Friday, June 23, 2006

scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen (this means you really love me)

I try not to blog about work too much, because, you know me, the consumate professional. Or something.

But there's something I wanted to bring up. I've talked before about classics education today and have bemoaned the fact that I've never studied Dickens or Austen or Bronte.

Now, when I have a kid who asks me for a book that is way beyond their level, I gladly give it to them. I read The Mists of Avalon in 4th grade, Les Miserables in 6th. My mom told me later that I didn't understand most of the content, so no harm done except for a rather pretentious vocabulary.

Earlier this week, I had a customer come in looking for the classic Greek authors for homeschooling her 4th and 5th grader. I showed her several workings of these that we have at that age level. No, she wanted to teach them The Iliad and Oedipus Rex in translation, not a children's version. Uhhhh...

I expressed suprise at such difficult material. She said she wanted them to reach a little. I mean, I read The Illiad in 8th grade, and I was reaching. But she was all on her homeschool kick and how they're better than average and how I wasn't homeschooled so blah blah. I wanted to smack her. Sure, I went to public school, but I grew up in Lake Woebegone, so whatever.

But I showed her where everything was and she picked up a copy of The Brothers Karamazov and asked me how to pronounce Doestoevsky. Riiiiiiiiiiight. She then told me that he was on her forgotten list of Greek guys she wanted to teach. I told her he was Russian.

But beyond that, lets say these kids do have a reading level of that age. I'm not saying they shouldn't read it, but they shouldn't be taught it. It's one thing to read and understand the content to the best of our ability, but do you really want to give a 4th grader a lesson on the Oedipus complex? About Smedrikov's parental situation? About patricide? And why Ivan drinks so much vodka? Seriously?

There is a difference between reading level and content level. Let kids be kids. Damn.

Anyway... so, I finally bought Meat Is Murder by The Smiths, because I am in love with "Rusholme Ruffians". Maybe because I've seen a Platt Field's fun fair so I can feel like I understand it on a deeper level or someother crap like that, but it's a good song. I've been listening to the disc non-stop for the last few days. Also, because I am the world's biggest idiot, I didn't know that "How Soon is Now?" is a Smiths song. Or didn't realize what song it was. Because it came on and I was like "Wha?"


In honor of the last night of the fair, here are some books that talk about The Smiths.

Charmed Thirds Megan McCafferty

Our Not-so Darling Jessica is off to college. There's lots of touching stuff with her sister and her parents and Marcus and blah blah and if you liked the others, you'll like this one.

But what I really liked about this one is that it gave a really accurate picture of college life. There are a bunch of pissy reviews on Amazon of people who are obviously not in college about how Jessica changed to much and what happened and why didn't she stay in touch with blah blah blah... but that's what happens when you go to college. You become a different person. You lose touch with the kids from high school. You become an adult (gasp! I know!)

I also like the little details thrown in of Brita-filtered Vladimir and and Ali G-style "Respek". And even the talk about Facebook. Except McCafferty calls it THE Facebook. Ha.

Most of all, I loved that Jessica discovered early on that college is college and the college experience isn't unique to your university. The mind-altering life changing thoughts and experiences? Every other college kid is having them too. I liked that she realized this early. I liked how it crushed her. Because that moment was just SO TRUE. And so rare in literature. Especially when the character is at the author's alma mater, which is the case here.

I also loved this bit of irony

He's one of those shaggy-haired sideburned emos who owes a great debt to Conor Oberst as the champion for man-children with ink on their hands and poetry in their heavy, heavy hearts.

Not only hilarious and true, but coming from the world's biggest Smiths and Morrisey fan. I mean, Morrissey has to be the FATHER of emo, and I don't think Jess realizes it.

Also, is it just me, or do YA authors give their teen characters a retro taste in music back the era that they were high schoolers in, so the characters can feel all deep and meaningful about the same music that the author did instead of this crap that these young whippersnappers are listening to today?

King Dork Frank Portman

I read this because Michael at Bookslut won't shut up about it.

And with good reason. An excellent anti-Catcher, pro rock-and-roll novel that is hilarious.

It also contains such passages as this:

I should mention that Catcher in the Rye is this book from the fifties. It is every teacher's favorite book. The main guy is a kind of misfit kid superhero neamed Holden Caulfield. For teacher he is the ultimate guy, a real dream boat. They love him to pieces. They all want to have sex with him and with the book's author, too, and they'd probably even try to do it with the book itself if they could figure out a way to go about it. It changed their lives when they were young. As kids, they carried it with them everywhere they went. They solemnly resolved that, when they grew up, they would dedicate their lives to spreading The Word.

