My Mac has been in the shop for a week again, so I haven’t been around. It has been so strange to be completely without a computer! The boys at the shop were mystified about what could be wrong, until this came out. It seems eMacs put out when mine came out tend to have problems with power and video. Now that the problem is identified, they are replacing the motherboard and I can go pick it up and everything should be working fine again. Thank God! I borrowed a laptop from school but didn’t get it till yesterday, so I am still trying to catch up on all the blogs. I really feel out of it!
I have been reading a lot, of course. A few of the children’s books I’ve been enjoying:
Burning Up by Caroline B. Cooney. A high school senior in a small affluent Connecticut town is assigned a local history research project. She decides to find out about a fire that burned down a local barn in 1959. Her grandparents and the grandparents of a cute boy she is getting to know live on the same street as the barn, but they have only vague recollections of the affair. It seems strange to her that the adults she questions are both hazy about their memories and actively discouraging her from further research, until she discovers that the barn had been turned into an apartment that was housing the town’s first black high school teacher at the time of the fire. The more she pushes for information the stranger things seem, until she finds the courage to confront the possibility of racism and hate crime in her own town and even in her family. It is a good read. I didn’t expect to find it as gripping, but ended up staying up way too late to finish it all in one night because I couldn’t put it down. The thing she struggles with is not just the realization that racism is active and close to home, but that silence and passivity in the face of hatred is part of the culture we are trained in. It is a way of life actively supported by adults, role models, the media, our families, our teachers, virtually everyone around us. It takes the strength and determination and passion of youth to insist on examining the smothering stranglehold silence can have on us. Seeing, hearing, thinking deeply, all these are stifled by the ones who say they are teaching her the best way to live. The truth of this picture is frightening and challenging. This would be a good book for discussion and follow up in a classroom or book discussion for young adults.
The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell. Kate is eleven and in the summer between fifth and sixth grade. She worries about boys, how weird her feet may look with or without toenail polish, her parents, and growing away from her best friend. This book brought back too many awkward memories for me, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I didn’t even finish it. I would have loved it when I was about 10 though.
East by Edith Pattou. This is a mythical story a lot like Beauty and the Beast. Rose is an odd but lovely child that is chosen by a mysterious white bear to be taken away and kept in a magical cave. She is wise and talented and ends up loving him, searching out his identity, and of course losing him to the Troll Queen. She goes on a quest to find him and rescue him, has many challenges and adventures, and ends up triumphant in love and happiness. It is an enjoyable read, but a bit too predictable. Rose is too good to believe and the white bear is too easy. Maybe I am getting into a mood where I am harder to please, but I just hope for more from a book with a good premise. This one is pretty good but not golden.
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer. I shouldn’t have read this one right after East, because it has too many similar features. Based on Celtic and Viking mythology, it also contains trolls, magic, Viking gods, quests and adventures. Jack, the hero, is eleven when he is kidnapped by berserkers and taken into slavery with his little sister. He has been half trained as a Bard or Skald magician. By twists and turns he ends up being the one chosen to complete the quest with a disagreeable but powerful girl his own age. I haven’t finished it yet but we can predict the outcome. This is one I would recommend to middle grade kids who like adventure and magic.