TUESDAY TEASER

This meme encourages the reader to take a random few lines from where he/she is reading or will read and quote them in hopes of teasing other readers into reading the same book. It is hosted by the Purple Booker and has a huge following. (When posting your teaser, be sure to mention the title and author of the book; no spoilers, please).

I have selected “The Quiet Child” by John Burley as my letter “Q” book for the Alphabet Challenge.  Here is a brief teaser from the novel.

“Sean emerged from the aisle with two cartons of ice cream in hand, the coffee and sugar balanced on top. He set them down on the counter and walked over to the rack of comics in the shop’s entryway. A dying glimmer of sunlight spilled through the door’s window, illuminating the back of the boy’s head, a hint of scalp visible beneath the dusky blonde crew cut, the tan neck bent slightly to study the illustrated covers.” Sean was the son allowed to go into the store with his father. Danny, Sean’s brother is the quiet child who was told, “…I want you to stay here [in the car]…There was no dissent from Danny–Would there ever be”?

I am not sure about what the book entails, but I suspect the quiet child is autistic, and I am very interested in autism because of contact with autistic children and young men and women over fifty years of teaching where autistic pupils were mainstreamed (or undiagnosed) with other children/young adults. In this novel, the idea is stretched into something almost supernatural as the “quiet child” is shunned as one who brings ill fortune and even disease to those around him. Both brothers evidently go missing, and the “consequences of finding the two brothers may be worse than not finding them at all.”

FRIDAY REVIEW The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz (author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe)

This 2017 publication was one of my favorite reads in 2018. The story opens with the protagonist, Sal, saying, “Maybe I’d always had the wrong idea as to who I really was.” By the end of the book, “Sally,” to his best friend Sam (short for Samantha), discovers his true identity. His birth certificate name is Salvadore, and his perceptive, gay dad refers to him as “Salvie.” A senior in high school, Sal deals with anger issues–Did the “urge” to fight come from his biological father?  Was this unknown man, so unlike his easy-going adopted father, Vincente, the origin of the trait that so often gets him into trouble?

Throughout the novel, Sal deals with the anger/hurt/sense of loss that comes with the death of his mother before he was old enough to have memories of her, and he faces the impending death of his grandmother who raised him. Conflicting emotions of Mexicans/Anglos and the culture of each tear at Sal as he faces applying for and choosing a college. Bullying raises its ugly head in Inexplicable Logic as does the search for identity every teen faces.

This is not the pointless angst so many YA novels offer, but an in-depth exploration of a representative of the “younger generation” that would benefit my generation to examine.  It is a good read and one that most readers will not soon forget.

LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS REVIEW OF TWO SPECIAL YA BOOKS ABOUT TWO SPECIAL YOUNG ADULTS

Tru and Nelle and Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale, both written by G. Neri and illustrated by Sarah Watts, are about the childhood and teenage friendships of Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Nelle Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird). When interviewed as to why he wrote the refreshing novels, Neri said he “used their (Capote and Lee’s) childhood friendship in Monroeville, Alabama as fodder for (his) fiction.” The author continued, “I was intrigued that no one had ever written about that friendship, especially for young people.” (Neri, interviewed in “Taking with G. Neri” / Books and Writers (magazine)

Neri recommends the first novel, Tru and Nelle for second through sixth graders and T and N: A Christmas Story for middle school students.  At the end of the first book, Tru leaves Monroeville where he had spent the summer with his aunt for New York City to live with his mother and stepfather. The second novel begins with Tru running away from a military school his mother had placed him in as an attempt to “man him up,” and he heads to Monroeville.  There he is awaited by Nelle and Big Boy, the notorious detective story enthusiasts and “agents” from childhood who are now growing into their pre-teen and teenage years. The setting is 1930’s Monroeville, home of the Jim Crow laws, the Klu Klux Klan and Southern Injustice. All characters, events, and places are “drawn from real life,” characters and events. Beginning with Tru’s Aunt’s house burning to the ground, leaving the family homeless at Christmas, an event Nelle’s father feels he is responsible for, the tale is described as “speculative fiction in search of poetic truth.” Both books are funny, sad, touching and well-researched.

