Friday, March 30, 2007

Mark Harmon-- Skate

Got the copy I ordered the day after I read the public library copy. There was some language, but I liked the story. (From my catalog-Facing a disintegrating home life and trouble at school, teenager Ian McDermott runs away with his younger brother to Washington State in search of safety, justice, and their long-absent father.) Boy is is trying to keep things together at home (drug addicted mother, developmentally delayed brother, no food), and gets kicked out of school for a fit of violence provoked by rude teacher.

A friend of mine who generally dislikes fiction liked it. The first student I loaned it to liked it. My principal couldn't finish it because the principal in the book was so evil, which I hadn't considered, but he did say it was a fairly accurate description of the home life some students have. I found that I could remember a lot about the book even after time has passed, so it was memorable and effective. Well worth it. Just apologies to any principals!

Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors

Another hooray! Starting on the second book (Monkey) made it hard for me to follow the plot (some mentor is found to have killed student's father; revenge must be taken), but that's not why I liked the book. It's got action! Scurrying! Martial arts! An odd amount of spitting! And no talking animals! (I must have been laboring under the impression that the animals talked when I first saw this series, but a student recently mentioned it, so I checked it out.) It's clearly set in 1650 AD, which is so helpful when students have to read historical fiction and need to prove it to their teacher.

The best part about this book is that the chapters are short and things happen all the time. Chases, fights, general running about. Definitely getting the set, perhaps even in Bound-to-stay-bound, since the copy I borrowed is a Random House Gibraltar Bound, which might as well be called Marshmallow Bound for as well as they wear. Grrr.

Action packed historical fiction! I'm so happy!

Emako Blue

Thank you, Brenda Woods. I've had a lot of students looking for realistic fiction concerning African-American culture, and this was great. Sad, since Emako is killed by a drive by shooting, but most of the book is just about school and singing and friends, from different students' points of view. No language, well-written, very nice. A hard-to-find niche, or at least at the Westerville Public Library, where I try to get everything before I buy it for school.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blackthorn Winter

Love the title, and Pale Phoenix was one I read a while back. Same author, Kathryn Reiss. I had been really enjoying this book about a California teen who is moved to a sleepy English village by her artist mother, but when the nasty local lady's death turns out to be murder, I thought "Whoa, I'm enjoying this because it reads like Sayers or Christie". Not sure whether the children will like it. Will try on my guinea pig children at home and put it on my list. It will probably be a good book for the girls who like books set in England, when they are forced to read mysteries.

Finished-- Ooh, a bit of a twist here, with some child neglect thrown in. Also a good chase scene at the end. Definitely buying. I enjoyed it too much!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Baby Sister

Another Marilyn Sachs title, from 1986. Didn't age as well as the others, but enjoyed an odd popularity a few years ago. Yes, people actually did make their own clothes, and girls did wear dresses. A lot. This was a fairly interesting read about a teenage girl living in the shadow of a dynamic older sister, but the fact that it ended with her happily planning a wedding to sister's exboyfriend somehow is just disturbing 21 years later. Good thing the mother is empowered and goes back to work.

Things have changed, haven't they?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Marily Sachs

First of all, congratulations to this author for having a web site! A lot of authors who have been in print for a while don't do this, and it is a huge help in getting students interested.

http://www.marilynsachs.com/

Lacking the concentration at the moment to figure out the different Tamora Pierce series (Loved Alanna, by the way. Loved a lot.), I took home a pile of Sachs' work as comfort reading. I was not disappointed. Veronica Ganz (still in print after almost 30 years) was worth reading, if only to ascertain that it is indeed historical fiction. Set during the Depression, it reads more like a fun modern story until the brother goes Christmas shopping with 15 cents! Will get this one out today.

Also liked Fourteen, which is not a surprise, since I swear I had the very same outfit when I was in high school, which is roughly contemporaneous with the publication date (1983). This one will go out as a "historical" pink book-- pink doesn't really change, although the cover fashions do. And it's serious pink-- new neighbor boy has some problems, and I loved the description about the mother being an author. Much fun.

Also liked Ghosts in the Family when I read it a while ago. There are quite a number of books by this author in the library, but I should probably go back to the "P" authors for a while.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Historical Success!

Alice Mead had a hit in my library with Adem's Cross, set in Kosovo in 1991. Boys like war books for some bizarre reason, so I try to get them books that do not in any way glorify war. Mead's Dawn and Dusk is another winner. Set in Iran in 1987, it involves a Kurdish boy whose father is an informer. This slim volume will appeal to many students, and the description of what it is like to have war as a part of your daily life makes it seem definitely unglamorous. I will check the other titles by this author.