It's kind of like a cult.

His riffs on the drama kids (at his school faux-hippies, at the other high school, faux-mods) high school pecking order and the endless litany of band names he comes up with. Plus, sex, drugs and murder. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

Even if the glossary does define The Smiths as "Music for sad people"

There's also this great bit about this other band that's mainly doing covers of the Smiths, the Cure, and Joy Division (whom I am also in love with)

The irony was that the singer was Dennis Thela, who was among the most sadistic alpha psychos the normal world had to offer. In other words, he was a major player in the nation of perpetrators. He and his evil super bitch girlfriend had been responsible for half of the suicide attempts, nervous breakdowns and eating disorders in the greater Bay Area. It's guys like Dennis Thela who made the Smiths, the Cure and Joy Division necessary in the first place. I had thought normal people and that sort of music were mutually exclusive, but I guess I was wrong. It's a funny world.

How can you not love that?!

And, even though it never mentions The Smiths,

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

DOES talk about The Catcher in the Rye.

This is a collection 20 poems, each told by another high school student. They don't focus around the same event or even the same period in time. Just 20 takes on life in high school, with some inter-related stories.

Including one great poem from a guy who's going crazy because his girlfriend is in love with Holden Caufield. HA HA HA.

But it's great, because everything Levithan writes is great.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Catching Up-- Fairy Tales

Well... I've been reading a whole heck of a lot and work's been pretty busy lately. So, here's to trying to catch up a bit!!!! I still haven't blogged everything I read in May, let alone so far in June! Plus, I have pages and pages of banned books to tell you about (unfortuneately...)

Anyway... here we go!

The Goose Girl Shannon Hale

You remember how much I loved and adored Princess Academy? This is just as good, if not better. Written for a slightly older audience than Academy, Goose Girl retells the not-as-well-known Grimm fairy tale. Princess Ani of Kildenree is being married off to a far-off prince as part of a diplomatic deal between the two countries. One her way, her handmaid and a faction of her escort overthrow her, instating the handmaid as the princess and forcing Ani to run for her life in the woods. Eventually, she reaches the new kingdom, but is forced into hiding. She must disguise her distinctive blond hair in a country of brunettes and change her name to Isi. She gets a job tending the king's geese as she tries and finds a way to regain her rightful position.

At the same time, she see's the injustice in this new land. She passes herself off as one of the people from the forest, but sees how the forest people are never accepted by the city people and not allowed to become full citizens. Of course, her traitorous guards know she's around and are looking for her...

In the end, in addition to an excellent fairy tale, there are also deep lessons about belonging, justice, inner strength, friendship, and discovering who you are.

More than this though, Hale's prose and her sense of place and location make this book a sheer delight and quickly making her one of my favorite authors.

Enna Burning Shannon Hale

This is a companion book to Goose Girl and is an originial tale, not a retelling. In this book, Ani's friend Enna takes the lead war as Bayern is faced with an invading army. Ani's gift of wind-speak is grown out of control to the point where it overwhelms her. Enna has learned the secret of fire-speak and uses her gift in battle but must live with the consequences of burning people alive. Her gift is also raging out of control with the war far from over, she, and Bayern need help.

This is a powerful followup to Goose Girl and perhaps my favorite of Hale's three works so far. I highly recommend.

Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham

Ooooo.... a graphic novel series has finally sucked me in, big time. Here is an underground community of Fable-characters who are exiled in modern day New York. Back when it was still New Amsterdam, they fled after their various kingdoms and worlds were taken over by the unknown Adversary. Fabletown is led by Mayor King Cole, but everyone knows that Deputy Mayor Snow White is the real power behind the throne, with sheriff Bigby (Big Bad Wolf) keeping order. In this first book, which is the first 5 comic books bound into one collection,Snow's sister, Rose Red is missing, possibly murdered... fun stuff!

Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm

Rose is paying off her community service debt up at The Farm, where Fabletowns non-human residents live. When Rose gets there, she finds herself embroiled in a communist plot to take over the farm and eventually return to the homelands. With Goldilocks as the communist revolutionary, followed in Orwellian fashion by the three little pigs, there is a battle on...

Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Love

This is great, because we have some stand-alone stories in addition to adding on to the story arc of the previous two books. There's a Civil War Era tale of Jack's, plus the history of how the Liliputians escaped and the origins of their current coming-of-age ritual of trying to steal a piece of magic barley-corn. There is also a non-story arc story in the modern fabletown community where a journalist is onto the Fables... but misreads the evidence. After confronting Bigby with the news that he knows they're all vampires, they come up with a plot involving Sleeping Beauty's special talents...

In the title story, things get down to business as we discover whose side Bluebeard is really on, as well as the return of previous villians. Bigby and Snow are targeted and forced into hiding and the end reveals a big secret that has you *dying* for the next installment!

Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers

This starts with Boy Blue's retelling of the last battle of the Homelands, descibing the battle, and the survivor's guilt faced by those on the last ship that made it to the New York.

This also sets up the main story of the return on Red Riding Hood, who wasn't on the last ship. But is she who she says she is? There's been goblin sightings and even worse, the portal has been reopened and the Advesary's forces have found them. Fabletown is once again battling for their very exsistance, but this time in the heart of fundy New York.

Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons

The early tales in this volume see Bigby's war stories and Cinderella's true nature.

In the main story, we follow a year in the life of Fabletown. Charming wins the election and there's a new adminstration. Beauty and the Beast have a hard time learning the ropes and Charming sees that not all promises can be kept. Snow gives birth relocates to the farm with Rose. Bigby dissappears and the North Wind shows up to give some pointers to his grandchildren. This volume doesn't see the amount of action as the previous ones, but it packs a true emotional punch. Very well done and probably my favorite.

Fables Vol. 6: Homelands

We start with a one-off on where Jack went to, which introduces his own new spin-off series.

In the mean time, we see Fabletown, where Blue has run off with Pinnochio and gone back to the homelands, ready to face down the advesary, whom we finally see and discover. We are also told that so far only the European worlds were taken, but the adversary is expanding, and the Asian and African worlds are set to fall as well...

Which has me really really excited for...Fables: Vol. 7 Arabian Nights (and Days) which comes out a week from today. I can't decide whether to buy it or not, because I've read all the others in the library, but they haven't even ordered it yet, so who knows when we're getting it?!

The Sisters Grimm : The Problem Child Michael Buckley

In this third installment, there is a Jabberwocky lose in Ferryport. We also have the return of a long lost relative and Granny Grimm's reluctance to take on a case, which has Sabrina and Daphne worried. There is an election for Ferryport mayor and we meet the Little Mermaid, the Blue Fairy and Baba Yaga. Puck is gravely injured and it looks like the only way to save him and deal with the Jaberwocky is the vorpal blade... which was destroyed. Sabrina also learns how addictive magic can be and the high price one pays for using it. Very good! I can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

YA Angst (or, not enough sex, drugs, or rock & roll)

Are We There Yet? David Levithan

In this wonderfully lyric tale, Levitahn tells the story of two brothers, Danny and Elijah. Danny is motivated, driven, a pre-planner, and a work-a-holic rising star at his New York Corporate Firm. Elijah, seven years his junior, is laid back, a bit of a stoner, and a spur-of-the-moment type of guy who takes time to truly see the world around him. Danny doesn't think Elijah knows how to make a living. Elijah doesn't think Danny knows how to make a life. Their parents trick them into spending nine days together, alone, in Italy. Both predict utter disaster. The entrance of the beautiful Julia doesn't help matters any.

Despite all this, Levitahn manages to craft a story that is sweet, but not sappy, with a realistic happy ending that one can actually believe in. He paints a beautiful picture of a real relationship between two brothers trying to figure out each other and themselves.

Rainbow Party Paul Ruditis

In this conterversial book, Gin is planning a Rainbow Party-- where a group of girls each put on a different color of lipstick and give blowjobs to a group of guys-- leaving behind a rainbow. (Although one character does point out that the lipstick would just get all smeared together and make a mess of brown, but that's neither here nor there.) The book follows the characters through about five hours of time on the afternoon and evening of the party-- Gin who's preparing and the classmates who are contemplating going.

Although the book tries to deal with the sexual politics involved in such a situation, double standards, and teen motivation for sexual practice, it remains a relatively light book. Not funny, but it doesn't get very deep. Despite the subject matter, it is not sexualy provacative or explicit and is fairly tame. Still, it was a fairly enjoyable read and teen sex and relationships and one more example of why people getting all up in arms about books they haven't read are just stupid.

Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras Cathy Hopkins

Lucy is 14 and looks like she's 12. Maybe. Her friends all easily pass for 16. Her best friend since forever, Izzy, is hanging out with the new girl in school, Nesta and Lucy is feeling more and more left out and left behind. It's time to choose what subjects to do for GCSEs (and then eventually A levels) and her friends and classmates have it all figured out. Lucy is clueless what she wants to be when she grows up. Then, she meets the most perfect boy and must try and get him to notice her, 12 year old body and all.

One more installment to the neurotic teen genre that I love so much, Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras is more serious than of Georgia Nicolson or Angelica Cookson Potts and less laugh-out-loud-hysterically funny. But, it is still nice in a fluffy teen chick-lit sort of way. There are a million books in this series and I haven't read them all, but I will!

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole Sue Townsend

Adrian's back! And more angsty than ever (which is exactly how we like him!) In this novel, there is more ups and downs with Pandora, more ups and downs with his parents' relationship, more rejected poetry from the BBC... Adrian befriends Barry Kent and tries a brief stint as a yob, runs away and contemplates suicide. As cringe-inducing and hysterical as the first, Adriane endures as the angstyiest of all the angsty British teens I love so well...

Adrian Mole : The Lost Years Sue Townsend

More Adrian! He finally gets on the BBC, finishes school, loses Pandora for good, has sex, gets a job, and another and another and another and another. His mum gets married! His little sister and brother grow, his grandmother dies... he moves to London... Adrian is all grown up, and he does it beautifully, while still being Adrian, but not always being an obnoxious brat...

This also has a slightly different format than the other books-- in addition to diary entries, there are sections told in letters and radio transcripts. We also get large chunks of Adrian's magnus opus, Lo! The Flat Hills of my Homeland. Also, large chunks of time are missing as Adrian rapidly matures. It's a change that works well.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Clue into Reading!

Well, this year, the theme for Summer Reading is mysteries... so, here's a whole bevy of kiddie whodunits!

Chasing Vermeer Blue Balliet

What does it mean that Calder finds an old box with a painting by Vermeer and then finds the painting again hanging in a house? What does it mean that Petra dreams about a woman and then finds out that woman is in a valuable Vermeer painting that gets stolen? Petra and Calder are surrounded by weird coincidences and odd patterns. Why was this painting stolen? Who stole it? Is the theft linked to Ms. Hussey’s homework assignment about life-changing letters? Can Petra and Calder find the painting?

This is an tremendously well-done book. Balliet really brings Chicago's Hyde Park alive and I'm planning to spend tomorrow at the National Gallery of Art so I can see Vermeer's "A Lady Writing"! This is wonderfully illustrated by Brett Helquist (who is probably best known in kidlit circles for doing the Lemony Snickett books) and clues are hidden in his illustrations-- a whole new puzzle to figure out! This book is full of puzzles, patterns, messages that need decoding and coincidences and will have greater questions how what makes an art expert and who can own art...

The Wright 3 Blue Balliet

In this sequel to Chasing Vermeer, Balliet turns from Vermeer to Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect who designed a famous house in Hyde Park, right by Petra, Calder, and Tommy’s school. But the Robie House is old and falling apart and the university wants to tear it down to send different sections to different museums. Ms. Hussey’s class is on the case! Can a building be art? Can a piece of art survive if you take it apart? Can the kids save the house? Why does Petra keep finding copies of The Invisible Man? Is the jade fish that Tommy found Frank Lloyd Wrights lost talisman? What are those voices Calder hears from the house and who are those strange men breaking in? More importantly, will Tommy and Petra ever be friends or will Calder have to choose? With more secret codes and clues hidden in the illustrations, Balliet tops her previos work-- The Wright 3 has even more suspense and coincidences and patterns than Chasing Vermeer!

The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

Sabrina and Daphne Grimm’s parents disappeared! They were taken right from their car and the only clue was a handprint made from red paint. After a year and a half in an orphanage they go to live with their grandmother, a woman that had always been told was dead. Their new town is weird and their grandmother is ever weirder–she thinks fairy tales are real and claims to be a detective to solve fairy tale crimes! According to Granny Grimm, they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, and they weren't writing bedtime stories. Fairy Tale characters (or everafters) are real, and they're trapped in Ferryport and the Grimms are charged with keeping them there...

