9/15/2009

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

Every Soul a Star

By Wendy Mass
Audio version by Recorded Books
7 CDs, 7.75 hours

Some people read Every Soul a Star because of the awesome cover. For me, it was the appealing title. Set against the backdrop of a total solar eclipse, Ally, Bree and Jack meet at the Moon Shadow campground. Ally’s parents own it, but Bree’s have signed a lease to become its caretakers for the next three years. Previously, Bree’s life had revolved around the hope of becoming a model, and so living in total isolation feels, at first, as though her world has come to a crashing end. Much the same is true, but in an opposite way, for Ally. A quirky kid who loves her isolation, she cannot imagine moving with her family to the city and adjusting to city life. Jack, an overweight kid with an artistic bent, goes to the Moon Shadow because his science teacher has made a deal with him. If Jack helps him out with a science project, he won’t have to do summer school due to a failing grade in science.

Readers who enjoy a fast paced plot will be disappointed with this one, but those whose interest lies in character and story should enjoy it. I love character-driven stories more than plot-driven ones, however because it is told in three viewpoints, alternating chapters, it was achingly slow to take off. The book is nearly half over before the three kids meet and their friendship and the environment can begin to effect their transformations. But each character is nicely distinguished, and even if I wasn’t listening to an audio version, I could’ve easily told the difference between Bree and Ally. The impending solar eclipse provides the miniscule plot movement, but when it comes, it is beautifully and powerfully described. Some readers will find Ms. Mass’s heavy inclusion of information about astronomy fascinating, whereas others might find it distracting. I thought it was nicely balanced, just about the perfect amount. Recommended for grades 4-8. Ms. Mass has also written A Mango-Shaped Space and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.
Wendy Mass also has a terrific website.

9/12/2009

10 Great Picture Books for Grandparents' Day


Grandparents' Day is Sunday, September 13.

Unfortunately, The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater ... That Grandma Knit, by Debbie Macomber and published by Katherine Tegen books, won't be out until October 1, 2009. I haven't seen it, but when it's Debbie Macomber, how can you go wrong? The minute I lay my hands on it, I will report back.

I have read the following books many times to children in my storytimes. All are wonderful, with grandparents as characters.

*What Grandmas Do Best; What Grandpas Do Best--both by Laura Numeroff
*Yoko's Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells
*Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
*In the Rain with Baby Duck by Amy Hest
*Mailing May by Michael Tunnell
*My Hippie Grandmother by Reeve Lindbergh
*Abuela by Arthur Dorros
*Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells
*The Napping House by Don and Audrey Wood
*Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Enjoy!

9/05/2009

If I Stay ... Young Adult Review

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton
April 2009

One Sentence Synopsis: After a car crash on an icy road kills her entire family, critically injured, 17-year-old Mia must choose whether to live or die.

School was cancelled due to a light snow, so Mia and her family decided to visit friends. But in one terrible moment, her family is taken from her, and Mia is left, near death, along the side of the road. An ambulance gets her to the hospital, and from there Mia’s story alternates between flashbacks and the next 24 hours, where she lies comatose and on life support. Employing a skillful literary device similar to the popular "dead narrator," Ms. Forman allows Mia’s spirit to disconnected from her body, enabling her to experience the present moment, and to witness people’s reactions to seeing her in her hospital bed. These moments trigger flashbacks that explain Mia’s relationships to her worried friends and relatives and boyfriend—all of whom stop at nothing to encourage her recovery.

This book gripped me from page one and never let me go. After all she lost, would Mia choose to go and be with her family in death? Or would she choose to face a grim future without them, but have the strength to remain alive and rebuild her life with her friends and boyfriend? With enormous skill, Ms. Forman made a case for either choice. I would’ve accepted either, and was unable to truly guess which one Mia would make, until reading it on the last page.

Who should read this book? Anyone who enjoys lyrical language; interesting, finely contrasted and well-developed characters; and a powerful, thought-provoking story question. This book is a page-turner, and intensely moving. Keep some tissues nearby.

If you read it, what did you think? If your entire family was taken from you, would you still want to go on? What are some of the things you live for, apart from your family? Do you have any special talents? (Mia was on her way to becoming a famous cellist.) Do you have a significant other? (Mia’s punk-rock singer boyfriend, Adam, loved her as much as she loved him.)

I loved this book!
Visit Gayle Forman's website.
Buy it at Amazon.
OR check it out at your local LIBRARY.
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