Deborah Hopkinson's Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906 (and the title really does help-- I won't have teacher questioning whether or not it is historical!) was great. Several good things going for it-- the title, the cover, and the first couple of lines:
"Hey, kid. Get back here and empty your pockets."
Nicholas Dray whirled to see a burly policeman pointing a black club right at him. He froze in astonishment. This should not be happening.

Yes! This will make a child pick up the book! There is some discussion of how Nick got to San Francisco, having run away from the cotton fields after his grandmother died, but it's done in flashbacks that are interspersed with the excitement of San Francisco. Have several students in mind for this and can't wait to get a copy! This author also did Shutting Out the Sky:Life in the Tenements of New York which I liked. I'll have to check for others!

Quirky Dysfunctional

I check out about 200 books a day, and a lot of those are recommendations. When it's busy, I get about five words to describe a book. I have to be enthusiastic about it. This is why I'm picky. That, and the budget cuts. Books I buy have to be a sure thing.

It was clear that Mass's Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life would involve some philosophical navel-gazing, but what the kids can't get past is the first line: "My sweat smells like peanut butter." I thought the boys would find it amusing, but they didn't. Will pass.

Myers' Confessions from the Principal's Chair also sounded intriguing, but just didn't do it for me.

Quirky Dysfunctional that I liked:
Weeks. So B. It
Cassidy. Dizzy

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Adam Selzer's How to Get Suspended and Influence People

I was fully prepared to hate this book. In fact, I am not quite sure why I even wanted to read it, since it was about a gifted student who was making a sex ed video for a class. The fact that the author looked 12 also gave me pause.

I loved this book.

Never mind the painful epiphany this morning that yeah, I should identify more with the parents. (Since my daughter is 13, I should, shouldn't I?). Not only will students want to read this because of the topic, the cartoon cover, and the great Danzigeresque title, it was a good book.

I'm still trying to stop reading Lenora Mattingly Weber (I'm on the 3rd Katie Rose book and can't stop), so you'd think that this book would have sent me into culture shock. I like how Booklist described it: "occasional cussing ("bullshit"), and mostly abstract references to sex."

Rather like Lynch's Slot Machine, this book walks along the line but never falls over. On page 68, Selzer even mentions "the f-word" which would cause his mother's "eyes to bug out, inless it was being said by someone with a British accent. For some reason, she found it less offensive coming from the British." Librarians everywhere are grateful. Like Mr. Streich, I just want to avoid a fight.

It was this sort of mastery of language and wit that made me chuckle every couple of pages. Not as laugh-out-loud-and-quote-to-my-family funny in the way that Sonnenblick is (and why are these young gentlemen channeling Paula with their titles?)but the humor is more pervasive. I loved the parents-- I collect cookbooks from the 50's and never thought of actually trying things like green bean and applesauce casseroles, even though it would be an excellent way to torture my children and I'm dissappointed that I never thought of it myself.

I liked the character development. Even Ms. Smollett wasn't completely evil, just evil enough to dislike. Of course, I can never let my son read this, because he will try to convince his teachers that he is a satanist.

Anymore and I will be gushing. There are not enough funny books for boys, so this made my day. Definitely buying this one and waiting eagerly for the sequel. Check out the author's web site at:
http://www.adamselzer.com

Monday, March 19, 2007

Weekend reading

Liked Krech's Rebound, and was grateful that as a basketball book that dealt with disappointment, racial relations, and general discontent, it was still completely appropriate.

Also liked McCormick's Sold, even though it was sort of in verse, but not really. Still, since it is about a girl sold into prostitution, may pass on buying.

Enjoyed Abbot's The Bridesmaid much more than I should have. Pink, fluffy, but ultimately satisfying. Won't ruin the ending for you, but it was much different from Cleary's Sister of the Bride. We've made some progress in 50 years.

Kadohata's Cracker didn't do it for me. Almost, but not quite. The boys who want books on Vietname are going to give up on this too quickly.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Scott Westerfeld--Uglies!

Have to say-- Westerfeld is a super new author. All of his books have been going out wildly, and his Uglies, Pretties and Specials books are never, ever in.

I should have guessed at their success when my daughter wanted Uglies at the book fair. Okay. Read it, intriguing enough. A futuristic society where everyone gets cosmetic surgery at 16. Sort of Harrison Bergeron-esque.

