Entries tagged with “YA”.
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Sun 21 Apr 2013
No matter how you slice it, Marley Rose, the new lead singer for the New Directions at William McKinley High, has had a year of ups and downs.
- She auditioned for and was named to the defending national champion glee club.
- She was designated “the new Rachel” by most other club members.
- She found friends, which was something she apparently didn’t have in her previous school.
- She won the lead in the school’s production of “Grease.”
- She had not one, but two, boys pursuing her romantically.
- She spent much of the early part of this season hiding her family’s poverty.
- She also tried to keep her friends from finding out that her mother was the very large school lunch lady.
- She turned into a female Finn Hudson, unable to definitively decide who she wanted to date — Jake Puckerman or Ryder Lynn.
- She was so eager to be accepted that she developed an eating disorder. (Here I’d just like to add that eating disorders are much more complicated and insidious than Glee has even begun to show. For a real idea, read Brave Girl Eating, a memoir by Harriet Brown.)
- She eventually collapsed on stage at sectionals, disqualifying the New Directions.
That’s a lot for a sophomore to handle.
And some would argue Marley has handled it by doing … not much of anything. She’s tentative. Unsure. Passive. So she sits back and waits for things to happen instead of pushing forward and making things happen. After watching the first few episodes this year, my own teenage daughter said, “She needs to grow a spine.”
But you know me. I think reading the right book can help resolve many problems in life, including the lack of a spine. So if I were a Glee librarian, I’d hand Marley, who’s played by Melissa Benoist, a copy of Fat Angie (Candlewick Press, 2013) by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.
Because its main character, Angie, seems to have more downs than Marley.
Yet Angie has something Marley does not. An iron resolve that helps her fight her demons and move forward. That movement might not always be productive, but it’s never timid. Let’s review.
Angie is struggling mightily. Her older sister, who was adored by all, enlisted in the military after high school and is now missing in Iraq — captured by enemy soldiers. And her family is handling the stress differently. Angie’s father has moved out. Her mother has immersed herself in work and only talks to Angie to criticize her. Her older brother is running with a rough crowd and is in-and-out of trouble with the school and the police.
And Angie? She gained 29 pounds and had a very public suicide attempt when news reports indicated her sister’s body might have been found. The reports were wrong, but Angie’s response cemented her reputation as a freak and made her the target for two kids at her school. Oh, and she’s discovered that she just might have romantic feelings for a girl named, of all things, KC Romance.
Frankly, Angie is just hanging on by a thread.
But her commitment to her sister helps her stand up for herself when Stacy Ann bullies her. It helps her answer when KC talks to her. It drives her to try out for the varsity basketball team even though she’s an out-of-shape, overweight freshman. It drives her, as she puts it, to “follow through.”
The sad thing about this story is that Angie doesn’t have much of a support system for her attempts to make things better. Her relationship with her mom and her brother is strained. Her therapist twists everything she says into a new, unflattering diagnosis. And while KC admires Angie, she has some demons of her own that prevent her from being a constant ally.
So some of Angie’s decisions go awry. Others work out better than she could have planned. And along the way, she develops a cautious friendship with the boy across the street and gets some words of advice from her basketball coach.
But mostly, she finds she can rely on herself — which is helpful when the next news reports about her sister turn out to be true.
Marley has more support than Angie.
Her mother adores her. The glee club accepts her. Her eating disorder hasn’t been mentioned recently. Now, Marley just needs to accept herself, trust her decisions and deal with their results. This book could help her grow that spine and stand up for herself when she needs to.
Which would make my inner librarian very proud indeed.
Want more GLEE-ful reads?
Here are the books I’ve recommended to other Glee characters:
Fri 22 Mar 2013
In this its fourth season, Glee has added a bunch of new characters.
And, despite my role has a self-appointed librarian for William McKinley High School, I’ve held off on recommending books for them for two reasons.
1. I wanted to get to know them so I could make the right suggestions.
2. I wasn’t sure I liked them that much.
After all, I was pretty happy with the cast of characters that made Glee successful:
Kurt. Rachel. Finn. Tina. Artie. Mercedes.
