books, check 'em out

and i need a job, so i want to be a paperback writer

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies 11/16/2009

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
Mick Cochrane
Knopf, 2009.
192 pp.

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).

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When You Reach Me 11/08/2009

Filed under: Books — kimbolee @ 5:13 PM
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when-you-reach-me When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, 2009
208 pp.

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!!

 

‘Shadowed Summer’ – Saundra Mitchell 10/29/2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimbolee @ 5:44 PM
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shadowed_summer_larger-748621Shadowed Summer 

Saundra Mitchell

Delacorte Press, 2009

180 pages.

I'm a sucker for anything that has to do with Louisiana.  If a book is set in Louisiana, I will read it.  If a television show takes place in Louisiana, I will watch it.  And I will probably go on and on complaining about the inaccuracies laced throughout the story.  I'm a South Louisiana girl, and I always will be…and I love New Orleans and my Cajun culture so much that I will squawk until your ears bleed if something is just not right.  Seriously, can we quit with the bad Cajun accents??

I didn't have that urge, though, with this story.  Set in fictional Ondine, Louisiana, in Ascension Parish, 'Shadowed Summer' follows Iris and two of her friends as they try to solve a decades-old disappearance of a teenage boy in their sleepy little town.

Often when Louisiana is the backdrop for a story, it's all bells and whistles, (horrible) Cajun accents, Swamp Thing, and Mardi Gras…but Saundra Mitchell impressively writes a story set in Louisiana without beating us over the head with stereotypes.  The story is about a ghost and graveyards, and a small town nestled somewhere between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is a perfect backdrop.  There's a brief mention of Katrina, a couple of nods towards NOLA and BR, but other than that, Mitchell lets Louisiana be just what it's supposed to be– the setting.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Iris and her best friend Collette spend their summers trying to conjure up ghosts in the graveyard (not unlike many bored pre-teens who live near cemetaries, am I right???) But when Iris is greeted with a whispered "Where y'at?" from an unknown voice, it sets them on a ghost chase and invites the restless soul of Elijah Landry into Iris' home. 

The story is fast-paced; the mystery of Elijah's disappearance pushes the story along, with glimpses into Iris' struggles with her friends, reminding us that our narrator is, indeed, a teenager with teenage issues.  It was certainly a quality read;  I started it on my break this morning at work and finished about 7PM tonight — I am happy to say that it held my interest (tricky to do as of late), and the revelation of what happened to Elijah did not disappoint.

I am very satisfied that this novel successfully and genuinely used LA as a backdrop.  HOORAY FOR SAUNDRA MITCHELL!!  And, the inclusion of "Where y'at?" as Elijah's catch phrase just warmed my heart…Mitchell certainly knows her true Louisiana stuff.

 

Firsties

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimbolee @ 4:53 PM
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Since this is my first post, I figured it's a good spot to lay out some goals for this here blog.  This is mainly so I can remember why I started this thing in the first place.

I would mainly like to use this blog to keep track of books I've been reading, and what I thought about said books.  It'll be mostly for me, but if other people stumble across this and are interested in what I have to say, well, then, that is awesome.

I'd like to post about every book I read, but I realize that could be a big feat, so maybe I'll just post about several of the books I read.

I'm a 20-something librarian living in north Louisiana.  I like to read young adult novels, mainly, but I venture out every now and then.  I've got an Excel spreadsheet that I use to keep track of the books I want to read, which is easier than just writing them down in a notebook for me.

I'm also on the 6th-8th grade committee for the Louisiana Young Reader's Choice Award (LYRC), so a lot of the books I am reading right now fall into that category.  Middle school fiction is the most!