The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey

 

“‘Observe the frontal lobe, Will Henry.  The sulci-these deep crevices you see covering the rest of the brain-have all disappeared.  The thinking part of his brain is as smooth as a billiard ball.’

I asked him what that meant.

‘…We may assume it is a manifestation of the toxin.  This aligns perfectly with the literature, which claims the victim, in the final stages, becomes little more than a beast, incapable of reason but fully capable of a murderous, cannibalistic rage.  Certain indigenous tribes of the Lakshadweep Islands report whole villages wiped out by a single exposure to the pwdre ser, until the last man standing literally eats himself to death.'”

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop is a monstrumologist, a scientist specializing in horrors, a monster-hunter.  He and his apprentice, Will, are current on the trail of the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology”-a beast whose very saliva causes those infected to lose their faculties for reasoning, and become filled with the desire to destroy and eat each other.  The search brings them to the locus of the infection, a remote island where packs of the sick roam, preying on each other.  Together, the pair faces a nightmare beyond anything they’ve experienced.

I am the kind of person who keeps her eyes clamped shut during bloody scenes in movies, and I’ve only read one Stephen King book.  Horror just isn’t really my thing.  That said, I am powerless in the gravitational pull of The Monstrumologist series.  This is the third installment, and it didn’t disappoint.  Rick Yancey crafts a gory, chilling literary world full of original monsters, literary references, and characters so real that you’d know them instantly if you saw them in the street.  The books are narrated by the young Will Henry, the son of Dr. Warthrop’s previous assistant.  Will was orphaned and the doctor took him in and began initiating him into the world of furtive autopsies, international travel in search of things that undoubtedly want to kill them, and scientific research on the stuff comprising nightmares.  It’s not a life for a child, but Dr. Warthrop is all Will has in the world. Where else would he go?

The brilliant part of the series is the setting: the stories take place during the later half of the nineteenth century, during the Industrial Revolution. This is the time of scientific societies, Darwin, and empiricism (only believing in what you can measure with numbers), concepts that form the backbone of Dr. Warthrop’s belief system.  Reason is his deity, and the scientific method is his salvation.  Will and Dr. Warthrop live in a gritty New England, with frequent trips to the dirty, rough London that appears in Sherlock Holmes stories.  Actually, Dr. Warthrop is a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the poet Rimbaud. (They both make appearances in this story!)  The books are saturated with the scientific beliefs of the time; the interweaving of philosophy and moral issues adds another level of appeal.  In short, these are gruesome horror stories told by a master who carefully frames his gore in a meticulously accurate historical setting. Horror fans will want to stay up all night, and the writing is compelling enough to snare poor non-horror lovers like myself, too.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so: the first book in the series is a Printz award winner.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.rickyancey.com

Yancey, Rick. The Isle of Blood. Simon & Shuster: New York, 2011. 558 pp.  Ages 16 and up (a brave and unsqueamish 16).

If this sounds like a good book, you should try the others in the seriesThe Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo.

 

 

 

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Happyface by Stephen Emond

“I’m supposed to be Happyface.  I’m supposed to smile and laugh and talk and get things going because people are attracted to that, they want to follow the happy person.  They want that happiness to rub off on them.”

Happyface’s life fell apart, and he and his mother moved to a different town.  There, he decided to shed his old identity and transform into Happyface, the life of any party and source of flippant jokes and sarcasm. However, maintaining his carefree persona requires a tremendous amount of effort, and prevents him from getting close to others.  Worse, his secret past catches up with him in his new home-a history that evokes pity in others, and he doesn’t want to be the guy everyone feels sorry for.  How can he make others want to be his friend if he can’t be Happyface all the time?

Happyface is an artist, and spends most of his time sketching cartoon characters, classmates, and the world around him.  The format of the book reflects this: pages are filled with drawings and notes, which makes it very interesting to look at.  Furthermore, the premise of the story is excellent: a young person realizes that sincerely expressing one’s feelings is the only way to be close to others, and that making friends necessitates being honest.  So, some elements that usually lend themselves to a great read are present, but this book seems to be in the throes of an identity crisis.  I found Happyface to be (please forgive me) a jerk. However, there are many fantastic books written in the voice of an unpleasant character, right?  But Happyface’s one-dimensional self-centeredness, I felt, does young people a double disservice: first, by offering an unrealistically negative portrayal of teenagers, and second, by overshadowing the more appealing elements of the book.  The text’s indecision extended to the plot, as well: a love triangle is played against a larger tragedy, when perhaps the book could have benefitted from only focusing on one of these narrative threads.  In short, the book attempts too much, and the result is somewhat confusing.

