Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I had heard of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s one of those books that has been on the top of “to read” lists since it came out in early 2012. Now that I have read it, I know why.

At the center of Wonder is a boy, August or Auggie Pullman, with a severe facial distortion. Since he has been in and out of surgery for his entire life, he had never been able to attend school. Now that he is 10, his surgeries have lessened, and it is time for him to try a mainstream school with his peers. But although Wonder puts Auggie in the center of the story, it is really a story about kindness, acceptance, and overcoming bullying. Continue Reading

Kid Presidents by David Stabler

Kid Presidents by David Stabler and illustrated by Doogie Horner (Quirk Books, October 2014) is a delightful picture book with stories of the presidents as kids. But it is not a typical presidential childhood book. Rather than following the presidents in chronological order, Mr Stabler has focused on the presidents’s childhood hobbies, trouble-making, and childhood jobs. The actual categories are “After-School Activities,” “Fantastic Journeys,” and “It’s Not Easy Growing Up.”Continue Reading

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

You know how sometimes a book reaches you at just the right time?

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl was truly just what I needed this Thanksgiving season. It’s a memoir of growing up but it is also about food in all the little events that make up a childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

I was able to take a trip away from home and away from my two young kids (and my husband) for the first time, essentially, since I became a mother seven years ago. It was a much needed break.

But in the midst of the turkey and pie, I also read this gem of a book and it hit me in all the right spots. Family relationships: I can’t ruin my kids too badly. Cooking: I’m not as hopeless as I feel. Life in general: It’s a mix of all the moments, and the joys of simple memories will probably win out in the end.

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Alice Have I Been by Melanie Benjamin

Alice Have I Been by Melanie Benjamin (Random House, December 2010) is a fictionalized historical biography of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the woman who was as a child friends of Charles L. Dodgson (the man who later wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll). It was young Alice Liddell who begged Mr. Dodgson to write down his improvised story of a girl chasing a white rabbit to a fantastic wonderland. And it was a middle-aged Mr. Dodgson who took dozens of photographs of young girls, including Alice Liddell, during the late 1800s.

Was Mr. Dodgson a perverted man? Was Alice his fantasy? Or was it a part of Victorian custom to photograph children in costume as he appeared to have done? Did Alice’s family know of the photograph of Alice as a beggar girl?

Due to destroyed correspondence and our own possible misunderstandings of the era, we may never know for sure. Yet, the mysteries in Alice Liddell Hargreaves’ life seem real in this novel. Her story here is both interesting and emotional.

A fictionalized biography is always a difficult situation. Given the lack of documented evidence, the situation could have been quite different from what Ms Benjamin portrayed. Nevertheless, regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Dodgson, Alice Have I Been is still a fascinating fictionalization.

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