Thursday, May 25, 2023

LIGHT COMES TO SHADOW MOUNTAIN A Guest Blogger Review by Mara Scudder

 I've been on the "other side of the pond" for the last two weeks and just returned home. I look forward to sharing a few of my European adventures, particularly as they relate to my next WIP, Nightmare in Nuremberg. But while I get over jet lag, I have a review for you by a new young guest blogger, Mara Scudder.


Light Comes to Shadow Mountain surprised me with the skill and warmth of the tale it told. Completely immersed in the world of Cora Mae Tipton, the author, Toni Buzzeo, let her voice shine throughout the work. With distinct figures of speech and an optimistic worldview, Cora shares the story of her struggle to help bring electricity to her mountain home in southeastern Kentucky. 

Cora knows the only way for her to fulfill her dream of becoming a successful journalist is to make it through high school, but she can’t imagine passing the exams without electric light at night to study by. Her days are filled with the tedious chores that are necessary on the mountain -- chores that Cora could imagine would be a breeze with the electrical appliances she’s seen in magazines from the city -- and she simply doesn’t have time for schoolwork during the day. Unfortunately for her, electricity is relatively expensive for a small town in the Depression, and far worse, her mother views electricity as the end of their way of life. 

Cora and her mother repeatedly clash, sometimes over electricity and many times over other issues, some of which were out of Cora’s control. Cora finds it challenging not to make electricity a personal matter to her. She knows a good journalist should be objective, examining both sides of an issue before forming an opinion, but she can’t help but feel frustrated that her mother is so stubborn. Over the course of the novel, Cora attempts to not only understand her mother’s side of things but also recognize and work to change her own flaws. She learns how to forgive those who have hurt her and works to stay positive despite frustrating circumstances. Cora’s passion for her dreams does not hinder her from recognizing her own faults and putting her family first. She risks her life to save her newborn sister and gives up the money that she hoped would bring light to Shadow Mountain to help pay hospital bills. 

As a character, Cora works to shed light not only on her mountain home, but also on the issues of the time, the challenges she faces, and most of all the opposition to her cause. Her desire to understand even those who are firmly opposed to her only chance at fulfilling her dreams is one of the biggest things that makes her a memorable protagonist. She seeks to put aside her feelings and step into the shoes of someone else, making her an unusual, but especially perceptive character. Whether it is her mother, her cousin, or the cranky neighbor down the road, Cora always seeks to understand different perspectives. It is this understanding that finally enables her to reconcile with her mother and resolve the tension in their family. 

Cora’s vibrant personality, her understanding of her faults, and her willingness to sacrifice anything for her family (even if certain members of that family make such sacrifices especially difficult) make this novel stand out from the many other middle-grade works on the shelf. Light Comes to Shadow Mountain chronicles a little-told story in an unusual setting, but this uniqueness only adds to its beauty and originality. Cora’s story sheds light not only on a little-known setting with long-forgotten perspectives, but also on crucial themes such as love, forgiveness, and family that make this a heartwarming read.


Hi! My name is Mara, and I’m a Christian artist, violinist, and blogger. I remember the day that I decided that I would learn something new about what makes a good story from every book I picked up — whether it was good, bad, or a mixture of both. I use my blog as a way of sharing some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned and highlighting which books, cartoons, and movies have taught me the most about writing an awesome story. I’m in tenth grade and live in Philadelphia. 


Congratulations to Emily Weitz who won ETHEL'S SONG from my last blog post. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

ETHEL'S SONG: Ethel Rosenberg's Life in Poems: A Review and Giveaway

 It's interesting to read a book when you know the ending even before you start. I knew the Rosenbergs were killed because they were suspected of spy activity. But I didn't know the events that led up to that tragic conclusion.

Barbara Krasner's choice of writing Ethel's Song (Astra Publishing, 2022) in free verse poetry is perfect. The poems are written in a variety of forms which lends interest and beauty to the book. By the end of the book, I was convinced that Ethel had written the poems herself; Barbara had captured her voice so well.


The book takes the reader from Ethel's ten-year-old self in 1925 to her death in 1953. As I frequently do when I'm reviewing a book written in poetry, I'll let snippets of the poems speak for themselves. 

                    WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A GIRL - 1925

Some girls may place their ambitions

in hope chests. But here on Sheriff

Street, here in the tenements

of New Your City's Lower East Side,

we children of immigrants sweep them

under the beds like dust. (p. 9)



Why does a government allow its people to live in poverty?

