Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unhappiness of all kinds

Not only is my own 8th grade daughter, Picky Reader, very fond of books about domestic abuse, many of my other students are as well. The biggest push for these occurs in February, when all I want to read about is girls in poodle skirts and saddle shoes hanging out at the Malt Shop, but I persevere. The other constant need I have is books about war. Bless Chris Lynch for his new Vietnam series, because I am now getting a lot of boys whose grandfathers fought in Korea or Vietnam, and there are very few books set on the battlegrounds during those time. Here's our whopping dose of violence and depression for today!

Vigilante, Danette. The Trouble with Half a Moon.

Dellie's family is reeling from the death of her brother in an accident that Dellie feels responsible for. Life is hard enough in their inner city tenement, but this event has made it hard for her mother to function at all. Dellie struggles in school, and is having trouble with her best friend, but all of these problems pale in comparison to the life of Corey, a small boy who lives in her building. His mother is neglectful and abusive, and since Corey reminds Dellie of her brother, she tries to take care of him. When a new neighbor moves in who encourages Dellie, she realizes that even though she isn't Corey's sister, she can still care for him, especially when things come to a violent crescendo with his mother.

Strengths: A well-paced, sad story that will definitely appeal to students who like Don't Hurt Laurie, Waiting for Christopher, and The True Colors of Kaitlyn Jackson.

Weaknesses: Wasn't quite as gripping as some tales-- not as horrific, which I liked but which students might not.

Watkins, Steve. What Comes After.

When Iris' veterinarian father dies in Maine, she is sent to live with her Aunt Sue and her surly cousin Book in North Carolina. Her aunt has a farm, but both relatives are very cruel to the animals, and cruel to Iris as well. Iris is a vegetarian, but Sue doesn't care. School is difficult, Sue starts slapping Iris for small infractions, and she misses her father terribly. When two young goats are supposed to be slaughtered and Iris intervenes, the aunt becomes even more abusive.

Strengths: Interesting animal rights story, and also an interesting juxtaposition between life in Maine and in North Carolina.

Weaknesses: Something about this did not draw me in immediately-- I will give this to Picky Reader and see if she likes it.

Watkins, Steve. Down Sand Mountain.

From the Publisher: "In a small Florida mining town in 1966, twelve-year-old Dewey faces one worst-day-ever after another, but comes to know that the issues he faces about bullies, girls, race, and identity are part of the adult world, as well."

This is set during the Vietnam Conflict, but didn't involve enough of the war. Decent enough for issues of race relations and bullying. This is described as being for grades 7-12, and was more philosophical and slow moving.

Interestingly enough, I requested two unrelated books from the public library by this author. Just not what I needed today.

Arnold, Tedd. Rat Life: A Mystery.From the Publisher: " After developing an unusual friendship with a young Vietnam War veteran in 1972, fourteen-year-old Todd discovers his writing talent and solves a murder mystery."

I rather liked the first chapter, where Todd is discussing different options for the first lines of books, but again, I need books about the Vietnamese Conflict, not about veterans afterwards. Have a lot of those. Also, this book was published in 2007, and the library copy of it looks brand new. This cover and the one above are rather overwhelmingly beige and look a bit uninteresting. Again, just not the thing today.


  1. Without fail, every yer A Child Called "It" is read by just about every junior high student at my school as one of their choice independent reading books. It's like the PB&J of books it's so widespread.

  2. My 8th grade girls last year just loved to all read a book and cry, cry, cry. The more woesome the story, the better.

    Glad to hear you like the Cuyahoga County Library system. I drive an extra 15 minutes to make this my home library system. Plus, their website it the most pleasant and easiest to use by far!

  3. I liked What Comes After, but haven't given it to my 8th grade daughter yet. It seemed on the old side for me (probably 8th and up) -- with the partying out in the field, and the talking about sexual activity, so I've held off.

    She actually does NOT usually like "depressing" books which is another reason I've held off.

    I listened to the audio, which sometimes sucks me in more than a book might.

  4. When I was in middle school, my thing was Lurlene McDaniel books and anything like her (characters facing terminal/life-threatening illnesses).