My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts about Me

My Parents are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts about Me by Bill Cochran, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman.

Ted’s parents are divorced, but that is just one aspect of this kid.  His parents may live separately, may not watch his games together, and he may still be sad whenever he thinks about the divorce, but that definitely doesn’t mean that Ted is weird.  What makes Ted weird are the other parts of his life:  eating cold spaghetti sauce out of the jar, naming his elbows, and wearing soap Mohawks.  When taken all together, Ted is the sum of many things and being the son of divorced parents is a big part but only a part of him.

This book takes divorce and makes it normal.  It talks about the feelings, the confusion, the pain of divorce but offsets it with the humor and silliness of Ted’s other interests.  In this way, Cochran makes it into more than a simple book on divorce.  It becomes a book that any child, from a divorced family or not, can see themselves in, and see themselves celebrated.  Yes, it is a book about divorce, but just like Ted, that is only a part of what it is.

Bjorkman’s illustrations gleefully add to the silliness of the story.  Nicely, the pages about the divorce are not darker or different.  They are just as bright and colorful as the rest.  In the most poignant illustration, Ted sits between his parents as they tell him about the divorce.  He is snug up against his mother with his hand and arm reaching toward his father on the other side of the couch.  A lovely illustration that encompasses the feel of divorce in a single image.

Highly recommended as a book on divorce that will not depress children but will encourage moving through it and beyond.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from publicist.

Also reviewed on Book Dads, Young Readers, and A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy.

Front and Center

Front and Center by Catherine Murdock

Released October 19, 2009.

In this third and final book in the Dairy Queen series, DJ has returned home after caring for her injured brother Will.  Now she is back in the high school mix of homework, basketball and plenty of pressure.  Pressure from her coach to turn into a better leader and start to speak out more on court.  Pressure from the bag of offers her father has kept, filled with coaches that she is going to have to call.  Pressure from a new boyfriend and lingering thoughts of Brian.  Pressure from her brother Will to do it all perfectly and to do it now.  Luckily DJ has basketball and workouts to keep her mind from spiraling completely out of control.  But she has some big decisions to make and soon.

DJ is such a wonderful character that I am sad to see this will be her final book.  She is genuine, funny and reminds me vividly of all of the Wisconsin farm girls I knew growing up.  Murdock has created a character who is above all real, filled with doubts, and exceptional.  Even reading this as an adult, it brought up all of the tough decisions I have had to make about school and work, along with their accompanying not-good-enough feelings.  Murdock has written a book about struggling with self-doubt and the future without becoming whiny in any way. 

Murdock also excels at the characters of DJ’s family, giving them each their own motivations, logical growth of their characters, and sudden understanding.  It is a pleasure to see a series where an entire family changes together, growing stronger and more important to one another.

Highly recommended for anyone who has read the first two.  This final book is just as good as the others in the series, if not better.  I’d recommend seeking this series out and enjoying all three books right in a row if you haven’t read them yet.  A great end to a marvelous series!  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Also reviewed at Librarilly Blonde, Abby (the) Librarian, Feed Your Imagination, and Jen Robinson’s Book Page.