In its defense, this is Stephen Emond’s first novel, as he has worked primarily on comic strips in the past.  His artistic talent is displayed in the book, and I really enjoyed the different sketches and fonts in the story.  However, if you are looking for a visually unique story, you might want to try Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  If you like the diary format, I have to recommend the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  They are wildly popular for a reason, folks; they’re hilarious and interesting to look at, as well as being from the perspective of the underdog, which is similar to Happyface, though much, much funnier.  Finally, if you’re looking for books about how teenagers endure tragedies, I recommend John Green’s Looking for Alaska or Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.stephenemond.com/

Emond, Stephen.  Happyface. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 307 pp.  Ages 15-18.

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

“April 26

Sometimes

when you are trying

not to think about something

it keeps popping back

into your head.

You can’t help it

you think about it

and

think about it

and think about it

until your brain

feels like a squashed pea.”

Jack hates poetry.  He doesn’t want to read it, and he certainly doesn’t want to write it.  However, he is in the same situation as many children: you do not get to choose what you want to do in school.  And so, in a series of assigned poems over the course of a school year, Jack dutifully records his feelings.  In the beginning, they’re short and grumpy poems, like “I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty” or “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry.  Girls do.” However, once he reads the poems of Walter Dean Myers, who is 1) not a girl and 2) not writing about roses and romance or wheelbarrows, Jack begins to feel differently.  He begins to write about the death of his beloved dog in poem form.  He even musters up the bravery, with his teacher’s encouragement, to ask Walter Dean Myers to visit his school.  Poems? They may not be so bad after all.

Does anyone remember the William Carlos Williams poem about the red wheelbarrow?

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

As a young child, that poem filled me with rage.  Really?! I thought. You’ve got to be kidding me. You know what? No.  So much does NOT depend on wheelbarrows.  Why am I reading this? I’ll admit it freely, friends.  Until someone taught me about symbolism and brevity and the distilled emotions of poetry, I had absolutely no patience or interest in it. (Now, I am a happy subscriber to the Poetry Foundation magazine and spend many hours reading poems-that’s the truth! I even became a literature major-there is hope for all you who do not yet love poetry!) Anyway, when Jack opens his book with a complaint about the wheelbarrow, I laughed out loud!  In an authentic voice, Jack manages to display his distaste for poetry, but creates some very moving poems while doing so.

The best part of this book is its intertextuality-a fancy word that means “references to other books”.  Not only does Jack chronicle his appreciation for the young adult superstar author, Walter Dean Myers, he also discusses several famous and important poems.  These poems are included in the back of the book, so you can read them, too. The book is like a bunch of arrows pointing to other great books and poets and authors, so it makes you want to read more!  This is an excellent way to introduce a poetry unit in the classroom because it acknowledges the common complaints against poetry, discusses why poetry is important (without preaching, friends, because you know that is really something I can’t bear in a book-kids smell that a mile away!), and then gives us some clues for new things to read.  Furthermore, anyone who has ever lost a pet will be moved by Jack’s poems about his dog.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.sharoncreech.com

Creech, Sharon. Love that Dog. HarperCollins: New York, 2001. 86 pp. Ages 8-12.

If you liked this book, and it made you crazy for poetry and now you want to read it all the time, like me, you might want to try the sequel to this book, called Hate that Cat.  Home of the Brave is a poem-story about a young Sudanese refugee settling in Minnesota, and Out of the Dust is the story of a young girl living in Oklahoma during the Great Depression.  And of course, everyone should read everything Walter Dean Myers has ever written!

Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer

“I know all those astronomers I’d watched an hour earlier on CNN can explain just what happened and how and why and they’ll be explaining on CNN tonight and tomorrow and I guess until the next big story happens.  I know I can’t explain, because I don’t really know what happened and I sure don’t know why.

