Tag Archives: friendship

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

27 Aug

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I’ve been thinking over what to say about Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Overall, I liked it.

Publisher’s summary: Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend?
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

Each memorable character navigates the challenges of love and change in this captivating novel.

The story has stuck with me since finishing it, which says something. I enjoyed the three intertwined stories. I even like d the second person narrative of the unnamed girl on Valentine’s Day, which seems to be the sticking point in the unfavorable reviews I read.

For me, the issue is Bridge’s voice, and I will admit that I listened to the audio version in the car, so maybe this exacerbated a minor issue. Bridge only speaks in short sentences. She questions, repeats what people said, and frequently has sentences of one or two words. It sort of annoyed me.  Did the author do this on purpose because Bridge had a brain injury from the accident?  Would I even have noticed this is I had read the book rather than listened to the audiobook?

In spite of my “issue” with t he book, I do recommend it. This is the sort of book perfect for kids who are still to young for YA, but too old for a lot of the chapter books that are out there.

 

An infinite capacity for storytelling: Hilary T. Smith

3 Aug

What do you do when your  all planes are grounded and your flight is delayed 2 hours due to thunderstorms and lightning? Read of course.

Fortunately for me, I had planned to read Hilary T. Smith’s new book,  A Sense of the Infinite,  on the plane ride home.

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What a stunningly beautiful book.

Publisher’s Summary: By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

While it is not uncommon to see YA books deal with the collapse of a friendship, Smith has written one that does it in a fresh new way. I don’t want to give away too many details, but there are layers of complexity here that you don’t always see. I really enjoyed the way this novel was structured. Some chapters are long and complex. Others are very short and poetic, but pack an emotional or philosophical punch, like meditations on identity, loss, and friendship.

There are a lot of trigger topics in this book –  eating disorders, abortion, rape, suicide, depression- but the book never feels like an issues book. Annabeth is very likable, but she can be frustrating in the way she lets Noe make decisions for both of them. It was encouraging, though sometimes heart-breaking, to see Annabeth gain strength to become more independent. This os quiet, but powerful book.

Here some really exciting news: You can hear Hilary T. Smith speak at Powell’s in Beaverton this Wednesday, August 5th at 7 in the evening . I am planning on being there and I hope you can be too. She will be sharing the evening with two YA debut authors I can’t speak about but I am excited to hear! You can find more details at this link.  I hope to see you there!

 

Princess thoughts

6 Jul

Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress. – Kiera Cass

One of my favorite library stories to tell is about the day I read The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch aloud to a group of first graders. There was one particular girl in the class whose reaction I wanted to see. Mina LOVED Disney princess books and was excited to see a princess on the cover of this book, even the eponymous princess was wearing a paper bag. Her reaction at the end was priceless. She was speechless, and possibly horrified at the unexpected ending. I don’t think it ever became her favorite book, but I hope it planted a seed.

As I aired out the house very early yesterday morning, I picked up my library copy of I am Princess X by Cherie Priest and started to read.

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Publisher’s Summary: Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon — her best friend, Libby, who lives.

This was a great summer read. It has strong female characters, mystery adventure, clue following and a story within a story. It was a quick read and, although it is marketed as YA, I’d say it was on the younger end of the YA spectrum, so middle grade readers looking for something a little more should give it a try.

 

A Nutty Book

2 Jan

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When I was at the University of Toronto, I had to cross Queen’s park several times a day to get from class to class. I had to walk briskly to be on time, but I also had to be alert, watchful for the aggressive squirrels that roamed the park, looking for a handout.  They terrified me. Fortunately, Jed, Tsts and Chai aren’t that kind of squirrel.

In Nuts to You by Lynne are Perkins, these three squirrel pals set off on an adventure one day after Jed is picked up by a hawk from whom he manages to escape. A long way from home, Jed is rescued by red squirrels, who speak with Cockney accents. His friends, rather than mourning the loss of their friend, set off to find Jed.

TsTs, Chai, and Jed (who eventually meets up with his pals after having a few adventures of his own) must persuade their friends and neighbors to relocate somewhere safer, due to danger from humans trimming trees around “buzz paths” (utility lines).

This was a fun read that would be a great read aloud, perfect for grades 2-4.

Finding strength in a cruel world

10 Nov

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Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher, is just what the title tells us. It is difficult to read yet hard to put down. It tells the story of three survivors of sexual slavery. Three very brave survivors, because they decided to help those who are still caught up in the system. It is heart-breaking, horrifying and inspiring all at the same time.

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Girls Like Us, a novel by Gail Giles, is a novel about Biddy and Quincy who graduate  from special ed and have to face the world. They have to struggle against prejudice and injustice but find out that they can come to rely on their own strengths as well as on each other.

