Monday, May 25, 2015

As the school year turns toward the last few weeks, I notice it challenging to stay invested in books. Time is often short for reading, and I frequently abandon books. Not true with Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. Katherine Rundell’s sophomore young adult novel, a twisting story centering on Will.

I loved how the author frames the protagonist, a child raised in the bush of Africa, half-wild and completely in love with everything about her life: her father, her friends, and the animals and experiences she stumbles intentionally into. Her mother had recently passed, and she and her father are discovering how to live life with just the two of them. Until her father falls in love with another woman (use that label lightly) and alters Will’s life forever. Will is sent away to a boarding school for girls in England, and every inch of her body and soul struggles there. Her wildness comes out more, and she is bullied and teased relentlessly. But who she is and how she negotiates this trial-filled time actually turns others toward her in surprising ways.

I found great yet quiet hope in this read. Rundell has a subtle and strong way of launching the reader into the life of her protagonist, and at times, I certainly was clear that I had had similar experiences like Will. But then the plot would change and I knew that indeed that her life was nothing like mine in any way. Some of this meandering between connection and unknown helped me concretely connect with the story, and I for sure would love to know more about Will later in her life. I will continue to seek out Rundell’s work. This one held onto me during a distracted time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

El Deafo by Cece Bell

I feel super curious about graphic memoirs these days. When a friend told me her granddaughter loved El Deafo, I knew I wanted to read it. And I was not disappointed. I thought I would be able to whip through the book; boy was I wrong. In fact, I read the graphic memoir slower than if I had read another book. Very surprising. And totally engaging. Guess that is why she won a Newberry for this read.

El Deafo is the story of CeCe Bell's childhood. Ms. Bell contracts menningitis when she is 4 and ends up losing her hearing. The story takes  us from the moments of illness to figuring out how to communicate with friends and how to help them communicate with (and not be afraid of) her. CeCe takes us through what it is (was) like to go to school, to use a device called a Phonic Ear, and how she makes friends- the same way we all do: trial and error and talking a ton. The memoir offers us a lovely view into her thoughts as she negotiates many difficult and hysterical moments (not usually at the same time). What is particularly striking however is the added challenge that comes with deafness, for both the friend and the individual. Her creation of a superhero is remarkable, and it helps her reader really see how simply human (and direly superhuman) she is.

El Deafo: A sweet read. Any other great graphic memoirs you know about? I am game to explore....

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine

I think summer's call must be loud right now for me. I keep stumbling into these amazing sounding books, I get them home, I begin to read, and I lose interest. I abandon one book after another, looking for some unknown storyline....or is it unknown? Maybe it includes a cabin on a lake, the home older and full of one's family history. Maybe it includes teenagers who yearn for time to make sense of all that is coming at them--in school, family, and life. Maybe it includes canoeing, time on the water, and treasure maps. Maybe it includes a summer I yearn for: a rustic cabin on the lake, canoes, sleeping, reading, exploring, watching nature, time, more glorious time, friends, time with friends, time alone, and lots and lots of time in the water every day. Maybe my spirit just wants to recalibrate in a way like Adam gets to.

I loved reading Three Bird Summer. I so want to be in this cabin, well any cabin on a lake, for the summer. But the way St. Antoine lays out this cabin, with the story of who lives there and why, makes it all the more enticing. Adam seeks out the annual summer stay at his grandmother's cabin, albeit this year without extended family because his parents divorced. His mother hovers over he and his grandmother, determined to set a course she can control. Adam devises his own way to work around his mother, albeit in a way that makes total sense and maintains his integrity. He meets a stellar, kind, down-to-earth new friend-who-happens-to-be-a-girl, and they end up hanging out alot. Then there is this treasure map Adam finds. And these mysterious notes. And his grandmother's confusion. And there is water, lots of lake water: for playing on and in, for getting away from crazy-family life, and for witnessing animals in a whole new way.

Looking for a summer read before summer arrives? Try out Three Bird Summer. And may all of your summer dreams come true! Maybe this book is just what I have been waiting for.