But the moon wasn’t a half moon anymore. It was tilted and wrong and a three-quarter moon and it got larger, way larger, large like a moon rising on the horizon, only it wasn’t rising.  It was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible…It was still our moon and it was still just a big dead rock in the sky, but it wasn’t benign anymore.  It was terrifying, and you could feel the panic swell all around us.  Some people raced to their cars and started speeding away.  Others began praying or weeping. One household began singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

When a meteor crashes into the moon, it sets off a series of terrifying calamities: tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and climate changes.  Panicked citizens rush into stores and get in fights over canned goods.  Gas prices skyrocket. Electric power service becomes erratic and soon ceases altogether.  As for water, the lucky ones are those that have their own wells, but even they risk running dry; the climate changes mean unpredictable rain showers.  When it does rain, the storms are of frightening magnitude.

Sixteen-year-old Miranda records it all in her diary.  She lives in Pennsylvania with her mother and two brothers.  Together, they try to survive the end of the world as they knew it.  They watch their dwindling supplies of canned goods, chop firewood for their stove, and venture out only to the post office, to wait anxiously for news of loved ones.  The lists of the dead grow longer and longer; many people starve or freeze to death, and those that survive are susceptible, in their weakened states, to the flu or other diseases.  What’s a teenager to do when it looks like the end of the world?

I’ve read a lot of books about the future; I’ll admit, I have a weak spot for Worst Case Scenarios.  The earth runs out of oil? I totally want to read about it.  Zombie apocalypse?  The only way I’ll be prepared is by figuring out what the characters in the book did, right?  Anyway, I consider myself reasonably well-qualified to judge these kinds of books.  Life as We Knew it is one of the best I’ve read, for several reasons.  First, it’s one of the scariest because it seems to be the most likely Way The World Ends.  An asteroid hits and the dust from the impact and the ash from volcanic activity obscure the sun and cause dramatic climate changes.  Secondly, the diary format really captures Miranda’s anxiety, frustration, and cabin fever as her world is reduced to the size of a single room: the only room heated by their woodstove.  And thirdly, the ending isn’t controved, no deus ex machina solutions that enable scientists to push the moon back into place and restore order.  I can’t tell you, of course, but you can trust Susan Pfeffer: she won’t let you down with an unrealistic ending, but she won’t terrify you with nothing but destruction, either.

Miranda’s voice is realistic, and her observations of the world around her are sharp and fascinating. I was horrified and captivated while reading her entries about her brothers, after she realizes that her mother might have to choose which of the three children to continue feeding, should the resources get too low. This book will have you stocking up on canned goods and batteries, for sure.  If you’re looking for a chilling book to escape the miserable summer heat, this one is a great place to start.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com

Pfeffer, Susan. Life as We Knew It. Scholastic: New York, 2006. 337 pp. Ages 13 and up.

If this book sounds great, you’re in luck! There are two more in the series: The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

“Congratulations, Future Candymakers! You have been accepted to compete in the Annual New Candy Contest sponsored by the Confectionary Association.  The following participants from Region III will report to the Life Is Sweet candy factory two days prior to the contest: Logan Sweet, Miles O’Leary, Daisy Carpenter, and Philip Ransford III.”

Logan Sweet is the son of the Candymaker.  His father owns the Life Is Sweet candy factory, where they grow their own cocoa beans, keep hives of bees, and can identify the cow who gave the milk by the way the milk tastes.  There is a library, a taffy room, a tropical room, and…a mystery.

Logan has a lot to live up to: both his father and grandfather won the Annual New Candy Contest in years past.  However, he just feels clumsy around recipes; it seems that when he’s trying to create candy, nothing goes right.  How will he manage to invent a candy good enough to win, if he can’t even keep his sugar from boiling over?

The other contestants are just as diverse and interesting as the candies that Life is Sweet produces.  Miles is obsessed with the afterlife, carries around a life vest, and is allegedly allergic to pink and pancakes.  Daisy can never match her socks and is best friends with Magpie, her horse.  Philip keeps a hidden notebook and wears suits that are just as stiff and starchy as his personality.  However, things aren’t as they seem in this sweet mystery.  Each of the characters has a secret, and someone is trying to steal the secret ingredient at Life is Sweet and sabotage the contest! Worse still, if the secret ingredient is discovered, it could mean financial ruin for the factory, and Life is Sweet could lose all of their business.  Logan has to get to the bottom of things before his family loses everything!

