I swear, when the children's notable book discussion is done on Wednesday, I'm reading the fattest, most complicated, most adult-type novel I can find. I love children's lit. I love YA lit, but man. That's all I've read for the past month and a half! War and Peace here I come! I think. The problem is, in my library, all classics are classified as YA anyway. Gah. I don't know. Ideas?
Anyway... more stuff I've read recently (and this is all in the week. Gah. I've been busy reading. I want to be busy knitting. le sigh
A Dance of Sisters Tracy Porter
Y'all know I love ballet books. This is a young YA/old children's book. A good bridge book between the two age classifications... and I liked most of it. Porter knows her ballet. She knows her crazy Russian ballet teachers. She knows the struggle of it. Delia is the younger sister in a messed-up family (Dead mother, distant father, rebellious witch-craft practicing older sister) and a promising young ballet dancer. This is the story about the relationship between the sisters, which was nice, but not as well done as Delia's struggle with ballet. Overall I liked it... kinda. The ending seemed really quick. To the point where I think Porter must have gone: "Holy crap! this is already 200 pages long! Must end now!" My other caveats are here. Where I totally give away the ending.
Godless Pete Hautman
Basically, one boring summer, Jason wonders what if the water tower were God? And so he starts a church worshipping the water tower and it's fun and then gets totally out of hand. His friend Shin takes it way too far (and is a true believer?). The local bully tries to subvert it to make them go along with his reckless ways and in the end, it all blows up in Jason's face. As you know it must. Well written and award winning, I loved this book excpet for this one thing. It asks tough questions about the church and organized religion, but never really questions whether or not there is a god, but just what his/her form is and the proper way to worship.
Who Am I Without Him? : Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their LivesSharon Flake
Despite the title, this is actually a good book for boys and girls. A collection of short stories about teenage looooooove and relationships, it's a fast read and some of the girls are really really really stupid over their boys in ways that only 15 year olds can be. I will say that this is about mainly urban, black teens (but a range of classes) and it didn't speak to me much as someone who grew up white in a small city. Parts of teenage stupid loooooooove are the same the world over though and those parts really got me thinking about how stupid we used to be.
Body Bags: A Body of Evidence Thriller #1Christopher Golden
This is a forensic thriller. Pulpy. Not great literature. I couldn't put it down. I may or may not go on and read some of the other titles in the series. I'm not sure yet. Basically, freshman in college Jenna Blake gets a job as a pathology assistant in the morgue. People are dying from some weird disease that turns their brains into mush, and makes them go on murderous rampages before dropping dead, including her advisor on the first day of class. Conspiracies that only Jenna can see and figure out ensure. My main problem with the book is that it got some details really really wrong. These are small details. For instnace, at one point Jenna puts on a "baby doll tee with spaghetti straps". Um, baby doll tees don't come with spagetti straps. That's a tank top, not a baby doll. Not a big deal, but if he can't get a t-shirt right, I wonder about the science. That and she has dial-up in her dorm. No one in the late 90s had dial up in the dorms. T1 baby! Woo!
When We Were SaintsHan Nolan
This is a beautifully written and moving novel. Archie lives in the country on a farm in rural Appalachia, is home schooled, and never gotten along well with his bible-thumping grandfather and is a bit taken aback when his grandfather's last words are "you are a saint". Is it prophecy? Or a curse? Enter Claire, who has visions on the Virgin Mary and a plan for them to become saints. Powerful stuff that questions the true believers, the estatics, and what it means to be a saint. Could be good teaching stuff if paired with the writings of St Clare and St Francis of Assisi. Could also be seen as really offensive and sacriligeous by the more sensitive.
The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch Joseph Delaney
This is the first book in a promising new children's series. Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son and is apprenticed to the Spook, a lonely job of protecting people from super natural trouble. So Tom begins learning about Boggarts and Witches, Ghasts and Ghosts and how to bind them and talk to them and whether they are good or bad... spooky, kinda scary, well-written and just plain good, I look forward to the next installments!
The Old African Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
A beautiful, subtle, moving, and magical tale about slavery and the strength of the human spirit and collective memory. And the pictures by Pinkney make this a book to be savored and poured over time and again.
Maritcha : A Nineteenth-Century American GirlTonya Bolden.
God, this book sucked. There's no way around it. Maritcha is a middle-class free-born black girl in Manhatten that was born in 1848. Although she did eventually sue Rhode Island for the right to attend public school, she was not overly remarkable and this could have just been a nice book that looks into a segment of America in history that we don't really ever see or talk about. But! It is poorly written. It reads like Bolden doesn't know how to write for children (which is weird, because she does) and so just dumped down the story. Take the case of the New York draft riots in 1863:
A march on the draft office followed the rally and before long--mayhem! Telegraph poles--hacked down! Rail tracks--yanked up! Wooden fences--ripped apart!
Instead of fully coneying the destruction and horror, it sounds almost silly and does a great injustice to the reader. That and the font is really hard to read. More than once I read 1863 and 1868.