Hays, Tommy. What I Came to Tell You
September 24th 2013 by EgmontUSA
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Grover's father runs the Thomas Wolfe house in Asheville, and the whole family (which includes young sister Sudie) is reeling from the car accident death of the mother. The father throws himself into his difficult nonprofit job, and Grover spends his time making intricate bamboo weavings that are beautiful and appreciated by everyone but the school bully. A family from the hills who moves in across the street adds complications to their lives, as does the fact that the bamboo grove is being sold and there are always financial problems at the Wolfe House.
Strengths: The death of the mother is felt strongly by the family, but they slowly come to terms and are at least able to hobble along with their lives. There is a strong sense of place; the author clearly knows Asheville.
Weaknesses: This would be a very hard sell for my students. It is a very slow paced book, and I was not surprised to find that the author usually writes for adults. My students usually like a lot more action and less emotion.
MacLachlan, Patricia. The Truth of Me
25 June 2013, Katherine Teegan Books
Robbie is happy to spend time with his grandmother Maddy, because his parents, both classical musicians, are emotionally distant. His grandmother is a bit quirky, and he mental health is a concern to the parents, but not enough that they don't avail themselves of the free babysitting when they have to travel to perform. Maddy has taken to camping in the woods and feeding corn bread to bears, which interests Robbie, but during one camping trip, Maddy falls and hurts herself. Robbie and his dog Ellie have to find a way to get her help, and Robbie discovers why his mother is emotionally distant.
Strengths: This is a short, easy read that a lot of elementary teachers will rave about. MacLachlan is able to pack a lot of emotional punch using very simplified vocabulary.
Weaknesses: This is another book where not enough happens and too many emotions are discussed. I could see myself picking this up at age 6 and not being very interested in it. That said, this isn't quite an easy reader because of the topics covered.