Friday, November 16, 2012

Books for Mary

Mary is a delightful ninth grader in South Carolina, youngest of four, who is not interested in vampire books and does not want anything too adult, figuring she has the rest of her life for that.  I have been meaning to suggest some books she would like for more than a year.  Here you go, Mary; once you try some of these (they should be available at your library), let me know and I will have a better sense of what you like. . .

Naturally, one always starts with Middle C, I mean, Heaven to Betsy – and as Mary is a freshman, she will enjoy Betsy’s first two years of high school.   I plan to give her the new Harper edition which also contains Betsy in Spite of Herself.  I wonder if there are any tall, dark strangers in her class?

Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock Gilbert
How 15-year-old DJ, inarticulate and wary of everyone outside her family, copes with her friend Amber’s changed behavior, her family’s financial concerns, and stuck-up Brian, whose athletic career seems more important to her father than her own.  Mary is a football fan so will be entertained by DJ’s determination to join the team.
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
I just began this series which reminds me of Sorcery & Cecilia.  It’s about a younger sister who has inherited magical skills from her mother and wants to use them to help her siblings.   I don’t know if Mary likes fantasy as much as her sisters but I think she would like this.
Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas
Mary is a swimmer and from an athletic family.  I first met her father when he was a freshman on Harvard’s basketball team and her mother is an impressive tennis player; two of Mary’s older siblings swam at Harvard.  Freitas is a Jossey-Bass author, prior to writing fiction (which means I sold her books to Barnes & Noble), and I enjoyed her book about a teen trying to achieve at gymnastics, not let the mean girls get to her, and maybe have a normal life too. . .

Four girls and their mothers read Little Women together and – reluctantly – become friends. This author was a big favorite with my nieces even before the author was drawn into the world of Betsy-Tacy.  I look forward to meeting her on her next trip to Boston.

Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
Orphan Noa wakes up in a deserted warehouse with no memory of how she got there or why there is an IV sticking out of her arm but only her strong sense of survival and her computer skills can save her.  Mary will enjoy the suspense and Boston setting.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Taylor, the middle sibling in a family that has never been good at communicating, goes to Pennsylvania for a last summer with her dying father.   It would help Taylor deal with the situation if she could reconnect with her two best “summer” friends…  A multi-Kleenex book.

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman
One of my favorite reads of 2012: It is 1960 and thirteen-year-old Sophie is staying with her grandmother when she slips through a maze into 19th century Louisiana, where she is mistaken for a slave.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Elizabeth works at a library in New York full of magical items, and when things start disappearing she realizes she must solve the mystery or possibly be accused of being involved.  My nieces loved this book and were excited to hear a sequel is coming.  I also recommend Shulman’s Enthusiasm, in which Julie and her friend Ashleigh rehearse for a high school musical with some Mr. Darcy-like boys.

Kezzie by Theresa Breslin
I realize there isn’t enough historical fiction on this list! In Scotland, prior to WWII, Kezzie and her sister Lucy try to survive with their grandfather after their father dies in a mining accident. Kezzie is one of the most intrepid and heartwarming heroines I have come across recently, and I hope there is a third book coming.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales
Chelsea gets a summer job with her best friend working at a historical reenactment village where she has to dress up every day, participate in an unexpected rivalry with another historical community, and figure out the meaning of loyalty.
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
It is likely Mary has already read this but it is still a favorite of mine!

Any other suggestions for Mary?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Winter Shadows (Book Review)

Title: Winter Shadows
Publication Information: Tundra Press Hardcover, 2010
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Timeslip

Plot: Two young women in Western Canada, one in 1856 and one in the present, separated by five generations, communicate through an old diary and a cherished brooch.  Beatrice, a lovely and, unusually, educated young woman in a rural Canadian town, has returned from school to find that her father has married a dreadful woman, Ivy, who not only resents her stepdaughter but is prejudiced against her husband’s Cree ancestry (this would make more sense if it were the ancestry of the first wife – Ivy shows her distaste of her mother-in-law’s and stepdaughter’s heritage but apparently overcame her feelings with regard to her husband; I suppose because she was desperate to remarry).  Ivy’s seemingly uncouth adult son has settled nearby but Beatrice prefers the company of the new and more refined minister, Reverend Dalhousie.
 Present-day Cass, younger and less mature than Beatrice, lost her mother recently, and her father is remarried to an insensitive woman named Jean with a bratty daughter, Daisy.  The blended family is living in a stone farmhouse that once belonged to officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and was inherited by Cass’ mother.

When Cass finds Beatrice’s star brooch and her diary, the two girls start catching glimpses of each other across time.   As Beatrice tries to make an important life decision, she is aided by sound advice from Cass, and, in turn, Cass begins to make an effort to cope with her own difficult family situation instead of sulking or making trouble.

What I liked:  This is a lovely and subtle book set in what is now Manitoba.  Beatrice is a very appealing character and I enjoyed how the author develops Duncan Kilgour from overbearing and uncouth stepbrother to a supportive ally who teases Beatrice.  It is clear he has hidden depth by the kindness he shows to Beatrice’s grandmother, so the reader likes him long before Beatrice does.   In different ways, both Beatrice and Cass, distantly related, come of age through the friendship they establish by Cass' ability to reach back 150 years to her.  The Canadian frontier history and description of prejudice shown to those of mixed blood also make this a memorable story.  Grade:  4 1/2 stars.

It is not clear why the two fathers made such poor choices when they remarried but at least Beatrice’s father realizes his mistake.  Somehow the two young women are able to establish wary but functional relationships with their stepmothers, which is more realistic than some books with more of a Brady Bunch outcome.

Source: I got this from the library, although I do not recall how I came across it.  I am pleased that the Minuteman System is supporting Tundra Books.