Monday, October 28, 2013

Spring Forward, Fall Back: Reading with the Seasons

As we prepare to turn our clocks back here in the US next Sunday (and gain an hour of sleep - bliss!), I thought I'd do something different today.

Do you ever try to read seasonally? I don't mean reading Christmas or Hanukkah stories near those holidays. I mean, by the season itself. For instance, every few years I re-read The Secret Garden in the spring. It has to be in spring, when the grass is growing greener and the forsythia and magnolias are blooming. Reading along with the season seems to give the book more meaning, makes it more of a celebration.

So this autumn, I decided to re-read The Fledgling, by Jane Langton. Part of the Hall Family Chronicles and still available in paperback; the first image (on the left) is a photo of my well-loved Harper & Row hardcover from 1980. I bought the book before it was awarded a Newbery honor in 1981. The second image shows the Harper paperback from March 1981. Personally, I prefer the hardcover image.

This gorgeous story about Georgie, a young girl who gets flying lessons from a goose, is a beautiful evocation of childhood and the universal dream of flying, but it's also a song of praise to autumn. This book is rich in sensory images of New England in the fall: leaves turning scarlet, the air growing crisp and cool, geese flying south for the winter -- and oh, their honking, which Langton brings to life in a most creative way.

This quiet little story may seem old fashioned today, when stories have to be faster-paced, with less description, but if you let that stop you from picking it up, you'll be missing a great read. Yes, it's descriptive. But there's plenty of conflict, since both the nosy neighbor Miss Prawn, and the bank president Mr. Preek, are trying to stop Georgie from going on her nightly flights with the Goose Prince.

What books have you read that bring a season to mind?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A thought-provoking quote

"All reality, I decide, is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with fear and despair."

-- Willow Chance, narrator of Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

See last week's post for my review of this amazing book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Counting by 7's - Newbery guesses, anyone?

It's never too soon to start wondering what middle grade novel will win the Newbery Medal in January, and which ones will be honor books. I rarely guess them right (except for the year When You Reach Me won the medal), but I always enjoy trying.

My pick for the medal this year goes to:

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (August 29, 2013, for ages 10 and up, Dial Books for Young Readers)

Source: I won the arc from Gina Carey. If you haven't yet visited her very cool blog, be sure to check it out. 

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Why I loved it:  Like Auggie in Wonder, Willow is one of those unconventional characters -- intelligent, observant, fragile, and yet strong -- who stay with you long after you turn the last page. The voice is perfect. There's a surprising amount of humor in what could have been a tearjerker. Chapters narrated by Willow in first person alternate with chapters in third person that give us insight into not only Willow's character but into the refreshingly real cast of secondary characters, a multicultural group of people who come to love Willow as much as you will.

Here's Gina's review.

What book do you hope will win the Newbery in January?

For other MMGM participants, see my sidebar or Shannon's links.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gasp! An extra post -- for an extra day: THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne K. Salerni Cover Reveal

I'm thrilled for my friend Dianne K. Salerni (Pennsylvania resident and author of two YA novels, We Hear the Dead and The Caged Graves)

 because she will be making her MG debut in 2014 with...

The Eighth Day (coming from HarperCollins, Summer 2014)

Isn't that the coolest cover EVER?  Doesn't it make you desperate to read the book?

Here's a teaser from the flap copy:

When newly orphaned Jax Aubrey awakes to a world without people the day after his thirteenth birthday, he thinks it’s the apocalypse. But then the next day is a regular old Thursday. Has Jax gone crazy? What’s going on?

Go visit Dianne's blog to find out more and to congratulate her!  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Odessa Again for MMGM

Odessa Again by Dana Reinhardt (for ages 8 to 12, May 2013, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Fourth grader Odessa Green-Light lives with her mom and her toad of a little brother, Oliver. Her dad is getting remarried, which makes no sense according to Odessa. If the prefix "re" means "to do all over again," shouldn't he be remarrying Mom? Meanwhile, Odessa moves into the attic room of their new house. One day she gets mad and stomps across the attic floor. Then she feels as if she is falling and lands . . . on the attic floor. Turns out that Odessa has gone back in time a whole day! With this new power she can fix all sorts of things--embarrassing moments, big mistakes, and even help Oliver be less of a toad. Her biggest goal: reunite Mom and Dad.

Why I liked it:  This is exactly the kind of book I would have adored as a ten-year-old. It's fun, escapist reading, with time travel! But at the same time it delves into contemporary issues real kids face. I loved Reinhardt's unique treatment of time travel. This isn't like 11 Birthdays or Groundhog Day. The first time Odessa falls back in time, she goes back exactly 24 hours. The next time, it's 23 hours, then 22, and so on. You can see where this is heading. Reinhardt mines the comic possibilities to the fullest, but you also might find your heart pounding when time begins to run out.

Here's Susan Olson's take on it (interestingly, I had planned to feature this book on Sept 30, but got waylaid by a bad cold, and Susan reviewed it instead!)

What's your favorite time travel novel?

For other MMGM participants, see my sidebar or Shannon's links.