Tag Archives: orphans

A limited time

1 Sep

By the end of the day yesterday, I started seeing the shimmering signs of an ocular migraine. Am I feeling stressed about being ready by the end of the day today? You betcha!

Working to a deadline can be hard and stressful. The children of Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder, are living to a deadline.

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Publisher’s Summary: For readers who loved Sara Pennypacker’s Pax and Lois Lowry’s The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

Jinny isn’t ready and makes many poor decisions, some of which have rather significant consequences for everyone, and for the island itself.

Change is coming

27 Aug

Teachers in my district go back to work tomorrow. I went to school three days last week in order to get some work done, but also to practice getting up and going to work. It makes the transition easier.

The main character in Paul Mosier’s Train I Ride doesn’t get a chance to practice. Rydr has change thrust upon her.

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In case you can’t see it, the blurb on the front says “She found her family before she found her home.

Publisher’s Summary: A beautifully poignant debut perfect for fans of authors such as Rebecca Stead and Sharon Creech and books like Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish. When Rydr travels by train from Los Angeles to Chicago, she learns along the way that she can find family wherever she is.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago, to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a backpack, memories both happy and sad, and a box, containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own story begins to emerge. It’s one of sadness and heartache, and one Rydr would sometimes like to forget. But as much as Rydr may want to run away from her past, on the train she finds that hope and forgiveness are all around her, and most importantly, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

There is so much I love about this book. Rydr is a little hard to like at first, but she blossoms as she meets strangers on the train and starts forming her family. Although Rydr is white, the other characters are a diverse lot. Set over the course of three days on a train, we are able to see Rydr blossom, and I can’t lie, this book made me cry. It also made me want to read Howl,  by Allen Ginsburg.

This book might be a long shot for the Newbery, but it is one my Mock Newbery Club will read.

Speaking of my Mock Newbery club, thanks to everyone who contributed to my Donors Choose project. That is complete and the books will ship to arrive after September 8th. I have a second fundraiser running through our local, district based donors choose type program and I am only $250 away from fulfilling that, but it seems to have stalled.  You can help me complete it by making a tax-deductible donation here. I am thankful for whatever you can do to help.

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The Families We Make

2 Sep

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Lucky Strikes,  by Louis Bayard, opens with the death of Melia’s mother.

“Mama died hard. you should know that.”

She is 14 years old and now the head of her family. It’s the depression, but she can run the gas station her Mama established.  Melia is rough, but smart. She knows she needs to come up with a plan to keep her two siblings (Earle and Janey) and herself out of the hands of the good women of Walnut Ridge, Virginia, who will surely want to put them all in separate foster homes.

Melia has never met her father and Mama told her nothing. Janey and Earle’s father is in jail. So, the arrival of a drunken hobo named Hiram seems to be the answer to her prayers. He can pose as her father so the family can stay together while she figures out how to make it all work until she is legally old enough.

Forces work against her: do-gooders who want to split the family; a local man who wants to take over her gas station. But forces also work for her. Although she is foul-mouthed and unpolished, Melia has a heart of gold. The truckers who stop at her station, Hiram and several other characters are drawn to the small family and, though not related by blood, are like family.

Another “last” on my TBR pile

17 Jun

Looking through the archives of this blog, I realize I’ve never written about Catherine Jinks’ Bogle books. Well, the last book, The Last Bogler,  is now out,

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so it is about time I talk about the series, which opened with How to Catch a Bogle.

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Which was followed by  A Plague of Bogles.

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The three-part series is sort of a Ghostbusters set in Dickensian England. In the first book, we  meet Birdie McAdam, a ten-year-old orphan, who is proud of her job as apprentice to Alfred the Bogler, a man who catches monsters for a living. Birdie lures the bogles out of their lairs with her sweet songs, and Alfred kills them before they kill her. On the mean streets of Victorian England, hunting bogles is actually less dangerous work than mudlarking for scraps along the vile river Thames. Or so it seems—until the orphans of London start to disappear . Book two focuses more on Jem Barabary, a minor character in the first book.  According to descriptions, book three centers on  Ned Roach who becomes a bogler’s apprentice, and works with Birdie, Jem and Alfred to rid London of bogles once and for all.

