Kate Messner has written a multi-layered, intriguing middle grade novel, and the best part is that I think Picky Reader, my 6th grader, will like it!
Gianna gets distracted easily. She would much rather be working on her art than collecting leaves for a science project, and there are other distractions as well. She's running cross country, and if she doesn't get the leaf project done, purple glitter-clad Bianca will have to go to sectionals instead of her! Gianna has a lot of support from her parents and grandmother at home, and from her best friend Zig, but things are tough. Her grandmother is getting to be very forgetful, and several dramatic incidents interfere with the project. There's also the evil Bianca, who destroys a lot of a first attempt at a leaf scrapbook. Will Gianna be able to pull everything together so she can compete?
I was predisposed to like this because I ADORED doing my 9th grade leaf project, and two of my children run cross country, but I was pleasantly surprised by the warm and caring portrayal of the grandmother, and the painfully realistic treatment of her struggles with incipient Alzheimer's. While Bianca is overly evil, I did like that the other girls in Gianna's class banded together and didn't take her treatment to heart. The cross country aspect of this was a bit weak for me, but there is plenty going on in this book to make it interesting. This is a definite buy, and I'll be looking forward to Sugar on Snow (great title) with interest!
I now understand why some of my struggling readers adore Betty Ren Wright. There's a definite pattern to how the books proceed. I really don't mean to be rude, but I fell asleep thinking of how I could write a review of most Wright books in a formula as well:
Ghosts Beneath Our Feet (1984-- out of print):
Katie along with her single mother and stepbrother , move to an old, decrepit house in a remote but close knit community to live with the mother's uncle to help him out because of their reversal of fortunes due to the stepfather's death. While there, Katie has dreams about the ghost of a young girl with long blonde hair, although no one takes her too seriously because of other struggles with the stepbrother running with a tough and destructive local crowd. When she realizes that the ghosts are staying on because of a long ago mining accident, she is able to ease the ghost's spirit and stop the haunting.
Using this formula, The Ghost in the Window could also be reviewed:
Meg along with her single father , move to an old, decrepit house in a remote but close knit community to live in a boarding house to live while the father is writing because of their reversal of fortunes due to the father's unsuccessful career. While there, Meg has dreams about the ghost of a man, although no one takes her too seriously because of other struggles with death of the husband of the woman who runs the boarding house. When she realizes that the ghosts are staying on because of criminal past of the dead husband, she is able to ease the ghost's spirit and stop the haunting.
There is definitely a need for books like these, and I highly recommend Wright's books to students who love ghost stories.