Thursday, October 02, 2008

Before, After and Somebody In Between

Jeannine Garsee's first novel was very well-written and riveting, but it is for older students. Martha's mother frequently moves her around, and this time they have landed with a boyfriend who has a run-down house in a mainly black area of Cleveland. Martha gets by the best she can, considering that the boyfriend beats her, her mother frequently runs off for long stretches, and the school bully has it in for her. She loves to play the cello, but just surviving is enough of a challenge. This would be one that my problem novel fans would LOVE, but I'll have them request it from the public library. Too much language, and a couple scenes that I don't want to hand to 6th graders. Definitely consider this if you have a high school library.

Joanne Harris' Runemarks was a challenge. I have lots of problems with high fantasy, and this is rich with Norse mythology, with which I don't have much familiarity. Started with three maps, which is why this has been sitting by my chair for three weeks. Still, that's personal preference. Will my students like this? Yes. It is well-written in an engaging style which even I could follow, it's complicated enough to satisfy my highest, geekiest readers, and Harris has clearly road tested this on actual children. If you need another huge big fantasy for your middle school, this one is good, and when students finish, perhaps they will pick up Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring for some Indian mythology.

I saved Catherine Clark's Wish You Were Here as a reward for finishing Runemarks, because I liked her other books, but I was oddly disappointed. Too much family on the road trip, not enough fun, and an oddly small typeface. Students notice these things. I'll pass.


Jeannine said...

Thank you so much for reviewing my book. And yes, you're right--definitely not for sixth graders! :)

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