With some of my favorites having limited screen time this year, I wasn’t set to welcome Marley, Jake, Kitty and Ryder to the fold.
And, frankly, some of the new characters’ personalities bugged me.
Take Kitty, who’s portrayed by Becca Tobin. So far, she’s just been mean.
And, other than confessing her love for The Spice Girls, she hasn’t shared any frailties or sympathetic traits that might help viewers understand why she’s so difficult.
How has Kitty been heinous? Let us count the ways.
She convinced rail-thin Marley that she was fat and told her that boys wouldn’t like her and she wouldn’t be successful as the New Directions’ new Rachel unless she lost weight. She even secretly took in Marley’s costumes for Grease so Marley would think she was gaining weight even as Marley starved herself and made herself throw up.
Then, when Marley collapsed onstage at a show choir competition and all the other Glee clubbers blamed her for costing them the title, Kitty said nothing. Meanwhile, she acted like she was Marley’s best friend while saying terrible things about her behind her back.
I’m not sure there’s a book in the world that could help someone like this.
But, if I were a Glee librarian, I’d suggest Kitty read Poison (Hyperion, 2013) by Bridget Zinn. Why?
Because it’s a beautiful, funny story of a 16-year-old girl named Kyra who also throws poison darts. But unlike Kitty’s verbal jabs, Kyra’s darts are real. And she throws them for a noble purpose.
Kyra is a highly trained potioner. Someone who specializes in chemical concoctions. Some are relatively harmless. They clean clothes or alter someone’s appearance temporarily. Others are dangerous. Like powders that put people to sleep, force them to tell the truth or kill them instantly. Besides being trained in how to make potions, Kyra is a an attack expert. She can scale the side of a house, take down a pack of goblins with her bare hands and use an array of wicked weapons with pinpoint precision.
In short, she’s got skills and tools Kitty probably wishes she had.
But Kyra uses them to protect her kingdom. And her loyalty to the safety of everyone in the kingdom is so great, she’s willing to turn those tools on her best friend, the princess, when Kyra becomes convinced that she will lead the kingdom’s downfall.
Is she right? That remains to be seen.
But when Kyra throws a deadly dart at the princess, the unthinkable happens. For the first time ever, she misses. That makes her a wanted woman. The whole kingdom is set to hunt her down while she’s searching for the now-hidden princess. (Besides being Kyra’s best friend, the princess is also her cousin. Did I mention that?)
Kyra could give up. She’s met a handsome stranger on her travels and a pack of gypsies who have offered to protect her. She could start a new, calmer life. But that would mean allowing her kingdom to fall to ruin. And Kyra would never let that happen. So — cold, homeless and hungry — she perseveres.
She’s battling several foes. The most notable are: The toughest villain in the kingdom who wants to turn her talents to evil, a witch who wants to enslave her, a former boyfriend who’s almost as good a potioner as she is, and a few inner demons of her own. And then, there’s her quest to find the princess and save the kingdom.
Kitty could learn something from all of this.
She too has formidable weapons. Intelligence. A sharp tongue. The ability to manipulate people and get what she wants. An exalted position as a Cheerio. Beauty. She could use those tools for good to help New Directions succeed. If she were willing to do that — and even maybe sacrifice herself and her goals a little — she’d be a much better, happier person.
Maybe Kitty has good qualities that are buried deep inside her and just need the right situation to draw them out. She did briefly defend Unique from a pack of angry girls before returning to her usual self.
This book might be just the thing to encourage her to find something she believes in and fight for it.
As a Glee librarian, I’d be happy to put it in her hands.
Want more GLEE-ful reads?
Here are the books I’ve recommended to other Glee characters:
Mon 21 Jan 2013
Sisters can be the best of friends. Or the worst of enemies.
Or, they can change so much you don’t know who they are.
That’s what happens to 15-year-old Carly in Lauren Myracle’s young-adult novel Peace, Love and Baby Ducks (Dutton, 2009). She comes home from summer camp to find that her younger sister, Anna, has turned into a beautiful, shallow teenager who’s more interested in fashion, friends and boys than Carly ever was.
Carly doesn’t know what to make of Anna — or her extremely well-off family and its focus on money and appearances. Carly’s summer camp made her re-evaluate her priorities, and she’s not sure her family’s lifestyle lines up with them any more.