The first book is deliberately reminiscent of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the second deals with teenage angst, search for sexual identity, and zaniness of the teen years. Both are excellent books.

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS

The kids who would respond well to the novel(s) I am reviewing today would more likely be sleeping in, scrunched up under the covers, on Saturday mornings than watching cartoons.  Alice Hoffman has written some wonderful YA novels along with her outstanding adult novels, which turn something ordinary into something extraordinary, using a “touch”of the supernatural. The double novel, Green Heart contains two novellas, Green Angel and Green Witch.

As with Faithful (reviewed earlier on this blog), the protagonist is a fifteen year old girl. Like Faithful, Hoffman’s sophisticated novellas could be labeled “coming-of-age stories.”  This double novel is  a “two-fold story of loss and love.” The fifteen-year-old Green Angel maintains a wonderful garden which bears plants, vegetables, and flowers that her family takes with them when they go to town to market. One October weekend, her whole family goes off to market and are lost in a terrible fire that consumes the market and the town. Ashes from this disaster even cover the countryside farm where she had stayed behind. Also, the young man she loved is missing. Has he betrayed her, or has he been betrayed? Her only consolation is working in the ruined garden where nothing will grow. Slowly, over years, she resurrects the garden, with Hoffman’s signature touch of the supernatural, touch of magic.

Over time, she begins to heal. She learns the truth about love, hope, and magic. One day, the Green Angel, “branded [by her neighbors] for her mysterious powers,” and called a witch by little children, begins a quest to discover what became of the boy she had once loved.

The exciting end of the quest and the “battle” that ensues demonstrates the Angel/Witch’s craftiness and dedication to love. The ending is quite satisfactory.

Interestingly enough the metaphor of tattoos prevails throughout the novel(s). The first,vines, inked in green and self-inflicted by the devastated young fifteen-year-old, foreshadow many more tattoos of growing things and becomes a major theme of resurrection, life and change.

To me, this was a magical, beautifully written book, one of Alice Hoffman’s best. I give it five stars out of five.

First Line Fridays (on Thanksgiving night–Thursday)

I promised the first line of Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird, my Tuesday Teaser choice for Friday’s post:

“You can’t believe EVERYTHING YOU HEAR, not even in Sidwell, Massachusetts, where every person is said to tell the truth and the apples are so sweet people come from as far as New York City during the apple festival. There are rumors that a mysterious creature lives in our town. Some people insist it’s a bird bigger than an eagle; others say it’s a dragon, or an oversized bat that resembles a person.”

Whatever it is, “Twig,” the young protagonist is determined to find out.

TUESDAY TEASER

This meme, hosted by The Purple Booker, and caught my eye on my friend’s blog, Brainfluff, is one I love to participate in. Here is my teaser from Nightbird, a YA novel by Alice Hoffman:

“‘She’s a natural,’ Mrs. Meyers cheerfully announced.

‘A natural witch’? my mother seemed confused and insulted.

‘Not at all, my dear. A natural actress. Not many have true talent, but when they do, it’s usually the shy ones. They just bloom onstage.'”

And, this is just page 14. Hoffman’s touch of the supernatural is at work here and the novel promises to be a terrific read. Watch Friday for the opening of this same book in First Line Fridays.

 

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS (On Sunday)

I’m having trouble with my laptop and could not post Saturday’s post.  I did what most Senior Citizens do when having technology problems–asked my grandson. The result is I have the missing “Write” tab back.  Thank you Dr. P.

Saturday’s book is one of the best kid/YA books I have read (and I have read many in 50 years of teaching). Jordan Sonnenblick’s novel, Zen and the Art of Faking It, is a funny, age-appropriate book. San Lee, a teenager and his mother have left Houston where his father is in prison and have relocated to a small apartment in a Pennsylvania town. It is quite an adjustment for everyone. San thinks, “Blending in is impossible, so maybe it’s time for me to stand out.” San begins to invent a “new” past for himself that makes him very popular.He has let the students think he is a Buddhist who practices meditation. He meets a really cool girl who becomes his friend.  Of course, eventually things start to unravel.

