Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Peete, Holly Robinson. Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express
February 23rd 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
In alternating chapters, we hear from Charlie, a teen with autism, and his twin sister, Callie, about their experiences as they start a new year in high school, this time in separate grades. Both are frustrated by each other, as well as classmates who don't understand Charlie's eccentricities and are mean to him. This fictional book is described as being Peete's own children's descriptions of the daily struggles they face.
I originally thought this would be nonfiction, especially with the lengthy forward by Peete herself. That would be a useful book to have, but somehow fictionalizing the story failed for me. I then expected more of a plot. Oddly, I didn't find the voices in this to feel authentic. My school has an autism spectrum unit, so I deal with students who face these challenges and see their interactions with others daily. We've even had cross country members on the spectrum, and I've dealt with some of their frustrations in that context. I don't know that any of these interactions have directly referenced autism, but the word appears on every other page of the book, even though Charlie doesn't want to be labeled or defined by his condition. ("I have autism, it doesn't have me" is his rallying cry.)
If this book were gently humorous, I could see it being both amusing and helpful, not only to my students who are on the autism spectrum, but for my students who are generally kind and understanding when dealing with them. Instead, this was somehow awkward and didactic, and I would feel uncomfortable handing this to my students, because it just doesn't seem to be helpful.
I feel bad about this, since I'm sure Peete's intentions are to educate others and help everyone involved in addressing the needs of students with autism, but I just don't know that this is the book.
Davies, Linda. Longbow Girl
February 23rd 2016 by The Chicken House
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Merry Owen is an archer, because her family was granted their land hundreds of years ago provided that they always would defend the king with a longbow. She lost an eye in an incident when her bow broke, but still does a very good job. She has been home schooled since her accident, but still has a friend in neighbor James, even though their families have been at odds for years. When Merry finds a very old book buried in the earth, it turns out to be very old and valuable, and may be the key to saving her family's farm from debt. Unfortunately, she also feels that the book is a danger, and that she is somehow missing a relict connected to the book. She decides, after hearing part of the book translated, that she needs to search underwater in a secluded pond, and when she goes deep enough under water, she travels back in time. Luckily, she goes to the exact period when her ancestors were in danger of losing their land to Henry VIII, and she is able to step in and use her archery skills to defend her family.
Strengths: This one had several elements that will work for fantasy readers: archery, time travel, a strong female protagonist who uses her skills for good, a constructive depiction of a disability, and an evil villain who meets his doom back in time. I won't have a ton of readers for this, but think I have to buy a copy for my fans of Pierce's Alanna: The First Adventure. Loved that the family was intact and supportive, and James soccer career with Manchester United was very fun!
Weaknesses:The start was very slow, and there could have been a little more romance between Merry and James. And yes, there's probably enough fantasy books set in Wales.
What I really think: I kept thinking of Bond's A String in the Harp, which I got rid of years ago because no one read the PermaBound copy and it smelled really bad. I also thought originally that this was set in Africa-- not once I started reading it, but just looking at the colors on the cover, and thinking it was by Nicola Davies, who wrote The Lion Who Stole My Arm. For Wales, I'd pick more of a blue based color scheme, I think!
Speaking of traditional, British-y fantasy, I'm super excited that Reading Warehouse had remaindered copies of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lionness Quartet. You can bet I snapped up copies of those. So pretty. I still have a copy of the 1983 Alanna which looks very sad. Still circulates well, though.