What will she do?
Let’s see what today’s guest reviewer has to say.
I like: Playing softball, cheerleading, eating Chinese food and watching movies.
This book was about: A girl, Carly, and how she adjusted to her little sister growing up and their experience in high school together. It’s also about how she learned she was a lot closer to her friend Roger than she thought she’d be.
The best part was when: Anna conquered her fear of the high dive and Carly realized she wanted to be more than friends with Roger and they kissed in the pool.
I laughed when: Tracy, the babysitter, left Carly and Vonzelle at the hardware store and they had to walk home.
I was worried when: Carly couldn’t find Anna after they had a fight.
I was surprised that: Anna got drunk at the party and their parents didn’t figure out they had a party in the house. Also when their dad started crying after he talked to Carly about her Beverly Hillbillies video.
This book taught me: Why having a good relationship with your sister is important.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: Roger’s subtle hints toward Carly throughout the book.
Three words that best describe this book are: Funny, realistic, a good read.
My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “Dr. Smiley has halitosis.”
You should read this book because: It doesn’t end the way you think it will.
Lauren Myracle is a New York Times best-selling author. She’s also one of our country’s most frequently “challenged” writers, meaning, her books have appeared at the top of the American Library Association’s list of titles most often requested for removal — or banning — from our public libraries’ shelves. If you’d like to learn more about Lauren Myracle, you can:
Sat 15 Sep 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
There’s nothing like seeing your first book go out into the world.
And this week, E.M. Kokie saw her young adult novel Personal Effects (Candlewick, 2012) debut.
I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about the book and its author.
What’s the book about? Normally, I’d try to write some witty or moving synopsis, but this book has some of the most effective promotional copy I’ve seen. So why tamper with perfection?
One letter: 876 miles.
Five days to find his brother’s past and his own future.
Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, seventeen-year-old Matt Foster feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps.
T.J.’s gone, and the worst part is, there’s nothing left of him to hold on to.
Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on T.J.’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. He wasn’t expecting T.J.’s personal effects to raise even more questions about his life.
Now, even if it means pushing his dad over the edge … even if it means losing his best friend … even if it means getting expelled from school … Matt will do whatever it takes to find out the truth about his brother’s past.
I’m thrilled to have E.M. Kokie stop by the blog and tell us more about how Personal Effects came to be.
How did you first get the idea for Personal Effects?
I was doing some free-writing exercises — sitting down and writing whatever came to mind, looking for a novel-length story idea to run with. In one of those sessions I wrote parts of what is now chapter two of Personal Effects.
For a long time it was the first chapter of the story. I had this scene with this amazingly angry kid, sitting in an office after a fight, waiting for his father. He was reliving and almost relishing the fight, but what he had done was also starting to sink in. He was so viscerally angry, and vulnerable, and he seemed so real. I wanted to know why he was so angry. I wrote the first draft to find out, and to get to know him.
What process did you follow to turn that idea into a fully completed novel? How long did it take?
I just started writing, pretty much chronologically, without any idea where the story was going. And I joined a novel writing group to push me to write regularly and so I could get critique while I was writing. Once I had a few chapters, the plot began to take form, and the need for research kicked in. At some point I had to start making authorial decisions about what would happen. But for a good portion of that first draft I was learning about Matt and his life and experiencing the story as he experienced it.
In fact, I had to cut a lot of scenes in later drafts because I had not fully understood Matt in the early drafts. For example, in that first draft I thought Matt wanted to go to college, and the story was going to be about his efforts to make that happen. I’m not sure if I realized in drafts two or three that he actually wanted to avoid college at nearly all costs.
I wrote the first draft in about ten months. I then spent another five months or so researching, revising, getting critique from other writers and trusted readers, and then revising some more. In late 2008 I started querying agents. I queried slowly, a few agents at a time, and I did at least one more revision in between query rounds. In the fall of 2009 I felt my manuscript and my query were both working (getting interest from agents) and I decided to query in larger batches. I ended up signing with one of the agents I queried in that first large batch of queries in August or September 2009.
What was your biggest learning along the way?
