I've read 7/21 from my list, 33%, and I chose to read The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Neilsen next. There are so many good books available in our world, and it's fun to see if I can catch up with some older ones missed.
Don't miss these!
Half A Chance - Cynthia Lord (middle grade)
Cynthia Lord takes us well under the skin of her characters, and in this one, I imagine both kids and parents (spouses) can relate when one of the family, this time the father, keeps them moving. Lucy, twelve, has already moved three times in her life. Just three years ago, they were in Vermont, then Boston, and now in a rather lifeless house on a lake in New Hampshire. She lets us know how she feels often, the uneasiness of whether to wave and smile at the kids she sees at the house next door, her constant worry if she’s saying the right thing. It’s hard growing up, and even harder when one has to keep starting over with friends. Lucy’s father is a successful nature photographer, is gone on adventures often, and Lucy misses him too. This particular summer, he’s off the day after their move, and Lucy and her mother are left behind to settle in and make new friends. Nate, a boy next door, is a summer visitor, so Lucy knows that he’ll be gone by fall, yet she is immediately included in the “loon watch”, where they kayak across the lake to check on a pair of loons nesting. A second story that actually helps the friendship is Nate’s grandmother, Grandma Lilah, a loon watcher, too, whose cabin it is, but who also is falling into dementia. Through a photography contest (that will be judged by her father), Lucy stepping out to see if she can please him, but anonymously; Nate helping, and unknowing, their lives become quite tangled and conflicted. Lord allows Lucy to tell the story as it builds the tension of the dilemmas of a twelve year old trying to navigate her life. There is more than one life lesson here. The book would be a good read aloud or be great to read with a small group.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue - Maggie Stiefvater (young adult)
Reading books in the Raven cycle by Maggie Stiefvater feels sometimes like that old "Whack-A-Mole" game. Just when you feel that you can relax because something is solved, or at least all right at that moment, another, sometimes more alarming, thing pops up. In this book, the plot indeed thickens, and the characters show more of themselves in all their goodness and only a bit of evil. It's hard to choose a favorite character. I don't know if you have one, but I find even those who appear who are dead have authenticity. If that isn't enough to pique your interest, you'll need to read the first two books, then suspend all belief in this one, because magic and frightening things from the mind are apparent in every character. Those Raven Boys keep at it with a lot of help from my favorite girl character, Blue, and more than a little help from Mr. Grey. Adam stars in this story, and we see the real goodness come into play from both Ronin and Gansey. It was a pleasure to read Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and I now anticipate number four, due next February. More moles peeked out at the end of Blue Lily, Lily Blue.
The Red Pencil - Andrea Davis Pinkney (YA - verse novel)
It is never easy to read about a war, and the victims of it, still in it. Reading the story in the strong voice of a young girl was harder to me, but it will reach other children in its honesty, but without too much detail. of the horrors that people are living through still today. Young Amira Bright loses nearly everything, her father, her home, her beloved sheep. And then she must live in the squalid conditions of a refugee camp. Poorly fed and housed, somehow there is sparkle in the tiniest of things: an orange Fanta, such a taste; the letter A, learning in secret; a tiny hedgehog moving through the camp. One of the sweetest lines is early in the book, when Amira's sister is born, and is crippled. Her father says: "This baby will keep us all strong. That is the way of a child who comes with so much specialness. We will stretch to meet her." One thread, also from the father, is a game that he teaches Amira. They play "What else is possible?" The only rule is that the answer to this can only be good. I hope you can see that this "mindset" is a beautiful example of a growth mindset. It helps Amira keep going. It's a rich story, sad to imagine, good for older children to read about the harsh realities happening today in war, not just in the past.
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr (adult)
It's been a long time since I read nearly all one day. I guess one reason is that I'm on vacation. And the second one is that All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a wonder of a book. It also won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. First of all, I loved the adult complexity of the book, the way that Doerr wove his story back and forth among characters and back and forth in time. The story is set before, during and after World War II, includes several interesting characters, but the main ones are Werner, a gifted young orphan who is German, and who gets the chance to go to a special school for preparing boys for war (unheard of for his background) and a young girl, blind, living with her father who works at the Natural History Museum in Paris. The characters, the details in their lives, and the events surrounding them built with such tension, continually parallel and intertwine. I sometimes had to stop and wonder what I would do in such a time, or I would stop to re-read a passage to be sure I hadn't missed anything or to appreciate the beautiful language. The parts included that touch on light in hundreds of ways are magical. Here are a few examples of sentences I marked. Concerning peaches after an arduous escape from Paris: "Seconds later, she's eating wedges of wet sunlight." When a soldier enters a room of children in an orphanage: "His handgun is black; it seems to draw all the light in the room toward it." Upon a first experience at the ocean: "At least, out on the beaches, her privation and fear are rinsed away by wind and color and light." When one of the main characters is asking questions of life: "Why bother to make music when the silence and wind are so much larger? Why light lamps when the darkness will inevitably snuff them?" I marked many more. This may not be the book for you, but it certainly pleased me.