Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin captures the days before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 for four very different children: a girl whose mother travels to New York, a Muslim girl, a boy who lives in New York, and a boy who lives Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Two days before, all four children’s paths cross as they wait for their airplane in Chicago, and their paths cross once more when they all attend the Ground Zero memorial in New York City the following year, September 11, 2002.Continue Reading
Beatrice Nash is an educated, talented, and pleasant woman. But life in 1914 England does not give much credence to those qualities when she has been left orphaned and impoverished at the old maid age of 22 without any marriage prospects. To make matters worse, she must rely on her unfriendly relatives for assistance in finding a job. Her position as Latin teacher to the small school in Kent is tenuous, and she can only hope that somehow she can find the means to get ahead of her fate.
Meanwhile, Hugh Grange visits his aunt in Kent this summer, along with his cousin Daniel, and the two friends find themselves in a new situation as the country turns in the tides of war.
Yes, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson does have a romance in it, and the tea parlor conversations in it make it a delightful woman’s novel. But in the tradition of Downton Abbey, we also face the dichotomy of the classes during an intriguing changing era when the world is soon to be turned upside down by war. Add in a very timely discussion of refugees from Belgium, and I found The Summer Before the War to be a delightful British novel for capturing my Downton Abbey-starved mind.Continue Reading
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron (originally published 1987) is a clever early chapter book about a boy and his younger brother, along with the crazy stories Julian makes up to explain the world around him.
When seven-year-old Julian does not know the answer to his three-year-old brother Huey’s questions, he makes up stories! For example, he tells his brother that a catalog is a book to order cats from, and they are sent through the mail. His imagination is ripe and the stories crafted in to his adventures are fun for the young reader. In the first chapter, I was concerned when the kids hid from Dad, afraid of the punishment, but the “beating” and “whipping” in store for the pudding-eating boys was just the right kind!
I was delighted to see such a clever and obviously enduring story (it’s almost 30 years old) for the early chapter book crowd. Although my son reads at a high reading level, sometimes he just needs something short and sweet, about a boy just his age. He read this one quickly and found it quite funny. I look forward to checking out the sequels to Julian’s crazy stories as well!
The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene (Dutton Books, 2014) is both an existential novel about the meaningless of life as well as an sensitive exploration of the importance of friendship in the midst of the seemingly meaningless.
Hazel is a 16-year-old girl with cancer, miraculously kept alive by a “miracle” drug that could stop working at any time for her. Stuck at home for years, Hazel has learned to distance herself from many relationships and friends, all the while reading her favorite books, studying hard, and taking courses at the local college. She is content, but as she has pointed out, a side-affect of cancer is often depression, so she has her moments.Continue Reading