Tag Archives: grief

When good kids make bad decisions

17 Apr

We often tell 6th graders who have done something really stupid, that this is the time in their life when they can make mistakes and truly learn from them, never repeat them. We let them know that, when they are older, the consequences of their actions will be more severe. We say this when they turn in a friends work as their own and mess around in the bathrooms. We have really good kids.

But sometimes, really good kids make tragic mistakes, and it adults don’t tell them this is their chance to learn, they want them punished.

That is the premise of Jeff Zentner’s second novel, Goodbye Days.

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Publisher’s Summary:What if you did something so terrible that it literally steals your breath away?

Something you wish you could take back every waking minute of your life. Something everyone is guilty of doing at one time or another—but this time, it destroyed life as you knew it forever.

“I would tell you that I definitely killed my three best friends. Here’s the cruel irony for the writer I am: I wrote them out of existence.

Where are you guys? Text me back.”

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. But now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell.

Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver—but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

Although intended for a slightly older audience, this is a YA novel that I can easily put on my 6th grade shelf. There is a little romance, but the book is intelligent and heart-breaking.

Grieving

13 Nov

It’s been a tough week.

Last Sunday I tore my meniscus.

Tuesday’s election results weren’t what I had hoped they’d be.

And Thursday the world learned that Leonard Cohen had passed.

I needed some bibliotherapy.

I found solace in Monika Schröder’s Be Light Like a Bird. 

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Publisher’s Summary:After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she’s ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must confront issues with the environment, peer pressure, bullying, and most of all, the difficulty of forgiving those who don’t seem to deserve it. A quirky, emotional middle grade novel set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Be Light Like a Bird features well-drawn, unconventional characters and explores what it means to be a family and the secrets and lies that can tear one apart.

This is a book that quotes Paul Valéry and Leonard Cohen!

The title comes from the Valéry quote meaning we need to determine our own future and fly like a bird, not let ourselves drift like a feather.

“One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather.” / ”Il faut être léger comme l’oiseau, et non comme la plume”

 Yes, this was just what I needed and it will be my book talk on Monday, and here’s why.

First of all, I loved Wren. Told in the first person from Wren’s point of view, her voice just sounds so authentic, I felt like I really knew this girl and would have been her friend when I was her age. I wasn’t one of the popular girls, either. I felt her pain and grief and wished someone would help her deal with her grief.

I loved her friendship with Theo. I love middle grade because the romance doesn’t get in the way of the real story. Their relationship unfolded in a way that felt realistic for middle school kids.

I loved the fact that she and Theo become teen activists. As this is our next writing unit, I am very excited to share this with my students.

I loved the realistic portrayal of  grief: Wren’s, her mother’s, Theo’s, and his dad’s. We see the range of ways people deal with bereavement. It is complicated, messy and uncomfortable, but it is real.

Yeah, the ending maybe wrapped up just a little too perfectly, but I needed that this week. If you are feeling some grief these days, you might benefit from reading this book, too.

You might also benefit from a little Leonard Cohen. Four lines of “Anthem” are quoted in Light Like a Bird”, but I thought you might like to hear all of it. 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Idyll

22 Jul

I am at that point in summer where time seems to stretch out before me. It won;t last long, as I have a workshop on August 4th, but for now, I am content to luxuriate in the promise of unfettered time.

Ally Condie’s Summerlost has a bit of that feeling too.

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Set in a small college town, it focuses on Cedar Lee, whose family has relocated there for the summer, following a family tragedy. It is not a dramatic, fast-paced read. Rather, it is a beautiful novel that unfolds slowly. It wasn’t the book I expected it to be, given that Condie is the author of the Matched  series. This is a lovely, realistic middle grade book.

Publisher’s Summary: Sometimes it takes a new friend to bring you home. It’s the first real summer since the accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching new novel from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

 

Maybe a Newbery?

