter of the building shined beautifully, with all the inks, gold leaf, white parchments, and paints and other decorations for books. The dark oak guesthouse tower was muted against the other wonderful colors of Glaston at sunrise, as was the similarly constructed Almonry of Brother Symon. The Painted Aumbry’s shining golden, red, and blue stained glass windows, with the mosaic stone floors and elaborately carved stone columns, glistened as bright as the luster of the sun itself! The ancient Altar lay inside the dark oak wood and lead walls of the Old Church, which was old and forgotten from the outside but drew one to revere it from the inside. St. Mary’s, the main chapel, had a dull gray stone floor and a matching stone roof, but the wide stone columns, with angels and other images carved onto them, were quite beautiful to make up for the dismal floor and roof, and the stained-glass images were an abundance of colors, currently flooded in sunlight, thereby creating the desired gleam. The dawn sun had brought forth real life and light into the previously, tar-black darkness of night in Glaston.

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Red Sand, Blue Sky

red-sand-photo-cover-aussie-versionRed Sand, Blue Sky by Cathy Applegate is a thrilling adventure story set in a modern-day outback town near Alice Springs, Australia.

Amy Wilson is a twelve-year-old girl from Melbourne, Australia. One summer, she goes to spend some weeks in an outback town near Alice Springs where her Auntie Caroline lives. There, she meets an Aboriginal girl named Lana. At first they stay away from each other, not wanting to become friends. But slowly they come closer, and then they become best friends! Then, one night, the two girls find out that someone is stealing from a sacred Aboriginal site! Amy and Lana have to muster up all their courage to save the day.

For this book, I wrote a 13th chapter—a chapter after the last one. Here is my last chapter.




Many months had passed now since Amy’s adventure in Central Australia, but Amy and Lana’s friendship had not at all diminished. They had continued writing letters to each other as pen pals—and writing a letter was exactly what Amy was doing now. She was going to ask and confirm what Lana had mentioned in that very first letter, what the two girls had still not yet stopped talking about:

Caroline says that when she goes to Melbourne for Christmas, she might take me, too. I think that would be great. I’ve never seen a big city. You could show me around and maybe we could go to see a movie or something.

A week passed after Amy had sent this letter. Amy was getting anxious. Then another week, and another! How long would it be before Lana would reply? Amy was really annoyed now. Auntie Caroline had sent word that she would be coming over on Christmas weekend. There were just a few days left. Amy couldn’t bear the suspense. Would Lana come or not? When Auntie Caroline arrived, as overjoyed as she was to see her auntie again, her heart fell to see that there was nobody with her.

“Why didn’t Lana come?” asked Amy quickly. “It seemed like she was going to, wasn’t she?”

“Oh! Well, yes, she was,” replied Caroline uncomfortably, “but now…”

“What happened?” Amy persisted.

“Can we talk about this later, after dinner?” asked Caroline.

Amy felt impatient. She couldn’t wait for dinner to be over, and she felt that Dad and Caroline and Emma (who was meeting Caroline for the first time) were chatting for too long—the half hour at the dinner table felt like forever to Amy. She was certainly hungry, but her impatience overcame her hunger so that she wasn’t even tempted by the smell of her favorite dish, roast beef. She ate as quickly as possible, not even coming for seconds—when she normally went for thirds!

As soon as Caroline excused herself and left for her own room, Amy followed her auntie into her room and finally implored her, “Come on, tell me now! What happened about Lana?”

“All right, all right. Lana’s Uncle Jack—you remember him?—decided not to let Lana go, because he believes that Melbourne is a bad place with so many prejudiced whitefellas and so few people like us who care.”

“But Jack has changed, hasn’t he? Now he doesn’t hate white people like he used to. And, Melbourne is not full of prejudiced people who don’t like Aborigines!”

“I know it’s not, Amy. But it takes time to remove all of one’s hate. Jack may help people like you and me, but he won’t let his niece go to stay for a week or even more in a whitefella big city.”

Amy was heartbroken—but then she thought of how much sadder poor Lana would be, having been stopped from going with Caroline.

As Amy was about to leave, Caroline stopped her. “Wait,” she said. “Lana had given me this letter to give to you.”

“Oh!” thought Amy. “That must be why her reply was so late. This is it.”

She took the letter and then retreated to her own room, after saying goodnight to Auntie Caroline.

