Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sad Birds

33946654Kadarusman, Michelle. The Theory of Hummingbirds
October 16th 2017 by Pajama Press
E ARC from Netgalley.

Alba is recuperating from what is hopefully the final surgery to correct her club foot, and she's very excited to get the cast off-- so excited that she is making plans to run in a cross country race. Her doctor even says she will be able to do anything! She mentions her plan to her friend Levi, who suffers from very bad asthma, but he isn't quite as sure about it. He is much more concerned that the librarian at their school, for whom they do a lot of work, has discovered a worm hole in her office and might be in danger of getting pulled into another dimension and being unable to get back. Alba is also concerned that her mother might find Dr. Schofield attractive, since it has always been just the two of them. When Alba finally gets the cast off, she starts right into physical therapy, but when Levi again disputes her ability to compete, the two have a falling out. Will Alba be able to run, or at least walk, in the race, and will Levi come around to supporting her?
Strengths: I loved that Alba was able to work with the runners even when she couldn't run-- she was keeping times. I also enjoyed the librarian, and the work that the children do in the library is realistic. At one point, the principal shoos them out because there is no one there to supervise them. Alba's medical issues are well explained, and she meets her challenges with positive but not candy coated thoughts. In a note at the end, the author explained that she herself had been born with a club foot, although hers was corrected at an earlier age.
Weaknesses: The characters read much younger than sixth grade. It was very clear that the librarian was not traveling through a worm hole but was resting in her office. I assumed she was eating her lunch while sitting on the floor because it was the only time she could get peace. Levi's worry and insistence on this theory seemed more like the reaction of a third grader.
What I really think: While I like the depiction of Alba's handling of her challenges, this seemed a bit young, and also had some odd Canadian wordings. (E.G.: supply teacher instead of substitute.) I may wait to purchase until I see if this has an Accelerated Reader test, although it would work well for the 7th grade unit on personal challenges.

Strange, Lucy. The Secret of Nightingale Wood
October 31st 2017 by Chicken House
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Henry (Henrietta) and her fractured family move from London to Hope House in the English countryside after the death of her older brother, Robert. Henry's mother is "sick", her father scarpers off to Italy for work, and Henry is left with a nanny and the Berrys to take care of her baby sister, whom she calls Piglet instead of Roberta. There is an evil doctor who is trying to get her mother committed to a local asylum so another doctor can experiment on her, and who is keeping her mother doped to the gills in the meantime. He even tries to sedate Henry with "soothing syrup". Henry meets a "witch" in the forest, whom she calls "Moth". Moth was a nurse who has connections to Hope House and tries to help Henry cope with her mother's condition. Henry also has imaginary conversations with Robert, about whose death she feels a lot of guilt. When the doctor and his wife take Piglet to care for, Henry enlists the aid of Moth and manages to carry out a ruse that is effective in getting her mother released from the asylum. With the help of Moth and others in the community, things slowly get better, and both her mother and Moth come to terms with losses in their lives.
Strengths: This was well written and compelling. As a fan of all things English, I read through this rather quickly. The various mysteries come together well, and this had the feel of classic British literature.
Weaknesses: I was personally offended by the portrayal of not one but TWO mothers who are completely stricken after the death of their sons. Mothers are stronger than that, especially if they have other children. Also, I can't think of a single student to whom I could hand this.
What I really think: Maybe just one of those books that does better across the pond than it does in the US. Unless I see an uptick in circulation of The Secret Garden or Five Children on the Western Front (which covered the idea of the vast number of deaths during WWI more effectively) I won't purchase.

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