Checking In With My 2014 Must Read List

I always mean to be focused, but the truth is, I am easily beguiled by a shiny new hardcover. Faster than you can say, "goodreads," I've abandoned the patient stack of paperbacks that have been waiting for me for ages. 
Consequently, I am astonished to find that I have read more than one third of the 56 books on my 2014 must read list! Of the 36 novels I've read so far this year, 20 of them are there. (I abandoned two of them so that actually makes 22) 

So far I've completed:

The Boy at the End of the World by Greg Van Eekhout ★★★★ I liked this one enough to purchase a set for lit circles. 

Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers  ★★★★ The more I read of Myer's work, the more I admire him. 
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley ★★★★Some people haven't liked this new Flavia novel, but I love that Bradley is taking her into new directions. 
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander ★★★★ So far, the lit circle set I purchased have been a success with readers.
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato ★★★★ I bought a set for lit circles before I read it because it was at the book fair, and I love Amato's work. So far no feedback from kids on it.
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson 
★★★★ Hattie is an amazing character. Now I have to track down and read Hattie Big Sky. 
In Darkness by Nick Lake ★★★★Other than a few adult novels, this is one of the most powerful books I've read in the last few years. 
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver ★★★ I liked this sweet fairy tale novel.

The Long Earth (The Long Earth #1) by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter ★★★★ 
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen ★★★★ I'm slightly addicted to her work. This isn't one of her finest, but still satisfying.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender ★★★ So far kids at school have loved this one. 
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt ★★★★  I loved these books but I don't think kids at school appreciate them so much.
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvate  ★★★★(I adored this so much I am now reading The Dream Thieves) Her writing is unbearably beautiful. 
Ring of Fire by Pierdomenico Baccalario ★★★ This was good enough to make me want to try the next one.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff ★★★★ I look forward to 'Jack' soon to be released.
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin Van Draanen 
★★★★ I need to read more of these to see if they are all this good.
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver ★★★★ I hate spiders, but was compelled to finish it anyway.
Summer Days, Starry Nights by Vikki VanSickle ★★★ I liked this, but prefer Words that Start With B.
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore ★★★★★ I ordered a set of these for literature circles. 
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes ★★★★ When this book comes out in soft cover, I am buying a literature set for our younger readers!

Books I've abandoned:

Although I loved Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I couldn't finish Eleanor and Park. I tried it as an audio book and got about 3/4 through but had such a hard time with it. First, it felt like I was waiting for a train wreck about to happen. Second, there was too much heavy breathing and angst in it for me. I think I will have a go at it again in old fashioned book form. 

I tried The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer and Brandon Dorman, but I  couldn't embrace it. It went too all over the place and was painful to read.  

Musings on Some Books I Read Over Spring Break 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley ★★★★★
I adore Flavia de Luce. This novel is bit different from the previous ones, but that is ok with me. There is murder afoot, and Flavia does figure it out, but it is background to her coming to grips with her mother's death. It is like spending time with someone you love as they tell you what has happened to them since you last met. I like that Flavia is growing up and becoming more aware  and considerate of her siblings and others around her. I like that the mystery around family deepens and that it looks like new possibilities will open up for her in future books. 

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter ★★★★
I very nearly gave up on this one since it is so 'unpratchettish.' I kept hoping his voice would make its presence known. I got enough glimmers of it to keep me reading. Then somehow, the story itself seduced me and before long I was reading just to find out what was going to happen next.
There is a lot going on in this book that will leave me wondering for some time. 

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan ★★★★
I haven't made room for this series in my life because it just sells itself by word of mouth. 
I had no idea what I had been missing. To be honest, I did try one of Riordan's later series, but it bored me. To whomever added this to my Spring Break reading list, I thank you. 

Totally Tangled: Zentangle and Beyond by Sandy Steen Bartholomew ★★★★
My neighbour in Oliver asked if I was interested in attending a Zentangle workshop the week we were there. I was indeed interested, although I had no idea what it was. (Some people will do anything to get out of renovations you see.) Then she brought this book for me to peruse the day before.
It all seemed a bit daunting but helped make the workshop itself much more meaningful. If I am not now reading so many books, you will know I am busy tangling.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce ★★★ 
I liked this one enough to waiver between 3 and 4 stars so this should probably be 3.5. I like all of Tamora Pierce's strong girls, but I think I have read so much of her work that it has become predictable.
I read this one for two reasons. First, because I've had girls tell me that the Alanna series is the best of the lot, so I decided to try it. Some of these trusted readers have told me they belong on the grade 7 shelf so I decided to read and be sure. I really didn't see anything in this one that meets my criteria for that shelf (excessive violence or graphic sexual content) so it will stay where it is.
I can't decide if I want to read anymore of the later books. However, I will definitely continue to recommend Pierce's books to my grade 5, 6 and 7 students.

Bad Unicorn by Platte F Clark ★
I only read to page 204. If it wasn't that a student put it on my to read list, I wouldn't have read this far. I finally gave up and read the last few pages.

OMG! It doesn't even end! Needless to say, I've abandoned this book.
It isn't really a bad book, (unlike the unicorn.) It's a combination of fantasy and humour. But I could hardly keep track of all the characters, never mind where they were and what they were up to. Unfortunately I've read Sir Terry Pratchett, and nothing compares to his combination of fantasy, wit, and social commentary.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

I truly enjoyed this book. It's set in the 1950's amid the proliferation of nuclear weapons globally, and Mcarthyism in the USA. Janey's parents accept a job in Britain to avoid being called up in the communist witch hunt of the era. 

