ALA was great

I’m bringing back some great galleys forteens at my library, but will start reading Elizabeth George’s forthcoming teen book The Edge of Nowhere first.  it looks to be great from the little I’ve read.


Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

In 1665 a young Indian man from Martha’s Vinyard graduated from Harvard College and upon this fact Geraldine Brooks has created a dramatic account of two worlds engaging and colliding. Bethia Mayfield is growing up in Great Harbor (Martha’s Vineyard) where her widowed father is a tolerant preacher and where she has time to wonder the island.   In her wonderings she meets an Indian boy, Cheeshahteaumauck, whom she will later call Caleb.  While Bethia  is a committed Christian, she also craves knowledge in a way beyond her time and the Wampanoag rituals fully resonate with her.  Caleb is a complex character, for he too attempts to stay true to his culture while learning from the English.

After his family dies from smallpox and his uncle fails to protect them with his magic, he and another Wampanoag boy, Joel, eventually come to live with her family and study with her father. It is at that time that two more tragedies strike and Makepeace, her brother, along with Caleb and Joel go to study at Cambridge. Her wealthy grandfather offers her as an indentured laborer to the school master in order to pay Makepeace’s fees.

Eventually Joel and Caleb will attend the Indian College at Harvard College and distinguish themselves as scholars of Latin, Greek, Hebrew all for the study of the Bible. While Bethia is prohibited from learning, she listens in to all their lessons, even getting a job at the buttery at Harvard after her brother leaves school so that she can follow the lectures and keep an eye on Caleb and Joel.  Though they excel at the school and later Harvard, both boys and Bethia as well, lose their health and vigor from living in Cambridge, a cramped unhealthy place, and from the separation from their beloved island and its fresh air.

Brooks uses archaic terms and turns of phrase and a formality that give authenticity to what she calls her diary. It is written towards the end of her life, looking back at these personal stories and historical events that surrounded them.  What incredibly beautiful writing, I haven’t loved reading/hearing language like this in a long time. I listened to the  audio book produced by Penguin Audio.  Jennifer Ehle gives a careful reading, timing it as a woman might have spoken in the 1660’s.

This is a great book for high school students as well as adults.

On the road again

After being away at ALA, it’s taken a few days to get back on the bike, so I was excited to ride 25 miles before work yesterday and 20 today on my day off.  It’s been incredibly hot here, in the 90s, so it wasn’t easy today to get back out there, but I’ve got to get in shape for One Helluva Ride in Chelsea in two weeks.  It’s a great ride and attracts lots of people.

Ripper by Sefan Petrucha

Ripper opens with a jack the Ripper style murder in a library and I was immediately engaged!  Carver, Finn and Delia are three orphans under the warm care of Miss Petty whose orphanage is closing. They all need to be taken in or become street children.  Carver, who wants to be a detective, has gone into Miss Petty’s office in search of his file and there found a note from a man who appears to be his father whom he thought was dead.  Carver becomes determined to find him.. Shortly after, he is taken under the wing of an old detective, Mr. Hawking, from the Pinkertons and becomes involved in the hunt to track down Jack the Ripper.  His old nemesis Finn and friend  Delia, who’ve been adopted play a role in helping him sneak into offices and figure out clues.

Short chapters keep you reading though it does occassionally lag a bit in the middle, as Carver attempts to make contact with the police, but is constantly thwarted.  The last 100 pages are quite exciting,roof jumping, electric car vs horse drawn hansome, trainhopping, etc.  Theodore Roosevelt figures highly in this book as the commissioner of police in NYC in charge of capturing Jack the Ripper and his lively daughter Alice  puts in an appearance..

There are a lot of gadgets, clues, disappearances and reappearances and a character and gadget glossary at the end.  The book is beautifully printed with grayish first pages of each chapter and the chapter numbers are in an older, uncrisp typeface.  I thought the design added character to the book and  I missed this when I switched from the hardcover to reading on my iPad.