I learned a lot about the industry, and about agents and publishers, so that I could best arm myself for approaching the business side of writing. But I think what I learned the most during the writing and revision of Personal Effects is to trust my reader.
The mechanics of my writing improved in so many ways once I started to trust my reader to understand and connect with my characters, and to read the nuance and implications of their words and actions. Once I started to trust my reader more, multiple aspects of my writing improved, including pacing and the authenticity of dialogue.
How did the sale come about?
The way I think many debut authors break in. I signed with an agent (Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary). He and I revised and polished the manuscript, and then he pitched it to a number of editors. Ultimately we accepted an offer from Andrea Tompa at Candlewick Press. It has been amazing to work with Andrea and everyone at Candlewick.
Was Personal Effects the first book you wrote? Or do you have previous “starter” novels that you did not sell?
Personal Effects is the first novel I finished. I had been writing for years, but I had never finished a novel before.
What’s the most common question you’ve been asked since your book sale was announced?
It’s a toss up between where the idea came from and how I got published. Both are common topics of interest to writers and to non-writers.
You’ve led seminars on finding the agent who’s right for you. What advice would you give to someone looking for an agent?
Educate yourself. Do your research. It’s not enough to merely look for agents who represent your genre. You need to go deeper to have a better chance of connecting with an agent who is best situated to sell your particular book and to work with your needs and expectations. Also, the concept of “dream agents” has led many writers astray. You want the agent who is best for you, and not all agents, even all agents who represent your genre, are right for all writers.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a contemporary, realistic novel. This one with a female POV character.
And at this point, I just want to say that the book is crazily, amazingly good. It’s suspenseful. It’s sad. It’s surprising. It’s real. I think you should read it as soon as possible.
You can learn more about E.M. and Personal Effects by:
Tue 3 Jul 2012
As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of Glee.
I like the storylines.
I like the songs.
I like the underdog factor.
I like the romance.
In fact, this may be the first time I’ve ever said anything critical about the show. So pardon me, but …
I just don’t see the point of Sugar Motta.
I’ve got nothing against actress Vanessa Lengies, who portrays Sugar. She seems very likable. And Sugar herself could have been a pivotal character.
So, I guess my complaint is more directed to the writers. Because here’s how it played out:
- Sugar Motta shows up after a food fight, says she’s the best singer in the school.
- She auditions and is hideously horrible.
- Mr. Shuester tries to let her down easily.
- She doesn’t buy it, saying, “I worked that song like a hooker pole.”
- Her wealthy father pays to create a glee club molded around Sugar to trample New Directions.
- But then, Santana, Brittany and Mercedes defect to the new club and Sugar disappears.
Sure, she’s still technically around.
You’d see her for a millisecond here or there when the camera panned the second glee club. And then, when the two clubs merged, as you knew they would, Sugar came along. And there was no mention about her wanting to be the star, no word on whether she had suddenly somehow learned to sing, no complaints from her father, no anything. Just the occasional brief appearance in background of the choir room. (It was enough to make you wonder why Glee even kept Lengies under contract to do essentially nothing.)
Until Valentine’s Day where Sugar got her own episode and had Artie and Rory unexpectedly fight for the right to date her. And then, after that, she basically disappeared again and the storyline was dropped.
I have no idea if Sugar Motta will grace the halls of William McKinley High in Season 4 of Glee. But a good librarian is always prepared, and just in case she does, I have the book I’d recommend she read — Harmonic Feedback (Henry Holt and Company, 2010) by Tara Kelly.
Why? Because of a few comments Sugar made in her first episode.
She’d say something rude and then say, “Sorry! Self-diagnosed Asperger’s!” This seemed like a reference to Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. People with Asperger’s sometimes have difficulty with social interaction. Sugar, however, seemed to feel that saying she might have this condition gave her license to say whatever she wanted with no repercussions.
So I think Sugar might benefit from meeting Drea, the main character of this book. Drea, who’s 16, has been officially diagnosed with “a touch of Asperger’s.” Drea knows she’s different than other people and tries to blend in and lurk in the background. She’s wary of making friends because she hasn’t always interpreted their behavior correctly and history has taught her that once other teens discover she’s different, they don’t hang around her anymore.
