Ana's Story

An article praising Jenna Bush’s teen novel caught my eye.  I haven’t had a chance to see the book yet, but I hope that it is as well done as this Associated Press article says.  Bush based the book on a real person whom she met in Latin America while working for UNICEF.  Ana’s life of poverty has been further complicated by HIV, so this is a book with the potential to educate about not one but two of our world’s epidemics.  Anyone gotten to actually read it yet?

Treasure

Treasure by Suzanne Bloom.

With this book, readers happily return to the friendship of a goose and a polar bear first read about in A Splendid Friend, Indeed.  Goose spots Bear making an X on a piece of paper and immediately assumes that X Marks the Spot and there must be treasure involved.  So Goose takes over and leads Bear on a wild search for treasure whether it be buried or sunk.  It isn’t until Goose gives up and despairs of finding any treasure at all that Bear points out the real treasure.

I just love Bloom’s books.  But I have one caveat.  If you are a grown up without a handy crowd of children to read them aloud to, you may miss their real charm.  The books have gloriously large pictures that show well to a crowd, but it is the words that come to life when read aloud.  I find that Goose has a very distinct and rather silly voice when read aloud, but that may be just me.  🙂  Children adore the quick pace and the animals, but they also love the situation that Goose puts Bear into. 

Another guaranteed giggle book, perfect for the final book of a story time on pirates.  Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Nature of Jade

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti.

Make room for another title on my best books of the year list! 

Jade, a senior in high school,  struggles with panic in her everyday life.  She is in therapy for it and has tools she uses to try to control it, including watching the zoo webcam that shows the elephants.  That is where she first sees the boy in the red jacket carrying the baby.  And that glimpse will be enough to send Jade out of her controlled world, allowing her to realize that even those things that seem simple in her life are more complicated and less absolute.  Jade learns to take risks, be true to herself, and find her own way with a little help from some very large friends and some human ones too.

The writing here is exquisite.  In the beginning and again at the very end, Jade is in a fragile state.  The writing is almost brittle, crumbling away with rushes of images rather like panic.  When Jade is content, the writing slows, meanders, but never wanders away.  The writing allows readers to share Jade’s contentment and bask in it with her.  Somehow Caletti has managed to create prose that in its very pacing and tone allows us to feel Jade’s mood.  It is a monumental accomplishment.

The characterizations are also masterfully done.  Jade herself is very complex and vivid.   And so are the many secondary characters, especially Jade’s parents who start out as Jade sees them and slowly are revealed to the reader and Jade to be so much more.  Jade is a young woman on the cusp of leaving home, so seeing the humanity of her parents is very powerful and rings completely true. 

This is a must-read, a book to put in the hands of teen girls.  Any teen girl.  They will all respond to Jade and her life.  The book is a triumph, but retains ties to teen-girl books everywhere with its romance and issues.  It is an easy step for girls reading series novels to enter this world and discover great writing.