The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
Grace can’t stand being near the river, because that’s where she found her mother’s body. It was right after they had argued about moving once again. Grace wanted to stay where she finally felt at home, but her mother wanted to move again. Now Grace has been sent to live with her mother’s mother, a grandmother she has never known. She only wants to return to the family she and her mother had been staying with last, but she has to come up with a plan to escape. In the meantime, Grace starts to find clues to a treasure hunt, similar to the ones her mother did for her every time they moved to a new town. Is it her mother creating a final path for her daughter to find a home? Or could it be that Grace is just seeing patterns where there are none?
Holczer shows great depth and richness in this her first book. In this character-driven novel, she excels at the relationships she builds between her vividly drawn characters. Grace is a character in search of a place to call home, but unable to see a home when it is right in front of her and unable to register the love being shown her. She is complicated in a very organic way, her reactions honest and true. The same is true of the grandmother character who radiates frankness but also regret for what happened over the years with her daughter. She is a very complex adult character, particularly for a book for middle grade students.
Holczer’s writing itself is straight-forward, allowing a sturdy framework for these character to relate to each other within. The writing rings with confidence and Holczer asks deep questions about death, what dead people can communicate to the living, and what makes a family. The answers are not simple and are not easily arrived at. They come about very naturally and one must wait to see what the truths are and where the characters will arrive in this beautifully paced novel.
Rich, organic and special, this middle grade novel offers us all a view of what a second chance at family can be. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin.
Under the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke, illustrated by London Ladd
Told in free verse, this picture book is the story of how the first contraband camp formed during the Civil War. It all started with three runaway slaves who escaped across a river to a Union-held fort. Though the Confederate Army tried to demand their return, the general at the fort declared them “contraband of war” and offered them protection and a place to live. The three were quickly joined by a flood of people crossing the line into Union territory and they began to build a home for themselves near the fort. The freedom tree is the Emancipation Oak which stood witness to the events that unfolded, including the Emancipation Proclamation, which set all of the residents of the camp free.
VanHecke’s verse is loose and beautiful. She captures the danger the slaves faced in crossing the Confederate line, the risks they took asking for shelter, and the clever solution found by the general. She offers an author’s note in prose to give more historical context to the camp and the Emancipation Oak.
Ladd’s illustrations are lush and detailed. His paintings capture the hope of emancipation, the darkness of escape by water and night, and the beauty of the oak. The illustrations clearly honor the first three men who escaped to the fort, showing them as they wait for the judgment of whether they must return to slavery or not.
A little-known part of the history of the Civil War, this book in verse pays homage to the courage of the men who created the contraband camp. Appropriate for ages 6-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are pretty cool:
Children’s Books: A Shifting Market http://buff.ly/1hMHm8F
Eight Favorite Books Starring Interesting, Exciting, Daring, Adventurous Girls!| Lori Day | http://buff.ly/1hWHLWc
How to keep kids reading through the summer – http://buff.ly/1hJ1KHG
Juicy As a Pear: Wanda Gag’s Delectable Books for Children : The New Yorker http://buff.ly/1nXaBGw
Jump into the
#WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign, Help Change the World | BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1rJnGUt #diversity #reading #books
Notable novels in verse – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1nXfyzf
Resources and Kid Lit About American Indians | Focus On | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1mdULGr
Top 10 life-affirming reads | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1hMGiSe
Wimpy Kid and Family to Hit the Road in ‘The Long Haul’ http://buff.ly/1iwSt6i
Harper Lee agrees to ebook version of To Kill a Mockingbird | Books http://buff.ly/1hJ74uH
What You Need to Know Before Letting Your Kids Read E-Books http://buff.ly/1nX6jPG
Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper | Science | WIRED http://buff.ly/1hWGRce
How libraries are responding to the second digital divide http://buff.ly/R0vKVp
Blindingly White: BookCon, John Green, and Knowing When It’s Time to Speak Up | BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1iwRinp
Should white people write about people of color? – Malinda Lo http://buff.ly/1hJc7eK