And while Drea would like to have friends, she’s not always sure they’re worth the effort.
Drea has a hard life in other ways, too.
Her mom has just moved her to yet another town for a new beginning. Money is tight, so they’re staying with Drea’s grandmother, who is a horrible cook and has very particular ideas about how Drea should behave.
Drea starts making friends with Naomi. Drea doesn’t say she has Asperger’s Syndrome and works hard to blend in. Naomi treats Drea like anyone else, although she’s sometimes confused by her.
Meanwhile, Drea is equally fascinated by and worried about Naomi. Naomi has a beautiful voice and wants to form a band with Drea. (Drea builds band equipment and generates computerized music tracks.) But Naomi is also experimenting with drugs and dating a dude she probably shouldn’t be.
Drea gets caught up in Naomi’s world but is scared to do many of the things Naomi does. She also meets Justin, a boy with a past who seems to understand her too. As the school year progresses, Drea realizes she can connect with other people, but she cannot save them from themselves.
In the brief time we’ve seen Sugar, she seems pretty self-absorbed and clueless about how she comes across — and a bit too willing to use her father’s money to get what she wants. Meeting Drea — who has no money and some challenges — might help Sugar realize that she leads a pretty sheltered life and has no idea what it’s like to struggle.
And in case Sugar wanted to understand her classmates a little better, here are some other books I’ve recommended to Glee characters:
Sat 9 Jun 2012
Glee’s cast of characters is getting bigger all the time.
In some ways that’s frustrating. With each new character that walks the halls of William McKinley High or the area surrounding Lima, Ohio, there’s less screen time for a character we already know and love from previous seasons.
But it also can be good.
Because Glee’s creators — with a few notable exceptions –do a nice job of adding people who bring something new and memorable to the show. Characters we want to know more about.
A case in point this season was the relatively brief appearance of Wade Adams, the new lead singer of Vocal Adrenaline, the archrivals of the New Directions kids.
Wade, who’s played by Season One “The Glee Project” runner-up Alex Newell, came in with a bit of pressure before we knew anything else about him.
Vocal Adrenaline has a history of winning national championships, and Wade was being coached by a very driven Jesse St. James who led the group to some of those national titles himself.
Wade had more than a garden variety case of nerves however. He also was battling some internal challenges.
He felt most alive — most himself — when he was dressed as his alter-ego, a confident female performer he called Unique. And Wade turned to Kurt Hummel and Mercedes Jones for advice on whether he should follow his heart and take the stage as Unique or stick to the status quo and perform as Wade.
Kurt and Mercedes weren’t sure what to recommend.
They were all for Wade being true to himself, but they also knew a performance in drag might be more than a traditional show choir audience was ready for. So they wanted to protect Wade. But, they’d also heard Wade sing and knew he was their biggest competition for the national title. After a little wrangling among themselves and Sue Sylvester, they decided to support Wade in his performance as Unique, even if it cost them the title.
As you might expect, Unique was fabulous, singing “Boogie Shoes,” “Starships” and “Pinball Wizard.” Kurt and Mercedes beamed from the sidelines as Jesse St. James fumed. If you watched Season Three, you know New Directions ultimately ended up on top, but you also heard Wade/Unique say he might have to transfer schools next year — and I don’t think he was referring to Dalton Academy.
So that’s why, if I were the librarian at William McKinley High, I’d feel comfortable recommending Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright (Simon and Schuster, 2011) to Wade.
A little summer reading is always a good idea, and this is just the book Wade needs.
This novel features Carlos Duarte, a high schooler who knows exactly what he’s good at — making people look fabulous with his make-up skills. As you might imagine this makes him a bit of an oddity at his school. The fact that he wears make-up himself, is gay and is chunky doesn’t help matters either.
For all that, Carlos is very confident in who he is and what he wants. He knows he has what it takes to be a famous make-up artist, and he moves full-speed toward that goal with help from his friends, his sister and a boy Carlos may like as more than a friend. But Carlos’ oversized confidence and personality get him noticed in good and bad ways.
