Friday, June 22, 2012

Your Moon, My Moon by Patricia Maclachlan

Alysa and I just returned from an extended weekend at my mom's: a little grandma time is often a terrific gift to children. This time, I experienced the sweetness of my mom being surrounded by her three children (my brother, sister, and me) as well as five grandchildren (Will Grey, Harry, Molly, Amelia, and Alysa). The grandchildren range from Harry as the youngest at 4 to Amelia as oldest at 18. I loved watching the little and big interactions, the moving in closer for the always- ready hugging arms to the simple glances and connections.

You already know how much I love some of Maclachlan's work. Here she has written another goodie, and this one always makes me think of my mother. The subtitle of this book is "A Grandmother's Words to a Faraway Child." I don't recall other books with that intent-- to connect from a distance with such clarity, grandmother to grandchild-- but here is Machlachlan again naming truths. She must be at an amazing point in her life where her experiences of grandparenting inform her writing. At least that seems true to me. I mean here is this book and I think of Kindred Souls which I reviewed earlier as examples that make me wonder what else she has waiting for us.

Maclachlan organizes her writing around the two homes of characters: one of the grandmother, living somewhere where it snows, and one of the grandchild, living somewhere hot. She uses the great distance between the two characters as a starting point, exploring all that the two humans have in common from shared experiences, and ends with a significant connection: the shared moon. On the back cover, she has written "Your moon is my moon too."

I can imagine reading this to children to invite connections with grandparent experiences. But really, I can totally see grandparents reading this to their grandchildren. Lovely as is so often true with her work, I love this book by Maclachlan. I wish I had thought to bring it to Colorado with me, just to see if my guess of intrigued audiences is really true.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

 I loved John Green and David Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I reviewed it here

And then this book, The Fault in Our Stars, kept popping into my mind. Some crazy thing about the New York Times Bestseller list and a bunch of blogs across the country from amazing literacy leaders: I obviously needed to read this book. And I am so glad I did.

If you haven't put it together, I love reading books with teen characters struggling and finding their way to living a life that feels right. I mean, being a teen is hard enough, add in the challenges of dealing with confusing parents (ahem: I should know...) and the threat of figuring out how to earn money as an adult (read: career!) and life gets pretty full. Then there is all of that craziness about being true to yourself, right in the midst of trying to conform to society. Wicked, isn't it, what we put our teens through?

Well actually, these teens do have it wicked. The three main characters have some form of cancer. And it is life threatening for all of them. Brutal. Unbelievable. And so true. Readers enter this book through a female teen, Hazel, who struggles with thyroid cancer that has moved into other body parts that make breathing very difficult. Isaac loses his eyes during the story to cancer. Augustus enters as a friend to Isaac and becomes crucial to Hazel, as is obvious is this quote: "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."

Augustus battles vehemently throughout, leading Hazel and Isaac through the ultimate challenges of living and dying. He tells Hazel early on, "That is the thing about pain. It demands to be felt."

What I liked most about this book, beyond the storyline, is the writing: Green is profound in his humor. More times than my partner would like to count, I was rolling in laughter, reading in my chair while she read the dry, dull newspaper. Hysterical and to the point, Green's writing style is just spot on, exactly what I have either heard or would guess I would hear from teens. Remarkable.

Just in love with this book... you gotta read it. If you are in the mood for a jugular-level, heart-felt, teen-accurate story, with a significant amount of cancer realism thrown in for support, this is the book for you. Trust me though: don't let the cancer part throw you. If anything, that subject plays clean up in brand-new ways.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Zachary's Ball by Matt Tavares

I know adults who are rabid Boston Red Sox fans. Every time I see the "B" on their ball caps, perched just so on their heads, a little smile creeps into my mind. Such dedicated sweetness.

As a kid, I liked baseball. I would do almost anything physical, so if someone wanted to throw the ball with me, usually I would. Even if it was my brother who threw about ten times harder than me and made it a point to burn a hole in my glove with his blasting throws. That smack of ball on leather and resulting "oooowww!" makes me laugh now, but not then. I think I might have loved baseball more if there were a stadium like Fenway nearby and if I had a family member who loved baseball and took me to games. This story by Matt Tavares focuses on the "magic" of baseball, and in particular on the magic of the balls from games like those played by the Red Sox.

A young boy sees his first ball game with his dad. His dad just happens to catch a foul ball and hands it lovingly to his son. The boy's mind takes him into playing on the field as he holds that sweet leather ball, and he decides it magic. The story takes the reader into that magic in sweet story and rich black-and-white illustrations. I really liked the rhythm of this book, and I can imagine reading it to all sorts of young readers who are interested in sports and the magic the world of movement can offer us. Zachary's Ball: it's a keeper!