Monday, September 29, 2014

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

I really enjoyed this book. Not because it was a Newbery Honor Book. Not because it was a historical fiction and I LOVE historical fiction. Not because it was a great mystery. I enjoyed it because Georgie Burkhardt is one of those characters who, although young, and a female in a time when females weren't fully appreciated for their amazing contributions to society, does not allow anyone to tell her what she cannot do.

That sentence probably has some major technical problems, but it is what it is.

Georgie's story takes place in 1871, in and around the town of Placid, Wisconsin. The first paragraph of her tale blows me away - we writers are told to grab the reader from the get-go, and Ms. Timberlake manages to do it with gusto. She talks about her sister's first funeral, and tells us she knows it won't be her last. How can you resist something like that?

This gutsy young girl takes off on an adventure to discover what actually happened that has resulted in this catastrophe. Imagine watching your parents go through the grief and anguish of attempting to verify that a badly mistreated body (or parts thereof) is that of their missing daughter, while knowing in your heart that it canNOT be the sister you know and love. Unimaginable!

It's a good thing Georgie is such a crack shot with that rifle of hers, because she's going to need her skills as she turns detective and sets off in search of the truth. Of course, it turns out to be a good thing when that questionable character, Billy McCabe, decides he'll just have to go with her - with the excuse that he's only loaning Georgie his mule, and has to make sure she takes good care of him.

I love the voice of this girl, and her grit, and her refusal to be molded into anything other than the incredible person she is. The setting is interesting and all of the historical facts regarding the now extinct passenger pigeons were woven into the story with great skill. 

A great read and suitable for all ages.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston is a delightful journey into the private life of young Ava. This one is geared toward the younger end of MG, and the voice is exceptional in portraying just that.

Ava is the younger sister, but she often feels invisible. With an extremely shy older sister, and word-nerdy parents who seem too preoccupied for her, Ava often feels overlooked. She has trouble expressing her feelings with her family, so she turns to her diary to voice her complaints and work through her emotions.

However, she's had a problem finishing the diaries. This year, though, she is determined to stick with the plan and complete at least one entire diary in her life. Her dad has given her a special pen that she plans to use for this endeavor - until she ends up losing it!

But Ava is pulled out of her own difficulties when two unrelated events come together - a new girl at school, and a writing contest. When the new girl is mean to Ava's sister, Ava gets even with her entry to the contest. Of course, her plan backfires and turns into bigger headaches than not being noticed. Now Ava's suddenly on everyone's radar, and not in a particularly good way.

This was a fun read in several ways. The story line was appropriate and handled realistically for the age range, and I felt a definite bond with Ava and empathy for her situation. And Ms. Weston introduces loads of fun and interesting word facts and games that will be a valuable addition to every reader's repertoire. I loved all the palindromes! 

Definitely worth checking out for your 8-12 age range.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, September 15, 2014

What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

For a debut novel, What the Moon Said hit all the right buttons for me. I imagine part of the perfection I found in it lies in the background of Mrs. Rosengren. She has an impressive background in writing and library work. Remember the advice of so many authors? Read, read, read! I was left with the impression that this author has done her homework in that area.

What the Moon Said takes place during the depression years of the 1930s. A small family of city dwellers move to the country when the father loses his job. Young (almost 10) Esther isn't pleased to leave behind her best friend and her comfortable way of life, but it helps tremendously when she discovers the farm her parents purchased comes complete with an assortment of animals, including a dog - something she has always longed for.

Esther's ethnic background is German and Russian. Her Russian mother loves all her children, but Esther can't help but feel that she doesn't quite measure up to the rest of the tribe. She wonders if her mother's strong superstitious nature enables her to detect what Esther perceives as her own shortcomings. Those thoughts might never have entered her mind if she could remember even once when her mother had enfolded her in her arms in a warm hug.

I enjoyed traveling back to a time that was certainly simpler, but also much tougher, than anything I've experienced in my own life. The characters are well-developed and realistic in their thoughts and actions. The contrast between their lives in Chicago and rural Wisconsin was fun and informative. Even though the main character is not quite ten, and the writing level is easy enough for that age, I would recommend it for those at least that age, or possibly a bit more mature reader.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Paula Danziger's Amber Brown

It's been a while since I've read much in the way of early chapter books. I seem to always come home from the library with bags full of picture books, and a few middle grade novels tucked under my arm. But I admit that I've been neglecting the reading level that falls between these popular ages, so I've been trying to make up for that lacking.

Until a few weeks ago, I'd not read any of the Amber Brown series by Paula Danziger. Let me say, they are delightful. 

I've only read a couple so far, but Amber Brown is around third or fourth grade and faces the same problems many kids that age will face - along with divorced parents that she is drastically hoping will get back together.

Told in first person out-spoken viewpoint, Amber Brown is a pleasure to follow along, both in the classroom and on trips to foreign countries. I really like Ms. Danziger's skill as a storyteller for this age group. She did an outstanding job, in my humble opinion, and I highly recommend her books for your young readers.


Cordelia Dinsmore