Monday, April 30, 2007

In Search of Mockingbird

Erin's mom died when Erin was just a baby, and she has been living with her dad and two brothers ever since. They simply do not get her. She retreated into books, To Kill a Mockingbird specifically. Even Erin's bestfriend Amy wants her to stop carrying it around!

When Erin's father announces he is to marry his longtime girlfriend, Erin snaps. He had to tell her the day before her birthday? To top things off, her dad gives Erin her mother's diary. Her father never even talks about her mom, and now that he's marrying someone else, he hands over this treasure?

Erin hops the Greyhound with the final destination of Monroeville, Alabama. She is in search of Harper Lee. Erin just knows that if she meets Miss Lee everything will be okay.

What Erin doesn't count on is who she will meet along the way. Fancy Sedushia, and odd Epp are two of the strangers who take Erin under their wings on her journey south.

Erin will use this journey to get to know her mother, and to get to know herself.

So, at first I wasn't sure if I was going to place this title with the Tweeners or not. I only came to Mockingbird lately, and the lead character in this homage is turning 16. But Erin is a very young 16. Karyn and I had a discussion about what having a dead parent does to you (she thinks it grows you up, and I think it kind of stunts you a bit), and I decided that this is where In Search of Mockingbird would land!

Saturday, April 28, 2007


It's 1971 and Frannie is just living her life at school when the new boy comes along. He has long curly hair, and he is white. What's he doing on this side of the highway?

The new boy calls himself Jesus. For real.

At home, it's Frannie, mom and dad, and brother Sean. Sean is deaf and signing is a part of daily life for Frannie. Imagine her surprise when Jesus signs to her at school!

Woodson has penned a beautiful character driven story, laden with issues of difference, racism, religion, and the sorrow of miscarriage. All as seen through a middle school girl's eyes.

Poignant and lyrical, Feathers is Woodson at her best. This title has staying power...audiences will be immediately sucked into Frannie's world, and classroom connections abound. This is a story that has lodged itself into me. Always a good thing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff : You Wish

This is a title that I heard about at the Random House preview a few weeks ago. It has an adorable cover, intriguing title, and well named protagonist. Yay!

Ever since his parents died in a tragic plane accident, Benjamin Bartholomew Piff has been living in an orphanage run by the evil Mr. Roach and the despicable Mrs. Pinch. Ben often finds himself inside the large kitchen pots, scrubbing with a toothbrush as punishment. He has plans to run away, but is thwarted in his efforts when a well meaning social worker brings him a birthday cake. The cake is quickly pilfered by Mrs. Pinch and it's not until Ben can steal away into the kitchen late at night that he can make a birthday wish and have some cake. Birthday wishes never come true, but Ben figures he will give one a shot anyhow.

As Ben makes his wish, things over at the Wishworks Factory erupt into chaos. Ben has made the perfect wish. He has followed all the rules. He has told noone his wish. The wish for unlimited wishes.

But if his wish comes true, what happens to the wishes of others?

What follows is a rip roaring romp of a tale. Parallel universes, morality and mortality, wishes vs curses, and friendships despite differences all hold a place in the story.

The start reminded me of Dahl, and Mr. Candlewick painted a Wonka-esque portrait. Once the story gets moving, however, author Jason Lethcoe takes the reader to a world where children can change anything. This is a fast-paced adventure that fans of Eager, Dahl, and even Ibbotson should love!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Green Glass Sea

So, imagine my surprise upon finishing this and then hearing from my friend Jen, that she had just attended a dinner for this very book! Timely, indeed.

As a Canadian, I really didn't learn much in school about the whole Los Alamos thing, so besides being enjoyable, I found The Green Glass Sea to be quite the learning experience as well.

Dewey and her dad have been making it on their own for a long time. Now that the war is on, however, Dewey's dad's scientific thinking has taken him away from her. First to Nana's place while Daddy was in Chicago, and then to New Mexico. To a place called "the hill" that's not even on a map. Dewey doesn't care so much about the standard issue housing, or the fact that the other kids call her Screwey Dewey...because at least she is back together with Daddy.

The kids on the hill really do have to make it on their own. All of their folks are military or scientists of some kind, and they aren't even allowed to discuss their work with their own families. Dewey and the other kids know that their parents are working on a "gadget", that will hopefully end the war.

This is a quiet and poignant look at the lives of the everyday people who were gathered up to work on "the bomb", as we used to call it. Oppie and Fermi are there, but so are regular families that just happen to have scientist parents.

A particularly thoughtful scene is when Suze's parents take Dewey and Suze out to "trinity" -- the testing site. The desert has turned to green glass. The girls are walking on it and taking chunks of it home. Suze's dad says that it's not "too hot". Let me tell you, as a parent knowing what we know now, my heart was in my throat. Can you imagine?

This quiet character driven story would work well for fans of Peach Hill, A Drowned Maiden's Hair, or even Private Peaceful. As someone said to me, it has a very Stand By Me feel, that translates easily to adults as well.

This is a story that will stay with me.