However, there is a group of normally reluctant readers--GIRLS-- to whom it would never occur to me to recommend sci fi who are devoring them. One a night. And these are long books. I will have to wait for the summer to finish the series, because they are never on the shelf.

Got a lovely comment (thank you) that I should read Peeps. How could I not have mentioned that? Peeps is great stuff, although not for the faint of stomach! Based on the idea that vampirism is caused by a parasite that is transmitted by kissing and cats and can drive most people insane, it jumps right into a great adventure complete with great ugly worms boiling up from the bowels of the earth. A little romance, way too much information about parasites (NEVER go swimming in a tropical river. NEVER.), and general saving the world. As I said, Last Days (the sequel) is a little confusing at first, but makes sense in the end. Both are must reads!

The Midnighters Trilogy is also good, and involves kicking some supernatural evil rumps, which you have to love. Need to read books 2 and 3.

So Yesterday also checks out well. Pales in comparison to everything else, but a good mystery.

In short, the Westerfeld section in my library is always pretty empty! Makes my job much, much easier!!

Too old/Too young

The Philip Pullman "His Dark Materials" trilogy goes out well, even though the talking killer polar bears didn't do much for me. I think that "The Firework-Maker's Daughter" is too young for my group. Cartoony pictures even though the story isn't really funny, combined with random silliness (The Norwegian National Comdey Cowbell Players? What?)just didn't do it for me. For silliness to work in middle school, it must be very purposeful and more ongoing. Captain Underpants, for example. By 8th grade, children tend to lose patience with silliness. But a fine book-- just not for my age group.

Then, there was McGhee's "All Rivers Flow to the Sea" which was too old. Or too artistic. A moving story about a girl trying to get back to her regularly scheduled life after her sister is severely disabled in an accident, it is more about emotions than action, and my number one complaint about books is "Nothing happens." Newbery worthy, perhaps, but I will pass.

Working on Cynthia Leitich Smith's "Tantalize". I'm not sure how I feel about it. May be like "Twilight"-- I'm too old. Vampire romances don't do it for me, although this book, while good, is feeling a bit disorganized for me to get into it. I am giving it to a couple of students to see what they think.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Willo Davis Roberts

This prolific author died in 2002, and is sorely missed. Her book Don't Hurt Laurie is the single most popular book about child abuse that I have, and well-done, too. Last night I read her A View From the Cherry Tree, which is a fast-paced mystery with lots going on. I think that boys who normally read comedy would like this, although it isn't really funny. Nightmare is good for the older students, especially boys, and involves a road trip and someone stalking the main character. Megan's Island was really good-- the title doesn't really suggest a mystery, but I think that this one will be very popular. All of these titles will be off of the shelves today, I know!

Did not much care for Birdsall's Notes From a Near Life Experience, or Jonsberg's Am I Right or Am I Right. Both fell under the quirky/dysfunctional category and were sort of drab and depressing, belying their bright covers. Quirky dysfunctional is hard going for me under the best of circumstances, the main exception to this being Sarah Weeks' So B. It, which is quite wonderful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Are kids books boring?

Okay, already said that Rick Riordan is a demi-god, and this is further proof:

http://rickriordan.blogspot.com/2007/01/are-kids-books-boring.html

Must quote from the above web site(I hope this is okay) because it is spot on what I have been thinking recently (mainly about the Newbery Award):

"There are relevant, haunting, wonderfully written books that appeal to adults but are simply not kid-friendly, even if they are labeled as kids' books. The major award lists are mostly populated by books like this. Visit any English classroom in the country and you will find these books being taught in the curriculum, because the teachers love them (or more often, the teachers don't have time to read them, but the books are on a literary award list, and so they must be safe choices)."

The old "contemplate-our-navel" school of thought. Oddly enough, middle school students are less interested in contemplating their navels than tenured professors are. Not that I'm at all bitter about tenured professors.

The Geography Club

Brent Hartinger is a nice guy. He is active with AS IF and very nicely answered some questions that I had. That is a marvelous resource for a librarian-- to actually have contact with people who write the books I am pushing!

I was glad that I liked his book, The Geography Club. It is more of a high school book than a middle school book, (drinking, dating, other situations) so I don't think I will buy it, but I will make sure that I read other books by this author. I liked his style, because it seemed very realistic, and I was greatly informed by his topic, which was about a high school boy who is gay. It wasn't sensational, but very matter of fact in its tone. It was fun to read. Since I can't travel everywhere or be everyone in the world, I like to read about places and people who are different.

