Paperboy by Vince Vawter

ImageLittle Man,  as he is called by the African-American woman who cares for him, loves to write and he writes this story of the summer of 1959 when he, an 11 year-old boy, has taken his best friend, Rat’s, paper route for a month. He is great at throwing the papers on people’s porches since he’s a star pitcher on his baseball team, but talking to customers to collect is frightening. He stutters and communicating is near impossible. On paper he refuses to use commas or quotation marks, because they slow him down and he has enough problems with his stutter slowing him down. He uses ss’s to communicate his stuttering, which slows down the reader since you can’t sound it out, but which gives you the sense of being hindered in communicating.

On his route, Paperboy encounters several people that become important to him. Mrs. Worthington, a woman who is nice to him on his first day, but who drinks, and Mr. Spiro, an older gentleman who understands him and takes time to talk to him. He also runs into the junk man, Ara T. who doesn’t return his knife after he sharpens it, and who poses danger for paperboy.

Vawter evokes the sense of the late 50’s in Memphis. We see the world through the eyes of this young boy, as he comes to see his own place in it.


New Title Needed for this Blog

This blog is in need of a new title.  I’m now retired, and though I do sub, I’m reading more widely than when I was a Teen Services librarian.  Also, I’m tutoring reading at a Detroit public school, so I’ve gotten interested in books for elementary school aged children as well as upper elementary school titles, which have always delighted me.  I’m reading a lot more adult fiction too.

The other thing is that my cycling is going to have to be curtailed after a broken collarbone and a concussion, both within a year.  I’m still spinning, as well as doing yoga and strength training.  I hope to do some cycling, but no more long rides.  

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

impossible knife of memoryWow, I just finished Laurie Halsey Anderson’s newest book The Impossible Knife of Memory and I feel like I got rolled over by a truck. It’s an intense story about a teen and her dad who suffers from PTSD from his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. After spending five years on the road with her dad in his eighteen wheeler and they’ve moved back to his mom’s house where Hayley spent her youth while her dad was deployed so that Hayley can go to high school for her senior year. Most of her memories are suppressed, her mother having died when she was a baby.  After that she was raised by her grandma till she died when Hayley was 7 and then her dad’s girlfriend, an alcoholic,  took care of her until she walked out.
Hayley’s walls are up and she divides the world into freaks and zombies; she doesn’t want to go to a  high school is filled with zombies.  She has one friend from before who remembers her from when they were little and they become best friends. Through Grace she meets Finn, smart, exceedingly annoying because he’s really trying to connect with her.  Finn is witty and lightens up the world for Hayley and their sarcastic banter provides a relief from the tension as well as an insight into the fantastic people they are. “Now. I will stay in right now this minute. Build a fortress with Finn and keep yesterday locked out.”   But when things go bad for Hayley, she doesn’t want to let Finn in.  She can’t accept his help and feels that Finn is judging her and her dad. Finn tends to do the same thing and keeps his secret close to the bone for longer.
Andy, Hayley’s dad, is haunted by demons which are revealed in a few very short chapters from his point of view.  You can tell that they’re also part of Hayley’s life experience, things she’s heard or experienced as he’s dived for cover, over and over. He uses alcohol and drugs to deal with the demons, can’t keep a job and Hayley constantly has to check on him.  As he says to a student when he visits the school on Veteran’s Day, “Killing people is easier than it should be. .. Staying alive is harder.”
Anderson tackles the subject of a youth having to take care of a parent with PTSD with compassion and respect. She seems to have done a lot of research on the subject.  It’s hard to do justice to this book.  You just have to read it.  I expect it to be one of the best YA books of 2014, and we’re just beginning.  Wow!

ALA Youth Media Awards

2014 youth media awardsI was so excited to read the press release of the ALA Youth Media Awards.  Granted, I was late in reading them.  I was up until  7:30 am coughing from bronchitis as well as finishing Laurie Halse Anderson’s fabulous new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, and the soon to be released middle grade book by Karen Foxlee, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy.

So I wound up sleeping till mid afternoon, but I was so excited to see that Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures which I recently gushed over, won the Newbery Medal.   Paperboy  by Vince Vawter was the one Newbery Honor book that I’ve read and reviewed.

As to the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults, I was also excited to see that Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick won  and that Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner were named as Honor Books.  I haven’t read Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool, but I have it on hold at my library along with P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia, winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award  This important award for such a crucial age group, and most of the others besides the Newbery, is sorely left out of many newspapers.

I can’t wait to listen to the audiobook of Scowler by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne, winner of the 2014 Odyssey Award.  When I was on the Odyssey Award Committee in 2012 we picked Rotters by Kraus, also narrated by Kirby Heyborne.  It is the terrifying, but compelling story of the descent of a high school boy who has recently moved in with his father after his mother’s death into the world of grave robbing.  I know Scowlers will be just as exciting.

Another book that won an award that is not as well known, the Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience, is Rose under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, a heart rending book about women who were experimented upon at Ravensbrück.  It was selected in the teen section.

I would be remiss not to congratulate Australian writer Marcus Zuzak, winner of the 2014  Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.  His most well known book is The Book Thief, but his other books, I am the Messenger, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl also deserve praise.

Congratulations to the authors of all these books and the many others that were winners and honor recipients.  A full list can be found here.  Congratulations also to all the committee people who have worked long hours all through the year, reading or listening to hundreds of books.  I though I had posted more of my reviews here, but I guess not.  While I was still working, I was lucky if I got to put them on GoodReads.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

“”Do you think she’s ever going to come back?” I whispered.

“I’ve hoped and prayed and dreamed about it for years. But I don’t think she’ll ever come back..”

