Stories From Both Sides of the Second World War/How I Overcame Some First World Problems

Despite the title of this post, I am going to keep my discussion of my recent first world problems to a minimum.  They are even more embarrassing after reading through some of my accumulated books on the Second World War.

My reading personality is an Explorer. I like to build empathy and see the world from other people’s perspectives as I ride on the SUP I got for my birthday and have the health and time to train enough to do well in local triathlons and knit for fun with luxury yarn.  Some of it is charity knitting, to be fair.

The thing that is depressing about both of these beautiful second world war novels is that it is sad to die in the war, and sometimes it can be as sad and anticlimactic to survive it.

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A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson

I loved Life After Life.  I believe I have shared this sentiment on the blog already.  This is meant not as a sequel but as a companion piece to that novel, according to Atkinson. I think she could not bear to leave her characters after writing Life After Life.  She chose the perspective of Teddy, or Edward, Todd, the most loved and lovable of the Todd sons, to flesh out his story and participation in the war as a fighter pilot.   Excellent choice to choose the most sympathetic character, but I wondered about her choices in spinning him out into a daughter, Viola,  who is not likable in the least.  Atkinson does not try to make her appealing in any aspect: she is immature, greedy, self centered, and hopelessly unable to make herself happy or be satisfied, even before the death of her mother when she was a kid.  And much of the story is hers, especially earlier on in the novel.  I really wondered about Atkinson’s choice in this.  I need tension from a novel, that is true, but I like tension from a character I like.  The story is enough about Teddy himself and his participation in the war and the original family cast of characters to keep me interested in the parts about his daughter, and especially in the parts where he is a loving grandfather to rescue his grandchildren from the complete ruin of their disaster parents.  Viola takes a decent stab at redemption but his grandchildren adore him long past my caring about her and what she does, and that makes her bearable.

This novel is not just depressing in the production of the daughter Viola but also in that Teddy’s real actualization in life is centered around the war.  He is aimless before and aimless after, engulfed in a typical British tedium (and I say typical just because of the other British books I have read) devoid of a certain amount of action and passion.  And then he lives on to his own ruin, a depressing ending to a hero in the war, in the midst of a generation who never had to participate in the war and question his morals in doing so. It’s kinda heart wrenching.  You like Teddy, you want him to find more after his participation in the RAF from life than puttering around and being the target of his daughter’s dissatisfaction with everything.

But, because Atkinson is a true artist, I still loved it.  I am still glad I read it.  I should have read it sooner.  I love the story of the Todd family and all the iterations that Ursula lives through. I love how she chose to end A God in Ruins.  It reminded me of my love of the story as the final note.

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The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

This one really gnawed at any lack of appreciation I was harboring toward my life.  A little girl in Nazi Germany taken into a foster home because her mother is too ill to care for her but not before her brother dies on the way to their new family.  No, that has to happen first.  She has to be ten years old and totally alone in the world. And death is narrating one of the most deadly periods in history.

Zusak makes it beautiful, though, because Liesel thrives in a terrible time and devastated place.  She is resilient.  She is lovable and kind and works hard and wants to do good things.  Yes, she steals books, but it is to feel whole.  Books are her survival and I can totally relate to that.  She comes of age in a scary time where survival is at a premium, and she experiences her own layers of trauma.  Liesel survives and makes a happy life for herself, but will have the demons from the war cling to her forever.

It’s that important YA that can make teenagers stop and think about what things must really have been like at that time and place.  I am a firm believer in appreciation and I am sure these books reminded me to do a little more appreciating.

I was going to say I won’t watch the movie, and I don’t watch a lot of movies, but this one could possibly be an exception.  I might not be able to promise that.

I loved both of these stories, but I am recovering from them by changing tracks with my reading.   I have three more WWII novels and I can’t do five in a row or I will be threatened with collapse.  On my SUP.  I liked how it worked out that I read books on the same topic from two different points of view, but in some ways, these views were very much the same.

I may have given up resisting Reading Challenges, even though I have had other, competing plans of how I am going to shape my reading.  Because it needs a shape.

Comments/shares/likes are always appreciated!

 

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I Should Have Read it Long Ago

There are some books on my TBR that have tarried there far too long.  Had way too many cups of coffee whilst killing time in purgatory.  Or maybe a beer.  Or a hundred beers.

These are the modern books that are good for me, not just the dusty classics into which this blog wanders from time to time.  The award winners that I have sometimes passed over when I don’t want to use my brain as much or the ones that seem to constantly dangle in front of me, strongly recommended.  Books that any self respecting book blogger logged long ago and that I admit I am just getting to now.

I own my guilt but I also am a firm believer that every book in its time.  A book gets read when it is time for me to read it, not necessarily when it hits the award list or keeps showing up on some of the book sites I troll.   Or even when my price stalking ends in a 1.99 victory with 3.99 companion audio.

 

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Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

I may have climbed into this novel now as I have a child coming up on the age where he can better understand what larger things I might want for him.  Better understand, not completely.

This novel is about two parents who focus all their unrealized fantasies on a daughter who dies as at the opening of the novel, mysteriously, in the middle of her teenage years.  It is about the dead daughter but it isn’t, too: it’s about how people’s unchecked dreams can spin out into dysfunction for all involved.  Parents whose issues prevent separation/individuation, instead creating a lens through which they view a chosen child as a vessel for their unrealized hopes and dreams, some weird sort of second chance. It’s messed up, but the stories of how it really gets so messed up are engrossing and relatable.

The book is also about what it was like to be different in the not so distant past, where people were expected to marry and procreate within their race and their children being able to fit neatly into the scheme of things, the status quo.  Neither parent in the book is the status quo:  a brilliant mother with the ability and ambition to attend medical school and rejecting her assigned housewife role, the Asian man who makes it in the Caucasian world of academia.  It’s not difficult for me to be who I want to be in my environment, but I can’t forget the people who have to defend their right to be who they want to be when it flies in the face of convention.  Grad school did not have the extra layer of suck that it has had for women in the past. And I came across plenty of women in my higher education who were getting degrees even though they were becoming mothers or already mothers.  The repression of times past created so much yearning and sadness. And here I am with an advanced degree, a full time career, and am a shining beacon of parenting that involves likely too much sodium and the unconditional support of Netflix. And my contentment with my world is pretty solid.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

I have to admit my burnout on Latin American novels, and the fact that this had the same audio narrator as The Shadow of the Wind did not help.  For some reason I was not expecting this to be similar to the other Latin American novels I have read, and in some parts it was more Americanized and contemporary, and in other parts I felt I was back in the pages of Marquez, Allende, or Zafon.  I mean, Diaz is in good company with that trifecta, but one has to be in the mood to read about the Latin American political intrigue and family curses un-spooling over generations just to end in a glorious burning crash for the characters you spend the most time getting to care about.  I was not sure I was completely game for the inferno, but in the same vein Diaz’ artistry was not entirely lost on me. It deserved the Pulitzer.  I mean, I still don’t get how A Visit from the Goon Squad won one, and I did not get far into Gilead before I abandoned it, but this, yeah, I can see it.  I also liked Middlesex and The Shipping News, and I could fawn over All The Light We Cannot See to the point of being annoying.

I was rooting for the ghetto nerd.  I am immensely satisfied that it did not end with his attempted suicide.  Is that a spoiler? I hope not.  I mean, it won the prize in 2008, I don’t know what other serious reader in the world has not gotten to it yet.

The journey of too long neglected books continues next week with my wandering out of my usual genres into some newer territory.

I turn a year older in this upcoming week, but at least I won my age group in my first triathlon (sprint) this summer 🙂

 

Comments/likes/shares are always welcome!

Mermaids!

I doubt few things are more interesting or appealing than mythical creatures whose intention it is to destroy men.  Fewer things are more timeless than destruction, seduction, and curiosity.

What could be more timeless than the mermaid whose purpose it was to drive men mad in the pursuit of them? And then the countless attempts at recreating these creatures in legends and curiosity exhibits?

The few books in this post to sample the topic of mermaids treat them all differently.  And it does not include all the mermaid books I would like to read or all the circus/sideshow reads in my book hoarding situation.

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The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Ann Noble

This was a either a Kindle First or a discounted price treasure and was the winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2014 for Young Adult fiction.

This one is as magical and mythical as a mermaid story gets. It is a fairy tale with the usual dose of nefarious characters and intentions, magic, and larger than life characters.  Two girls raised as sisters and one is becoming the mermaid she was meant to be, making the other sister, who is trying to get her to the ocean where she belongs out of love, wonders what this means for her.  Is she meant to turn into a stork, like her own legend of origin suggests?  What about the boy that is almost like a brother figure to her who is helping her try to save the sister and her feelings about him that just won’t be controlled?   All sorts of drama, darkness, and magic. Characters in this one actually have tattoos to immunize themselves from the curse of madness that seeing a mermaid can set upon one. And some regular teenage crises too just to keep it real.  I liked the audio with this one, and I am not at all surprised that it stood out enough to get an award for being the new kid on the block.

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The Book of Speculation, Erika Swyler

Also a debut novel, interestingly.  Strong family themes (similarly to The Mermaid’s Sister) in this tale of mystery and an inter-generational family curse that has to be untangled in time to save the latest generation from the same fate.  A librarian comes into possession of a book that helps him to unravel the reason why his mother and grandmother, both with mermaid abilities to swim and perform in a traveling show, seemed to drown themselves on the same day.  Again, the mermaid’s otherworldly, obsessive appeal is also talked about here as well as the mermaid being part of a show. Because what else would a woman with an uncanny swimming ability and in need of support do with herself back in times past?  Especially a woman to whom men felt an unexplainable draw? There is also a lot of reference to Tarot and reading Tarot cards to amp up the atmospheric mystery.  Sara Gruen endorses the novel on the cover, and people who like Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge) will probably like this one too. And the ending has just a bit of a twist on it.  So, worth the time.  I also have the prequel that I didn’t get to in time for this post. Shame on me.

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman

I coveted this one for awhile before it came up on an Audible sale and I snagged it. Alice Hoffman is an author who I have hoarded up, and this one reminded me of why and that I need to get crackin through all her other stuff. It was one I was excited to procure, that I had not read yet which could be a Reading Challenge category.

While this one is more popular than some of hers (I am defining popular by the number of reviews I see on Amazon), it does not appear to be as much so as The Dovekeepers or The Marriage of Opposites.  This one just hinted right at the get go of being atmospheric, set in turn of the century NYC, one of my favorite novel settings for some reason, and it did not disappoint.  Have I mentioned before in my posts that NYC always has had this draw for me and for about ten minutes a year I think I could actually live there, when I currently live in a beautiful home in the country and driving to the nearby small cities can get overwhelming for me? A home where I regularly enjoy the benefits of living where I do? Yeah.  Then I am down there visiting a friend and I see children my son’s age boarding the subway and I have a panic attack imagining if that was me with my boy.

Alice Hoffman intersects personal histories in the context of the setting like only she can do.  A girl born with webbed fingers to a man who owns a sideshow museum and is groomed for performance as a mermaid in a tank, essentially as a prisoner, a Jewish boy who separates from his father after his father tries to commit suicide, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster, and the intense political climate of the haves and have nots.  There usually aren’t even ten minutes of the year where I want to live in turn of the century NYC, but I love to read the tales of immigration, coming of age in a fast changing but still traditional world, people trying to hang onto their personal history as well as responding to the world around them in order to survive.

This book was everything I wanted it to be. Engrossing, intense, painfully real. I listened to it during driving in the rain which seemed to intensify it even more.

Mermaid books that I can’t miss?  None of these are romance novels, and I thought I saw some romance novels in the mermaid category, which would make sense, given then are supposed to drive men crazy.

In my own mermaid moment it is finally warm enough to swim in the lake with a wetsuit.  The fact I own a wetsuit and like to swim in lakes makes me ultimately unsuitable for my NYC dreams.  I don’t feel like a siren, either, just a woman wrapped in some weird fabric trying not to  dead sea float for long enough for the neighbors to think I might be dead out there.

Comments/suggestions/shares? I always love them.

Middle Grade Novels: Roots and Branches

Please month of June, give me warmth.

I love the green of the springtime around here but the rain is feeling prohibitive.  That might not seem like the right word, but it is.  Trying to train, trying to camp outside, trying to soak up every moment of this saturated season.

I wrestled two additional middle grade novels for this post.  Novels about kids thrust into adult situations and prevailed upon to help with adult problems.  Completely not okay in the real world, but like many things, makes a good story nonetheless.

Through these situations these children figure out their talents and how to use them, as well as the meaning of family, which are developmental tasks for the audience.

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The Mysterious Benedict Society,  Trenton Lee Stewart

So this is a four book set, but I was okay with just reading the first one.  A bunch of genius kids without families to miss them are selected to infiltrate a nefarious empire to spoil a mind control plot.  The kids are ingenious, argue a few times, but then become a solid family to one another, aside from finding or gaining adult family members as well.  These kids sprout both their roots and their potential.  I needed audiobook and a road trip assistance to work my way through this one.  My brain wanted adult themes.

I don’t know if I would have liked it more if I was a member of the target audience, but it is still a contender to share with my son when he is in that bracket.  He could be the kind of kid who fantasizes about being a genius.  I know I did occasionally and it got me into a life that can be overwhelming sometimes. One never knows.

 

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Greenglass House, Kate Milford

An orphan again, but this one has been adopted by parents who seem completely appropriate but who are accessories to smuggling.  They live in a big house that they run as a hotel to smugglers, allowing themselves to be a crossroads for illegal activity.  You can’t live in such a place in your middle childhood years without getting sucked into some kind of intrigue that you had no hand in creating.  While his parents are distracted with a mysterious influx of guests one Christmas season, he begins to realize that the combination of guests is not random at all.  They are tied to one another or to the history of the house.  He wonders about where he came from, and the other potentialities of his life, as well as learns more about being the person that he wants to be through role play (fake it til you make it, right?) so those are more childlike themes along with the adult stuff going on.  There so much action that the time crawls to Christmas and the peak of the action, the solving of the biggest mystery is about the treasure of family, not the treasure of valuable goods.   Another contender to share with my son in a few years, if he gets past the toilet humor.

Another one that I needed the help of audio to get me through, and I will share with my son, but my adult brain wanted adult things.  I had some adult things to read to give myself a break, which I am trying to finish to create the next themed post.  More atmospheric, legendary, and reaches of the imagination.

Comments/likes/shares are always welcome!

Better Together: Coming of Age in America

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Yes, the day is about remembering who we have lost defending our country but it is also the kickoff to summer.  Thank you for brave lives, thank you for summer.  Thanks for my freedom, thanks for grilling, swimming, and cold drinks.

I chose this featured image because lilacs are out Memorial Day and signal to me the coming of June and better things.

I set up the tent this week and my son and I camped in the rain.  I am tired of waiting.

So I missed a post last week.

It actually has more to do with competition training than a thriving social life.  I completed my first half marathon last weekend and ran every step, even though the last four miles I really wanted to walk. My training partner was riding with me, and that helped, as well as visualizing what it would be like to tell people I couldn’t run the entire thing after three months of training and a bloody toenail. The end was grueling and I nearly couldn’t step up on the curb to go into Starbucks for my reward coffee.

And I just bought a wetsuit because it’s time for triathlon season and I am a grape hanging at the bottom of the Adirondacks.

I am trying to decide if I will be posting every other week this summer instead of weekly due to training and seeing people taking over my slivers of time, although this can create a backlog of read books and no posts for them.

Today I have two books that are coming of age books, but also are about two grandfathers who are living life like they want it.  Turn of the century America (turn of the twentieth, that is), and white patriarchy thrives with stories of two children admiring and orbiting their patriarchs. One is a girl and one is a boy, and one is about accepting a crappy lot and trying to get to your dreams and the other is a boy choosing his life and everyone around him letting him do it.

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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jaqueline Kelly

As a woman with a doctorate in science myself, this one is a soul crusher.  A soul renderer.  I nearly had to abandon it.  A little girl finds a love of natural science, something I have always found fascinating, through her grandfather.  He takes her under his wing and they puzzle through the natural world and even discover something new and notable together.  This all makes her heart sing.  And then, as she is pre-teen, her mother starts to try to cram her into the role that upper middle class white girls are supposed to fill in 1906 Texas: housewifery.  Cooking and housekeeping and bearing children.  And of course she is not good at it, unlike her pretty and sweet friend, who all the boys have a crush on and wins the competitions at the fair of pretty lace and handcrafts that Calpurnia is also forced to humiliate herself by entering.  Calpurnia wants to enter university and read On The Origin of the Species and she gets a housekeeping book for Christmas that she hates. The book does not end in her somehow being rescued from her fate of a miserable career in a house, and I don’t know how it could and be realistic, but she continues to hang onto her dreams as she grows.

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Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns

Same period in history but narrated by a slightly older boy and in Georgia instead of Texas, Cold Sassy Tree was awesome to read right after The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate so they could be compared.  Will Tweety is allowed to do nearly anything he pleases.  He has to go to school, and he has to mind his grandfather, which usually trumps his mother or his father, but it is clear that the world is this boy’s oyster.  It can be a double edged sword in that he has some responsibilities which seem to exceed what his years and experience would justify, but he is a boy, he is the boy his grandfather never had, and the family is turned upside down by his grandfather marrying another woman three weeks after their beloved matriarch dies.  Will Tweety is introduced to a much wider world than Calpurnia, especially with him being allowed and almost expected to know about sex at a young age, and I know Calpurnia is a children’s book and Cold Sassy Tree is not, but I think that her being completely oblivious to the idea of sex would still ring true if it was not a children’s book.   Everyone is asking Will what he wants to do as a career, unlike Calpurnia, who no one really asks because they do not believe she has a choice in the matter.  Will’s grandfather makes a total scandal in a town that thrives on scandal and judging the choices of others, but like Calpurnia’s, he also does what he wants, and everyone else has to deal with it.

Neither of these books make me romanticize the past, as much as I absolutely love historical fiction. I loved them both, as they intersect the loss of innocence of a child with the world changing rapidly around them.  The magic of growing older, the magic of all the new things that the world is coming up with, wanting to hang on to childhood and the old ways as well as enjoying the modernities of the world.  Straddling of the old and the new and the world is your rich white granddaddy’s playground.

Getting it together for another post next week.

Comments/likes/shares are always appreciated.

 

 

Read Down 2017: Middle Grade Novels Part II

I begged for Spring and now it is not enough.  It is warm, but not warm enough.

Blog posts are lagging because I am really in crunch time with half marathon training. Two long runs coming, today and next week, but nips into the distances during the week are starting the glorious taper.  I have been learning about my physical limits through all this and  I still do not know where they are. I am learning the importance of stretching and yoga to keep myself from getting hurt when I am pounding pavement and occasionally wondering how close I am to death when I push it too hard.

I survived academia and the daily grind of a supervisor and a healer, trying to keep the reactive emails to my boss to a minimum.  For his sake. But I don’t know how far I can run, or how fast, and I am finding out.  Hopefully my limit isn’t 12 miles because I have a 13 mile race on Mother’s Day weekend to conquer.

I read another round of middle grade novels this time, 8 and up, although one of them I listened to is absolutely not 8 and up.  It is all part of the read down and the exploration of the genre as an adult.  Kids books make me a better mom, but that is a topic for a later post.

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The Headless Cupid, Zilpha Keatley Snyder

This book looks like it is going to be magical and sets the tone for it:  a rambling house, a newly blended family, a grieving and precocious eleven year old protagonist.  But really, it is about the very real grief and transition of becoming a new family when old ones fall apart.  The other protagonist, Amanda, who comes to live with them, has clearly been taken care of with a permissive parenting style:  anything goes, not high on limits or supervision, and her distracted mother (as you can’t have a middle grade novel with too attentive and involvement) walks on eggshells to try and ease her transition.  This novel feels very real to me in its depiction of a grieving and transitioning family and its effect on older children who bear the brunt of it.  Yes, there is a mystery and a touch of magic and whimsy right up at the end and this is a series so I am wondering if the last bit sprinkled at the end is extended into further stories.  I would recommend this to a kid who needs to read about other kids overcoming similar challenges.

 

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The Night Gardener, Jonathan Auxier

This one is more straight up magic and whimsy.  Grieving kids, sure, but there is something much more lurking and sinister that is a very real danger.  Significantly more dark than The Headless Cupid.  More overt grief. Kids surviving on the edge of their wits.  And a scary tree that plays on human desperation to survive.  Everyone is hanging on by their fingernails, and the adults are too wrapped up in their own concerns to break free, so of course the snappy fourteen year old girl turned caregiver has to come in and wrench the family free from the tree’s clutches and give them back to themselves.  Interesting read, I wish I had read this when I was a member of the intended audience to have a feel for how this comes across to a child and their limited viewpoint of the world.  How a kid would process all that.  I very much want to read with my son when it is time for chapter books and I will be interested to see what he takes in of it.

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M is for Magic, Neil Gaiman

How this is classified as a children’s book, 8 and up no less, is a mystery to me.  The title would suggest a children’s book, and Neil has written for children, but this collection of his shorter works from different times in his career has too many adult themes that kids would not really understand.  There is one that talks about sex and infidelity, but even the others, like the story of Galahad trying to get the Holy Grail off a woman who got it in a junk shop by offering other legendary items like the Sorcerer’s Stone as a trade would not make sense to a child in the larger context.  His last story that later became The Graveyard Book, which I own but have not read, and that felt more middle grade-y to me than the others.  And I think I found it to be the most interesting and may have moved The Graveyard Book up on the queue.  That one I bought specifically to share with my son someday.  He’s not a huge reader at this point but he and I might find some mutual book loves if I work at it.  Neil is Neil, a true artist, full of whimsy, legends and magic, and I will probably always love him, but this is not for kids.

I like middle grade novels too while shuffling through something bigger. Something bigger and worth it, but that my brain sometimes can’t hang onto.  And I am seeing what I can share with my guy when he is just a little older from now.  I might be getting just a smidge tired of picture books.

Likes/Comments/Shares!!!

 

 

Read Down 2017: Middle Grade Novels

I have an interest in writing middle grade novels.  A good book can be a childhood survival tool, and there is a decent market for it, and I work with kids, so this should be easy, right?

I might work with kids on the daily but I have been an adult in control of my own destiny for far too long.  And my job is helping kids solve problems in the context of their caregivers, when there are caregivers capable of this.

In middle grade novels, kids themselves are the catalyst, the one who changes and overcomes the problem, usually without an adult or with very little help from one.   This is the piece that I struggle with when thinking about a plot for this age group.  Kids have very little power!

The child protagonists in the three middle grade novels that I read for this post all are the agents of change.  One has evil adults and two have pretty normal adults who are kept in the loop as much as they can be without getting involved.  Because, you know, parents are ruiners.  And they are all decently dark, which tends to be what I read.  Grief is a serious motivation for more than one main character.

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Liesl & Po, Lauren Oliver

I have also reviewed Rooms on here, another Lauren Oliver, which was not intentional.   Liesl and Po is supernatural, marginalized children combating evil adults.  There is a mixup of a common object and each of the children need the object in order to achieve their own means.  Oh, and Liesl is helped out by a ghost, Po.  Just to add something.  They escape from their adults because they have to, and ultimately defeat them. Adults can make this world a scary place and make a pretty good story out of it if they choose to.

 

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The Creek, Jennifer Holm

When I finished this book I went back to be sure it was a middle grade novel, and sure enough, it is.  It pushes the boundaries of the genre, however, with some of its events and themes. People die in this one. It involves a loss of childhood innocence in a lot of ways.  A girl turning 13 who spends the summer running around the neighborhood with her male friends is upturned by a boy returning to live in the neighborhood after a stint in reformatory school for killing people’s pets.  And then, pets go missing and other macabre events, and the neighborhood is blaming the returned boy, but the protagonist knows it is not him but is afraid to tell the adults how she knows he is not responsible for the recent events.  She solves the mystery on her own, to her credit, and can keep up with the boys.

I had one major issue with this story, though.  There is a part where she is cornered by the reformatory school boy, Caleb, and he nearly rapes her, and doesn’t only because he is interrupted.  Okay, that happens to kids.  The part that really bothered me about it is she starts to like it and crave that kind of attention/relationship with a boy.  She has an age appropriate first kiss earlier on, which is sweet, but then she gets a taste for bad boys from this one who imposes himself on her and is like six years older.  She starts to relate to her friend who is a year older and desperately trying to be an adult, smoking and dressing sexy.  Because a 14 year old dating an 18 year old boy like that and showing off her body is completely well adjusted and happy, and it makes total sense that an innocent girl who gets a taste of that at 13 would want more of it.  No.  There is a reason that statutory rape is a thing. Because both of the girls are victims, and at least in the protagonist, I feel that it is made sexy.  Gross.  I don’t know, this one pushes a lot of middle grade boundaries.

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The Day the Angels Fell, Shawn Smucker

This is a biblical story and I did not realize it until I got a decent way in.  A grieving child falls victim to an angel’s plot to resurrect the tree of life, and a huge battle of good vs evil ensues. It is made more relatable than that, but that’s the gist.  The battle between good and evil in the child reminded me of that battle in the other book Rooms  by James Rubart where a man is deciding if he is going to follow Jesus Christ or not and the devil rolls onto the scene to tempt him.  The self doubt and the impulse to go for the short term payoff is similar, the insidious nature, the choice that looks good until one really thinks through the consequences.  The devil is such because he can present a tough choice without you really knowing the extent of the negative consequences.  I imagine he really does show up as everything you have ever wished for.

Reading down my middle grade novels has been helping me shape my thinking further about writing for children.  And reminds me of a child’s perspective to keep it fresh at work.

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