Ok. Here’s the thing: my love for candy is second only to my love for reading.  I even made up a weekly holiday, called Candysunday.  You know how most Sundays are full of getting ready for the week, which means grocery shopping and homework and laundry?  Well, that’s a gloomy way to start the week, I’ve always thought.  Candysunday is my antidote for it: basically, I don’t eat any candy during the week, but on Sundays, I can have as much as I want! So, in honor of Candysunday this week, I wanted to tell you about this darling book.

At first glance, the splendid candy factory setting makes you think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but even though the factory is delightful and similar in some ways to Dahl’s, this book is more of a clever mystery than a quirky adventure.  The format is interesting: each of the four contestants tells his or her side of the story.  We not only learn their secret hopes and insecurities, but also what they know about the mystery.  Who has been trying to steal the secret ingredients?  Is there a scandal brewing at the New Candy Contest?

Readers will be drawn to these quirky characters, and appreciate the very real anxieties woven into a fanciful plot.  Without being didactic, the four separate storytellers subtly illustrates how easy it is to make assumptions about others’ actions, and the underlying message of the story is one championing collaboration, rather than competition.  It is a gentle read, sweet without being saccharine, and offbeat without being wacky.  It would be a good read-aloud for families with older elementary-school children, and a read-alone for sixth and seventh graders.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.wendymass.com

Mass, Wendy. The Candymakers. Little, Brown: New York, 2010. 453 pp.  Ages 10-14.

If you liked this one, be sure to check out the original candy wonderland of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  If you liked the mystery part, try Blue Balliet’s The Danger Box or Chasing Vermeer, or The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Oh, and one more thing:  the Pepsicles and Oozing Crunchoramas sound amazing!

 

 

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

“I was born into all that, all that mess, the over-crowded swamp and the over-crowded semetary and the not-crowded-enough town, so I don’t remember nothing, don’t remember a world without Noise.  My pa died of sickness before I was born and then my ma died, of course, no surprises there.  Ben and Cillian took me in, raised me.  Ben says my ma was the last of the women but everyone says that about everyone’s ma.  Ben may not be lying, he believes it’s true, but who knows?”

Todd is the youngest male in the settlement of Prentisstown, a town with no women left and ravaged by a disease called Noise.  Not only does Noise broadcast everyone’s thoughts out loud, it also caused all the women to sicken and die.  Todd was taught that Noise was caused by a germ carried by native inhabitants of the New World, a race called the Spackle.  However, right before his birthday, his adoptive parents hand him a notebook written years before by his mother-a notebook that tells an entirely different story about Noise and warns against the sinister preachings of Mayor Prentiss.

The problem with Noise, of course, is that no one has any secrets.  As soon as he sees the notebook, Todd must strike out through the swamps and across the countryside, in the hopes that he will be able to outrun the other men of the town.  He knows they will come after him as soon as they hear his Noise and know he is trying to escape.  During his flight, he meets a young woman named Viola, whose parents’ ship had crashed in the swamp.  Viola had been trying to survive on her own in the hostile environment.  Todd is fascinated (he has never seen a girl before!), but also terrified that he might infect her with the Noise germ.  Companionship wins, and the two proceed across the New World, trying to reach the town of Haven that Todd’s mother mentioned in her notebook.  They are in a desperate scramble to outrun the militia of Prentisstown men, who are convinced that Todd, as the last male in the village, is a vital part of their salvation plan.  When Todd learns the truth about Noise, what happened to the women, and what the men of Prentisstown expect him to do, he will face an ethical dilemma that nothing could have prepared him for.

This is a fast-paced, post-apocalyptic story that reads like a cross between Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and M. T. Anderson’s Feed.  The book explores colonization, racism, religious extremism, and the idea that just knowing about something ethically wrong, but not acting to right it, makes one complicit in the crime.  Does that sound too philosophical?  Don’t worry-I promise you won’t want to put this book down.  Not only is it a compelling story,  it is also a graphically interesting book.  The Noise of different villagers is depicted with distinct fonts, and the spelling of Todd’s words and thoughts is quite phonetic, rather than conventional.  Plus, if you really loved it, there are already two more out in the series, which is called Chaos Walking. The second installment is The Ask and the Answer and the final book is Monsters of Men.

