Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wintergirls takes readers into the mind of Lia, a teenager spiraling out of control. Lia and former best friend Cassie used to compete to see who could lose the most weight. Now Cassie has died from her eating disorder, leaving Lia to feel guilty for ignoring her phone calls and haunted by hallucinations of Cassie encouraging Lia to continue on her destructive path. Lia, who has no friends and struggles with her family relationships, is alone with her own negative thoughts and inner voices telling her she must lose more weight and cut herself. In Anderson's hands it is poetic and insightful and certainly a cut above any other "teen eating disorder" book I have ever read. However, for some reason this didn't fully capture my attention—I kept hoping for a little more of a plot or some other thread to bring me out of Lia's inner turmoil. I know teens will love this book and it will touch their lives deeply, so I do recommend it to readers mature enough to handle the difficult subjects presented.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I love Michael Morpurgo's books, especially Private Peaceful, but I never had read this one before, probably because I knew it was narrated by a horse. But I had a 7th grade student read it and love it so I decided to try it myself. Joey, the horse telling the story, was a farm horse before he was taken to be in the World War I cavalry. In this book you see the horrors of war through Joey's eyes and limited perspective. Joey is repeatedly a victim of human violence but through it all finds numerous kind, empathetic human beings who care for him and love him. Any realistic book about World War I battles might just be too much to take—it was a horrible war. But through the eyes of Joey the story is accessible to kids and readers will definitely sympathize with Joey and hope that he is someday reunited with his beloved master. Recommended for readers who want to read about war but who might not be ready for more gritty books such as Soldier X or Fallen Angels.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
This unique story is kind of a fantasy, but more of an adventure/survival book. It does take place in an alternate reality, but it's a world much like ours without magical creatures or fantasy elements. Mau is a boy living on a small island and his people call themselves The Nation. He is in a canoe on the ocean when a tsunami devastates his island and kills everyone he has ever known. That same tsunami shipwrecks a young British girl on Mau's island and the two strangers slowly grow to be friends, allies, and creators of a new Nation. Both young characters question everything they have ever known—Mau must ask if his Nation's Gods are real and why they would destroy their own Nation. Daphne questions everything she has learned about what it means to be a proper young lady. Both children find they are more capable leaders than they could have ever imagined and together they unearth a secret about the Nation that changes world history. It's a deep story that is both adventurous and moving and will leave readers thinking for a long time. Recommended for both kids and adults.
If you flip through this book is looks like fun. It has lots of cartoon illustrations and short, compact chapters. But when you read the book it's really not fun at all. It is the story of Finn Garrett, whose father died recently and who is grieving so much he fears he is becoming invisible. His hair is actually turning white and doctors and psychologists don't have any answers for why it is happening. Finn's journal chronicles how he remembers happy memories of his father, connects more strongly with his mother and grandfather, and relies on the support of his best girl friend. It's not a bad story and it does have some humor, but at it's heart it's all about healing from grief, which may not be what readers are expecting. I have no idea how kids will receive it—I'd love to have some reaction from middle school readers.