In her room, Amy slowly opened the letter, not sure of what news she would receive, if any.

Dear Amy,

First of all, I know that you sent your last letter over two weeks ago, and so my reply is a little late. Sorry about that, but you now know the reason for this—I had sent it with your Auntie Caroline. Well, by now I’m sure you’re dying to hear why I didn’t come.

Well, it was because of Uncle Jack. He didn’t even know about the plan; we assumed he wouldn’t mind at all or do anything about it, because you know how he has started being real nice to some whitefellas. It wasn’t meant as a surprise, either. But sadly, we were wrong. He thinks Caroline and you are different from most whitefellas, and still distrusts others. On the inside, he has that same prejudice—that same hate—for whitefellas. That’s why I haven’t been allowed to come. I wish I could…

Oh, I don’t know, we’ll probably meet next summer or something. You know, we all are prejudiced sometimes—I was prejudiced towards whitefellas until I met you. If I’d never escaped from under the evil wings of prejudice, I’d never have had you as my best friend, either. I hope Uncle Jack will be able to remove his prejudice, too, one day.




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52 Days by Camel


52 Days by Camel is an invigorating adventure story by Lawrie Raskin with Debora Pearson. It is the story of Lawrie Raskin’s real-life trek across the Sahara to the fabled 52 Days by Camel mapcity of Timbuktu and beyond. Filled with breathtaking photographs taken by the author, 52 Days by Camel is a stunning introduction to the fascinating culture and spectacular landscapes of the Sahara Adventure. In this adventure of a lifetime, you can discover first-hand what it’s like to have a snowball fight and travel over an ocean of orange sand—all in the same day. You may catch a nasty whiff of camel’s breath and experience the sting of a desert sandstorm. And along the way, you’ll also learn the top ten uses for a turban, how to climb onto a camel, what it means to be a Muslim, why kids love traditional Moroccan meals, and much more. You can find out about all this if you read this adventure of a lifetime: 52 Days by Camel.

I created a “SAHARA ADVENTURE” travel brochure for this book, with the destinations that Raskin himself visited. So here it is:

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Journey to Jo’burg and I Am Malala

51crmzr0phl-_sx334_bo1204203200_Journey to Jo’burg is a very provocative, eloquent story by Carnegie Medal-winning author Beverley Naidoo. It is set in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a village near the Botswana border, in the time of apartheid. In this story, their mother, Mma, lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother Tiro call “home.” When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn’t until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity that is taking place all around them. Journey to Jo’burg also has some very inspiring and appealing themes.

One main theme of the book is courage. In the story, Naledi and her brother Tiro courageously went from their small village to Johannesburg, where their Mma lived and worked as a maid, to bring Mma home to save their sick baby sister, Dineo. Why is this courageous? First of all, Naledi, Tiro, Dineo, Nono (their granny), and Mmangwane (their aunt) lived in a small village more than 300 kilometers away from Johannesburg. They have no money, and hardly any food, and Naledi and Tiro have to walk all that long way—which would take just three hours by car/truck. Tiro is only nine years old, and Naledi is no older than thirteen. However, despite that, the children showed true bravery by still setting out to walk the long road, just for their sister, without telling the adults. And, because this is during the time of apartheid in South Africa, the decision was life-threatening. They could have been shot just for picking a few oranges along the way. At least in books, characters—especially children—showing such virtues are bound to be rewarded. After spending the night hidden in a shed at an orange farm, the children end up catching a ride with a truck driver all the way to the Johannesburg train station!

At the bus stop, they meet a new friend—Grace Mbatha. Grace helps them take the correct bus to Parktown, a suburb of Jo’burg where Mma lives and works. They have a happy reunion, Naledi, Tiro, and Mma, and then Grace takes them to her house to keep them for the night as they weren’t allowed to stay for the night with their mother. However, on the way, in the surge of the crowd, Tiro and Naledi get pulled out of the train at a wrong station! Still, the children, alone, do not panic and keep calm. Then, to make matters worse, there is a pass raid in the train station! But the children don’t panic. They find out that only blacks ages 16 and older need passes. Then, in front of their eyes, a man who was being held by the police protested “that he had left his pass at home. It would only take two minutes to get it. The police could come and see, or someone could call his child to bring it. He cried out his address, once, twice…” (Ch. 8, p. 37) He was taken away. As Naledi and Tiro, who already had big problems of their own, were allowed through to the outside world, they couldn’t help thinking about the man. So, in spite of their own problems, they showed bravery and kindness by deciding to rush to the address the man had yelled out in front of them. There, they told a boy, who immediately went inside and returned with a small book in his hand, shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the boy’s father had already been taken away. But despite the sad outcome, it is an example of the siblings’ courage.