Buckley succeeds in creating a believable fantasy world where your favorite fairy tale characters have to blend in with "normal" people and work real jobs like the rest of us... really well done. I'll admit I thought this would be a bit of a breeze-through book, but the quality of writing was suprisingly good and engrossing.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives - Book #1

Sabrina can’t believe that her grandmother thinks fairy tales are real. She really can’t believe that fairy tale characters live right in Ferryport. She really, really, really can’t believe that a local farm house didn’t blow up and was really stepped on by a giant. But then Mayor Charming and Glinda the Good Witch are involved in a cover-up and a giant kidnaps Granny Grimm! The Grimm sisters know they need to help and enlist the help of Shakespeare’s Puck, Jack the Giant Killer, and the Magic Mirror. But even then, can they figure out how to save Granny Grimm? Who let the giant out? Why? And is that a red handprint?

The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects - Book #2

Sabrina and Daphne are off to school. Daphne loves being in class with Snow White as a teacher, but Sabrina’s having a tougher time–she keeps getting teased and beat up. Things don’t get any better when Puck joins her class! But even Daphne can’t deny there are monsters loose in the school and they’re killing people. There are red handprints all over. Even Mayor Charming is turning to the Grimm Sisters for help solving the case! But Sabrina's anger at not being able to find her parents is growing. Coupled with the increased activity of the Scarlet Hand and resentment towards the Grimm family by certain elements in the Everafter community, she expands this hatred to all Everafters in general and is hindering the investigation. This is an action-packed follow up to The Fairy-Tale Detectives and the cliffhanger ending will have you waiting for the next installment. As Daphne would say, This book is so punk rock!

The Lady Grace Mysteries Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler writing as Grace Cavendish

Lady Grace is a maid-of-honor to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth I, and her secret detective. Whenever there is something afoul at court, Lady Grace tries to figure it out, usually with the help of Ellie, the laundry maid, and Massou, the acrobat.

In addition to being well-done, exciting and suspensful mysteries, these are also obviously meticulously researched to paint an accurate portrait of life in Queen Elizabeth's court. These books also manage to shine where most historical fiction falls flat-- it offers enough detail and research without letting it get in the way of the characters and plot. There is an extensive glossary at the back of each book as well as historical notes. There is always a general note on Queen Elizabeth and Lady Grace and then there are other notes as the story dictates. The characters of Ellie and Massou act as a nice foil for showing the great disparity between rich and poor, even in the halls of Whitehall, and in letting readers know that life was not all gowns and feasting. They also allow Grace to go places to invesitgate that would normall be unheard of for a Maid-of-Honour.


Much to Lady Grace’s displeasure, the queen is making her chose a husband to marry when she turns 16. Sir Charles is nice, but old enough to be her father. Sir Gerald is mean and stuck up. Sir Robert is quite handsome, but poor and doesn’t talk much. Which one should she choose? But after she makes her choice, one of her suitors is found murdered and another is accused of the crime. Who really killed the man and why? Can Grace, Ellie, and Massou figure it out?


Lady Sarah has run off and eloped with a sea captain! But when Lady Grace looks at the letter Sarah left behind, she knows it isn’t in Sarah’s handwriting. Maybe she really didn’t run away. Maybe she was kidnaped. Maybe she was kidnaped by pirates! In order to rescue her, Grace cuts off all her hair and dresses like a boy to explore Francis Drake’s ship with Massou. But then, the boat launches and Grace and Massou are trapped at sea and their ship is going into battle! Will Grace ever get back to England? Will she have to fight in a battle? Will she ever find Sarah? Was Sarah really kidnaped by pirates? And what will the Queen say when she finds out?

An excellent look at the Queen's navy and Elizabethan warfare and piracy!


Lady Grace, the Queen, and the rest of the court are traveling through England to escape London during the worst plague months. While staying with Robert Dudley (the Earl of Leicester), they are joined by Prince Sven of Sweden. It is well known that the Queen and the Earl have been in love for a long time, but the Swedish Prince is out to marry Queen Elizabeth. Jealousies and tensions are running high as both men compete for the Queen’s hand. Things get worse when a series of accidents threaten the Queen’s life. Lady Grace is sure they aren’t mere accidents and is on the case! Who is trying to kill the Queen? Can Grace find out before they succeed?


