Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post - Summer Throwdown

I participated in the League of Librarians during the summer throwdown.  What did this mean?  That I read and recorded lots of pages while I was reading during the beginning of the summer.  It was a great motivator to keep reading, and to see what other folks were reading as well.

I have a guest post over at The Brain Lair outlining 10 memorable books that I read during that time.  It's a mix of tween, YA and adult, and I'm interested to see what you all think about these books.  Not all of them have been or will be reviewed on Tweendom, so head on over to check them out!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Prairie Evers, by Ellen Airgood

Prairie is unhappy when her grandmother up and announces that it's time she moves home.  After all, Grammy is much more than simply a grandmother to Prairie; she is her friend and her teacher as well.  Especially since they moved up to New Paltz, NY from North Carolina.

Prairie's family inherited the farm from her mama's side of the family.  New Paltz is where she grew up, and now the Evers family are trying to make a go of life by living off this small portion of land.  Folks in town seem to have lots to say about this whole situation.

When Prairie and her mama are in town to pick up Prairie's new chicks, her mama leaves her in the malt shop while she runs some errands.  While Prairie is sitting at the counter top, she overhears some women mention her mama's name.  The women go on to talk all kinds of foolishness about her family-- how Prairie probably can't even read and isn't in school -- how her family probably doesn't have two pennies to rub together -- and it is everything Prairie can do to sit put and not give those women a piece of her mind. 

One of those insults, however, is soon unfounded.  Prairie's folks tell her that she has to enroll in school.  Grammy has always taught Prairie before.  They were explorers, learning about things that are interesting.  How can she ever go to a school where she is trapped inside all day?  How can she ever learn to raise her hand when she has something to say?  Or not to blurt out an answer?

School is only made bearable by the one friend that Prairie sets on making.  Her name is Ivy Blake.  She's clearly a loner and a pretty quiet one at that, but Prairie seeks her out and soon they are spending lots of time together, and Prairie actually starts to feel happy.  But as she slowly peels back the layers of Ivy's existence, Prairie realizes that things are not always as they seem.

Ellen Airgood has written a story of family, friendship and loss that while sad in measure is buoyed by an overarching feeling of hope.  Even though Prairie and Ivy are misfits on their own, together they are strong and they even each other out.  Ivy's family story is an intense one and is buffered by the Evers' family's cohesiveness.  There is a Southern feeling to this story despite the setting, and while the idea of the importance of making family is loud and clear, the story never gets eclipsed by it.  Prairie is a strong protagonist and readers are likely to admire her even as they cringe at her adjustments to school life.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Anyone who works with tweens and middle schoolers can tell you that life is often fraught with drama.  Capital "D" drama.  And while I was never a theater kid,  Raina Telgemeier's latest graphic novel lets us in on some middle school theater kids who get an extra dose!

Callie loves theater.  She is not the leading lady type, however.  She prefers things back stage in the set department, which is where she will be working on her school's latest production; Moon Over Mississippi.  She is busy putting up casting posters when she runs into twins Justin and Jesse.  Justin is all about musical theater, while Jesse is a bit more on the shy side.

Even though Callie has been crushing on her friend Matt's big brother Greg, Jesse sets off a spark in Callie.  Before long she is hanging out with Justin and Jesse and she discovers that Jesse is just as talented as his brother.  She also discovers that Justin is gay.  He's not super out, but it's not too hard to figure out if you pay attention.

Callie has set her sights on Jesse, but between the business of the musical, Greg's dipping into the picture, and Justin always being around, it feels like Jesse will never get the hint to invite her to the 8th grade formal.  Once he finally gets to it, in true middle school dance fashion, it all hits the fan and many truths are revealed.

The beauty of Telgemeier's storytelling is that it's incredibly spot on.  Each and every character is fully developed and believable.  Readers will be rooting for and groaning at Callie in turn, and even if theater is the farthest thing from their reality, readers will know these kids.  Relationships are everything in middle school, and Telgemeier gets that.

The art is signature, and since my copy is an arc, I cannot wait to see the finished product in full color.  From the movement created by simple wonky eyes to the flop as Callie pours over a theater book she loves complete with air heart, the line is never crossed into caricatures. It is worth noting too, that the cast of characters is multicultural as well.

Drama should be in every school and public library, and preferably in multiple copies.  This is a graphic novel that is sure to be every bit as well loved as the author's previous title Smile.