Here, at the front of the book, is “A Note to the Reader”:

“Have you ever switched schools? I have, and let me tell you–a school is a school is a school.  Every middle school on God’s green earth smells exactly the same because damp lockers, industrial cleaning fluids, and puke are universal. The lunch is the same: How many ways can you flavor a freakin’ Tater Tot? The guys are the same: like a show on Animal Planet without the cuddle factor.  The girls are the same: Martians with human hormones. And the teachers? Please.

So when I dragged my feet in their rotting sandals through the gray midwinter slush and up the stairs of Harrisonville Middle School for the first time. I knew exactly what I was getting into. Sure I did.”

I highly recommend this book to kids and kid-friendly adults everywhere.

TUESDAY TEASER

This little game, originally started by the Purple Booker asks that you copy a couple of sentences from what you are currently reading to tease someone into reading the same book you are. Be careful not to give anything away (no spoilers, please). In the comments section, please include the title and author of the book you are reading, then your Tuesday Teaser.

Mine for today is from a YA book, The Lightning Thief  by Rick Riordan: The three main characters are about to hitch a ride from a van carrying old, tired zoo animals to the West Coast where the three (all of whom have a superhuman side to them) are to carry on their quest to save the world.

“We huddled in the corner on some mildewed feed sacks, trying to ignore the smell and the heat and the flies.  Grover talked to the animals in a series of goat bleats (Grover is a young satyr) but they just stared at him sadly.  Annabeth was in favor of breaking the cages and freeing them on the spot, but I pointed out that it wouldn’t do much good until the truck stopped moving. Besides, I had a feeling that we might look much better to that lion than those turnips.” (which was all that the lion had been given to eat)  The main character, Percy, is the son of Poseidon, which he doesn’t find out until junior high school when strange things begin to happen to him and strange creatures are “out to get him.” Of course the other kids in the school think he is just weird.

The book is entertaining and a good adventure-read.

 

ANOTHER BROOKLYN by Jacqueline Woodson: A Review

The thing that made me check this book out from the library was that Ann Patchett recommended it on the cover blurb.  It is a 2016 publication, and I had never read Woodson before.  Set in Brooklyn during the 1970’s “where friendship was everything,” this coming of age novel features August, Sylvia, Angela and Gi Gi. Yes, it is a coming-of-age novel, but the way it is written makes it much more. Brooklyn, itself is a character, “…a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways.”

Sometimes the writing is like reading poetry, and this “gifted novelist,” a very young writer, is better known for Brown Girl Dreaming, a 2014 National Book Award winner. Woodson was also named “Young People’s Poet Laureate” by the Poetry Foundation, and her writing has been deemed “of literary quality.”  

Not only was Another Brooklyn a darned good story and a literary experience to read it, 1970’s Brooklyn is depicted accurately, yet sympathetically. After I read the book, I felt like I had been there.

THE FORTELLING by Alice Hoffman, a Review

I filled in the gap between Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City and Give a Boy a Gun this week by reading Alice Hoffman’s coming of age story, The Fortelling. This mystical, mythical 2005 publication is set in “ancient times of blood,” pre-dating history, when Amazons rode their magnificent horses across the Russian Steppes.

Rain, born in sorrow and destined to become queen, cannot force the current queen, her mother, to love her. Even the shaded illustrations and patterns on the pages create a misty background for the visions that come out of the fog and the smoke of the women’s fires. What is the significance of the black horse Rain sees when the ancient priestess throws her potions into the fires to accomplish the foretelling? What are the strange dreams she has that haunt and worry her as she changes from a warrior girl to a leader-queen?

Mothers and daughters alike will enjoy this novel where genres of YA and women’s literature are blurred. Better yet, read it aloud to each other, luxuriating in the poetic wording and phrasing handled so well by Hoffman. I recommend this novel to all women, regardless of their age or reading preferences.