On the Mend

I was attacked a week ago Friday with an awful flu.  Fever of 101-102 for all the days in between.  I did try to go to work on Monday, but had to head home at lunchtime. 

I never get fevers.  My last fever was over 15 years ago in library school when my then fiance and now husband gave me chicken pox!  I never got many spots, but had to move back with my parents for a month and out of the dorms.

Well I am on the mend with books piled around me waiting to be read.  The worst part was that for most of the week I was too sick to even read. 

This next week is the children’s spring break, so I am on vacation.  I may post a little bit but will return to full posting strength on April 9th.

See you then!

How It Happened in Peach Hill



How It Happened in Peach Hill
by Marthe Jocelyn.

This is a fascinating portrayal of a teen girl during Prohibition who moves from town to town with her mother who pretends to be a medium in touch with the spirits.  When they arrive in Peach Hill, Annie plays the idiot, drooling and rolling one of her eyes so that she can serve as an information gatherer for her mother.  But Annie who is a bright person begins to chafe under her mother’s rule and dreams of breaking free from the cage she has been put in. 

Seventy pages from the end of the book, I still didn’t know how the author was going to end it.  How were all of the details going to be tied together and still be satisfying.  But Jocelyn does it very well, not projecting much of the ending ahead of time.  The setting is fascinating, though I would have liked to have the time period introduced immediately.  It was jarring to find clues about the 1920s when I thought I was reading a more modern story.  The small town and outsider point of view was well done, as were the characters of Annie and her mother.  I even enjoyed many of the lesser characters who were surprisingly unique just when you thought you had them figured out.

Unfortunately, the cover of the book does little to sell it.  This is a good read that will have to be hand sold to readers who will look at the cover and not see the palm reading and crystal ball.  It’s disappointing because there are such options with this subject matter.

Those teens who do pick it up will find a nice book that matches well with A Drowned Maiden’s Hair.  Though it is a teen novel where Annie is 15 and 16 in the book, it is a gentle enough story to use with older elementary children and tweens.   Recommend to tweens who enjoy realistic fiction.

Top Picks for Reading Groups

Kirkus has a pdf version of its Top Picks for Reading Groups available online. The top picks include ones for teen reading groups towards the end. I have only read two of their recommendations: Ida B and Loud Silence of Francine Green. Good books, but I’m not sure they would have been my top picks for discussions.

Harmless

Harmless by Dana Reinhardt.

Ever have a moment as a teen where you were caught in a situation and realized that lying was going to be much easier than telling the truth?  That is exactly what this book is about.  It is the second book by Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, which was a Cybils Award finalist in the teen category. 

Three high school freshman friends, Emma, Anna and Mariah get caught in a situation that they should not have been in.  So they make up a little lie, saying that Emma was attacked by a man and Anna and Mariah save her.  But the lie spirals out of control.  Anna and Mariah are seen as heroes, Emma sees herself as a victim, and the community goes on a manhunt for the perpetrator.  Then a girl in a neighboring town goes missing and a vagrant who frequents both communities is accused of the crime.  Now the three girls have very big decisions to make.  Do they allow an innocent man to go to jail for a made-up crime or do they admit to family, friends and the entire community that they were lying from the beginning.

This book is far more complex than the brief storyline I have written above.  It offers a glimpse into three unique girls who all struggle with their lies in different ways and from different perspectives.  Additionally, all three families of the girls are unique and interesting; all reacting differently to the crisis of the attack and to their daughters. 

Reinhardt is an author who is not afraid of truly delving into the psyches of her characters, revealing depths that otherwise could be left unexplored by other authors.  She has a gift for showing emotions and not telling readers about them, making her characters all the more genuine.

There is sexuality in the novel, but nothing happens in front of the reader.  Mariah is sexually active with her older boyfriend, which speaks directly to her character and her family situation.   The topic is used deftly in the story itself and is not treated lightly.

Recommend this to readers who enjoyed Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  They make very interesting companion novels. 

More Video Games in Schools?

CNet has an interesting article about the possibility of schools using video games in classroom instruction.  I hate the title of the piece, “More Video Games, Fewer Books at Schools?” because I see it pitting one form of communication against another.  While I will always side with the power of books for education, I wouldn’t want to blindly and blithely assume that video games could not be used to reach children who shun books.  This is certainly something that we as librarians as well as educators need to keep our eye on.  Perhaps this is a way for more truly educational games to be created, especially for older children that we could then offer at public libraries?  Sounds exciting to me!

Destiny's Book Reviews

Destiny’s Book Reviews is a book review site written by a ten year old!  She reads the type of books that kids take out of the library by the armload, rather than the more literary works that the rest of us are discussing.  She has a refreshing voice, a great writing style, and her blog is a joy.  Nice to know that there are kids like Destiny out there reading, loving and sharing books.

A Good Day

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes.

Why even bother to review a Henkes book?  Don’t I know by now just to expect greatness?  Well, yes I do.  That is why I simply must read each one! 

With his latest book, Henkes continues to demonstrate his knowledge of children and what appeals to them.  His bold, colorful illustrations combined with exactly the right amount of text make this a fabulous read.  Add to that the exact right amount of tension and you have a real winner.  This book is designed not for the readers of his magnificent mouse books about Lily and Chester and Wemberly, but for younger children, even toddlers.  The illustrations will project wonderfully even to a crowd and beg to be shared.

I don’t think you will have trouble finding a storytime theme to fit this in.  The problem will be trying not to use it again and again and again.  I would also recommend this as a birth gift for a new baby.  It is a book that will entice infants with the colors but will grow with them to be a beloved tattered book.

Tween Program

I love, love, love hearing about libraries that are successfully reaching teens. Tween, teen girls find literary haven tells about the Forest Park Library’s program for tween girls. Obviously it is a success due to the skill and devotion of Emma Peterson:
“She’s always happy and brings fun things for us to do,” Martha said.
Exactly! She’s not frowning and waiting for trouble. She’s happy, energetic and thrilled to be working with teens. Every library needs an Emma!

Top Shelf Middle Grade Books

VOYA has a list of the Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers. The criteria for inclusion on the list were that the book be of particular interest to 11 to 13 year olds or kids in grades 6-8 and that it be published between October 2005 and September 2006.
I must say that I haven’t read a lot of the titles, but those I have I completely agree are top of the line books. My personal favorites are Rash by Pete Hautman, Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, and Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos.
I have happily added the others onto my future reads list and will share the list with my newly tween niece who will love it.