“Gloria says that you can’t hold on to anything. That you can only love what you’ve got while you’ve got it.”…

“I’m not ready to let Winn-Dixie go,”I said. I had forgotten him for a minute what with thinking about my mama.” (pp. 168-169)


ImageWhy did I wait so long to read/listen to it? I love the soft Southern accent of Cherry Jones. Her voice gives life to each character, adding to the story, and reminding me of people and towns in the South.

India Opal Buloni’s life is filled with loss, her mother left when she was three, and she has just having moved to a Naomi, Florida from Watley with her daddy, whom she calls ‘the preacher,’ He is mostly preoccupied with his sermons for the Open Arms Baptist Church and the suffering. When she goes to the Winn-Dixie for some groceries and comes home with a mangy, but smiling dog she asks him if the “Less Fortunate” could stay with them for a while. Of course her daddy has to say yes to the dog whom she has named Winn-Dixie.

Winn-Dixie helps Opal make friends with the librarian, Miss Franny Block, and other elderly and eccentric folks around town. And she eventually makes a few friends her own age, all because of Winn-Dixie.

This is one of the warmest, feelingest books I’ve ever read. No child should be deprived of it.

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

The Thing about Luck is a quiet, beautiful book that needs the right readers. It’s written for youth, but is not the thing about luckkind of book that most kids are looking for. Indeed I had never read a book quite like it.

This has been a year of bad luck for the family and when their parents have to suddenly depart for Japan, Summer and her brother wind up as the charges of their grandparents Obaachan and Jiichan. It is getting near to wheat harvest time and Obaachan and Jiichan will have to do the work of their parents. Of course Summer and Jaz work hard too. They work for a family, the Parkers, that own combines, and the grandparents drive them to Texas rushing all night to get in the harvest before the rains come. Summer and her grandmother do the cooking for the crew. But when the crew has to split up and she and her Obaachan go to Oklahoma to beat the rain, her grandmother drives the combine.  Knowing how important this harvest is, Summer sneaks out at night to do her share of harvesting.

It’s an incredibly hard life, working against time and weather, bringing along homework and falling in love with the Parker’s son, all while living with her strict yet ailing Obaachan who nags Summer all the time, but who really loves her.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate diCamillo

flora and ulyssesOne of my favorite books of the year is Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.  It is an absolutely fantastical book about Flora, a lover of comic books, whose mother,  an author of romance novels,  makes her sign a contract to stop reading comics and “turn her face … toward the bright light of literature.”    Flora who hates romance books, to say nothing of romance,  rescues a poetry writing, super hero squirrel whom she names Ulysses from the next door neighbor’s vacuum and thus begins the book.  It is filled with references to her favorite comic series, The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto!   They’ve done issues on everything and Flora has a knack of coming into contact with lots of terrible things.  Her other favorite comic is The Criminal Element and she considers everyone she meets capable of nefarious deeds.

Flora and Ulysses radiates a joy of words, of finding the right word to express a feeling, as when Dr. Meerschaum surreptitiously teaches Flora the word ‘capacious’ to describe Flora’s father’s heart. It is also filled with lovely, somewhat old fashioned illustrations as well as comic strips by  K. G. Campbell that tell part of the story.

The characters include the next door neighbor great nephew, William Spiver, who thinks he is blind.  As he says to Flora, “it’s not even that I bump into things.  It’s more that things leap out of nowhere and bump into me.  My mother says that this is because I live in my head as opposed to living in the world.  But I ask you: don’t we all live in our heads?”  Among the other great characters is Dr. Meerschaum, doctor of philosophy, to whom Flora brings Ulysses when he’s had a concussion.  She is full of non sequiturs, but leads Flora to understand how sad her father is to live apart from her. When Flora tells her she’s a cynic, Dr. Meerschaum replies, “bah cynics…cynics are people who are afraid to believe.” (P. 129)

“Holy unanticipated occupancies!”  “Holy begumba” as Flora and her father would say, this is a great book.  We couldn’t have a better National Ambassador  of Young People’s Literature, a position to which DiCamillo was just named and which lasts for two years.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Keeping the Castle is another delightful book by Patrice Kindl. I’ve loved all the books by her that I’ve read and find that she doesn

‘t repeat herself. This is a comedy of manners, set in the village of Lesser Hoo in 1811. Althea’s father has died, her mother Imageremarried, but was immediately widowed leaving her two step sisters in addition to a very young brother. None but the step sisters have much prospects as their castle is teetering on the edge of a cliff and they are practically penniless.

Over the summer when Lord Boring and his family come to town, Althea and her step sisters make plays for his attention as they make calls upon one another’s families. Lord Boring is accompanied by his “unpleasant cousin” Mr. Fredericks, son of a merchant, but grandson of a baron. Althea discounts him and finds him annoying, “amazingly unattractive,” and rude. Soon a gold coach arrives in Lesser Hoo and in it the Vincy family, a young woman and her parents who are looking to marry her off to the highest bidder.

Althea becomes embroiled in schemes to keep Lord Boring for herself, thinking he will solve her family’s financial problems, and

marry Miss Vincy to Mr. Fredericks, but as he says, “…you are an interfering young woman, and I don’t trust you in the least when you are in this mood.” (p.173)

In discussing her book and  who she would like to see in the roles of the characters, Kindle wrote, “I had already cast my book; while writing it I’d selected images to suit each major character, and I found these images far more pleasing than anyone I would be likely to find in the pages of “Variety.”  Furthermore she said, they are all real people, except for Fido the dog, and they are all dead an

d they are drawn from period miniatures.

If you love Jane Austen this is a book for you. And if you haven’t yet read Jane Austen’s books, this is a great introduction.