Yard Sale by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)
Callie’s family is moving from their house into a small apartment, so they are having a yard sale. It’s a bright sunny day but Callie is filled with mixed feelings as she sees all of the parts of their lives out in the front yard for sale. Callie has visited their new apartment and seen where she will sleep. It’s even a cool bed that pulls out of the wall. But she is going to miss her friends in the neighborhood and doesn’t really understand why they have to move except that it has to do with money. When Callie sees her red bicycle being purchased by someone she gets upset and then when a friendly woman asks if Callie herself is for sale, Callie gets alarmed. In the end after the sale in their almost-empty house, Callie and her family look forward to a fresh start together as a family.
Bunting beautifully and sensitively captures the mixed feelings of moving and the additional burden of being forced to downsize due to financial reasons. She shows from Callie’s point of view how upsetting it can be. At the same time, she shows supportive parents who work with Callie to discuss her feelings and validate her emotions. The yard sale is a strong image to have at the heart of the book, demonstrating the loss of so many items of property but at the same time strengthening the image of the family who is left strong and resilient.
Castillo has created a neighborhood of friendly people, bright balloons and lots of sunshine that works very nicely here. The deep feelings expressed by the protagonist play against the dazzling day and the contrast makes the emotions all the more real. The three members of the family are clearly a unit from their similar dark hair to the color palette that holds them together as well. It is subtly done, but very effective.
A powerful book about children caught in the impact of the economic downturn, this book is not bleak but rather filled with hope for the future. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
17-year-old Carson has moved from New York City to Billings, Montana with his mother to take care of the dying alcoholic father he hasn’t seen in 14 years. When they first get to town, his mother drops Carson off at the zoo to spend the day while she handles the initial contact with his father. At the zoo, Carson meets Aisha and finds himself able to speak to a pretty girl for the first time. Aisha is cool, she doesn’t mind his odd sense of humor, and she is also a lesbian. Carson also discovers that Aisha is homeless, thrown out by her father once he found out about her sexuality. Carson begins to discover that there are secrets in his own family, ones that lead him and Aisha to head out on a road trip to explore what happened to his grandfather and what caused him to leave his family and never return. Carson hopes that the answers to these secrets may be enough to help his father heal, but they also have the potential to hurt him badly as well.
I adored Openly Straight by Konigsberg and I am equally excited about this novel. In both, Konigsberg manages to speak to the gay teen experience but he does it in very inventive ways. The focus here is on Carson, a white straight male, but one who is beautifully and hauntingly damaged. Throughout the book, that damage is explored and exposed. Aisha is an incredible character too, an African-American lesbian character who refuses to be anyone’s sidekick or any novel’s secondary character. This is her journey as well, though the two of them are looking for different things along the same path. Konigsberg also takes a hard look at AIDS and early gay activism in this novel, something that is important for modern teens both gay and straight to understand.
I am rarely a fan of road trip novels since they often meander too much for my liking. That is not the case here where the journey is part of the discovery about the characters. The journey is also a way to give these two teens time to talk about big things like families and faith. It offers the core of the novel, a connection between two very different personalities where both of them discover home in one another. Even better, it’s not a romance book at all even though it has a male and a female in the lead roles. Hurrah!
An important addition to the LGBT collections, this book explores faith, sexuality, and family with humor and depth. Appropriate for ages 14-16.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.