On the good side …
Carlos gets a job at the FeatureFace counter even though he’s still in high school and the manager feels threatened by his talent. He convinces his friends to pose for his portfolio, and the pictures end up getting positive reviews at an art show. His sister and one of his friends take risks for him to help him get closer to his dream. And, for a moment, it looks at if everything could come together perfectly when Carlos helps a TV star who stops by his make-up counter solve a skin problem.
On the bad side …
Carlos doesn’t always do a good job of thanking or repaying his friends for their help — even when they’ve gone out on a limb for him. And, in one case, his single-mindedness to his own needs ends up costing him a friendship. Carlos also makes poor choices at work — in hopes of furthering his career — which could cost him his job. And then there’s his sister’s boyfriend, who bullies Carlos for being gay and ends up attacking him.
Carlos isn’t transgender, but his make-up and the way he dresses lead to him sometimes being mistaken for a girl. The book raises interesting questions about whether you should be true to yourself even when it puts you at risk and how much you should support your family and friends when their actions and decisions are not what you might choose.
If I were Glee’s librarian, I’d have Wade pay particular attention to the time Carlos’ sister does not stand up for him or support him. And to the times Carlos is not there for his friend Soraya. I’d also have him focus on encounter Carlos has with a bus driver, a mother and a small child who are confused by his clothing choices.
So no matter if Wade ends up singing for New Directions or Vocal Adrenaline next school year, this book would help him think through who he is and determine the best way to consistently be that person.
Interested in a little summer reading of your own?
Here are other books I’ve recommended to Glee characters:
Mon 6 Feb 2012
Last year, nonfiction author Lisa Rondinelli Albert released her debut novel, Mercy Lily (Flux, 2011).
The book tells the story of Lily, whose mother has been struggling with multiple sclerosis. After traditional treatment fails, the family uses bee sting therapy, administered by Lily, to alleviate her pain.
Lily is trained as a veterinary assistant, so she can easily handle the treatments. What she can’t handle is what happens when the bee sting therapy fails, and it becomes clear her mom wants to die.
While navigating first love, friendship, and other worries faced by high school sophomores, Lily also has to choose: Help her mom go, or cling to her fading life for all it’s worth.
Now, please join me in welcoming today’s guest reviewer, Jade!
Our reviewer: Jade.
I like: Singing. Eating. Playing Guitar Hero.
This book was about: A girl whose mom had multiple sclerosis (MS).
The best part was when: Lily and Trent kissed.
I smiled whenever: Her dog would pick up a rock.
I was worried when: Lily’s mom fell down the stairs when she was getting her papers signed.
I was surprised when: Lily’s mom died on her birthday.
This book taught me: To always live today like it was my last because you never know what could happen the next day.
Three words that best describe this book: “Too much emotion.” There was so much crying.
My favorite line or phrase in the book: I liked it when everyone always said to Lily, “Friends are good.” (Wink. Wink.)
Other kids reading this book should watch for: Swear words! Ahhh.
You should read this book because: It kinda tells you to love everyone around you and to treat them with love and respect.
Along with Mercy Lily, Lisa has written three nonfiction books for Enslow Publishing. Lois Lowry: The Giver of Stories & Memories (2007) , So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor? (2008), and Stephenie Meyer: Author of the Twilight Saga (2009). She has middle-grade and picture book projects in the works, as well.
If you’d like to learn more about Lisa, you should:
Sun 4 Dec 2011
Friendship, secrets and hope.
Those are three main elements in Bluefish (Candlewick, 2011), a new young adult novel by Wisconsin author Pat Schmatz.
Friendship appears when Velveeta, a free-spirited girl, decides to befriend Travis, a quiet boy.
Travis really doesn’t have much choice in the matter. Once Velveeta makes up her mind to be Travis’s friend, she is dogged in achieving her goal. And, ultimately, Travis realizes how good a friend Velveeta is.
Travis and Velveeta both have secrets. And because they find their secrets embarrassing, they’re both committed to hanging on to them at almost any cost. But that becomes harder to do as their friendship grows.
Once their secrets are discovered, things look bleak for the pair. But, ultimately, hope prevails.
Want more details? Let’s turn this review over to today’s guest reviewer, Sophie.
Our reviewer: Sophie.