The only bad thing I would say about this book was that the use of the f word was a bit gratuitous, at least in one scene. We know that the girl is drunk and obnoxious without her using the language. Other than that, I loved his descriptions-- I have already given the book to a student or I would quote them. Definitely an author to watch. I feel like I have learned a lot from both the book and the author.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tamora Pierce

Well, finally figured out why it's taken me months to get through Magic Steps; while it is the first in the Circle Opens series, I needed to read the Circle of Magic series first. I was not understanding the whole weaving magic thing, and so was not interested in the book, which was such a shock, since I loved Alanna.

This is why it's important to have a librarian around to tell students "Yes, it matters that you read these in order," or "Read these in whatever order you would like" !

Robert Newton Peck

The Soup books have been popular among students who need historical fiction they can finish in two days. A couple of the students even came and said "I really liked that; are you sure it was historicla fiction?" That always makes me smile.

The King's Iron is definitely historical. Lenghthy and with enough period dialogue to make me pause, it is an interesting story about several men involved in moving a large canon from Fort Ticonderoga. The more interesting story is that of the men-- one a young Native American, once a disgraced Virginian from a good home, one an old trapper. Would I have bought this one? Probably not. But since it's been on the shelves for thirty years, I will keep it. There is a fair amount of bawdiness and violence hidden among all of the history, not unlike Dumas' The Three Musketeers. The Revolutionary War is in our curriculum.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Continuing Guilt/Rosemary Graham

Rosemary Graham can be pleased that I ordered her book Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude without having read it, on the recommendation of one of my students who swore to me that there was no bad language or people engaging in "take home exams for 8th grade health class", even though I hadn't bought the Hippie Hotel book, with the excuse of quirky/dysfunctional. I'm liking the Ellen Confordesque titles, though, and figure that this woman has to be about my age.(I'm about 42, I think.)

I also liked the book, when it came back into the library long enough for me to take it home to read. It was the highlight of the week. I will give it the ultimate compliment-- it reminded me slightly of Beany Malone. This winter, I want all books to be Beany Malone.

Now the guilt part-- I came across this essay by her and agreed:
http://notsoterrible.blogspot.com/2005/11/its-only-pink-on-outside.html

I don't like the term Chick Lit. Chick is derogatory. I can't see it as anything else. But pink, now. I use the term pink. A lot. It's short. When I have a line of 15 children who all want a recommendation, and the rounder is empty except for 30 year old books I am trying to push, I need to know from them ONE WORD about what they want. War? Sports? Vampires? History? Books-about-strong-girls-who-nonetheless-want-to-attract-the-boy? No, we use the term Pink.

What else to use? How else to categorize the plethora of issues facing teenage girls? SureBeany cared about how she looked in that horrible beige dress that her friend Dulcie made for her, but she also worked at Lilac Way and tried to help those girls better themselves. She was a good, hardworking, frugal person, who also wanted to turn Carlton's head. (And marry him after dropping out of college, and pop out two kids by the time she was 23, but this was 1960. Also why I don't actually have those books in the library.)

Until I find another solution, I am going to continue the use of Pink. We will embrace the pink. We will make it not a pale, vapid pink (like Beany's other formal, the one she had to wear with the amethyst broach), but a hot, powerful, in-your-face pink (Like the cover of Graham's book) that says "we are women, we are strong, and we don't want to be boys-- we want to be sucessful females".

That's really the best I can do at 6:30, awash in guilt as I am.

Newbery Winners/ The Higher Power of Lucky

You knew that eventually I would have to weigh in on The Higher Power of Lucky. In the end, I decided that it was too young for my audience.

It's almost worth buying just for the flurry of controversy it has caused over the first five pages and the use of the word scrotum so many times. (And it was a noticeable number of times.) I read a review somewhere that perhaps the author used the word to push the envelope, etc. Nonsense. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. It was what the story demanded. I don't believe there was some ulterior motive in using the word; however, anyone who has worked with ten-year-olds might guess that if they even knew what the word meant, they would giggle.

I'm not buying the book because it was, like sooooo many Newbery winners, a bildungsroman about a quirky/dysfunctional young person who blah blah blah. Like Criss Cross last year. Nothing happens. Just doesn't. It's about feelings and personal growth. Why, on earth, the people on the committe think this is something children would like, I don't know. I suspect they don't think of books as something to recommend to children. They think of them as literature.

