Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FarmKid: Tales of Growing Up in Rural America by Justin Isherwood

Justin Isherwood's got a kind of chewy way with words - I want to read everything out loud, just to hear how it sounds and get a better handle on the prose. But I don't mean that to sound too snooty, because he's mostly writing about cows and jackknife, chores and climbing trees.

I picked this up because author Michael Perry referred to Isherwood in a blog post, and you usually don't do too badly when a favorite writer recommends another writer. There's a lot to compare and contrast between the two: animals, ethics, simple living, and an educated way with words to describe some pretty basic things. Not to say they're the same - Perry's probably more accessible, but he'd be the one to tell you Isherwood's more authentic.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Catching Fire

by Susanne Collins

The second book in the Hunger Games trilogy was riveting; I had it read in 24 hours and that includes taking time out for an all day event. Katniss is a survivor , but now she has to see how that will change her life beyond the extra food she expects. Will she be the new mentor for District 12's tribute in the 75th Games? Added to that is the fact that it is a Quarter Quell which always means there is a dramatic twist to the whole event. Behind it all is the realization that "the girl who was on fire" has ignited a rebellious spark throughout the nation of Panem.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Imagine the agony of being trapped; then, imagine that you're trapped inside your own body. I think this fear is nearly universal - it's why we fear major illness and why we fear aging. But this is a juvenile story. And perhaps what makes it "Out of My Mind" so extraordinary is that it's not a sugar-coated kids story about a kid with a disability - it's an honest, sometimes painful tale that's still utterly lovable.

Draper does an amazing job presenting the reader with the funny, smart and utterly amazing story of Melody. Since birth, she's been stuck inside her own head by cerebral palsy and, despite a photographic memory and amazing mental abilities, as a fifth-grader Melody is still being taught the ABC's. Only a few people recognize Melody's talents, and even they don't fully understand what a gem is hidden under the spasms and grunts - until a computerized aid helps opens the lines of communications for the very first time.

What I loved most about this story is that while the medi-talker brings the kind of  wonderful change that Melody has been dreaming about, all life's challenges don't disappear once she can hold a conversation. There's more to the story, both good and bad.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

OK. I get it. This is worth the hype. It's well written, alludes to other great works in literary history, and captivates the reader. On a Wednesday night, knowing I had to work in the morning, I still settled into the plot until 1:30 a.m.

Katniss Everdeen has been a survivor for years. Unfortunately, the only real challenge in that has been starvation in the past. That all changes the day she becomes her district's female tribute for the annual Hunger Games. She knows that now she must use all her best skills to hunt other teens while they hunt her and the entire nation watches.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

Lucas dreams of grand gestures and Hollywood endings: He edits a yearbook spread and borrows the sale billboard out front of the grocery store to invite Tessa to prom. Meanwhile, helping her brother order his prom tux, Tessa falls in love with a fitted and slightly feminine tux and on impulse, buys it; she dreams of going to prom dressed in something comfortable and appropriate (not a big frilly dress - that idea gives her hives). She also dreams of asking her sorta-girlfriend/crush Josie to be her date.

Each is devastated their best friend hasn't notice the biggest thing in their lives: that Lucas loves Tessa, and that Tessa likes girls. Neither teen reacts well to the big news - and neither does the community as a whole, once the news gets out. Funny how something so personal can become a nation-wide news event.

I liked this book - there's a lot of "issue" in it and moral dilemmas to wrestle with, but it's handled in a pretty light and approachable manner. The book cover is INCREDIBLE in its simplicity, and is the whole reason I picked up the book in the first place. These teens are fairly normal - family, work, school - and their actions have far-reaching repercussions they never considered. It's maybe a little "down pat" in the end, but perhaps times a happy ending can be good, too.