This book was short-listed for the Carnegie award and was also recognized by Booklist, among others.  I found it a nice change from the technology-heavy dystopian novels out there, and loved the creative presentation of the Noise.  I hope you like it!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.patrickness.com

Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go. Candlewick Press: Somerville, MA, 2008. 479 pp. Ages 14 and up.

If you liked the conspiracy theory part of this book, you would probably like M. T. Anderson’s Feed.  For a suspenseful futuristic escape story that also explores issues of racism and colonialism, try Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion. It’s amazing!

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Image“He wished that he was with his mom in her library, where everything was safe and numbered and organized by the Dewey decimal system.  Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system.  That way you’d be able to find whatever you were looking for, like the meaning of your dream, or your dad.”

Ben’s mother worked as the librarian in their small town, until she died in an accident, leaving Ben alone and lost.  He never knew his dad.  Now he lives with his aunt and uncle, who are kind, but after losing his mom, he can’t help but wonder about his father: where is he?  Who is he? During a thunderstorm, he discovers a mysterious message that he thinks could be from his father, and he is determined to get to the bottom of things, even if it means getting to New York City on his own.

Half a century earlier, Rose is being pushed to learn to lipread.  She rebels, cutting up her lipreading primer and turning it into a diorama of New York.  She keeps a scrapbook of her favorite movie star, and goes to all her movies.  Even though she can’t hear, Rose can still go to silent movies, and read the dialogue, like everyone else.  When she sees a newspaper headline that says Lillian Mayhew, her heroine, will be in New York soon, Rose sets out for the big city.

Rose’s part of the book is told entirely with Selznick’s intricate, enchanting pencil sketches, while Ben’s storyImage is told with words.  The effect, much like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is rich; this, like its predecessor, is a book to be treasured.  Indeed, Wonderstruck shares several similarities with Selznick’s previous book:  orphan protagonists, museums, secret messages, and adventures that take place in very important cities. I especially loved that the two books were so similar, because I felt bereft after I finished The Invention of Hugo Cabret, as though there was unlikely to ever be another book that made me feel the same way.  I shouldn’t have worried, though: with the release of Scorsese’s magical film rendition of Hugo, followed by Wonderstruck, the stories aren’t over.

ImageMy advice?  This is a book for sharing. Read it to your classroom after recess: the mystery will keep the students engaged, while the ethereal illustrations will inspire even the most timid budding artist.  Read it to your children, to anyone you love who cares about Deaf culture, dioramas, paper art, the American Museum of Natural History, libraries, adventures, thunderstorms, or New York. Read it with hot chocolate and a mind ready to marvel.  Selznick’s world is meaning-rich and stocked with secrets.  He is clearly an author that has not forgotten what it like to dream.  Let’s all hope he has another book dreamed up for us, and soon.

Happy Reading!

Wonderstruck website: http://www.wonderstruckthebook.com

Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck. Scholastic Press: New York, 2011. 635 pp. (I promise, it doesn’t feel like it at all; you are going to wish it would last forever.)  Ages 10 and up.

If you liked this book, try The Invention of Hugo Cabret or the shorter graphic novel, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock, and like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.  Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.”

When Jacob was young, his grandfather told him many stories: stories of how he was chased by monsters out of Poland, how he took shelter on an island, at a home for children, in a place full of gardens and streams and sheep and safety. The children at the shelter had unusual skills: a levitating girl, an invisible boy, a young woman who could control fire.  Abe even had a box of photographs from those days. Jacob had seen them so many times, that he felt as if he knew them personally. Eventually, he grew too old for his grandfather’s stories,  and stopped believing.
When his grandfather is killed one night, and dies raving about monsters and begging Jacob to carry a cryptic message for him, Jacob is shattered.  Attempting to fulfill his grandfather’s final wishes leads him to a tiny island off the coast of England, where he finally finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And something horrifying, called wights, and their further horrifying counterparts, hollowgasts.  If you know anything about the myth of the wendigo , they will sound familiar to you.  Either way, Jacob grandfather was fully justified in his terror of the creatures.
The best part of this story is the creative format. Ransom Riggs integrates eerie old photographs into this story seamlessly.  You’ll be reading along about a character, and then turn the page, and there it is: a crying boy in a bunny costume, beautifully dressed twin girls who are ominously faced away from the camera,  a young boy with a monocle. The best part is that they are absolutely real photos, which makes them even creepier. They contribute to the melancholy, supernatural tone of the story.
After reading some reviews, I found that some people didn’t necessarily know how to respond to the between-genre feel of this book.  Is it written for adults? Is it YA lit? Is it science fiction? Light horror?  Personally, I think it is a little of all of the above, and I really like that.  The genre-crossing gives it a very unique feeling.  I loved the atmosphere of this book.  It feels like part X-men, part science fiction, part ghost story, part graphic novel (because of the photographs), and part war story.  It made me very happy for 24 hours!
If this one sounds good, you might like these, too:
Happy Reading!
Author’s website: http://www.ransomriggs.com (He says a sequel is coming!)
Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Quirk Books: Philadelphia, 2011. 348 pp.  Ages 14 and up.