Things I like to do: Play just about any sport, hang out with my friends, go to my cabin, ski, tube and read.
This book was about: A boy who moves to a new school. He thinks he is stupid, angry and alone. Then, he meets Velveeta, who changes his world. These unlikely friends are totally opposite. No matter how quiet or to himself he was, she wouldn’t back down. But he liked her. Also, she knows his secret. She also has a secret, but she is determined not to let anyone know it. This story is about Travis, whose life totally changes for the better, and Velveeta, who learns to look on the brighter side of her situation.
The best part was when: Travis and Velveeta go to the anti-dance at Bradley’s house.
I smiled when: I met/read about the girl, Velveeta. She cracks me up. In some ways, I think I am like her.
I was worried when: Velveeta told Travis to try, just try, and he left.
I was surprised when: Mr. McQueen knew Travis couldn’t read.
This book taught me: If you have a true friend and she/he turns their back on you, stand by them no matter what.
Three words that best describe this book: “Unique.” “Interesting.” “Inspiring.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “So, what’s your story?” she asked. “What story?” “Yours. Everybody’s got one. You’re next. What’s yours?”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The complicated relationship between Travis and his grandpa. Also, what happens to the dog.
You should read this book because: It has a very unique storyline. But if you read very closely and think about it, it has a great point and could teach you a lot.
And, Sophie isn’t the only one reviewing Bluefish. The book received starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Journal and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. It also was featured in this 60-Second Recap on YouTube.
If you’d like to learn more about Pat Schmatz, you can:
• Visit her website.
• Read this interview with Pat from The School Library Journal.
• Read this post on my blog, which I wrote after I heard Pat speak at a Wisconsin SCBWI meeting. (You’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to Pat’s part.)
This just in! Bluefish was named to Horn Book Fanfare, a list of the best books of 2011. The Horn Book said, “Schmatz has crafted a story of friendship that is subtle and poignant, believable and rewarding.”
Sun 30 Oct 2011
One of the the things I’ve always liked about Artie Abrams, one of the Glee Club members at William McKinley High School — besides his beautiful singing voice — is that he doesn’t seem overly fixated on the fact he’s in a wheelchair.
Yes, Artie has had moments where he’s dreamed of being a dancer. And, yes, he’s researched technology that could allow him to walk in the future. But most of Artie’s energy seems to be focused on similar concerns as the rest of the Glee Club kids — who is he in love with this episode — Brittany? Tina? And, with Season Three under way, a lot of his effort is going into being a director for the schools production of “West Side Story.”
Even when Artie was given a contraption that allowed him to stand for short periods of time in last year’s Christmas episode, he didn’t want it for himself. He wanted it for Brittany, who had asked Santa Claus to make her boyfriend walk. He didn’t want her to be disappointed if her wish wasn’t granted. Just some evidence that Artie’s basically a nice guy.
That’s all well and good.
But if I were the librarian at William McKinley High School, I’d suggest Artie read Harriet McBryde Johnson’s Accidents of Nature (Henry Holt and Co., 2006).
It’s a book about Jean, a teenager growing up in 1970. She’s in a wheelchair. She has cerebral palsy. She’s smart and opinionated, but she can’t make her body do what she wants it to. And, she has a hard time speaking so others can understand her.
Jean spends part of her summer at a camp for kids with disabilities. It’s the type of camp you wouldn’t find today. It combines kids with every possible kind of disability. There are kids in wheelchairs because of diseases like cerebal palsy. Kids in wheelchairs because of accidents. Kids with epilepsy. Kids who are super-intelligent. Kids with a variety of severe cognitive disabilities. And even a few kids referred to as “walkie-talkies” who walk and talk without any problems, but have other issues like epilepsy, anger-management or even asthma.
As you might imagine, the staff has a hard time coming up with activities everyone can do.
This is all eye-opening for Jean. She’s been a bit over-protected by he parents, and she’s the only kid in a wheelchair in her public high school, and even though she needs someone to feed her and dress her and move her in and out of her wheelchair, she’s always considered herself pretty much like everyone else at her school.
Being with a group of kids with all kinds of abilities and challenges makes Jean re-evaluate herself, her family and her friends, and her newly formed opinions aren’t always positive. Her cynical cabinmate, Sara, forces Jean to expand her world view, review her life goals and question people’s motives.
