Monday, July 09, 2007

Towers and Spells, Homework Clubs and Depression

Well, here it is, late on a Sunday night. I've spent all weekend trying to pull this project together (well, my bits and bobs of the project at any rate). There was a power outage, a trip to the grocery store, and a trip to the garden center. I went to school to work on my project and Dan made the backyard look awesome. We have lilies and 3 peony bushes. I'm mildly obsessed with peonies. There will be a peony related books post soon...

Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes

Despite the title, this is not a fairy tale. Rapunzel is not trapped in a tower by a witch. Rapunzel is just a girl going by a name she thinks fits. She is trapped in after school homework club, as her father is once again under an evil spell. Her mother calls it C. D. (short of clinical depression), but Rapunzel recognizes what it really is.

Shortly after her father is rehospitalized for his depression, Rapunzel finds part of a letter stuffed into a chair, to a post office box. She doesn't know who it is for, but she knows her dad thought the recipient was the secret to his success as a writer a poet and a human being. She doesn't want the friendship to end just because her father is in the hospital, not talking. So she writes the post office box faithfully every day, waiting for an answer, hoping for a way to help her father...

In addition to missing her father and trying to survive homework club, Rapunzel has to navigate the normal school stuff, and the not so normal. Her teachers are pushing her to the gifted and talented class, and they don't appreciate her take on their stupid assignments.

Rapunzel's a great character, creative, smart, and bright, but still sounding like a kid. I really wish I had this book to read when I was in late elementary school. She reminds me a bit of Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik, but with a better sense of humor and the bizarre. In addition to the letters, she sends the box answers to her homework, her poems, and pieces of stories she's writing.

You have to love a book with subtle allusions to The Little Prince:

From what I hear, they keep a student's IQ score locked up like it was KFC's secret recipe. But I opened the letter that they sent home with me last week before Mom got home from work. There was a graph that looked like a boa constrictor that had swallowed an elephant. The elephant bulge was where most people's scores are. Me, I was either the elephant's trunk or his tail, depending on which end of the elephant you supposed the boa constrictor swallowed first. Anyway, I'm what they call "three standard deviations above the norm." (Sounds sinister, doesn't it?)...

"The GT program was made for big thinkers like you."

Right. Like I even WANT to go to a special classroom with a bunch of snobby elephant trunks. (They'd never think of themselves as tails!)

I thought I had this book figured out fairly early on, and I was delighted to find that when the end came, I was totally wrong.

This is a great book that deals with big issues realistically, without going into the deep end of angst and melodrama.

Full disclosure: I met Sara at Mitali's book launch party and then we chilled out at kidslit drink night. I was afraid I wouldn't like the book, because I really like Sara. I was blown away by this book, at times I was unable to put it down, except to mull over an exceptionally fine passage or idea.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peonies were my wedding flowers. :-) I love them too!