And this, I think, is the source of my guilt. If I can't get a book into a child's hand and have that child like it, it is a useless book to me. Serves no purpose. If I recommend a book to a child and that child brings it back later in the day because it didn't draw their attention, they trust me just a little less. (Case in point-- my best friend's librarian in high school swore by I am the Cheese. My friend hated it, and didn't ask for many recommendations because of it. ) Yes, I would like children to make up their own minds, to discover books in the stacks, but the truth is, often they stare at the shelves and have no idea what they want. They look so relieved when I hand them something that sounds good. And then they read.

They won't be reading a bunch of the Newbery books. I refuse to buy them just because they won awards, and if the committee keeps going the way it has been, I will start to avoid medal winners. And really, any book that talks that much about a dog's scrotum. Just not that interesting.

No luck, but lots of guilt.

I want to buy every book I read. Well, I want to WANT to buy every book I read, but I don't, and I feel guilty. Goodness knows that I couldn't write a book. Having a book published is a triumph. But I can't buy everything, and I can't recommend everything, and I want my students to know why. This blog is mainly for them and their parents.

I need books that 1) fit the curriculum, 2) are something students ask for and 3) are so good that I can enjoy them even if they are about topics I don't want to read about. If they don't fit into a couple of those, I can't buy them.

So, I won't be getting Paratore's The Cupid Chronicles. It is relentlessly pink, but somehow not engaging. I was not drawn into The Wedding Planner's Daughter, either.

Pullman's The Ruby and the Smoke, a Victorian Adventure, would have been great if a boy were the main character, but I don't have students who would check this out, and I think it may be out of print anyway.

Hearn's Sign of the Raven was promising, but started with too many details about the mother's cancer and visiting the grandmother-- I have a lot of books returned the same day they are checked out, and the main reason is that they start slowly. Doesn't matter if they get better-- that slow start is a killer.

I liked Jones' Standing Against the Wind. May buy this one. An inner city girl strives to get into a boarding school so that she can improve her lot in life. The only thing lacking here is an audience. I will think about this one.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cupid (Lester), A Pickpocket's Tale (Schwabach)

Thought A Pickpocket's Tale was interesting and well-written (even the use of dialect didn't bother me as it usually does-- there was a very clear gloassaray in the back), but it is an odd period in history (1730 London and New York), so I think I'm going to pass. It just wouldn't get the readership here.

Lester's Cupid was an interesting story, but the style seemed inconsistent with the subject matter, and I'm just not sure. There is a huge interest in mythological tales, so I will probably buy it eventually, but I didn't like it as much as something like Stephanie Spinner's Quiver.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Simon Cheshire- The Prince and the Showgirl

I was looking at this for my 8th grade boys who really want to read romances, but I was not able to sell it to them. I thought it started out well, but I lost interest when they started to ski. The boys I showed it to thought it looked too young for them, and that's the big thing. Even if I thought it was really good (I did enjoy the first chapters when the boy was doing his job imitating a prince), the boys still would not pick it up. Thought it was an especially nice touch that the boys job as a double was not to be Prince William, but someone fictional, so the book wouldn't date.

St. Iggy

LIKED IT: WILL BUY.Felt like this was damning with faint praise, but I'm really not.

Read this one because, and I quote the flap, it is about the sort of child my students wish to read "When Iggy Corso gets kicked out of high school, there's no one for him to tell. His mother has gone off, his father is stoned on the couch, and becuase the phone's been disconnected, even the social worker can't get through." Sounds good, but I did flinch when opening-- when would the bad words start?

Not until page 94. And there weren't that many, so they can be bowdlerized. (Sorry, AS IF.) I loved the voice. I loved the cadence of the words. It read beautifully. Iggy was born drug addicted, and his thoughts are in marvelous run on sentences, and his ADHD tendencies make him prone to disconnected outbursts.

He's not a good kid, but there are reasons, as stated above. But he wants to be better. He just doesn't know how. He tries, with the help of a friend and his mother (and who is more messed up, Iggy, or his friend with the "good" background?)

