February 16, 2010
by Lauren Myracle
Carly has never been like everyone else — in fact she prides herself on her off-beat nature, wearing peace signs, listening only to music from the 60s and not being as into girly things as the other girls she knows. But things seem especially different when she gets home from a summer service project.
No matter what is going on, her sister Anna has always been there for her, backing her up and accompanying her on whatever adventures lie ahead. But over the summer, Anna has gotten hot, as in the kind of hot that boys notice, certain grown men have trouble making eye contact, and a lot of women expect the worse. Why can’t they see beyond her bra size to the girl she really is?
Still, Carly tries to shrug the changes off. After all, Anna is going to need her big sister’s help when she start high school and, sure enough, day #1 brings a misunderstanding that could easily lead to suspension.
Then a new boy shows up — Cole is amazing, unconventional and does things his own way. He’s also into 60s music and seems to be everything Carly could possibly want. While he and Carly become casual friends, the deeper connection she longs for is missing.
At least with Cole. Carly still spends time with Roger, who adores her even if she doesn’t want to be more than friends. After all, they like such different things.
Things build and Carly must re-evaluate how she sees the world. Does she really see beyond the surface to what is truly important or are her surface expectations just different from the norm. New friends, new boys and Anna’s new bra sizes force Carly to re-examine herself and her world view.
This is definitely a girl book and in spite of the lower reading level is early teen in content. There isn’t any sex but Carly does walk in on a serious grope session. Carly’s body issues as well as having to reconcile her expectations with the very real boys in her life could make for some really interesting discussions between Mom and a daughter who is just entering the dating scene.
As the mom of a soon to be teen (though a boy), I loved how Myracle played with our expectations of the various teens. Those who seem different from each other actually have similar values and expectations. The value of friendship vs pure physical attraction and how both apply in dating was also stressed. As a parent, I also loved how her father, who initially came across as a self-centered dope, is shown to be a feeling, caring human being.
This book will leave girls in their early teens with plenty to think about once the last page is turned.
February 11, 2010
by Julie Halpern
Anna Bloom is sad and mad and overwhelmed by the world — in many ways Anna is a typical teen. But problems arise when Anna can no longer go to school. It doesn’t come across so much as a choice but more a simple inability to cope with pressures she faces day to day. Not knowing any other way to help her, Anna’s parents send her first to a counselor and then dump her in a mental hospital. There Anna must deal with her very real anger, her imagined defenselessness and an absolutely adorable mental patient who just may like her as much as she likes him.
Halpern has done an amazing job in creating a cast of very real characters from Anna’s room mate who keeps her boyfriend by putting her own spin on the truth to the boy Anna just can’t get out of her mind. Can he possibly be as cool as she thinks he is? And does he like her too?
I loved Anna’s smart sense of humor, her refusal to be anyone other than herself and her willingness to like a wide variety of people. I also love that the only person who can solve her problems is Anna even if she has to be pushed into doing it. Not that the solution is one that either she or her parents saw coming.
The ending is more ambiguous than I truly appreciate. I like my endings concrete, thank you very much. But it was a realistic ending even if I didn’t love everything about it.
A good book for teen girls who don’t walk the pink fuzzy girl path. Although there are a number of strong male characters, you spend too much time in Anna’s head, feeling Anna’s feelings, for this to be a book boys would welcome.
Note: The reading level may only be 5.4, but this book probably wouldn’t interest most elementary age readers. These characters are definitely teens dealing with teen problems.
February 4, 2010
by Leda Schubert
illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
In April 1942, a special train (55 cars long) sped from Florida to NYC. It carried lions, monkeys and all of the people who make up a circus. it also carried 50 elephants.
These weren’t just any circus elephants. These elephants had been specially trained to perform in a ballet written just for them by none other than Igor Stravinsky and choreographed by the amazing George Balanchine.
Sounds too odd to be true, doesn’t it? But it is a true story. And a dancer who worked with the elephants even reported that they so enjoyed the dance, that when they retired, they would perform it by themselves even without the music written specially for them.
Don’t be fooled by the off beat nature of this story. This is straight up historic nonfiction — not a farce or a joke of some kind. (Note from Sue: for some reason when I originally reviewed this, my brain went awol and I wrote that the book is historic fiction. So not true. Now. Where oh where is my brain . . . I really miss it.)
If you have a young performer or an elephant enthusiast in your home, treat them to a tail like none other. But don’t be surprised when they want to teach the cat to dance.