Tag Archives: memory
25 Feb

A lot of reading of “books I missed” happens in the wake of the Youth Media Awards. This weekend I read two lovely picture books I missed earlier in the year. Each deal with sad topics in a beautiful way.



The Rough Patch by Brian Lies, was a Caldecott Honor book. It is about love, loss, and grief.

Goodreads Summary:Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their prize-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies.

Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. download-1

The ground becomes overgrown with prickly weeds and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.

But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his isolation and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.


Let me just say that the two page spread that shows the day his dog passes might be one of the most poignant scenes in a picture book, ever.

The other picture book I read, The Remember Balloons, written by Jessie Oliveros and illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte, was a 2019 Schneider Family Award Honor Book.


Publisher’s Summary: James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

It’s the quiet voice and  little details that make this book so powerful. Depending upon how old people are, they have more or fewer balloons than others. But the dog always only has one red balloon. That touched my heart because that’s how dogs are.

Both of these books are great for young readers. They can also help parents talk to their children about these tough topics.

A Memory Poem

21 Mar

Something I saw this weekend brought back a memory from my childhood and inspired a poem.


The green Mustang

that screamed around the corner

brought back memories of my brother’s

green CCM bicycle

with the two-toned seat.


Even though he was told not to

he gave us rides on the handlebars

his little sisters

we took turns laughing

with wind in our faces.



Down the road,

to the Gothicky Anglican Church

that made us think it was haunted,

that no one we knew attended,

then back to our house.



Our church was more modest

a simple wooden church painted white

walkable, near the center of town

where our older sister would be married

in just a few days.



I saw the green mustang again

stopped by police on the corner

a few blocks away

they stood and talked for a while

then they let them go.



I recalled my brother’s bike again

and my sister’s foot

caught in the spikes

ruining the new shoes

she was to wear to the wedding.


The green mustang will disappear

from my memory

but the green bicycle has become

a family legend

along with my sister’s foot.


9 Oct

Three recent books have me thinking about how authors peel back the layers of a story.

In The Fever by Megan Abbott, a mysterious epidemic is ravaging the teenage girls of a small town high school.


The premise sounds a lot lie Contagion,  which I reviewed a few weeks ago. In this story, however, we have three people narrating the story: Deenie, a high school girl whose friends have been affected; Eli, her brother and high school hockey star; and their dad, Tom, who teaches at their high school. Each character peels back the layers of the story from their own perspective, revealing details about the community in which they live.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin is a written as a collection if oral interviews tracing the events that lead to the untimely death of an up and coming artist.


The story is told by family members, boyfriends, teachers, friends and competitors, and magazine photos and newspaper clippings, with occasional insets of her art. The portraits they paint conflict and don’t always create a sympathetic portrait. No one comes out of this well. Each narrator has their own stake in the myth and marketing of Addison Stone and reveals as much about themselves as they do about Addison Stone.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf  by Ambelin Kwaymullina has one narrator, but plays around with layers of memory.


Unlike the two previous realistic novels, this is a YA dystopian novel. We meet Ashala in prison where she is forced to endure “the machine” a tool that will extract memories and secrets from her mind, revealing a plot against the order. Or so Chief Administrator Neville Rose, a man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe, believes. I almost gave this book up, thinking it was what it appeared to be on the surface, but once Ashala’s interrogation began, I realized this book was not just another  YA dystopian novel. We get to go places in Ashala’s memory Neville Rose cannot and it is really worth going there.

All three of these were really enjoyable reads and I highly recommend them.


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