When Bernadette joins Paul in his small bowl, she piques his curiosity about the objects surrounding him that he has never noticed before, and inspireWhen Bernadette joins Paul in his small bowl, she piques his curiosity about the objects surrounding him that he has never noticed before, and inspires his imagination as well as that of the reader, helping us to see things from a fish's point of view. ...more
Dan Santat's best picture book yet, the story of Beekle and Alice finding each other is full of adventure, whimsy, humor, heart, and imagination. SantDan Santat's best picture book yet, the story of Beekle and Alice finding each other is full of adventure, whimsy, humor, heart, and imagination. Santat's book is rich enough to reward multiple re-readings, as a careful reader will continue to notice new illustrative details that add layers of meaning to a story that is deceptively simple....more
This is one of those books that I want to pick up and re-read immediately, as I know the reveal at the end will give me a whole new perspective on theThis is one of those books that I want to pick up and re-read immediately, as I know the reveal at the end will give me a whole new perspective on the beginning. I just kept assigning tags to "Moon Over Manifest," as the book encompasses so much - it's like a two-for-one historical novel, with the setting bouncing back and froth between southeast Kansas in 1936 and in 1918. As the 1936 characters try to solve one mystery about the events of 1918, they unravel a town's secrets and learn about the power of stories and the true meaning of home.
In 1936, Abilene, our 12-year-old narrator, has been sent to Manifest, Kansas by her father, Gideon, after a childhood spent as a hobo riding the rails. Vanderpool paints a vivid picture of life during the Great Depression, with empty storefronts and never enough food to go around in the parched Dust Bowl of the Midwest. Abilene tries to learn why Gideon has sent her to Manifest and what the town means to him as she makes friends with two classmates and does some work for the mysterious Gypsy woman, Miss Sadie, who lives on the outskirts of town.
As she works for Miss Sadie, Abilene listens to the older woman's stories about life in 1918. She learns about another wayward stranger who arrived in Manifest after a life of wandering, just like her. This young man, Jinx, quickly becomes friends with high school senior Ned and begins to make himself the first home he has ever known in Manifest. Again, the plentiful historical details give life to the era. Manifest is a mining town with over 20 nationalities represented in the ranks of the mine workers, most of whom have immigrated from Europe, yet anti-immigrant sentiment is running high as World War I continues to sweep local boys off to the trenches. We witness a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, watch a bootlegger ply his trade, and see the tragic toll of the influenza pandemic.
Abilene attempts to figure out where her father figures into these stories of Ned and Jinx. Why does Manifest mean so much to him that he has chosen to send her here? Just when I thought I had figured it out and was a) surprised that the solution was obvious so early in the book and b) annoyed that Abilene had not figured out the obvious, Abilene revealed that she was thinking along the same lines as I. Intrigued, I continued, only to find that a second mystery had been hiding in the background all along. The resolution of this second mystery added to the compelling and satisfying finale.
There are certainly a few bones to pick with "Moon," such as the "Rattler" spy subplot. I need to go back and re-read Ned's initial letter to Jinx teasing him about figuring out the identity of the spy, because I am thinking/hoping that Abilene misinterpreted it. Ned and Jinx are certainly the last people I would expect to go rooting around for spies during WWI, as they certainly knew how immigrants were unfairly tagged as spies and how the misinformation and propaganda contributed to the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment they despised. I tried not to pick apart a few of Jinx's "cons," as they seemed liable to fall apart at the seams if looked at too closely. And I wondered about how Ned's compass ended up in the hands in which it ended up.
But overall, I think "Moon" is worthy of its Newbery win. There are some passages of lovely writing that seem authentic to Abilene's perspective. The flow of the different formats of writing, from Abilene's present-day narration to Miss Sadie's stories to Hattie Mae's newspaper articles to Ned's letters, carries the story along at a nice clip. The setting is beautifully imagined and realized. No loose ends are left hanging in either of the mysteries, and yet nothing feels artificially resolved. Large themes of home and story are gracefully intertwined in the narrative, and Abilene's growth in her understanding of these themes feels realistic. Secondary characters are well-drawn; I particularly loved Shady and Eudora. I will certainly be booktalking it up and trying to get it into the hands of my upper elementary and middle school students....more
Claire is a 7th grader who lives in a small town on the U.S./Canada border, who seems more than usually responsible and kind, with her willingness toClaire is a 7th grader who lives in a small town on the U.S./Canada border, who seems more than usually responsible and kind, with her willingness to work hard on her family's farm, play Indiana Jones games with her younger brothers, and coach young skaters on the weekends. When she is selected to skate the Maple Show Princess solo at the town's festival, she doesn't know that a Olympic Gold-winning scout, Andrei Groshev, will be in the audience. He is impressed by her talent and offers her a scholarship to study with him in Lake Placid.
