Full of passion and ideas but wedged in an awkward place between fiction and policy.



A group of former students works to spread the word about a unique approach to building healthier communities.

In 1996, Mr. Hoffer, a civics teacher at Bloomfield High in California, brought a group of his students to nearby Mapleton High School. They were there to learn about Another Way, Mapleton’s unique, wildly successful townwide system of public service and volunteerism. It’s based on the idea that people are innately good, and, if organized and working together, they’re better able to handle challenges in their community than the federal government. During a wide-ranging meeting with the Mapleton students, the Bloomfield kids learned the general outline of the Another Way system, and they also formed lasting bonds with their hosts. Fifteen years later, Another Way is going strong in Bloomfield, and former Mapleton star athlete and pro basketball player Lincoln Williams, one of the students at the 1996 meeting, is now a public figure and an outspoken Another Way advocate. During a meeting of some of the original Thirteen, as the 11 students and two teachers who attended the meeting in Mapleton in 1996 are called, a student suggests that Williams should run for office. After some soul-searching, Williams agrees to run for a vacant seat in the House of Representatives on a platform based on the fundamental principles underlying Another Way, with help from the Thirteen. This is book one in a planned six-volume series, which will follow the Thirteen through the year 2050. According to the prologue, Bohannon-Kaplan decided to frame her ideas in the form of a novel because more people read fiction than read books about public policy. Unfortunately, this results in a somewhat unwieldy hybrid—a policy book that lacks focus due to the demands of fiction and a novel that’s too often slowed to a crawl by extended policy discussions and philosophical debate. Still, the prose is clear and direct, and whether or not readers agree with Bohannon-Kaplan’s vision, they’re bound to appreciate her enthusiasm.

Full of passion and ideas but wedged in an awkward place between fiction and policy.

Pub Date: July 1, 2011


Page Count: 258

Publisher: Wellington Publications

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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