Friday, October 15, 2010

Feeling Blue

Wells, Rosemary. On the Blue Comet.
This is a gorgeous book. The cover is shiny, the paper is a heavy, brilliant white, and the full plate illustrations are highly evocative of children's books of the 1930s.

Which was deliciously appropriate, since we meet Oscar Ogilvie in 1931. His father has been working in Illinois for John Deere, and the two have been collecting trains to take their mind off the death of Oscar's mother, but when the economy worsens and Mr. Ogilvie loses his job, things change. The father heads to California to find work, and Oscar goes to live with his sour and demanding aunt. While she is off giving elocution and music lessons to the more fortunate, he befriends as out of work teacher, who helps him with his homework in exchange for food. Eventually, however, the aunt finds out, and Oscar has to meet Mr. Applegate at the bank where he works as a night watchman-- the same bank where Oscar's beloved trains have ended up on a Christmas display. When a bank robbery goes terribly awry, Oscar finds himself on a train to California, in the company of a college athlete named Dutch who is headed out west to become a movie star. All Oscar wants to do is find his father, but when he realizes that it is suddenly 1941 and he is ten years older, he realizes that there are strange forces of time travel at work.

Strengths: The writing was beautiful, the historical story was compelling, the characters were charming, and the whole book just made me sigh with pleasure.

Weaknesses: Can't see this appealing much to students. I may bring this one to school to see what the students think of it, but it might be a hard sell.

Lord, Cynthia. Touch Blue.
Tess lives on a small island off Maine. Since her best friend's family has left, the island no longer has enough students to keep a school open, which would mean that Tess' mother would lose her teaching job and the family would have to move to the mainland. To try to avert this, families on the island agree to take in foster children. Tess is excited that an older boy will be placed with them, and plans excursions and activities for him (while realizing that he will need some time to adjust) but is disappointed when Aaron arrives and is nothing at all like she imagined. He does warm to her father, a lobsterman, a bit, but pines for his mother. When Tess invites the mother to a fourth of July concert in which Aaron is playing the trumpet, things could go terribly wrong for Aaron, and for Tess' family as well.

Strengths: This was a strong problem novel with realistically portrayed characters. There are a decent number of books about children in foster care, and this would be a good addition to a collection where books like Wolfson's What I Call Life and Dowell's Where I'd Like to Be are popular.

Weaknesses: Might not have enough problems for readers who like to read about them, and it's not really a funny book at all. I will try this one on Picky Reader and see if she likes it. The cover is quite nice.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed TOUCH BLUE, but it could be because I teach in a district strapped for money and the idea of foster kids increasing the school's population was an interesting solution. School financing needs some creative thinkers, although I'm not sure this is the answer. :)