Moonrise Kingdom

We went to see the new Wes Anderson movie, Moonrise Kingdom, last weekend and it was an absolute delight, totally magical.  The opening shot pulls you into this house set on an island in New England that turns out to be filled with wacky characters, 3 boys, a mom, Frances McDorman, and dad, Bill Murray, and the hypnotizing young girl, Suzy, played by Kara Hayward.  The previous summer Suzy met a strange young scout, Sam, played by Jared Gilman,  and they have planned to run away together.  They meet at an appointed time, in a field, he with all his scouting gear and Suzy in a dress, carrying her portable phonograph and suitcase.  Her records are a French singer and Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

Everyone gets involved in finding them and it’s full of adventure as the storm of the century approaches.  Bob Balaban plays the narrator, functioning a bit like a Greek chorus, in mapping out where they’ve gone and making predictions.  The adults are great, but the real spotlight is on the two runaways.

This is a movie for anyone looking for a little magic in their lives.

Kill Switch by Chris Lynch

Kill Switch pulls you in and throws surprises all along the way.  At the opening it appears that Daniel or Young Man as his grandfather calls him, is spending his last summer caring for his Da, an eccentric old man with Alzheimer’s.  Daniel was always close to Da and he wonders why his dad never was.  Then it seems that stuff he remembers may not be make believe, but the memories of a life and career not for the Department of Agriculture, but a life of violence.  When 2 guys he worked with keep showing up because Da’s starting to talk about his past too much and want to put him in a home, Daniel decides it’s time to go on the lam with his cousin.

Lynch’s writing is tight, never using unnecessary words to create this thriller, rather going for the ambiguous.  What is clear is that Daniel turns out to be more like his Da then we thought.  Perhaps his dad knew more than Daniel thought he did.

Recommended for high school students.

Dads in YA Literature

Fathers don’t often play a big role in teen fiction and they aren’t always the greatest dads. The lack of parents in teen books has been the source of some consternation by some critics, especially Julie Just in her New York Times article, The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit.   Sarah Okler’s blog, making stuff up, writing it down, gave some great arguments against Just’s article.  Teen fiction is about TEENS after all, but there are some memorable fathers, some great, some absolutely evil and some just plain complex.

It’s Father’s Day tomorrow, so in honor of fathers everywhere, including my son who will soon be one, here’s a list of books:

 The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Cybele’s Secret Juliet Marillier

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

Drawing Lessons by Tracy Mack

Eli the Good by Silas House

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeves

Finding Lubchenko by Michael Simmons

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson  (teen father)

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines

Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard

Hurricane Song: A Novel of New Orleans by Paul Volponi

King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett

A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian

One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

Peak by Roland Smith

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Squashed by Joan Bauer

Striking Out by Will Weaver

Twilight by Stephenie Meyers

 The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

If you’re looking for a really funny book, try Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Me is Greg Gaines, a senior in high school, and who according to him looks “sort of like a pudding… extremely pale and somewhat overweight.” Greg’s secret to not making enemies among any of the many groups at his school is to not really belong to any but to gain access to every group. Of course no one can see you talking to anybody in another group, so he has to be pretty invisible, or as he says, “insanely low-profile.” Greg’s only friend is Earl who is filled with violent rage from his awful home life. The two of them make mediocre films together like Apocalypse Later, Earl, the Wrath of God, II, Hello, Good Die and The Manchurian Cat-idate starring Greg’s cat, Cat Stevens.  “Not only can cats not act, they hate wearing clothes.”

Greg’s life changes when his mom insists that he become friends with Rachel who has leukemia. It turns out that he becomes “really good at cheering up Rachel” even though he didn’t want to get involved. His awkwardness at speaking is hysterical and Gaines uses humor Greg, Earl and Rachel to grapple with big issues.

My favorite is Greg constantly trashing himself, his films and the book.

…It’ll probably be relevant later, although who really knows.  I can’t believe you’re still reading this.  You should smack yourself in the face a couple of times right now, just to complete the outandingly stupid experience of this book.

All of the characters have personalities and are somewhat fleshed out.  Greg’s parents are a hoot; his overbearing mother and completely spaced out professor father.  I hope everyone enjoys this as much as I did.  You’ll laugh out loud and cry too.  It’s got VERY colorful language, so I guess it’s a book for those who aren’t uncomfortable with that.