      Not all governments allow this. Look at Russia. 

Why can't we just believe in what makes sense to us?

         The Republicans don't make sense.

      The Democrats (sorry, Mr. President) don't make sense.

       The Communist Party matches what I believe in.

Why must there be hate?

      We hate what we don't understand.

       We hate people we don't understand.

Why must there be war?

       I can't answer this one. (p. 57)

Rosenbergs in a park in 1941.



The fascists are coming.

Only the Communists stand

against them. This is our only chance.

Father Joe, Josef Stalin,

Premier of the Society state,

leader of the Communist Party.

You are out there on your own

to face the enemy. (p. 69)


            ONE SONG TO SING- 1944


I want to choose one song to sing

to bring some to laughter, some to tears,

all to recognize nothing good comes from war.

But I don't know what song that would be. (p. 104) 


[Julie's] brought Dovey and Ruthie

into his network of people to help the Soviet Union.


I prefer to stay out of it.

I don't need a code name other than Mommy. (p. 111)



I'm not naive, really, I'm not,

but how could helping

the Soviet Union

defeat Hitler

make us the bad guys?

My brother has done nothing wrong

as far as I know. Expect that he's not that bright.

We have done nothing wrong

as far as I know. (p. 150) 


         THEY SAY 

We are Communists

Julius is a spy

Passing vital secrets to the Soviets

Compromising American democracy

Betraying all Americans





The Feds are crazy. (p. 157)

Ethel's poems from prison are simple yet heartbreaking. 



At home, we use screens to keep out

undesirables--soot, insects, pigeons.

Here when we're allowed to visit,

a screen separates me from Julie.

I can see his stubble, feel his breath,

but I can't touch,

I can't kiss,

I can't hold.

We are in the same place

at the same time. And yet we aren't. (p. 227)

Throughout the trial and appeals, the Rosenbergs pleaded innocent. Unfortunately, Ethel's brother, Dovey, told lies that implicated them both. Years later, Dovey admitted his lie on Sixty Minutes. 

The back matter includes an epilogue in which the story of the Rosenberg's two sons share their journeys. There is also a timeline and extensive bibliography. 


If you want to add this book to your personal or school collection, please leave a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog). U.S. addresses only. The giveaway ends on May 16 but I am going away for two weeks. I will get the winner her book when I return. If you don't immediately see your post published, be patient. My internet will be spotty and I will see it eventually. Librarians and educators get two chances!


Wednesday, May 3, 2023

ONE SMALL THING: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

Marsha Diane Arnold's lovely friendship/nature picture books are no strangers to my blog. I've had the privilege of sharing several: May I Come In?, Badger's Perfect Garden, Mine. Yours Lights Out and Galapagos Girl. She's back again with her newest book, One Small Thing (Beaming Books) which comes out next week! You can find the story behind this story on her website where you'll also find a downloadable activity guide. The child-friendly illustrations are by Laura Watkins.


Quickly, the reader is drawn into the story. Something awful has happened in Brightly Wood!

The animals care that Raccoon lost his home, but they don't know what to do. Mouse feels too small to help, Rabbit hopes someone else will help him, Squirrel sniffles and is sad. Those three go home and return to their normal lives.

Beaver, on the other hand, can't get a nagging question out of his head. "Where will Raccoon live now?" Badger has his own worrisome problem. What happened to Raccoon's friend, a silly cricket? He goes on a quest to find him.

While Beaver builds a new house for Raccoon and Badger hunts for the cricket, the other three friends realize that there really is "one small thing" they each can do for Raccoon. 

In the end, Raccoon has a new home, and his friends learn that even small acts of kindness are big.


Although this story may seem obvious to adults, we need to see it through the eyes and experiences of young children. They hear about people getting sick, losing their home or a loved one.  Little ones will identify with the characters' feelings of helplessness. Hopefully, they will be inspired when they see a small (or big!) way to help a friend in trouble and take away the importance of caring even through small acts of kindness. 

I picture a librarian or teacher holding this book up and sharing it with a group of young listeners. The obvious questions the adult asks will be, "Have you ever felt like any of these animals?" and "What did you do to help a friend?" or "What could you do in the future?" 


Please leave a comment with your name and email address if you are new to my blog. You can also email me if you prefer. U.S. postal addresses only and educators or librarians get two chances. The giveaway ends May 6th.  Don't worry if you don't see your comment immediately. I need to vet all comments before they go live.


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