Per request, I give you: Imo.
I’m not giving anything about this book away; I won’t even tell you what it’s about. (You can look it up if you want to.) What I will say is that this is one of the best books I’ve read in years. And I think part of my enjoyment of the book stemmed from knowing absolutely nothing about it before I opened the cover. I think I read it in about 5 hours total. Yep. This book rules.
Molly is an 8th grader who recently lost her father in a car accident. Struggling with his death, and how to deal with her mother in their now seemingly empty house, Molly finds a way to stay connected to her dad: she goes out for the boys’ baseball team and hopes that her secret weapon, the knuckleball, will be what sets her apart from the other players (besides her gender, of course).
I was initially drawn to this novel because of a personal connection: a girl who develops a love of baseball because of her dad. I felt for Molly throughout the novel, as she tries to find a new place in her comfortable world that collapsed around her. She feels disconnected from her mother, a stranger in hew own home, but luckily finds a way to become grounded again: baseball. Interestingly, Molly tries out for the boys’ baseball team without much protest from the other kids at school (and without so much as a side glance from her coach…good job, coach!!) But aside from the lack of scandal, there’s still some realism there — Molly’s slightly embarrassed to be the only girl, she flounders a bit when put on the spot, and she certainly suffers at the hand of other players (mostly some jerk named Lloyd who I secretly hope gets hit really hard by a baseball, or a bat, or a fist, etc…). And maybe in 2009, a girl going out for the baseball team isn’t that big of a deal. But still, Molly sure as hell is brave. And I like that.
The last few chapters of the book lost me for a bit; I skimmed the play-by-play action of Molly’s first baseball game (forgive me…but come on, you knew they were gonna win), but overall I did enjoy the book. I’m a fan of female characters who move past just “being a girl” and end up doing great things that girls in real life can look to for guidance or inspiration. Maybe if I’d read this when I was 13, I would’ve gone out for the baseball team, too! (Well…probably not. I’m a bit clumsy…but at least I can catch).
When You Reach Me 11/08/2009
When You Reach Me
Wendy Lamb Books, 2009
I must say, my first impression when finishing ‘When You Reach Me’ was that it was kinda like ‘The Time-Traveler’s Wife’ for middle schoolers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…That book just happens to be one of my favorites! And Stead’s is just as well written.
Miranda is a sixth grader who lives in New York City. It’s 1978, she’s obsessed with ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ her best friend isn’t speaking to her, her mother is frantically preparing for a stint on the $20,000 Pyramid, and there’s a crazy homeless guy who sleeps under the mailbox around the corner from her house. All in all, not a spectacularly crazy 12-year-old existence until she starts getting mysterious letters from someone claiming to be trying to save her life — letters that Miranda is convinced are from someone in the future. Is Miranda dealing with her own real life time traveler?
This book is already landing on 2009’s best of lists, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts to pick up more speed. Naturally, there are similarities between L’Engle’s story and Miranda’s, since Miranda’s thoughts are so wrapped up in ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ And the similarities between ‘When You Reach Me’ and ‘The Time-Traveler’s Wife’ are really only on the surface — time travel is time travel (how different can it really be from story to story?) and younger readers won’t even be aware of the parallels.
This was a quick, engaging read (you may notice that I am drawn to those), with a strong middle school feel that I think will definitely appeal to that age group (and to those of us who like that sort of thing.) I liked it, very much so!
And I fixed all the broken pictures on my older posts. Huzzah!!
And Now, Some Christmas Picture Books 11/07/2009
Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce you to:
What Cats Want for Christmas
What Dogs Want for Christmas
by Kandi Radzinski, Sleeping Bear Press
Cats and dogs write letters to Santa to tell him what they want for Christmas?
I think it’s obvious why I am a fan of these titles.
I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President
You may not recognize Josh Lieb’s name right off the bat, but I’ll clue you in — he’s the Executive Producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. (Okay, the quote on the cover of the book may have clued you in, as well.) Needless to say, that was a big reason why I chose to read this book. And what do you know — I liked it, too!
Oliver Watson is a dumpy, overweight, cranky 7th grader who hates the world…but he has an advantage: he’s an evil genius with a gajillion dollars and has control over pretty much every aspect of his life and the lives of those around him. His classmates all hate him (naturally), and as a prank one of them nominates him to run for class president – assuming of course, that he will lose and never live down the embarrassment. Oliver begrudgingly runs, but only — and he’d never admit this — to get approval from his dad, who seems to view Oliver more as a threat than a someone to be proud of. It’s a middle school story, through and through.
I like novels that have boys as the protagonist because there never seems to be enough of them. I also like novels that have protagonists who aren’t supposed to be likable — especially when you end up liking them anyway. I wouldn’t say that I was cheering for Oliver to win (or become a better person) in this book (he can sort things out for himself, so he doesn’t really need cheering on), but I still liked reading his story — which would probably piss him off, now that I think about it.
Oh, and here is a video of Josh Lieb and Jon Stewart talking about how awesome this book is:
Mare’s War 11/02/2009
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
Teenage sisters Octavia and Tanita have their summer completely ruined when their mother informs them they are joining their grandmother — embarrassing, push-up-bra-wearing, red-sports-car-driving Mare — on a cross-country road trip to a family reunion. (But of course, things don't turn out as bad as they feared.)
Mare's War is told in alternating chapters, some in the present with the girls driving with their grandmother, and the rest in flashbacks to Mare's time as a WAC in World War II. The girls are surprised to hear about their grandmother's adventures, having had no idea (like many of us) that grandma ever dared to have a life before she got old.
Honestly, I could've done without the chapters in the present. They served as a breather, to remind us that this story is framed by a roadtrip, that the story may have never been told without the roadtrip, but still only seemed like a way to try and connect us to the girls that the story isn't really about…I guess what I am trying to say is: Mare's story stands well enough on its own without the support of her (one) whiny and (one) shy granddaughters (who, naturally, learn their lesson and realize that they'd rather have done nothing else all summer than ride in that car with Mare.)
Mare's story whips us back 60 years and opens a door into the African American battalion of the Women's Army Corps, where Mare lied about her age to join the Army and get away from an unhappy life at home. She leaves her sister behind, and risks never speaking to her mother again, all to serve a cause, to serve a purpose, and to feel needed. This is the kind of story that makes you reflect back on past sacrifices and wonder (if it were your story) if things would have panned out the same way. It's an uncomfortable read at times, too — Davis doesn't shy away from the racism of the 40's or the ease in which some men had their way with women. Overall, it is a story that champions the strength of a woman, the strengths of the women in the WAC, all the while reminding all of us us that our grandmas may have some surprises up their sleeves. Tanita Davis gets an A in my book for this one.