Friday, July 26, 2013

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Glory Be is one of those slow summer tales, one of those grabby, quiet, important reads that catches you by your shirt tail and holds on, making it difficult to do summer chores like picking blueberries and riding your bike to the library. The book tugs you back again and again, searing its storyline into your skin over and over, making its way gradually to your heart. Yeah, I encourage you to read it.

Glory just wants a great birthday party this summer. Great includes the community swimming pool, her friends, and play. It might include keeping your sister as a close buddy, sneaking away to see what she and her boyfriend are doing, and making sure to steer clear of bully J.T. while hanging out with his brother and your good friend Frankie, but all in that easy summer everything-is-going-just-swell kinda way. It does not include racial tensions, hatred, judgment, losing friends, harsh words, meanness, or closing the swimming pool. Well, I hate to break it to you, but let's just say Glory gets what she doesn't want. As a result, she actually ends up taking some huge risks, figuring out what being an ally sounds like and looks like, what safety is and isn't, and how supportive family and friends can act in a crisis.

One thing I loved most about this mid-'60's- summer- in- Mississippi storyline is its realness. Based partly on the author's college experiences in the segregated south during the Civil Rights movement, as a reader, I felt the dire fragility, tension, and compunction that the idea and action of change caused in those brutally difficult moments. As I read, I kept being pulled back in to this story, gradually drawn into the partial-truth and partial-fiction, the words that need to be heard, and the confirmation that reminds us we still have work to do. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

Sharon Draper is an edgy writer to me. Panic is a perfect example of her willingness to hug the wicked curves life throws at us with a ultra-bright light. The inside cover reads, "Diamond knows not to talk to strangers. But just once couldn't hurt. ................Right?"

Main character/ dancer extraordinaire Diamond indeed talks to a stranger and of course experiences a brutal, unforgettable series of gruesome days in her life as he brutally rapes and sells her body repeatedly. Her friends and family hold vigils and talk alot, but all they can do is wait and hope. Diamond does find the opening she needs, but the damage done is undeniable at the very best. This is an ugly read, and it is very, very important. For girls and boys who have gone through experiences in some ways similar to Diamond's, this book may trigger with its graphicness but it also may comfort, offering connections that often stay silenced.

Kudos to Draper for relentless commitment to surviving the wickedness of living in our world and for telling a story that is often silenced.

Friday, July 12, 2013

As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck

Civil rights, family historical fiction, and the '60's often catch my attention. Tuck aptly connects the brutality of the life as an African-American teen in hate-filled Greenville, NC with the hope of playing a role actively. Main character Mason (who happens to be the author's father) engages with the civil-rights movement through writing and being one of the first students to integrate a previously all-white school. His writing and typing skills so well developed, he becomes the school representative to the local typing tournament. I applaud the author for naming some pretty ugly examples that her father had to live through by going to school where he was hated for the color of his skin. I greater applaud her for telling such an important and unique story. This one was completely new to me, and I loved it. I can see using it with young learners and older, all who are focusing on civil rights in the U.S.

I'll be honest: I have no idea what integrating a school feels like, to actually summons the courage to walk in those halls and into classrooms with such bravery, presence, intent. I know what terror feels like from some experiences in my own life; I can only imagine the intersections between our very different experiences. I have great respect for the people who have indeed walked through their own fear, and this story represents one such example. Thank you, Ms. Tuck, for telling us the story of these very important set of moments in history.

Friday, July 5, 2013

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

***OOPS! Andie posted Alysa's blog entry out of sheer excitement, but she wasn't ready. Here is the finished entry:

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith was a book that I found truly surprising and a fresh look on the realities of fame. I had read her other book The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and thought it was well written and the love story that everyone wishes they could stumble upon. When I found out that she had written this new book, I was overjoyed and for good reason.

Graham Larkin is the teen heartthrob celebrity who is the talk of hollywood- and the world- and Ellie O'Neill is just a small town girl living in the middle of nowhere Maine with an unfinished past. So why would these two ever meet or have anything in common? One day Graham accidently sends Ellie an email from his very large, very empty, and very lonely house,  asking her to watch his pet pig Wilbur. Ellie, having no idea that this is The Graham Larkin, responds, beginning to find comfort and a change of pace in her life while emailing this mysterious guy that she only knows as G. Graham becomes closer to "E" than he has with anyone since he became famous and wants more than anything to meet her, so when the oppertunity to film his upcoming movie in her small town is offered, he jumps at the idea. Now the only question is will their connection stay strong when Graham's hollywood life is combined with Ellie's small town world?

I thought this book was well written and had amazing character development. Ellie must confront her past and learn to trust herself. I highly recommend this book and think that it is truly the perfect summer read.