Sunday, June 25, 2017

Difficult Home Situations

33159369Galante, Cecelia. Stealing Our Way Home
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After their mother's death from cancer, 4th grader Pippa refuses to speak, and her brother, 7th grader Jack, feels responsible. Their father is struggling as well. The family's water and electricity are turned off, their credit card is declined when the children go to buy new school clothes, and when Jack and Pippa visit their father's car dealership, they realizes that he has had to close it. Luckily, they have a neighbor, Nibs, who is there to help them. Nibs alerts Pippa's teachers to her problem, and watches out for the children. Jack is not getting along too well with his friend Ben, and he's glad to meet a new girl in their neighborhood, Shelby, who is also very kind to Pippa. Jack is very worried when his father tells him that he has a plan for making the family finances right again, and doesn't want to be involved. Still, he doesn't want to lose the family's house by the lake, so he goes along with his father. Eventually, Pippa finds out about the plan, and insists on going with her father and Jack the next time they go out. Will the family ever be right again?
Strengths: I didn't want to spoil the plot, which is why the description is a bit vague. This was tremendously readable, and a real page turner. I liked all of the characters, even though some of them weren't likable. However...
Weaknesses: Argh! So sad! The whole "unable to move on after a death" thing irks me SO MUCH!!!! It's just not realistic. And yet, I liked this book. So conflicted.
What I really think: Will probably buy a copy. Damn it.

Honestly, even my students are done with this sort of soggy, immobilizing grief. One of my student helpers was reading If Only during a quiet time in the library, and she said "I don't think this is realistic." Not wanting to offer my own opinion on the book, I asked her why. She replied "I had a friend at my old school whose mother died. She was out for a month, but when she came back, she didn't mope around like this character. She had sad moments, but she... moved on."

So it's not just me. I wouldn't find this comforting as a tween. My mother might die, and then my father might fail utterly to take care of me? Just confused as to why people write books like this.

Scott, Lisa Ann. Back on the Map. 
June 6th 2017 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Penny Porter's mother passed away, she left a letter telling Penny to watch out for her twin brother Parker, and to make the best of her situation. Currently, the twins are living with Grauntie in New Hope, which is a town on the skids. Ever since the local orphanage was shut down and bids to sell the building as "the Finest" fell through, the town has decreased in population as opportunities there have dried up. That was the early 1970s-- a dozen years later, New Hope is no longer on the map. As Grauntie's mental state diminishes and her ability to take care of the children is in jeopardy, Penny realizes that she needs some plans to assure that she doesn't have to leave New Hope. Her first plan of attack is to get the town back on the map. Not only does she write to a map company about this, but she asks the mayor of the town if she can start fixing up the Finest. With an assortment of children and adults, the building is slowly, if oddly, refurbished. Penny has long made her existence possible by trading things around town-- for example, she makes animals out of tin cans and trades them for food from the Carlson's diner. This skill helps when items are needed for the finest, and her willingness to talk to adults makes some progress in getting the building back into commission, and also helps her to locate her long lost father. There are a lot of problems along the way, but Penny has a positive attitude and makes up a family tree for herself that includes famous people with a "can do" attitude, and this serves her well.
Strengths: Fans of Polly Horvath who want a quirky story with a touch of magical realism (Penny can see what color auras people are projecting, and the orphanage was for children with similar abilities. This wouldn't have been fantasy until Penny has a couple of protracted conversations with the famous people she has put on her family tree.) will find this to be an endearing story.
Weaknesses: Had a quirky, Southern vibe that doesn't do well in my library.
What I really think: The cover of this doesn't help. I like it, but the illustration is a bit young for middle school. Maybe it is best suited for an elementary audience, and that's why I didn't like it as much. I had trouble suspending disbelief long enough to become invested in the characters.
  Ms. Yingling

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