Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- You Bring the Distant Near and Caleb and Kit

33155334 Perkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near
September 12th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sunny (Sonia) and her sister Star (Tara) have moved a lot because of their father's job. From Ghana to London, they have always felt somewhat outside of the mainstream culture due to their Bengali origins. When their mother finally convinces her father to move to America, the family ends up in Flushing, New York. Sunny is glad to be near a library and hopes that she will be able to wear jeans to school (quite daring for 1973!), and Tara tries to channel Marcia Brady and hopes to get by academically. The family manages to save up enough money to move to the suburbs, and Tara is glad to finally be involved in a drama group. Their parents' relationship seems to improve once the stress of relocating has abated, but other problems occur. The book jumps ahead in history a bit, and we hear from several generations of the family. Both sisters eventually marry (Tara a "nice Bengali boy", and Sonia an African American classmate), and their daughters Anna and Chantal get a chance to describe what their lives are like dealing with a variety of grandmothers!
Strengths: This was a fantastic immigrant family story that reminded me of the movie Avalon or some of the sweeping family epics written for adults. (Or a happier version of Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, which I think is one of the great unsung novels of the 20th century.) The details of both Bengali culture and also about how difficult it can be to read a new culture and fit into it are very interesting. I think my favorite character might be the mother; when her granddaughters are teenagers, she decides to "Americanize" herself in ways that are both touching and comical. This is a very timely book, given the recent issues with immigration.
Weaknesses: This is definitely more of a Young Adult book, more like this author's The Secret Keeper. Not that anything is objectionable, it just has more mature concerns.
What I really think: I enjoyed this tremendously, and would definitely purchase for any high school collection.

Vrabel, Beth. Caleb and Kit
September 12th 2017 by Running Press
E ARC from Netgalley

Caleb is not thrilled that he's going to have to spend the summer at a Parks and Rec camp, but he understands why his mother wants to send him. Still, when he is out in the woods near his house, he meets Kit, a strange girl whose mother seems to let her do whatever they want. Kit wants to be his friend desperately, and since his best friend, Brad, seems to be growing away from him, he's glad of the friendship. Even more importantly, Kit doesn't know about his medical problems and doesn't care. Caleb has cystic fibrosis, and even though he has been luckier than some, her still requires lots of medication and a complicated regimen to keep him from picking up infections. He knows that his lifespan is going to be shorter, and the appeal of doing whatever he wants while hanging out with Kit sounds much more appealing than spending time in camp. Since he is a "drop in" in the parks program, he managed to keep his absences hidden from both his mother and his older brother Patrick, who is interning for a cystic fibrosis foundation, which somehow annoys Caleb. In fact, just about everything but Kit annoys Caleb, and he manages to show his surly side not only to his mother, but to his noncustodial father and his new wife. While being with Kit is an escape for Caleb, he starts to realize that something is very wrong with the way that Kit is being cared for. As the summer wears on, both Caleb's and Kit's situations become untenable, and it's just a matter of time before the truth will come to light.
Strengths: The treatment of and prognosis for cystic fibrosis has changed so much over the last fifty years that books on this topic written earlier do not adequately represent children who live with this condition today. Caleb is a realistically drawn character who knows his limitations but chafes at them in a characteristically middle grade way. The best part is that the story is not ALL about his disorder; it's mainly concerned with how he wants to live his life within the constructs that provides. Kit's story was sad, and many readers will be drawn to it as well.
Weaknesses: I was glad that Patrick got to speak his piece at the end of the book. Caleb's opinions of him were very negative, but I liked him more than Caleb at many points in the book. The father was very unpleasant, but is redeemed a bit at the end as well.
What I really think: I have liked each of Ms. Vrabel's books a little better than the last. I think she has shown a huge amount of growth in her writing. It's great that she has researched health challenges of different types so that readers can see these challenges addressed in the literature. Check out Pack of Dorks, Blind Guide to Stinkville, Blind Guide to Normal (in that order!) and see if you agree. I do think that she writes an excellent middle grade boy voice!
Ms. Yingling

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