Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Lia finds out at breakfast that her ex-friend Cassie died alone in a motel room.  Now Lia is left with the question of why she didn’t bother to answer her cell phone when Cassie called.  33 times.  There are rumors that it was drugs or alcohol that killed her, alone in that room.  Lia is fighting her own demons, unable to handle what is happening to her and what happened to Cassie.  Lia has been hospitalized twice for eating disorders and is not on the road to recovery, but instead heading deeper and deeper into the mental maze of weight loss, lies and self abuse. 

What a perfect author for this book!  I have read many books about eating disorders for teens, but none have led me this deeply into the psychological torment.  Lia’s world is filled with obsession, counting calories, avoiding food, lying about it and covering up.  Her world is strange, foreign, but through the skillful writing also amazingly familiar and real.  The book is a slow torture of a novel, building in soft, painful crescendos to what is inevitable. 

Through this haze of pain and self-hate, Halse Anderson offers delectable prose that shines and sings.  Here is just one of the passages that had me gasping with the amazing writing:

This girl shivers and crawls under the covers with all her clothes on and falls into an overdue library book, a faerie story with rats and marrow and burning curses.  The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.

That is one of many places where Halse Anderson creates such beauty out of what is normal, juxtaposing it with a gentle touch against the agony that is Lia’s existence. 

Highly recommended and perfect for book discussions, this is one of those novels that girls will share, keep overlong from libraries, and want their own copies of.  Destined to be one of the best of the year, I just may hear Printz bells chiming for this a year from now.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Living Sunlight

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

Through an amazing blend of poetry and science, children learn about the importance of the sun in our lives.  There is a sense of wonder about the process of photosynthesis that elevates this book above that of a more scientific text.  Here you see the beauty and glory of the sun reflected too.  Bang’s illustrations capture the depth of space, lacing it with waves of light, showing the same waves washing upon the earth, the plants and us.

This book’s text comes in waves too.  Waves of poetry that are laced with scientific facts, pinning the high floating poetry down a bit to more earthly concerns.  The marriage of the two is so well done that it is hard to see where poetry ends and science begins.  Pair that with the scientific yet thrilling illustrations and this book becomes transcendent.

Highly recommended, this winning scientific picture book deserves a spot in every library.  If we wonder why children don’t tend to become scientists, we can look at this book that will inspire each child to ask questions of their world but not stop wondering and dreaming too.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.