From here, the story is pretty predictable. How will Claire deal with the new high-pressure, competitive situation in which she finds herself? How will her friends at home feel about her new inability to go out for Milkshake Nights? How will Groshev's stable of ambitious young skating prodigies deal with the arrival of a talented newcomer in their midst? What will Claire think of the one young man who is training with her in Lake Placid? Chances are, if you have read a sports-related fish-out-of-water novel before, you might have a good idea of what the answers to these questions will be.
What pulls "Sugar and Ice" out of the pack, for me, is the lovely detailing of the setting, the well-drawn Claire's relatability and likability, and the way it immerses the reader in the world of figure skating. The latter might simply be an individual quirk on my part (considering that I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I have watched "The Cutting Edge"). But it is nice to see a girl-focused sports novel that does not focus on the girl trying to break into the ranks of a traditionally male sport, but instead deals with the dynamics of how girls treat girls within a mostly female world. Messner mentions in her note that she was trying to write "Mean Girls on ice," but there is a good balance of personalities in the Lake Placid skating rink -- Claire is hassled by one group of "Ice Queens," but also makes new friends. Development of secondary characters is not a central focus of the novel; each non-protagonist has one defining trait. However, Claire's well-roundedness helped to minimize the annoyance I usually feel at the lack of attention to other characters.
Of course, as the novel progresses, Claire learns about herself (with the help of a sports psychologist) and gains maturity and confidence. She also gains insight into what causes the Ice Queens to subject her to bullying. There are some pretty heavy-handed clues about which Ice Queen has resorted to vandalism and psychological games in her quest to intimidate Claire, but Claire does not figure that out until the end, just in time for a big novel-ending showdown. I bought Claire's growing understanding of how dreams shape people's choices, and what exactly her dreams entail, and by the end was satisfied with the choices she makes about how to fulfill her dreams.
Overall, "Sugar and Ice" is good fun and its predictability gives it an old-fashioned, comfortable feel -- a first read almost feels like a re-read. Plus, I learned something about beekeeping and Fibonacci numbers -- a nice side benefit :)...more
Twelve-year-old Catherine is full of rules for her autistic brother David to follow – rules about how to eat, how to inteA book talk from grad school:
Twelve-year-old Catherine is full of rules for her autistic brother David to follow – rules about how to eat, how to interact politely in social situations, and how to keep your clothes on even when you have spilled something on them. She has been embarrassed by David too many times before, and now that a new girl, Kristi, is moving in next door, Catherine wants to make sure that David won’t ruin the perfect friendship she has been imagining. She is not sure how Kristi will react to David when she herself is so torn between love for him and frustration with him. “Sometimes I wish someone would invent a pill so David’d wake up one morning without autism, like someone waking from a long coma, and he’d say, ‘Jeez, Catherine, where have I been?’ And he’d be a regular brother… a brother who’d give back as much as he took, who I could joke with, even fight with. Someone I could yell at and he’d yell back, and we’d keep going and going until we’d both yelled ourselves out. But there’s no pill, and our quarrels fray instead of knot, always ending in him crying and me sorry for hurting him over something he can’t help” (p. 8). Catherine soon finds that Kristi may not be exactly the kind of friend she was hoping for – but perhaps Jason, the paraplegic boy she meets at David’s speech therapy clinic, is. ...more
Our narrator is Miles Halter, who has decided to leave his family and friends in Florida and go to a boarding school for his junior year. Culver CreekOur narrator is Miles Halter, who has decided to leave his family and friends in Florida and go to a boarding school for his junior year. Culver Creek Preparatory School is Miles’ dad’s alma mater, a small school 15 miles south of Birmingham, Alabama. As the story opens, Miles’ parents are throwing him a good-bye party on the eve of his departure.
When the very sensitive, thoughtful Miles sets off on his journey into the "Great Perhaps" of Culver Creek, the first person he meets is his roommate, Chip Martin, a math genius, chain smoker, and planner of elaborate pranks. Chip, in turn, introduces Miles to his partner in crime, Alaska Young, who blows Miles off his feet. She is a magnetic, powerful personality, smart and passionate and sexy and engaged with big questions about the nature of human existence.
As the book continues, Miles, Chip, and Alaska are forced to confront painful events from their pasts. But the past is not the only thing these teenagers have to worry about; it’s clear from the structure Green has chosen that something big is going to happen in the present. The two main sections of the book are “before” and “after.” Instead of chapters, Green labels sections of text as “one hundred thirty-six days before,” “eight days after.”
What is this central event that rocks their world so significantly that everything else becomes before and after? Does it help them to solve the philosophical questions they ponder? The only thing that’s sure is that there are no easy answers to life’s tough questions when you have opened yourself up to the Great Perhaps.
This is a beautifully written book that is well worth adding to our young adult collections. Green is concerned with big ideas, but he handles them with a light touch that doesn’t feel overbearing. He raises thought-provoking questions, but never tells you what to think. It has the potential to raise some people’s hackles: there is definitely sexual content, and a good deal of smoking, and the central event is controversial. However, the well-drawn characters, lovely prose style, and the exploration of large philosophical questions made it an award winner, and make it well worth defending. ...more