Another theme is how Naledi, at the end of the book, undergoes a realization. She realizes all about the world of apartheid she is living in. She had never before actually realized that in school, she was taught obedience, and how to be a servant: “All those lessons on writing letters… for jobs as servants… always writing how good they were at cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening… always ending with ‘Yours obediently.’ ” (Ch. 15, p. 72) Naledi had never thought of it before, but she was never allowed to write about wanting to be something like… a doctor. She had never dreamed of writing that before also because of just the way she had been brought up—she didn’t think about being a doctor. She just didn’t, before then. It was only after staying with Grace and her two brothers, Paul and Jonas, that she found out about apartheid, and the struggle taking place around her.
These, I believe, were two important themes in the story: Courage, and the realization of apartheid. These themes are somewhat similar to themes in another book, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. Set in Mingora, in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, I 51dvlcrs0gl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Am Malala is Malala Yousafzai’s story: When the Taliban started taking over the Swat Valley in 2007, Malala was ten. When she was near-fatally shot in the head at point-blank range, on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, she was fifteen. The Taliban are an Islamic Jihadist radical group. Many people, including Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, spoke up against them. Most were killed by the Taliban, overtime. However, somehow, miraculously, although Ziauddin was one of the people who spoke out the most, he was never shot. Now Malala also slowly became a famous political figure, eventually winning all sorts of awards. She went almost everywhere her father went to campaign for girls’ education, which the Taliban tried to cancel, and her father certainly accompanied her everywhere she went to campaign. Although her family was half-worried for her safety, they didn’t really bother too much because she was a child, and even the Taliban didn’t shoot children! They, instead, took better care of Ziauddin. But then the unthinkable happened—Malala was shot. It was so terrible, she was not expected to survive. In fact, just two days after she was shot, her father actually told her uncle Faiz Mohammad to start preparing a funeral. But, miraculously, she survived. Her unimaginable shooting has sent her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. She has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and was the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at only age seventeen.

Malala’s life as a campaigner against the Taliban—and especially for girls’ education—has, I believe, quite a few similarities to the story of Naledi. They both used a great deal of courage to accomplish their goal, but while Naledi realized about apartheid and the struggle against it only at the end of her book, Malala knew about the Taliban since they had first arrived.

It is evident that Malala, a real person, and Naledi, a fictional character, were both courageous and brave, for sure. But who was the braver? I believe, if Naledi’s story was a nonfiction, that it was Naledi. First of all, Malala had her entire family supporting and helping her. As for Naledi—she had nobody other than Tiro, except for friends she luckily made along the way.

However, Malala and Naledi were certainly not very similar in the fact that, while Naledi underwent a realization about apartheid (which had been existing since before she was born) at age thirteen at the end of her book, Malala and her family knew about and worked against the Taliban as soon as they started to take over the valley, setting out conditions which were, to the Yousafzais, unacceptable. The only reason Naledi didn’t know about apartheid is that, while Malala’s father taught his family against it, Naledi’s Mma brought up Naledi to accept it.

Another notable subject of importance is the education that Malala was fighting for. Now the Taliban were actually not denying all education to girls, and women. In fact, they were actually encouraging women and girls to have an education—but, as they were ‘special,’ they need a ‘special’ education. And here, ‘special’ means a religious education in Madrasa, where they were taught just to do what the Taliban liked for them to do— i.e., to be obedient. Malala was fighting to get an education that stopped her from being at all ignorant. The education that the Taliban were providing was very similar to the schooling provided to Naledi. Naledi and Tiro, when staying with Grace, had been in Soweto—a black township where riots in favor of real education instead of the “rubbish” that whites allowed to be taught had taken place. Grace told Naledi about these riots. The people in these riots had wanted the same kind of education that Malala campaigned for, in place of the limited, selective “education” of the Taliban and the Afrikaner Whites.

