Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Colors of the Rain, Saving Winslow

38507827Toalson, R.L. The Colors of the Rain
September 18th 2018 by Yellow Jacket
ARC provided by the publisher

Paulie lives in Texas in 1972 and is having a difficult life. His father, who struggled with alcohol after coming back from Vietnam, has been in a fight that left one man dead, and then was in a car crash and shot by friends of the man he killed. Paulie's mother is unable to cope, and after her struggles with prescription medication, Paulie and his sister Charlotte (Charlie) end up in the care of their Aunt Bee. Bee is a school principal, and wants the children to come to her school even though it is the center of an integration battle. White parents are upset that black children will be attending their children's school and are threatening to make their own district. Paulie, who is very artistic, find refuge with Mr. Langely (who is black) in the school art room, but he also feels some rage at a black boy, Greg, and picks on him. His aunt isn't happy, and Paulie has to work through his emotions at his own difficulties in order to deal with the racial tensions at his school. There are tensions within his own family as well, as secrets come out about Aunt Bee's past, as well as her current relationships.
Strengths: I was in elementary school during this time period and had no idea of the bigger issues of busing that were occurring. It's a topic that needs to be addressed, and there are a few other stories from around the US, like Hitchcock's Ruby Lee and Me (Alabama) and Frank's Charlie and Armstrong (California). Your average twelve-year-old does not have a good grasp of Civil Rights history, and this addresses several issues that would have been a concern at this time. The verse format of this makes it a fairly quick read.
Weaknesses: Because of the verse format, some information that would be helpful is not presented as clearly as it would have been in prose. For example, for half the book, I thought Paulie's family was black. (Mainly because of the descriptions of food, which  must be common in Texas and is not in Ohio! Also, it was mentioned that it was rare for a woman to be principal, and I knew a fair number of white women principals during this time.) There are some confusing issues presented, and more description would be helpful to readers unfamiliar with this time.
What I really think: Debating. I need more books on this time period, but the cover isn't great. It should be in a 1970s color palette and incorporate some of the great 1970s fonts! What I really need is a book dealing with the busing in Cleveland in the late 1970s.

Creech, Sharon. Saving Winslow
September 11th 2018 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

When his somewhat irresponsible Uncle Pete's miniature donkey is ailing and gives birth prematurely, Louie's mother and father let Louie try to nurse the baby back to health, warning him the whole time that it is likely the animal won't make it. Since Louie is missing his brother Gus, who is in the army, and feels like his track record with keeping animals alive isn't great, Louie does his best. Louie hangs out with his best friend, Mack, a lot, and Mack has a huge crush on Claudine, who has just moved to town. Her sister Nora is a little younger, and when Nora meets the donkey (named Winslow), she doesn't want much to do with it, since her baby brother was also premature but didn't make it. Louie was a preemie and DID, so he has every confidence in Winslow. The donkey has some rough patches, but pulls through and starts to grow and become a bit more rambunctious, which doesn't please some of the neighbors, especially Mrs. Tooley, who claims that Winslow keeps her baby awake. Louie and Nora become friends, and when it is eventually clear that Winslow must move along, Nora helps Louie to find the best place for Winslow to belong.
Strengths: This is one of those heart-tugging books that would make a great read aloud. Creech uses a lot of rich, figurative language, and with a cute cover like this, who would NOT root for Winslow?
Weaknesses: This was slow moving and introspective, and something about the style reminded me of 1980s Patricia MacLachlan books.
What I really think: I'm sure the public library will have a copy of this, so I think I will wait to purchase until I get a feel for my readers this year. The ones in the past would not have cared for this.

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