In some ways, it’s a disturbing book.
But it’s also a valuable story of friendship and self-discovery. I think Artie would see it as such, and he’d also be pleased that he’s growing up now instead of in the ’70s.
Unlike Jean, Artie, who’s portrayed by Kevin McHale (and NOT the Kevin McHale who used to play for the Boston Celtics), is very self-sufficient. And because he can use his arms and speak clearly, he fits in much more easily than Jean ever could. But I sometimes wonder how much he’s really come to terms with his condition.
For example, in the famous T-shirt scene from Season Two when everyone wore a T-shirt with whatever thing they were most self-conscious about listed for everyone to see, Artie’s T-shirt said “Four-Eyes.”
Yes, Artie wears glasses. Big dorky ones, in fact. But it seemed odd that that’s what he’d be most concerned about. Especially because, today, getting contacts is a very easy, inexpensive thing to do. So if that’s really what bothers Artie the most about himself, he could change it. I always thought he wore the glasses on purpose as sort of a retro Buddy Holly tribute.
Previous story lines have shown that Artie wishes he could dance and dreams of being able to one day. That would have been a more honest thing to put on his shirt. And reading this book might move Artie toward that end.
Here’s the list of books I’ve recommended to Glee characters so far:
• Artie Abrams – Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson.
• Noah Puckerman - So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow.
• Brittany Pierce – Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.
• Mercedes Jones – Dramarama by E. Lockhart.
• Tina Cohen-Chang – My Not-So-Still Life by Liz Gallagher.
• Santana Lopez – Sister Mischief by Laura Goode.
• Blaine Anderson – Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin.
• Finn Hudson – Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron.
• Sam Evans – Guitar Boy by MJ Auch.
• Quinn Fabray – Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
• David Karofsky – Dairy Queen and The Off Season both by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.
• Rachel Berry – Theater Geek by Mickey Rapkin.
• Kurt Hummel – Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.
Sun 23 Oct 2011
Catherine Gilbert Murdoch is a versatile writer. Her three-book Dairy Queen trilogy tells the story of D.J. Schwenk, a girl who plays linebacker for her small-town Wisconsin football team and tries to keep her sometimes struggling family afloat. It’s realistic, contemporary fiction with warmth and heart.
Gilbert Murdoch’s other two books also have warmth and heart, but an entirely different tone. Princess Ben is a fantasy/fairy tale with a strong heroine, high language and a wild adventure.
And her latest, Wisdom’s Kiss (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) is another fantasy effort. Booklist, which gave the book a starred review, described it thusly, “Packed with double entendres, humorous dialogue and situations and a black cat that will capture the reader’s imagination, this is a joyful, timeless fantasy that teens will savor.”
But it’s not a traditional teen book. There are several twists.
Like, what, you ask? Well …
• The story is told from eight different points of view. That’s right. Eight. And not all the narrators can be trusted.
• It includes letters, journal entries, a glossary, an encyclopedia and a play. All in the same book.
• There’s romance. And unrequited love.
• There are secrets and hidden identities.
• There’s also an intelligent cat, named Escoffier, based on the author’s own pet. Although the real cat’s name is the much more prosaic “Charcoal.”
• And, there’s even a connection to Princess Ben astute readers will discover.
So today’s guest reviewer, Athena, had a lot to work with.
Our reviewer: Athena
Things I like to do: Read, play the oboe and cook.
This book was about: Wisdom, Trudy and Tips — how they met and the adventure they have together.
The best part was when: The stories of when Trudy was a little girl.
I smiled when: Escoffier taunts a dog.
I was worried when: Wisdom “died” the first time.
I was surprised when: Wisdom was poisoned.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Enchanted.” “Magical.” “Romantic.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “Any soul who contemplates even glancing at the pages of this volume will suffer a most excruciating pain.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The glossary, which can come in handy.
You should read this book because: It has many surprises.
If you’d like to know more about Catherine Gilbert Murdock and her other books (especially two of the Dairy Queen books that I recommended to Glee character Dave Karofsky as part of my ongoing series), visit her website.