6 May

It is funny that two excellent books, both told in alternating stories and featuring  a fox in one of those stories, were released within a month of each other. Pax was released in February. Maybe a  Fox, written by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee was release in March, though I just read it this week.

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Oh my, this book is wonderful. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it and the book certainly didn’t go where I expected it to go, but this one has a Newbery feel to it.  Senna, the fox was my favorite, even though Jules is the real main character. This book certainly destined to be on some Best of 2016 lists.

Publisher’s Summary: Worlds collide in a spectacular way when Newbery and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Pulitzer Prize nominee and #1 New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee team up to create a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.

Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st7OaBfSyA8

Dealing with grief

29 Feb

I am slowly but surely reading some of the books of 2015 I missed. The Thing About Jellyfish,  Ali Benjamin’s debut novel, is one I am very glad I took the time out to read.

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Author’s Summary: Suzy Swanson is pretty sure she knows the real reason Franny Jackson died. Everyone says that there’s no way to be certain…that sometimes things just happen. But Suzy knows there must be a better explanation—a scientific one. Haunted by the loss of her former best friend — and by a final, terrible moment that passed between them — she retreats into a silent world of her own imagination.  Convinced that Franny’s death was the result of a freak jellyfish sting, she crafts a plan to prove the truth, even if it means traveling around the globe… alone. As she prepares, she learns astonishing things about the universe around her… and discovers the potential for love and hope in her own backyard.

There are several different kinds of grief in this book: the grief over the death of a friend, the grief over the end of a friendship, the grief over the divorce of parents. And Suzy has to deal with all of these. Reading The Thing About Jellyfish I remembered what it was like to be that 7th grade girl who felt on the outside of everything. We’ve all been there, though it isn’t always in middle school.

Benjamin packs a lot into the 320 pages of the book. Despite the emotional content, she never lets it get away from her; this is a well controlled novel and Suzy’s attempt to deal with her grief and regret unfold naturally. Although the story is painful, I highly recommend it. You will also learn a lot of interesting jellyfish facts!

Dealing with grief

19 Nov

I picked up Fiona’s ashes yesterday. They are sitting on a shelf with the ashes of Louie and Clara. They each have a picture there to help me remember. Fiona is on the left, Louie on the right and Clara in the middle. We all deal with grief in our own way.

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Given what happened in Paris ( and Lebanon) this past week, I want to bring your attention to this little gem of a novel.

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If you’ve not read it, you should. Especially now. It is a book from a few years back, but it is definitely worth picking up in the aftermath of yet another horrible terrorist attack. It is set five years after the  co-ordinated terrorist attacks around London on July 7, 2005, that killed 62 people.The people in this story are all dealing with grief in their own way, but it is not a very healthy way.

Publisher’s Summary: My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well, some of her does. A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever-present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

Jamie is a sensitive boy whose new best friend happens to be a Muslim girl. He is trying to navigate a new school, bullies and a father who hates all Muslims. Jamie is left on his own a lot and  wants his family to be whole again but doesn’t know how to make that happen.  It is a tear-jerker, so have a hankie at the ready, but it is also a heart-warmer.
I actually listened to this a few years ago, but it has stuck with me. I must say that it was marvelously narrated by David Tennant. If you like audiobooks, I highly recommend this one.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

18 Oct

A lot of teen books deal with suicide: either characters have suicidal feelings or they are dealing with the aftermath of the suicide of someone close to them. I just finished listening to I Was Here by Gayle Forman, which falls into the latter category.

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Publisher’s Summary: When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

It took me a while to warm up to Cody. She hasn’t had the soft life of some of Forman’s other protagonists. She is the only child of a single mother who is not very maternal, so has grown up tough and a bit prickly on the outside. She is, however, maybe more realistic that some of Forman’s other characters. because of her situation, there isn’t money for her to go away to school. She has to work after graduation and take classes at the local community college as she can afford them. Her dream of going to university in Seattle is a bust. But she’s making do. Meg’s suicide is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It turns her world upside down, but it eventually gives her the fortitude to take action.

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