Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl at school.  She is different from everyone else with her bright red hair and men’s clothes.  Park has gone to this school forever, he knows everyone on the bus and just wants to keep his head down and be ignored.  But Park can’t ignore Eleanor when she is standing in the aisle and needs somewhere to sit.  So he lets her sit by him.  They don’t talk though, until he notices that she is reading his comics too.  Their relationship slowly grows and they start talking together only about comics.  Eleanor doesn’t want to talk about her horrible home life that had her kicked out of the house for a year.  Park doesn’t want to scare her off by pushing.  Little by little, this becomes a book about first love between two teens who didn’t fit in anywhere else.  Little by little, this book steals your heart too.

I honestly don’t think I can voice how good this novel is.  Rowell writes with such truth and passion through the entire book that it makes your breath catch at times.  She does not turn away from the most horrible parts of being a teen, bullying, family crisis, the stumbles on the way to a connection.   These are the moments that cast the others in such light, that make the others shine and dazzle. 

Eleanor and Park both narrate the story in turns.  That decision was critical to this book, allowing each teen to talk about what they love about the other and the amazement they feel that someone likes them too.  The two characters are so different, from such differing backgrounds.  They are living people, ones who enter your dreams because you feel like they are part of you. 

Her book is just like first love.  It is stunning, honest and raw.  It is unforgettable.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Year with Marmalade by Alison Reynolds

year with marmalade

A Year with Marmalade by Alison Reynolds, illustrated by Heath McKenzie

One autumn, Maddy told Ella that she is going away for a year and asked her to take care of her cat, Marmalade.  Both Ella and Marmalade cry and cry when Maddy leaves.  Ella can’t find anyone to play in the leaves with her, pick and munch apples, or stomp in puddles.  Then one frosty morning, Ella wakes up to find her feet warm and Marmalade sleeping on her bed.  As winter arrives, Ella and Marmalade get closer and closer.  Spring comes and the two work together in the garden and head to the beach together.  Maddy returns with the autumn, but what will happen now with Marmalade?

This book is a smart mix of waiting for a friend to return and seasons.  Along the way, there is also the chance to make a new friend too.  The dance of the seasons moves the story along nicely, creating a timeline along which readers can see the relationship between Ella and Marmalade growing and changing. 

It is the illustrations that make this book more than just a book about friendship in a crowded picture book market.  McKenzie combines black and white line drawings with bursts of color.  Marmalade is always shown as a pop of orange, while the human characters remain black and white.  The effect has an appealing lightness.

A picture book about moving, friendships and change, this lovely little picture book would make a nice addition to units on seasons as well.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.