Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Secret Tree


The Secret Tree
Standiford, Natalie. The Secret Tree
1 May 2012, Scholastic
Nominated for the Cybils by Pink Me

Minty and her friend Paz are wild about the roller derby, and are busy practicing their routine for the local Fourth of July parade. Summer is filled with all sorts of other activities, too-- staying away from the Mean Boys who give them a hard time, getting away from Paz's annoying little sister Lennie, and figuring out the mysteries of the Witch House and the Man-Bat, as well as the mystery of who put a curse on Paz. Minty gets some clues when she finds a tree in the woods where people in the neighborhood put slips of paper with their secrets on them. With the help of Raymond, Minty tries to figure out which person in the neighborhood belongs to which secret. Paz starts to hang out with other girls and be less interested in roller derby, so Minty welcomes this job, even though more often than not, the secrets are about uncomfortable realities, and Raymond has secrets of his own.
Strengths: This book had some great characters, very realistic friend drama, and a strong sense of neighborhood. 
Weaknesses: I found it hard to believe that people would be putting secrets into a tree. Why? Some local legend or custom?

The Bell BanditDavies, Jacqueline. The Bell Bandit. 
Nominated for the Cybils by Debbie, The Styling Librarian
 1 May 2012, Houghton Mifflin

In this third book, Jessie and Evan are on their way to their grandmother's house, but things are very different-- their grandmother has forgotten something on the stove and done very serious damage to the house. New Year's Eve, which usually involves a big party and ceremonial ringing of a historic bell on the nearby hill, will be a different affair. Their mother is concerned; they manage to get the house fixed, but there is no quick fix for their grandmother, whose dementia is so severe at times that she doesn't even remember Evan. This makes the disappearance of the bell even more worrisome. Jessie and Evan have their suspicions, but start looking for the bell with the help of a neighbor boy, Maxwell. When their grandmother wanders off, however, Jessie and Evan have more to worry about than the bell.
Strengths: This reminded me very strongly of Miracles on Maple Hill-- something about the setting, the tone, I'm not sure what. A good read and subtle mystery.
Weaknesses: Maxwell is described in a way that makes me think he might be identified as on the autistic spectrum. He does a lot of rocking, has verbal ticks, and does not seem as mature as a 6th graders should be. Yet, when Jessie asks his mother "what is wrong" with him, the mother replies "He's just different, that's all. He sees things differently than we do." I think the situation with Maxwell could have been explained much more clearly. 

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