So both girls, Naledi from Journey to Jo’burg and Malala from I Am Malala, were courageous. And they were both wanting, at least at some point in the book, a real education, not just what certain people, like the Taliban or Afrikaner Whites, wanted. However, Malala was, from the beginning, aware about the Taliban’s campaign against education and other things, while Naledi wasn’t aware about the Afrikaner Whites’ wanting Blacks to learn to be servants only because her Mma never talked about it, while Malala’s father did.

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Ali and the Golden Eagle

025636Ali and the Golden Eagle is a book by Wayne Grover, author of Dolphin Adventure  and Dolphin Treasure. I summarized this book and added pictures, so you can read some of the summary below:

Once upon a time, there lived a man in America named Wayne Grover. In 1977, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, a large country in the Middle East. He went there to teach adult Saudi Arabians how to manage airports and radar systems. Wayne expected it to be hot and dry, but he actually got to live in a compound in a cool area with mountains and canyons.

One day, he got time off from work. So, he went to a canyon to explore, because he liked to mountain climb. Wayne looked through his binoculars —and couldn’t believe what he saw! The binoculars showed a village in the floor of the canyon! Wayne was so surprised, he wanted to rappel down right then and there and investigate! But he couldn’t, because he hadn’t brought his equipment.

So it was over a week later when Wayne, with all his equipment, rappelled down into the canyon. As he reached the floor, he saw a young boy of 13. Wayne had a conversation with him in Arabic, and found out his name was Ali Zambir. His father was Mustafa, the village chief. Wayne had fun staying with Ali and Mustafa. But then it was for Wayne to return to work, and so Wayne promised to come back in less than a week. Before Wayne left, Mustafa showed him an easier way for which no equipment was necessary to get into and out of the canyon.

When he returned the next week, Wayne couldn’t believe his eyes! Ali was standing right in front of him—he had made the canyon climb all by himself! Wayne took Ali for a ride in his Land Rover. Then the two of them explored and hiked on the canyon rim. As nighttime came closer, and Wayne went down to the canyon village, called Ezratu. There, Wayne slept with Ali and Mustafa’s family.

The next day was a big day for Wayne. Mustafa and he were to have a contest of strength (wrestling match)! Wayne did not want to offend his host by beating him, but he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the entire village, either. In the end, Mustafa won, but he could see that Wayne was certainly strong! Then, after the match, took Wayne for a treat—the falcons! They entered the small falcon house, and each man got his falcon ready. Then, the hunt began. Soon, each falcon, after he/she was released, returned to its master with some dead animal.

Wayne wondered, “I have seen golden eagles fly in the sky here, and they are so magnificent! I wonder, could they be trained like falcons?” He decided to get one for his new friend to train!

So, when he returned a week later, Wayne and Ali went to the canyon rim—and Wayne caught a golden eagle for Ali! They returned to Ezratu two days later (they had been out on the rim, because it took time to get everything ready). Mustafa was quite surprised to see them, and even more astounded to see the golden eagle! The family asked Wayne to name it, and he named it Samson.

Mustafa was actually so happy that he decided Ali would go through the coming of age ceremony, when a boy becomes a man! Ali was only 13, and the ceremony was supposed to take place when he was 14. But Mustafa was so happy with his son that he asked for the coming-of-age ceremony to take place a year earlier because he felt that Ali was ready! Ali was very happy and proud about this. The ceremony consisted of three parts: The test for pain, the test of courage, and the test for strength. The test for pain involved Ali’s bare chest being burnt with a red-hot iron rod! The test for courage was even worse—Ali had to stroke, with his hands, the head of a poisonous cobra snake! The third test was to lift three very heavy boulders. Miraculously, Ali passed each and every test!

Wayne, Mustafa, and everyone else were overjoyed! But then it was time for Wayne to return to America, so they all said goodbye, and he promised to return as soon as possible.

It was almost a year before Wayne came back. When he did return to the village, he was pleasantly amazed to see Samson all grown up and the greatest hunter in the village! In fact, Wayne was inspired. Wayne Grover, along with his friend, one of the many princes of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal, took Ali and Samson to an international falconry contest, where all the famous people from all the nearby countries were participating, including many of the kings! People from all over the Arabian Peninsula were there, and the winner of such an internationally acclaimed contest would be famous throughout the Middle East. And Ali was the only participant with a golden eagle—everyone else had falcons!

What would happen next in this hooking nonfiction narrative? Read the book to find out!

(Here is the link to the attachment of my complete adaptation: https://bookjournalbykabir.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/ali-and-the-golden-eagle-adaptation.pdf.)

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