DeFelice, Cynthia. Wild Life.
10 May 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Copy From Scholastic Book Fairs
Just when Erik has gotten his hunting license and is planning an outing with his best friend, his parents (who are in the reserves) are called up for active duty. Their parenting plan is to send Erik to his mother's parents in North Dakota, so before he can blink, Erik is on a plane to stay with Oma and Big Darrell. They live very far out in the country and don't even have a computer or cell phone service! His grandmother is nice, but Big Darrell is gruff and strict. When Erik rescues a dog who was attacked by a porcupine, his grandfather forbids him from keeping it. This probably has something to do with his mother's brother, who died in Vietnam, but Erik is upset enough that he decides to take the dog, whom he names Quill, and live off the land instead of staying with his grandparents. This is not as successful as he thinks it will be, but when he comes home three days later, he finds his grandfather a changed man.
Strengths: Decent survival story that a lot of boys will like. I'll definitely be suggesting this to students at the book fair, which is delivered today!
Weaknesses: The book is set in 2011, Erik is 12, his uncle died 34 years ago when his mother was 14. This math distracted me because it only barely worked. Were soldiers still being killed in Vietnam in 1977? The mother would have been born in 1963 and had Erik at 36-- okay. I liked the survival part but could have done without the grandparents still not being over their son's death.
Key, Watt. Fourmile.
18 September 2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Nominated for the Cybils by DLacks
Foster is still struggling with the death of his father, and is irritated that his mother is dating the volatile and unpleasant Dax. Dax is cruel to his dog Joe, rude to Foster, and controlling with his mother. The farm needs to be sold because they can no longer keep up with the work, and Dax is no help at all. One day, Foster meets Gary, who is walking across the US to get to Texas. He stays the night in the barn and starts to help out around the farm in exchange for being able to sleep in the barn. He won't tell Foster why he is walking to Texas, only that he was in the special forces in Iraq, but he is a huge help with the work around the farm, and also with helping Foster work through his grief about his father. When Foster's mother breaks up with Dax and Dax starts to threaten the family, Gary is an even bigger help. Foster knows that he and his mother will eventually have to move to the city to be with his grandfather, and that Gary will leave, but for a while, he needs to be at Fourmile Farm to work through things.
Strengths: Boys hit a developmental stage about half way through 8th grade when they LOVE to read problem novels. Rottman's Stetson, Alex Flinn's work, anything with boys facing challenges. This was absolutely perfect. Problems, but a ton of suspense, and nothing sappy. It reminded me a lot of Shane, which I still love. I can see this being a great book to hand to boys who have read Green's Unstoppable, which really is more problems than football. I am definitely ordering this one and checking out Alabama Moon.
Weaknesses: There are some words at the beginning of the book that made me pause (pansy-ass), but these didn't continue. There is the death of a dog and some violence, so I think 5th graders and below would have trouble with this.