Turner, Amber McRee. Circa Now
May 27th 2014
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Circa has some problems at school (people make fun of her because of her name and because she is missing a pinkie finger), and home isn't entirely perfect (her mother is beset by horrible depression that isn't well controlled), but she loves working on photography with her father. The two are working on a Memory Wall of photographs for Maple Grove, the rest home for Alzheimer's patients her great aunt was in before she died. Her father also creates photoshopped images that have funny stories with them. When her father is supposed to take a family reunion photo out to a park, he is killed when a large storm devastates the area. Circa and her mother stay at her friend Nattie's house for a couple of weeks, and when they get home, Circa finds a strange boy who has hunted them down through a copy of the reunion photo with their photo studio name on it. Because the whole area is trying to deal with the storm damages, the police, hospital, and social workers all let Miles stay with Circa's family. Circa's mother is able to overcome her depression just enough to get through the days and to continue taking portraits, but she forbids Circa from working on the Maple Grove photos. Circa, grieving deeply for her father, wants to work on the photos and also takes great comfort in the "Shopt" photos. Before long, she comes to the conclusion that Miles appeared suddenly with no memory of his past because he is from a "Shopt" photo, and she believes that other things have come true as well. If she can figure out exactly how, perhaps she can bring her father back. This is a REALISTIC fiction novel, however, so she can't. Things are explained somewhat in the end, and there is a relatively happy ending.
Strengths: Bonus points for innovation, interesting details about the residents of Maple Grove, and a depressed mother who manages to overcome her depression enough to take care of her daughter. Good details about photography, and middle grade readers will find the "Shopt" pictures amusing.
Weaknesses: A bit far fetched, with Miles being allowed to stay with Circa's family. Also, I took a strong personal dislike to this, since ANY book about people grieving overly much annoys me right now. Sad fact: people die. They die every single day. Those of us who are left are not served well by wallowing in grief, but that seems to be the most common depiction of grief in middle grade fiction, and it's really starting to annoy me. Chalk it up to being overly sensitive, but it doesn't seem to be helpful.
De Goldi, Kate. The ACB with Honora Lee.
by Longacre Press
Perry is an overscheduled child with overbearing parents; it's no wonder that visiting her grandmother in a nursing home sounds restful to her. Her grandmother, Honora Lee, has memory problems but still is able to bring up some memories that Perry enjoys, so she helps her grandmother put together a book. In doing so, she gets to know other residents and learns a lot about herself as well.
Strengths: This will be popular with fans of Linda Urban-- it's the same sort of introspective, quiet book about children coming to terms with the world around them that she writes. Many teachers will want to read this aloud to classes and perhaps get students interested in similar projects in nursing homes.
Weaknesses: A bit slow, and a somewhat different style, which might be because the author is from New Zealand.