It’s winter and the Thames is frozen over. People have set up a Frost Fair where you can shop, play games, and there’s even a tavern and a fire with a roating ox–right on the ice! The Maids-of-Honour have been learning to ice-skate and have fun at the fair with the Queen, but then Lady Jane falls down and discovers a hidden dead body. The corpse’s eyes have been covered with coins, but these are the new coins the Queen just commissioned–coins that are supposed to be under lock and key. When Grace looks closely at them she realizes that they’re counterfeit! How is a boatman connected with a counterfeiting scheme? How far up can this scheme go? The Queen has only given Grace five days to find out before she orders an official investigation. Can Grace find out in time? Every clue seems to be a dead end as she embarks on her most complicated–and dangerous case yet!

The Wright and Wong Mysteries Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

Orville Wright and Agatha Wong have been best friends since second grade. Now they’re in seventh grade and students at John Q. Adams Middle School in Bottomless Lake, Arizona. Agatha talks a mile and minute and Orville doesn’t talk much at all. Orville has a condition called Asperger’s. He likes logic and order and has a hard time understanding how people work and why they do the things they do. Orville doesn’t understand why you should smile at someone when you say “hi” or “thank you”. He is, however, a really nice guy. He’s also a genius. Not only does he know everything, but he also notices really tiny details and remembers almost everything. Between the two of them, Agatha and Orville can crack almost any case, but they might get into some trouble doing it!

With autism and autistic disorders on the rise, I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more characters like Orville.

The Case of the Prank that Stank

It’s the big football game against Lake Placid and the cool kids have a great idea for a prank. Even better, they need Agatha and Orville’s help. Well, they need Orville’s amazing skills with science and mechanics to make a fire-breathing lake monster. They have it all figured out, but when the big time comes, the field house explodes and the football field catches on fire! Everyone blames Orville for miscalculating the distance of the fire. Worse, everyone blames Orville and Agatha for the fact that everyone on the prank committee has a month of detention and all sports have been cancelled–not just for the season, but forever! Agatha was so excited to be accepted by the cool kids, and now she and Orville are social outcasts. Plus, Lake Placid is the rich town, Bottomless Lake is relativly poor. They've always been nasty rivals, and this has just made things worse. Agatha and Orville know it wasn’t the prank that caused the fire–Orville’s calculations are never, ever wrong. The timing was just a coincidence–or someone is framing them! Can Agatha and Orville figure out who really set the fire? Will anyone ever speak with them again?

The Case of the Nana-Napper

Nana Wong has disappeared! All she left was a hastily scrawled note that doesn’t sound like Nana at all! Agatha is convinced she’s been kidnapped. If that weren’t bad enough, now she has to stay with her Uncle Boonie, who doesn’t even have a couch for her to sleep on and makes her go to bed at 7pm! If she has to go to bed so early, how will she and Orville ever find Nana? Not to mention that they’ve been given a new case of proving Stu innocent of breaking one of his mother’s collectible plates. As they investigate, it looks like the two crimes might be related to each other and to a string of recent vandalisms. Will they find Nana in time? Will they ever get out of detention? Will Agatha have to sleep in Boonie’s old sleeping bag forever?

Holes Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats didn’t steal that pair of sneakers. They really did fall from the sky and hit him on the head. Sadly, the judge doesn’t believe him so he’s sent to Camp Green Lake for eighteen months. It was either that, or jail. Stanley blames the curse put on his great-great grandfather–the Yelnats family has been doomed to bad luck ever since then! The warden at Camp Green Lake is looking for something, so everyday the “campers” have to dig a hole that’s exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. It’s hard, tiring work and the Texas desert is hot. Stanley is always thirsty. The desert is full of rattlesnakes and scorpions and yellow-spotted lizards. If you get bitten by a rattlesnake or scorpion, you’ll be sick for a few days. If you get bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard, you’re dead. Can he escape? Will he ever get home? Sneakers don’t just fall from the sky, do they? Is Stanley really under a curse? What is the Warden looking for? And what will she do when she finds it?

This Newberry winner (and one of Silvey's 100 Best) interweaves three tales that come together to form a larger story about history, redemption, crime, friendship and fate. Really well done in that it has a huge larger message, but it's subtle and easy to miss--unlike so much literature that has a huge larger message and likes to bang you about the head with it as often as possible.