As I was looking for pictures of the books, I learned that the Bogle series is known as the City of Orphans series elsewhere in the world and the book also have different titles (A Very Unusual Pursuit, A Very Peculiar Plague, and A Very Singular Guild)  with very different covers.

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No matter where you live or what they are called, this is a fun series that upper elementary readers will enjoy.

A Friday Surprise…on Wednesday

27 Apr

One of the arcs I picked up at ALA Midwinter in January was this

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My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter, is the tale of a Samuel, born in freedom, but, by a twist of fate is kidnapped and sold into slavery, just as the Civil War is ending.

Goodreads Summary: ‘This boy has bought me. This white boy who don’t even look as old as I am. He owns me body and soul and my worth has been set at six hundred dollars.’

Samuel’s an educated boy. Been taught by a priest. He was never supposed to be a slave.
He’s a good boy too, thoughtful and kind. The type of boy who’d take the blame for something he didn’t do if it meant he saved his brother. So now they don’t call him Samuel. Not anymore. And the sound of guns is getting ever closer…

An extraordinary tale of endurance and hope, Jon Walter’s second novel is a beautiful and moving story about the power of belief and the strength of the human spirit, set against the terrifying backdrop of the American Civil War.

This is great read for middle grade kids for a number of reasons. First, it tackles slavery and, though it doesn’t show the worst aspects, it shows many horrible aspects of it. It shows the power of reading and the power of  faith without being preachy. I will say that the opening, which begins with a blind-folded Samuel being carried off to be sold into slavery, is a little confusing. Walter opens with a classic “start in the middle” strategy that might turn off a reader. Once they are in through, readers will find Samuel a reliable narrator and a good friend.

Soccer Goals

24 Nov

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When I saw my class list in late August I noticed a name I recognized and knew to be a naughty boy. I was surprised when there was none of the naughtiness I anticipated. Instead, I found a young man who has to work hard at school, but was a positive influence. I just figured he had matured.

At conferences, his mother told me that he was on a soccer team and his coach had very high scholastic expectations for his players. If they don’t do their homework or get in trouble at school, they don’t play, or might even lose their place on the team. Soccer has really turned this boy around.

In Eugene Yelchin’s Arcady’s Goal,  Arcady is an excellent soccer player, but lives a bleak life in an orphanage, the son of, what Stalinist Russia called, “enemies of the people”. One day his life changes and he is adopted by one of the orphanage inspectors. Believing the inspector is actually recruiting youth players for the Soviet’s greatest team -the Red Army- in disguise, Arcady calls his new benefactor Coach, and treats him like one, always trying to impress Coach with his skills. Ivan lives up to his new title, creating a youth soccer team just for Arcady to play on. There is no escape from the labels Stalinism has put on Arcady and Coach. However, as they learn to live together, they learn that this might be the glue holding their relationship together.

Short chapters and pencil sketches keep the reader interested. I think I might like this book even more than I liked Breaking Stalin’s Nose,  which was a 2012 Newbery Honor winner. The author;s note at the end is beautiful and heart-breaking.

Up on the Roof

14 Apr

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 “On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.”

What an enticing opening line to Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.

This is how we meet Sophie, the heroine , whom everyone believes to be an orphan. She alone believes her mother is out there somewhere. Raised in England by her quirky male guardian, Charles Maxim,  Sophie is something of a free spirit. Alas, bureaucracy has no room for free-spiritedness, or with single male guardians. When she turns twelve, bureaucrats decide  that Charles is no longer suitable guardian and Sophie would be best served by an orphanage. Of course, they flee. Fortunately, they flee to Paris where that can investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the sinking of the boat that left Sophie floating int he English Channel. Along the way, Sophie meets real orphans who live in trees and on the rooftops of Paris.

Aside from a brilliant story, the writing is wonderful. Katherine Rundell manages to be quirky without being pretentious. In doing so she captures Sophie’s innocence and naiveté.

 

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