Courage

20 Oct

We are talking about Everyday Heroes in reading this days. The word courage has come up, as have many other characteristics. IN Courage for Beginners,  by Karen Harrington,

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twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy has a mom who has agoraphobia and a former best friend who has turned “hipster” and now treats her terribly. When her dad is hospitalized because of an accident she feels alone and as though she sis the on one keeping her family afloat. Then she meets Rama Khan, a 6th grader whose name sound like that of a Superhero,  at the “loser” lunch table. Mysti doesn’t like change, but with her friend Rama Khan by her side, she is able to face her fears and move on.

At first I was frustrated by Mysti’s acceptance of her ill-treatment by he reformer friend, Anibal. I wanted her to confront him, call him out for his bullying behavior. But that wouldn’t be true to her character. Almost 50 year lob me would do that, but I don;t think my 7th grade self would have done that either. Sometimes, it takes a while for a person to give up the hope that a friendship will go back to normal.

Everybody has fears they have to face. And it is courage that helps us do it.

The Blues

12 Sep

I finally finished my Back to School Socks and the temperature is on the rise again. Here they are.

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I am excited for the temperature to drop for many reasons, including the opportunity to wear these.

I came across a lovely little book recently, Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey. It is actually a large book, 12″ x 9″, but tells a sweet story in a gentle way, and the artwork is excellent.

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In poetic language, Yankey tells the story of a little bird, who fears he cannot fly because his friend, Wind, is not there. He sets off on a mission to find Wind. As the little bluebird searches for his friend, we get to see where he lives. There are beautiful details ion both words and pictures. Everywhere the little bluebird goes, things are still; flags droop, kites rest, clothes hang straight down on lines. The little bluebird eventually finds his friend, who was really there all along, but also learns a little bit about himself, too. A beautiful story about the little bird in each of us.

 

The Scar Boys: What I wanted Wonder to be

30 Jun

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Let me start by saying I liked Auggie Pullman, protagonist of Wonder  by R. J. Palacio. It was a touching book and Auggie is sweet and likable. I didn’t love the book like so many people did. I felt it was a little too idealistic. You should still read it, if you haven’t already

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos, has the edge I wanted  Wonder to have. Harry Jones is likable, though a little less so than Auggie. He’s older than Auggie, but has a facial deformity due to a traumatic event in his childhood. Like Auggie, Harry also has one friend, Johnny, that helps him navigate the world of friendships. But unlike Auggie, Harry knows there will be no easy path or happy ending; he will always be an outsider.

Harry and Johnny form a bad, The Scar Boys, and it takes them through middle and high school. They are actually good and, in the summer after their senior year in high school, The Scar Boys go on a road trip. It ends badly, as you might expect, so I’m not really giving a lot away by telling you that it does. What The Scar Boys  does, that Wonder  didn’t for me, was really show the hurt and damage Harry’s disfigurement has on his psyche. Harry is a flawed hero. It is an emotionally raw book, without being heavy and dark.

If you liked  Wonder,  I highly recommend you give The Scar Boys  a read.

Picture book problem solvers

7 May

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Let me start by confessing I almost cried reading Found by Salina Yoon. It starts of very simply.

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Bear does everything he can to find the owner of the bunny, but to no avail. Then one day, he does. But by then he has grown very attached to bunny. But he does the right thing and goes it back. Even though he doesn’t want to, he knows in his heart it’s the right thing to do. This made me tear up. What Moose, the owner does next, is brilliant. And it is his action that  made the  tears leak out.

In Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing, 

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a little girl who makes things has a brilliant idea. The Most Magnificent Idea. She knows how it will look and work. But making it turns out to be harder than she thought. A great book to talk about engineering and design, and perseverance. the words and pictures convey  her frustration, anger and enthusiasm. The text uses vivid language to explain how she creates: “tinkers and hammers and measures,” she “smooths and wrenches and fiddles,” she “twists and tweaks and fastens.”

Two really great picture books you and your kids will enjoy.

You are special

28 Apr

Mr. Rogers’ song and the feeding of his fish, reminds me of the book Not Norman by Kelly Bennett.

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It’s the story of a boy who wanted a cool pet, but got a goldfish instead. eventually, he learns what a great friend Norman the goldfish is.

Along those lines, two new picture books remind us of the beauty of being especially ordinary.

Extraordinary Janeby Hannah Harrison is the tale of a circus dog named Jane, who has no circus talent.

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She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. But the illustrations show us more than the text does. Jane might be ordinary, and she might even be a poor circus dog, but she is an extraordinary friend. 

And so is Sparky from  Sparky!  by Jenny Offill.

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It’s the classic sloth as a pet dilemma and very much like the Norman situation. But, in the end Sparky is perfect.

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