A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend

A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

When Julia is killed in a car accident, it left a hole in Cass’ life that was impossible to fill.  When Julia’s drama friends discover that the secret project that Julia was working on is a musical with ninjas, they decide to perform it as a tribute to her.  But Cass doesn’t fit into the drama group without Julia there.  Especially not when Heather, a bully from middle school who publicly questioned Cass’ sexuality, is cast as the lead.  But Cass feels she must do something to fill that hole in her life Julia left behind, so she sets out on a solo bike trek over the summer from Chicago to California.  The book moves from the time following the bike trip when Cass returns to school and her travels.  It is about journeys, tributes, friendship, and love.  It is a book that fills holes, honors all kinds of love, and celebrates those of us who don’t quite fit in until we find the right people.

This book is not easy.  There are no simple solutions to a friend’s death, and Horner honors this friendship with a grand tribute.  From the beginning of the book, readers know that Cass does not complete her ride to California, but this makes the book even more powerful.  It becomes not about the accomplishment of the goal, but about the journey itself.  There are ugly truths in the book that readers are asked to understand and there are beautiful twists and turns along the way.  The book is a ride, a journey, a tribute and so it must be difficult and contain things that bring us to another place.

Horner’s writing is constantly showing and not telling.  Emotions are told through reactions, allowing them to be complex and much more honest.  She has created a heroine in Cass with such heart.  She is complicated, fascinating, and marvelous.  Horner also excels at backstory without burdening the reader.  Cass’ parents are Quakers and that influences her life tremendously.  Through the skill of Horner’s writing, that too is told as it comes up, revealing itself and its layers slowly.  This is much the same way that Cass’ sexuality is handled, honoring the process that Cass is going through to understand it herself.

Simply a magnificent book, get it on your shelves, into your hands and most of all into the hands of teens.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

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Moon Bear

Moon Bear by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illlustrated by Ed Young

Follow a moon bear through a year from one spring to the next.  Each page begins with a question that is then answered through a short verse.  So much of the book, just as with the bear’s life, is taken up with the search for food.  Food that will make children squirm and food that they too would love to find.  Guiberson’s text is more poetry than scientific information, offering readers a beautiful look at a rare creature.  Adding to the beauty of the book are the amazing collage illustrations by Ed Young.

The question and answer format of the text in this book make the book very intriguing and inviting.  The fact that it is verse works very well here, brief condensed verse.  This is certainly a nature picture book but never becomes dry with facts, rather it is an ode to an endangered creature.

Young’s illustrations add an exciting element to the book.  Done in collage, they contain photographs and patterns that keep the eye fascinated.  The illustrations also capture textures, combining them to great effect.  As the book comes full circle, it offers children a treat at the end of the book.  The author’s note at the end contains facts about moon bears as well as photographs of the bears.  To my eye, the ones built out of Young’s collage look even more real and true. 

Highly recommended, this is a celebration of a unique bear that we should all get to know with this unique treatment.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt.