Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Book Discovery from the Past


I am participating in the Award Challenge hosted by the blog, Gathering Books.  Be sure to connect with this blog as often as possible.  It is filled with posts about books and authors you will want to know. 

I just finished listening to this amazing book that I somehow missed a few years ago.  It is Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor.  Here is a young eleven, then twelve year old whose stepfather and mother recently divorced.  Because the mother left her at age nine to care for the two younger sisters, the stepfather has gained custody of them, while leaving Addie behind to cope with her mother.  Sound complicated?  It is.  And sometimes these are the circumstances that children must face, or worse.  They, like the main character Addie, are looking for normal!

At the beginning of the book, Addie and her mother, whom she calls Mommers, move into an old trailer in a remote spot near a mini-mart type of store.  This appears to be all the ex-stepfather can afford as he still is paying some money to the ex-wife.  The mother is furious, but Addie is shown to be a person who looks at the bright side.  She loves the private ‘bedroom’ she has above the living area, with curtains! There were times I wondered how she manages in the face of her difficult circumstances.  Throughout the story, Addie’s mother leaves her alone for days at a time.   Luckily Addie befriends the curious group across the road that runs the mini-mart and gains support from them while continuing her own resilient ways. 

It’s a long book that includes numerous twists and turns (a term Addie uses for her own family’s life) that make one ache with despair for this early adolescent.  

Her life includes:

-A change to a new school
-Cooking toast dinners, with enthusiasm
-A grumpy grandfather who has washed his hands of his daughter, Addie’s mother, and unable to be much help
-A wonderful character who owns the mini-mart named Sula, who takes the role of offering the kindness that Addie needs so desperately
-A loving ex-stepfather whose hands are tied by the courts, trying to help Addie as much as he is able
-Two sweet little sisters who add some happiness to Addie’s life
-A weaving in and out of Addie’s challenges in school and the additional gift she has of listening to music and being able to re-create it in her flute playing, all because of dyslexia.
-A couple of school friends who are supportive as much as they can be
-A hamster named Piccolo that adds the warmth of companionship Addie needs

When I listened to the book, it was frustrating to hear Addie grow herself, hearing her thoughts of despair and hope, aching myself for this young child to have something go right for once in her young life.  I began to think of all the other characters I’ve met just this year who’ve endured their challenges, needing help from adults and peers in their lives, and sometimes not getting that help for a long while. Sometimes these children hide their needs very well, to protect loved ones and the often-tenuous hold they have on their lives.  It is a challenge for teachers and others who work with children to watch carefully for signs of need, and take action as vigorously as possible.   In the recent books, I think of Augie in Wonder, Marlee in The Lions of Little Rock, Fern in See You At Harry’s, Hazel and Augustus in The Fault In Our Stars, and Conor in A Monster Calls.   And now I will be reminded of Addie in Waiting for Normal.  Thanks to marvelous writers, these poignant characters serve to remind us of the real characters in our lives, perhaps classrooms, which need our advocacy. 

More than once, I sat parked, listening to yet another chapter before leaving my car.  A woman named Angela Rogers narrated the book with such talent, I continued to ‘hear’ the voices each time I arrived at my destination and had to turn the cd off.  If you can listen to the audio version of the book, do so.

In 2009, the book was named one of School Library Journal's Best Books, an ALA Notable Children's Book, and ALA Top Ten Books for Young Adults, is on Texas Lone Star Reading List, and won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award.


10 comments:

  1. Sounds very interesting, Linda. I missed Waiting for Normal when it first came out, too -- thanks for spotlighting it.

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    1. It's very good- maybe not a book for all students, but very apt for some. Thanks, Tabatha.

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  2. I missed this one too. Great to hear more about it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reactions. Toast dinners?

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    1. The main character mostly had canned soup and bread to eat, so she made toast, heated the soup without watering it down, & poured that over the toast. She was quite proud of her invention. Thus, her toast dinners!

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  3. Linda, I have been remiss in my blog reading for some two weeks now, as I finished my school year (somehow I always forget all the work of the end of year!!). Anyhow, what a lovely blogpost to read upon re-entry!! I am not familiar with this book...I will make it a part of my summer reading. You are so wise to note, "Sometimes these children hide their needs very well," and I am thinking not only of fictional characters but real children. How important it is to have rich books like these available to students in the classroom, to allow them some perspective on their personal lives.

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    1. Thank you Maureen. I too meant the real children in our classroom. Although I think most students liked me, only a few ventured to share some real troubles from home. It was sometimes hard, unless it was a crisis situation, to pretend with them because they chose to have it that way. Sometimes literature helped open doors.

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  4. Linda, I have heard of Looking for Normal and am glad you highlighted it for us. It sounds wonderful and I'm sure Addie resonates with you precisely because you know of/have experience with young people who have many challenges yet their spirits allow them to triumph.

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    1. Yes I do, Joyce, & it was so dear the way a few people stepped up to help this young child. Thanks for the perceptive comment.

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  5. Unlike most of the comments here, this is the first time I'm hearing of Looking for Normal and I'm so grateful that you included it in the AWB Reading Challenge Database, how wonderful! Thank you also for the shout-out and the lovely words about GatheringBooks. Warmed my heart today. I will definitely check this book out. I haven't tried audiobooks yet, but the way that you describe it, I think I should! :)

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    1. You are welcome Myra. I hope you do try audio books when you can. They have helped my travel go more quickly & Im reading too! I also hope you find this book & enjoy it. I really (as you can tell) liked it!

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