White, Jen. Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave
June 9th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Liberty, who is about ten, and her younger sister Billie have to go and live with their estranged father after the death of their mother in a car accident. Their mother's best friend, Julie, cared for them in the aftermath, but felt that their father, who traveled a lot as a nature photographer, would be able to reconnect with the girls. Instead, an incident occurs, and the father leaves both girls at a gas station in the desert, and doesn't come back. Liberty uses all of her coping skills to avoid talking to staff at the gas station, but for some reason, doesn't go to locate a policeman and discuss her situation. Instead, she and her sister climb into the back seat of the car driven by Lavender Lady, and end up about eight hours from the gas station, near the Grand Canyon. They steal money from the woman's purse, wash in the hotel pool, and try to eat breakfast at the hotel, but run when someone suspects them. They get help from a boy bullied by his own brother, and keep trying to call Julie, whose phone seems to be off. They end up in all manner of bad situations, and eventually do come into the notice of the police and protective services, but not until both girls are badly injured.
Strengths: This was very well-paced and cleverly written. Incidents are revealed in flashbacks that manage not to be confusing. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and there is an air of expectancy throughout. I can see this winning awards.
Weaknesses: Since Liberty and Billie had been raised in a fairly supportive, traditional (albeit fatherless) household, I thought it stretched credulity that they didn't immediately go find a police officer. That is the first thing children are taught, isn't it? Find a trustworthy adult. This rather ruined the whole rest of the book for me; I don't think the target demographic will have the same reaction.
What I really thought: One of those books that language arts teachers really like and I don't. That said, I do think that students who like books about children being kidnapped or abused or who run away will like this. I was just irritated beyond belief by their lack of thought for their own safety. Also a bit irritated by the random animal facts, although other reviewers think this is interesting.
Amatrau, Gigi. Two for Joy.
9 June 2015,Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
When Jenna's great-aunt Tannie breaks her ankle and can no longer stay alone in her farmhouse, Jenna and her mother decide that she should come and live with them. Jenna has always appreciated how active Tannie is, and loves her pound cake and her stories of adventures, so is glad to have Tannie come and stay with them. It's a hard adjustment, however-- Tannie has to use a walker and isn't taking kindly to it, and Jenna's mother is scared that Tannie will try to climb a tree to get her cat, Butt, down, and it won't end well. After a while, the three settle in to an understanding, giving Tannie more things to do and taking the load off Jenna's mother so she can spend more time with Jenna.
Strengths: This was an upbeat, positive story about the strength of families. It was very short, and main character is 9, so it would probably do better in an elementary school. The pictures are a nice touch.
Weaknesses: A bit slow moving for middle school, but still an important, well written story.
What I really think: Why do people not plan better for getting old? Why don't they downsize from big houses they can't take care of and put themselves in appropriate situations before their family has to do it for them? My parents, who at 80 had to go into a retirement facility last year, STILL express surprise that they aren't, you know, 30. It's constantly irritating. I have a condo all picked out and am already cleaning out stuff that my daughters don't want.