Sunday, August 22, 2010
At the Edge, written by Larry Verstraete. Scholastic, 2009, $8.99 ages 9 and up
"At the apartment building, another helicopter finally arrived to rescue Catrina Williams and the others. They were dropped off at an emergency shelter in San Antonio, Texas, not knowing the children had been dropped off somewhere else. They searched the sea of faces there, begged busy workers for information, and scoured bulletin boards splattered with photos of those missing or found. Their search turned up empty. The children were not there."
There are twenty-two stories here and each is amazing in its power and lasting impact. The people who found themselves in severe crisis also managed to react with honor, determination, bravery and quick thinking. Many of the stories come from Canada, but others are from around the world and take the reader where they are not likely to travel. Each is told in a skilled and concise manner and will leave its audience informed and suitably impressed with the chosen actions.
The author asks the important questions about what we might do when pushed to the edge by circumstances beyond our control. Would you: "Hide or escape? Resist or submit? Stay and help or flee to safety?” I guess we just don't know until we are in the place and time. Then, he organizes his stories in four groups concerning disaster, terror, injustice and the impossible. Have I got your attention? I hope so. Larry Verstraete certainly will have the minute you pick up this book and start reading. It is very difficult to put it away...so be prepared to sit, relax and be astounded. In addition to the stories there are shorter articles labeled CALL TO ACTION. Once read, interested readers can check for further information in the back matter, which includes Further Reading.
From Iran to Berlin, from Russia to Peru, and right here in our own backyard, there are people who are to be admired for their reaction to adversity, to pain, to terror and to disquiet. He gives the facts but he also provides for the feelings felt in each of his short entries. If you like adventure and are inspired by others, you can't help but love this book!
Lines of barbed wire outline quick introductions to each new entry. Here are just a few:
"Jillian Searle couldn't stay above water - not with both children."
"The polar bear ripped apart the tent and mauled the campers inside. Armed with only a pocket knife, what chance did Eric Fortier have?"
"The two boys had been hand-picked by Josef Mengele, Hitler's notorious henchman. It would take a bold step to save their lives."
"Their plan was a wild one, and the chance of failure was greater than any chance of success."
If you aren't enticed to get this book and find the truth in these stories, there is nothing more I can do.
Wouldn't it be great to start each September day in your new intermediate/middle years classroom about these honorable people of the world?