Ultimately, there is redemption, which I think most adults look for in this sort of cautionary tale, even though the ending confused me. I even reread it, but it was rather impressionistic, and it was late, and I read faster than I should have.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Heavy Metal and You

If there was ever a book for which I had high expectations, it was this book. I had a student last year who only wanted to read things about heavy metal music; very little is appropriate. I even wrote to a band (Metallica, perhaps?) to ask if the members could recommend books; they sent a nice sticker and an autographed post card, but could not send any titles the band members liked. So this book, by Christopher Krovatin (who, having been born in 1985, is six years younger than the vest I wore to work the other day), which was about a boy who liked a girl who did NOT like his lifestyle-- would he change, etc.-- sounded perfect. I even read through the TWO PAGE acknowledgements. Note to all authors: anything over two lines (in short: To Mom and Dad, who supported me in spite of heavy metal, and my friends, who supported me because of it) is not going to be read by the general populace. Put them in the back.

Line 8. That's how long he held off before he dropped the F-bomb. And not in a constructive, realistic way. No one was shot in the foot by a policeman. Just felt like swearing. To the girlfriend. And a few milder words, and then our old friend again on page 11. Combine that with constant name dropping of bands, which were so obscure that I couldn't tell if they would date quickly or not, and I gave up. It's too bad. With a little more adult supervision, this probably could have been a compelling book. You hit me with words the students are not allowed to say that early in the book, and there is no way I am going to bat for it.

E.R.Frank

Is America powerful? Yes. Would my students who like really sad abuse books like it? Yes. They would also like to read A Child Called It which I refuse to have. For one thing, there is the language, and for the second, there is the somewhat graphic scenes of sexual abuse (In America.) That's just not a call I want to field from a parent when a 6th grader checks it out when I am at lunch.

*Sigh*

Friday, March 02, 2007

Peeps: A Candy Coated Tale

Depressing Titles

William Durbin's The Darkest Evening, about a Finnish-American family that is recruited to move to Russia in the 1930's, is as depressing as you would think.

Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead was arty/adult stuff. My son just giggled at some of the passages. Very Artistic.

Jodi Picoult's The Pact was like a car wreck-- couldn't look away. Kept skimming just to find out what happened, but bleeeeeeah. I like happier things. Compelling, though.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wolfson's What I Call Life

May have to buy this one, since it was such a good description of a positive foster care placement. It follows an 11 year old whose mother has an episode in the public library and ends up in the care of "The Knitting Lady", who has several other girls in her care, all with different issues. There is a second story line that the caregiver delivers a bit at a time, while telling stories to the girls, and it is oddly intriguing, especially figuring out early on that the lady is telling about her own, less than optimal childhood, as well as that of her mother.

All in all, very good. I will check it today with my "problem novel" readership to see if it is something that they would like, but it is nice to read some books that I end up enjoying. There have been so many lately that have just been bad.

More odd historical eras

Thought that Samurai Shortstop was a long shot. 1890s Japan, odd culture versus new. Boy playing baseball. Even had a good beginning (which was apparently written up in Nintendo Power) where the uncle commits ritual suicide instead of being executed. It then continued with a lot of school hazing and people being really mean to each other. Again, who is the audience. I'm going to have to pass.

Lisle's Black Duck almost made it, but it was very disorganized. It kept flipping back to a boy interviewing a man who may or may not have been a rum runner. It started well, with a newsclipping of a three rum runners being found, but switched to the interview. Got into the story, got exciting, then switched back. This happened so often that I lost any interest I would have had in the Prohibition Era, which was too bad. I wanted to take an Exacto knife to the book and just take out the boring parts. Again, not an era we study in middle school, so will pass.

Zevin's Elsewhere

After reading Shusterman's Everlost, my son picked this up, continuing on our "Views of Heaven" tour. When he finished, my younger daughter picked it up, laughed at some parts, and told me some was very sad. The impressive part there is that she finished it. In two days. She usually only reads the first three chapters of books.

Basically, Liz dies at 15 and goes to "Elsewhere". When she arrives, she stays with the grandmother she never met, and spends a while moping and watching the life she left on earth before settling down to a job and hanging out with friends.

Yes, in Elsewhere people have jobs and have to clean the house. I found that really depressing.

Liz finally becomes a conselour who matches dogs to people, and meets Owen, who has been pining for ten years for his wife. Since people age backwards, he and Liz are the same age.

Then it just gets sad and complicated. I don't want to wreck it (my older daughter is now reading it!) by saying too much. It was good. No question. But I can' t for the life of me think to whom I would recommend it. It's a girl book, and a fantasy. But it is too real life for people who want fantasy. Too sad for people who want romance; too happy for people who want sad. All in all, it's very deep and philosophical, and really, very mature.

In the end, loved it but am not going to buy it, even though it made me cry.
 
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