Monday's Muse, 34th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Life Won't Wait by Ozzy Osbourne.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy.

Take a lively look at women's history from aboard a bicycle, which granted females the freedom of mobility and helped empower women's liberation. Through vintage photographs, advertisements, cartoons, and songs, Wheels of Change transports young readers to bygone eras to see how women used the bicycle to improve their lives. Witty in tone and scrapbook-like in presentation, the book deftly covers early (and comical) objections, influence on fashion, and impact on social change inspired by the bicycle, which, according to Susan B. Anthony, "has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen S. Levine.

The names of those whose voices are heard in these pages are not recorded in textbooks, yet their childhoods in Alabama, Mississippi or Arkansas were marked by acts of extraordinary courage that collectively altered the course of American history. They were among the participants, and in some cases the leaders, of numerous civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s, many of which had violent, tragic outcomes. These individuals, whom Levine doggedly tracked down, were some of the first black young people to attend formerly all-white schools; to participate in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in stores; to become Freedom Riders, protesting illegal segregation on interstate buses; and to wage the arduous, bloody fight to secure voting rights for blacks. Chronicling all of these campaigns--as well as shocking incidents of senseless beatings, unjust jailings and murders--these first-person accounts are articulate and affecting. Representative are the words of Gladis Williams, repeatedly arrested for taking part in protests during her high school years in Montgomery: "So far as having fear, we didn't even know what fear was. We just had our minds set on freedom, and that was it." --Publisher's Weekly.

The Freedom Business: Including a Narrative of the Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa by Venture Smith, Marilyn Nelson, and Deborah Dancy.

Poems in various forms parallel the reproduced text of A Narrative of the Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, published in 1798. Nelson's depictions and interpretations of scenes from Venture's account bring a musical, emotional, and inquisitive context to the true story of an enslaved African who eventually bought freedom for himself and his family. Similar in format to Fortune's Bones (2004) and Carver (2001, both Front St), the volume features poems on the right-hand pages, facing the ongoing narrative on the left (amazingly, the two keep pace). Text floats over abstract earth-toned art that lends qualities of light and texture to match the tone of each selection. The poems have both the sense of natural speech and of oratory, giving rhythmic majesty to intensely detailed physical and emotional landscapes. They are dense but rich, and encourage readers to approach the 18th-century narrative (which may seem oddly narrow-minded or stilted to today's youngsters) in a variety of ways. Respectful of both her audience and her subject, Nelson adds to her unique body of work connecting youngsters to history through a combination of primary-source material and verse. —Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA, School Library Journal.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins.

With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel. Two teens on opposing sides of ethnic conflict in modern-day Burma (Myanmar) tell an intertwined story that poignantly reveals the fear, violence, prejudice, and hardships they both experience. Chiko, a quiet, studious student whose medical doctor father has been arrested as a traitor, is seized by the government and forced into military training. Chiko is groomed for guerrilla warfare against the Karenni, a Burmese minority group living in villages and refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. After he and his patrol stumble into land mines, Tu Reh, an angry Karenni and rebel fighter, must decide whether or not to save him. Tu Reh's home was destroyed by Burmese soldiers, and he struggles with his conscience and his desire for revenge and independence. Both Chiko and Tu Reh are caught in a conflict that neither fully understands. Family, friendships, and loyalty have shaped their lives. But as young soldiers, they face harrowing situations, profound suffering, and life-and-death decisions. Both boys learn the meaning of courage. Chiko and Tu Reh are dynamic narrators whose adolescent angst and perspectives permeate the trauma of their daily lives. Dialogue and descriptions are vibrant; characters are memorable; cultural characteristics are smoothly incorporated; and the story is well paced. Perkins has infused her narrative with universal themes that will inspire readers to ponder humanitarian issues, reasons for ethnic conflict, and the effects of war. The author's notes provide helpful background information on Burmese history and the ongoing military regime's repression of minorities.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC, School Library Journal.