Books by Laura E. Williams

SLANT by Laura E. Williams
Released: Oct. 16, 2008

Lauren attempts plastic surgery when racial teasing shatters her self-esteem in this introspective novel. While 13-year-old Lauren has a loving father and loyal best friend, she struggles with her identity as a Korean-American adoptee. Lauren is adamant that eyelid surgery and epicanthal fold reduction will enhance her natural beauty; she researches the procedure and secretly saves her earnings. Her grandmother's unexpected visit and support propel Lauren to visit a plastic surgeon. Mysterious circumstances surrounding her adoptive mother's death are conveniently revealed when Lauren's belated birthday gift, a photo album of her deceased mother, provides her with a more comprehensive perspective on her troubled history. Refreshingly, she develops her self-assurance through her own independent maturation, without overwhelming adult influence. Lauren's unfolding progression, heightened through photography classes and tender moments with her younger sister, result in a memorable protagonist. There are no surprises surrounding Lauren's inevitable decision, though her budding self-acceptance is subtly nuanced, adding depth to a contemporary topic with a gentle touch. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
THE BEST WINDS by Laura E. Williams
Released: Feb. 15, 2006

Neilan uses round, sweeping brush strokes to give her illustrations a properly airy appearance in this tale of generations connecting. At first, Jinho would far rather be skateboarding or playing video games than sitting at the table tuning out the stories of his old grandfather—who still wears the traditional slippers and hanboks of his Korean homeland—and "helping" him construct a kite. But soon the lad's interest is caught and, eager to try out the finished kite, he ignores Grandfather's advice to wait for the "best wind," rushing outside alone to fly it. Disaster ensues, but Jinho sets to work on a new kite, and with Grandfather's hands on his, sets that one soaring. A bit sketchy, but a natural companion for Linda Sue Park's Bee-Bim Bop! (2005), which also features a Korean-American family—though one that embraces tradition enthusiastically from the start. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
UP A CREEK by Laura E. Williams
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

Mixing an embarrassing Mom with Starshine's first period, plus an accident for Grandma results in a light-hearted confection that wants to touch your heart without risking real pain. There's nothing bleak here, as Starshine's mother Miracle is obviously a pie-eyed idealist determined to make the world a better place—and hauling Starshine along for the ride. To prevent the demise of some oak trees, Miracle takes to living in a convenient tree house, attracting the media, who seem determined to embarrass her daughter rather than stick to actual news. Mr. Charbonet, best friend's dad, fills in when the diligent caretaker grandmother falls and is taken to the hospital. Starshine may act out in her panic about who is going to take care of her, but readers will know that her world is full of loving adults, including the grim, demanding English teacher who clues Starshine in on how to figure out who her real father is. This is for tender readers who can't handle a big wallop, and it succeeds in filling the bill by providing a modicum of suspense and a picture of a 13-year-old stepping into the adult world safely, if not easily. Sugar for that young adolescent sweet tooth. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2000

Williams (ABC Kids, below, etc.) takes readers back to a squalid, brutal 15th century for this heavy tale of a family tormented by its dreadful occupation. Because Lily's father and mother are the local lord's executioners, she and her parents must live outside the town walls, banned from the church, feared, and shunned by all. Ironically, these killers are also healers, making ends meet between executions by providing occasional furtive visitors with herbal poultices and remedies. Lily's father takes refuge in drink; she and her mother in each other and in caring for injured wild animals. Then the fragile equilibrium that Lily has built shatters as, in succession, her mother sickens and dies, peer pressure destroys a budding friendship with a town child, and her naïve notion that criminals automatically deserve what they get unravels when she witnesses horrible punishments meted out for trivial offenses, then learns that her own mother escaped hanging by marrying her father. She leaves in the end, hoping to escape the stigma. Despite a contrived final hint that Lily has made a new and happier life for herself, this brief story is so weighed down by its tormented cast and narrow setting that it's more akin to John Morressey's grim Juggler (1996) than Karen Cushman's Midwife's Apprentice (1995). (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
THE GHOST STALLION by Laura E. Williams
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Williams (Behind the Bedroom Wall, 1996, etc.) tells of an estranged father and daughter in a novel that gains strength from the magnitude of the gulf between them, and loses power when that gulf is too-easily bridged. Her mother is gone, and Mary Elizabeth's angry, bitter father has no use for her. When he heads out to kill a wild stallion who keeps luring away the mares that are the family's livelihood, Mary Elizabeth goes with him, hoping to save the stallion. With them comes a stranger, never named, who may be Mary Elizabeth's real father. When she is almost killed, and the stranger offers to let her leave with him, she is tempted and her father begins to have a change of heart. Despite Williams's poetic writing and steady revealing of Mary Elizabeth's character, she resorts to melodramatics: the father, who was grimly determined to kill the stallion, becomes equally determined to save it; he completely changes his attitude toward his daughter, as well. Only his inconsistent characterization mars the piece, but it is on his credibility that the rest of the story hangs. It is often compelling, and many passages are filled with loss and longing that are nearly palpable. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
Released: July 15, 1996

A loyal member of Hitler's JungmÑdel has some choices to make when she discovers that her parents are hiding a Jewish family. Having uncritically accepted the pervading anti-Semitism and faithfully parroted its slogans, Korinna, 11, is horrified when her wardrobe swings back to reveal Sophie Krugmann and Rachel, her 5-year-old daughter, in a secret room. Does Korinna believe in the party line strongly enough to turn in her own mother and father? In the agony of indecision, Korinna skips school, loses sleep, and arouses the suspicions of her best friend, Rita, whose brother is a Gestapo agent; meanwhile, reluctantly succumbing to Rachel's charms and thinking about how Jews and anyone who associates with them are being brutalized, her attitudes begin to change. Williams (The Long Silk Strand, 1995, etc.) has her young characters obediently repeating patriotic Nazi slogans and promises, but presents counterarguments more subtly, by simply showing the Gestapo's cruelty, Sophie's bitterness and exhaustion, Rachel's fear, and the general climate of repression. In the end, Rita betrays Korinna, but then warns her of the impending raid; the Krugmanns are spirited away just in time, and Korinna's family must also go into hiding. Confusingly, Williams's suggestion in the afterword that freedom may be more important than love isn't a theme she develops in the story, but she pays stirring tribute to the courage and ingenuity some outwardly ordinary people showed in those dark days. With scattered, stiff b&w illustrations. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >