Saturday, November 07, 2009

Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson

by Jacqueline Wilson
Roaring Brook
1596432411 / 9781596432413
September 2007
Juvenile or Middle grade (grades 4-8)

This book would work well for both juvenile and middle grade readers. Written by Jacqueline Wilson, who was already enormously popular in Great Britain, this marked her debut in the United States.

Flossie's mom has remarried and is living prosperously with a new husband and baby. But Flossie's dad, though close to 40, just hasn't gotten his life together. Overweight, depressed, and hanging on by a thread, he's his own worst enemy.

When Flossie's mom and stepdad have the chance to move to Sydney for six months, they expect Flossie to go with them. Except that's not what Flossie wants. After a lot of pleading, she finally convinces her mom to allow her to stay with her father in London.

Whereas Flossie had been popular and well-groomed before, she's soon going to school looking unkempt and smelling of her father's greasy-spoon cafe. She loses her status-conscious friends, but later makes friends with Susan, who is a better, truer friend. After numerous trials that end with Flossie and her dad being destitute and all but homeless, he is finally jolted into seeing how far he's sunk, and begins to repair his broken life. He meets Rose, his true match, who is a fortune-teller and cotton-candy maker with a traveling carnival. Flossie, a likable character, suffers all this hardship with aplomb, and learns some important lessons along the way. Readers will cheer when she finally sees her ex-best friend for the bully and snob that she really is.

Many readers will identify with Flossie. I certainly would've, when I was that age. My strata of society wasn't about boarding school, designer clothes or European vacations, which is what trendy MG and YA fiction is about today, but rather working class people who lived from paycheck to paycheck and did the best they could with the cards they were dealt--just like Flossie and her father.

If you read this book, did you enjoy it?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater that Grandma Knit: Picture Book Tuesday Review

The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater That Grandma Knit

by Debbie Macomber and Mary Lou Carney
Illustrated by Vincent Nguyen
Katherine Tegen Books
0061650935 / 9780061650932
32 pgs
Ages 3-7

Cameron is excited to open the birthday present from his grandma. He hopes it will be a video game, a remote control car, or a blinking light for his bicycle. Grandma Susan always gives him the best gifts. And so, excitedly, he opens the gift to find … a truly terrible horrible sweater. Cameron doesn’t want a sweater, even if his grandma did knit it especially for him. Especially not a sweater with red, green, yellow, orange and blue stripes. Determined never to wear it, he puts it on his dog and plans to send the dog outside into the mud, but that plan gets foiled. Next, he tries to hide it in a bundle that’s going to a rummage sale, but that doesn’t work either. He then squeezes mustard and catsup on it, but Mom washes it, and it’s as good as new. Cameron feels bad, because he never intended to hurt his grandma’s feelings by not wearing it. Still, he just can’t. Until Grandma comes for Christmas. The family meets her at the station and she compliments Cameron about how nice he looks, but he’s still not convinced. After all, it has huge buttons and terrible stripes in awful colors.

Then she begins to tell him that each colored stripe has a meaning. One is connected to him kicking the winning goal in a soccer match. Another corresponds to the first time he rode his bike without training wheels. The orange stripe is for his love of oranges. Yellow corresponds to how happy his parents were when he was born. Finally, Cameron realizes that the sweater is special after all. He’s now proud to wear it, and plans to keep wearing it for a very long time.

This heartwarming tale ends with a simple knitting lesson aimed for young children as well as a sweater pattern for a more experienced knitter. The pictures are charming, with luminous people and, on many pages, a cheerful yellow background. For grandparents who warm to this type of story, it’d be a terrific gift to give their grandchild.
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