Totally Joe by James Howe

“Ok, fine, I’m not a boy like them, but I’m still a boy.  The thing is, boys-by which I mean guy-guys like my brother Jeff-have always been a total mystery to me. I mean, how do they know how to do all that stuff, like throw and catch and grease car engines? Besides the fact that I don’t have a clue how to do any of those things, on a scale of 1-10, I have, like, below zero interest. Way below.  Try negative a thousand.”

Joe’s writing his alphabiography for a school assignment.  It’s a story of his life with a section for each letter of the alphabet, starting with A, for Addie, his best friend, through Z, for Zachary, the boy that might someday become his boyfriend.  His alphabiography is almost like a journal: he talks about his crushes, about his family, how it feels to be bullied.  He’s a great cook, is horrified by the thought of kissing, and favors loud Hawaiian print shirts.  He has a boyfriend, Colin, who is just not quite ready to come out of the closet yet, and there are some guy-guys who’ve been picking on him, but Joe strives to be positive.

I usually end up reading more high school level books, and this is written for the younger crowd, so it was a refreshing change.  Actually, refreshing is the perfect word for Joe, himself.  He’s optimistic, self-confident, and his indomitable spirit permeates the book.  I love his language: creative, casual, and approachable.  His character comes off as so earnest and friendly, that you want him to be real. Furthermore, James Howe has done a wonderful job handling the bullying issue without allowing the novel to be consumed by it.  The result is a light, pleasant, and encouraging read.  I think you’re going to like it!

For the record, James Howe is the author of my much-beloved Bunnicula series!

Happy reading!

Howe, James. Totally Joe. Athenum Books: New York, 2005.  189 pp. Ages 10 and up.

Publisher’s website: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/James-Howe/20539048

This is the companion book to The Misfits, so that is a great place to start if this sounds like a good book.  However, I read Totally Joe first, and it was just fine on its own!  Also, look for Addie on the Inside, coming out soon!

 

 

Throwaway Daughter by Ting-Xing Ye

“You can’t be two people at the same time-not without ending up in a mental institution.  I’m not just Grace Parker.  I’ve accepted that.  I wasn’t born at Soldier’s Memorial.  I was unwanted by my so-called real parents.  That’s the hard part, like a toothache that won’t go away.  They got rid of me.”

Grace’s parents adopted her from China when she was an infant, and Grace was never interested in her Chinese heritage.  As far as she could see it, she was unwanted and abandoned-why should she try and pursue the culture that rejected her, anyway?  When she stumbles across a newscast covering the massacre in Tiananmen Square, her perspective changes, and she begins the process of exploring her birth country and trying to find her birth mother.

This story is told with many voices: Grace’s, Grace’ adoptive mother, her birth mother, and various family members in China.  It also takes places in two countries, Canada and China.  Grace attends a summer session at an international school in China, and from there tracks down an orphanage worker who cared for her, and after a lot of  guesswork and bus journeys, her birth mother.

I have to admit, I’m fairly obsessed with stories of adoption, but it’s rare to come across one that’s a novel, rather than a memoir.  The memoirs can get repetitive quickly, but this book brings an interesting format, a political angle (with all the discussion of the Cultural Revolution, a part of the book I greatly enjoyed), and the perspective of the adopted child.  I enjoyed it quite a bit!

Happy Reading!

Ye, Ting-Xing with William Bell.  Throwaway Daughter. Seal Books: Canada. 295 pp. Ages 15 and up.

I’m sorry-I wasn’t able to find a website for the author! If you know of it, please let me know! Here is a quick biography, though: http://www.annickpress.com/authors/ye.asp?author=318