03 July 2015

Great Reads – Women Who Broke the Rules Series by Kathleen Krull

I am so loving this new series for young readers by Kathleen Krull. The first four volumes came out in June:

  • Judy Blume: Are You There, Reader? It's Me, Judy!
  • Sacajawea: Lewis and Clark Would Be Lost without Me
  • Sonia Sotomayor: I'll Be the Judge of That!
  • Dolley Madison: Parties Can Be Patriotic!
And they are delightful. 

I was particularly taken with the Judy Blume volume. I came of age with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Then Again, Maybe I Won't; Forever. By the time she hit the books stores, I was already so far beyond children's books that I was reading stories well beyond my experience so I devoured the books written for girls my age about the issues we were confronting. It never occurred to me that she was a charting a new course that would change the face of young people's literature. Thank you, Judy!

The Sacajawea and Dolley Madison volumes are age appropriate and provide a good introduction to both of these outstanding women of history.

I have less context to evaluate the Sonia Sotomayor volume, but on the basis of the others, there's no reason to suspect that it is not just as well done.

Country Girl in the City is patiently waiting for more (and I understand that there are at least two more already in the works, although a publication date hasn't been released).

26 June 2015

Great Reads – Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills

It has been a very long time since a book has sent me this kind of emotional journey. Sure, I laugh out loud at the antics of Stephanie Plum and I get misty eyed when hearts get broken during a good read, but Wendy Mills took me way beyond. I was actually sobbing at one point. The dust jacket says,

“Summoning courage she never knew she had. Erin embarks on a journey from the depths of frustration and despair to the heights of freedom and acceptance in a thought-provoking story about life, death, and difficult choices along the way.”

The reader must also summon some courage. This story is, in a word, ok, two words -- gut wrenching. Positively Beautiful carefully crafts Erin's story and where it could easily become maudlin, Erin and her mother dig deep and find strength in the their love for one another. It's lovely and heartbreaking. Make sure you have you the tissue nearby.

12 June 2015

Great Reads - Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers

This may be my absolute favorite of my winter reads, but I certainly didn’t think that at the beginning of this adventure, and I do mean adventure. Above all, Inherit Midnight is an adventure story. The story follows 17-year old Avery, the black sheep of an obscenely wealthy family who was raised by her grandmother, the family matriarch. Avery's grandmother decides that instead leaving her heirs to squabble over her will, she’s going to give it all away before she goes. She creates a worldwide scavenger hunt through the family’s history. The competition includes three cousins that have never had much use for Avery, and vice versa; her half-brother, whom she doesn’t really know; and two uncles, who will stop at nothing including sabotaging their own children. After each event, an heir is eliminated. Last heir standing gets it all. One word of caution – don’t give up on this story. I thought it started rather slowly and almost walked away not once, but twice. Sticking around was definitely worth it.

05 June 2015

I'm Reading - Renée Watson's This Side of Home

This Side of Home is a story of growth and change. Nikki and Maya are identical twins each of which has always functioned as one-half of a whole unit. They are now high school seniors. Looking forward to moving away from home and going to college, together. But a lot can change in a year. As the sisters’ paths diverge, they learn that they are whole individuals and that their familial bond is not lessened by that fact. Just the opposite, Watson has set the story in neighborhood undergoing gentrification, so their family relationships are the most stable thing about the story. Everything else is shifting around them, their friends, their community, their futures.  

29 May 2015

I’m Reading - Cindy L. Rodriquez's When Reason Breaks

Two girls—one seemingly with everything going for her; the other, not—both find solace and meaning in the poems of Emily Dickinson. One point of commonality for them is the English teacher that introduces them to the poet. There are others that the reader will discover as the story unfolds. Rodriquez seamlessly weaves through the school year telling their parallel stories until they become one in the surprising conclusion. You’ve heard the old saying, never judge a book by its cover, neither girl is what they seem to be and while Rodriquez hints at the plot twist that leads to the story’s conclusion, you still don’t see it coming. I was as surprised as the English teacher.

28 May 2015

The Winter of YA Literature

Winter 2014 was a brutal one here in Chicago and so I retreated to the land of “beach books.” Just about everything I read that winter took place on the beach and in the summer. Winter 2015, I escaped into the world of YA books.

I’d been turning my nose up at the genre thinking of the books that were available to me at that age and inwardly groaning. While talking to my mother on the phone one night, I mentioned that I felt like I had gone straight from Winnie-the-Pooh to and John Steinbeck. At which point she informed me that (1) it was Winnie-the-Pooh to Jack London and (2) I was only in the second grade. Her point being that today’s world of YA didn’t exist when I was a middle grade/YA reader. So I decided to give them a shot. And did I find some winners!

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing of some of my favorites.