At school she connects with Benjamin. When his father, the local apothecary, disappears, he leaves The Pharmacopoeia, an ancient text filled with recipes for magical/scientific potions, in Benjamin's care. What ensues is a mad adventure as the two, soon joined by Pip, a bit of a street urchin, test out some of these concoctions on their mission to rescue Benjamin's father. In the process they get tangled up with spies working for nefarious global powers. Can they save the world from the consequences of a nuclear bomb? 

I love the way history is so seamlessly integrated into this novel. I love that the author combines magical aspects with almost plausible scientific rational. I love the characters. Thanks to the students who have been pestering me to read this book and thank you Maile Meloy, for a fabulous read! 


The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

I liked this book and admit that it was difficult to put it down and get on with the other compelling things in my life. I stayed up til almost midnight to finish it. 
In this sequel to The False Prince, the adventures of Jaron, King of Carthya, continue. Jaron is a contrary hero. At the same time as I appreciate his attitude, like the rest of his loyal entourage, as often as not, I'm ready to wring his neck. 
After an assassination attempt, Jaron is forced to runaway and heads off in search of the pirates. The journey is filled with adventure, suspense, and betrayal. I like that Jaron is maturing. I like that he is making new friends and finding strong supporters of his own. It seems like things are looking up for him at the end of this book, but there is a sequel, so we shall have to see. I'm looking forward to reading The Shadow Throne!

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

I was afraid to start this book because when a book gets so many accolades, it's hard to live up to the hype. But in this case, I'm going to get all gushy on you and tell you I loved, loved, loved this book!

Upon reading the first paragraph,"Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the colour of dirt. Mr Jesse turned up dead and life in Tupelo Landing turned upside down." I opened my heart and fell into this book, ready for wherever it was gonna take me. 

You can like a book. You can appreciate the plot and the writing, but if the characters don't reach out from the pages and grab your heart, it will never be a great book.

Moses (Mo) LoBeau is a character who does this. She is a unique individual. In her own words:
"Some people look like they were born on a clothes hanger.  Not me. I look more like I was born in a dryer."
"My voice is like a turkey gobble crammed in a corset, but nobody's told me to stop singing, and I ain't shy."
"I've been working on my temper but sometimes it feels like my brain's strait-wired to my mouth."

At the tail end of the worst hurricane in memory, the Colonel, after crashing his car, found a baby floating on a raft in the river. He named her Moses, unaware it was a girl. The next day they were found by Miss Lana. The two of them built The Cafe and a home, where, along with the rest of the 148 people of Tupola Landing, they raised Mo.

Here's the "thing about a small town: Everybody knows everybody's schedule. We spin around each other like planets around an invisible sun." 

The first person narrative is punctuated with letters to Mo's unknown, upstream mother. They are filled with Mo's ruminations of life in Tupolo Landing: "Sometimes I wish Miss Lana and the Colonel were normal, but Lavender says normal is a relative term. "Right," I said. "What does that mean, exactly?" He said, "It means you think your relatives are normal right up until you notice they're not."

Life in a small town is not as simple as some might suppose. Dale, her best friend has  an abusive alcoholic father. Her 'arch enemy,' Anna Celeste, has a vicious mother. While Mo's mother may have thrown her away once, these children are thrown away by their parents repeatedly. 

I could honestly have lived with just reading about the community, but there is a murder and kidnapping to be solved. The suspense and tension ratchets up. It is full of humour, subterfuge, betrayal, and surprise. 

I've spent time with Moses (Mo) LoBeau and her community and if I only could, I'd sell everything I own and move to Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, where I'd spend all my time hanging out at The Cafe. In the meantime, I'll just have to hope for a sequel.


Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko

This is historical fiction set in the early 1960's and at the same time, a coming of age story for 12 year old Elizabeth (Lizzy) McMann.

Lizzy has spent most of her life looking after her mother. When Manny, who she thinks is her father, leaves them, Lizzy and her mother end up in a small town in New York State living with previously unknown grandparents. It is a mixed blessing. Her grampa is loving and supportive, but her grandma is filled with bitterness and bile.

Ridgewood, New York, is filled with new experiences for Lizzy. The onset of her first period is every girl/woman's worst nightmare. On the other hand, when she purchases her first bra, it impossible not to laugh. Her relationship with her best friend, Eva, who she falls in love with, is complicated and tumultuous. Lizzy discovers her mother's secret life and learns who her real father is. When h
er mother gets engaged to Lizzy's teacher, it seems like they might have a happy ending after all.

I enjoyed this book and there is much to recommend it. Lizzy is a strong character. She's smart, complex, and observant. The cast of supporting characters are multidimensional. 

I have been looking for a novel with a lesbian character I can comfortably hand out to grades 4 and up. This book meets this need. It is a positive addition to our existing LGBT collection, but I wanted more from Lizzy. We've got compelling gay protagonists in Totally Joe by James Howe and Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle. These are characters who appeal to everyone and kids can see themselves being friends with. Unfortunately, I don't see Lizzy appealing to kids in the same way. Some of this might be because the story is historical fiction and I'm not sure kids will get and understand all the cultural references. Mostly I think it's because Lizzy just doesn't shine in the way those boys do. For great chunks of this book Lizzy felt like a ghost. Don't get me wrong, I liked her, I just couldn't come to care deeply for her in the way I did for Joe and Nate. So while I'm happy as can be to have Lizzy in our library, I don't think she will take off like those boys have. 

I'm going to hand the book out to some of my readers and see what they think of her. I hope to have to eat my words. 

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott is an interesting story. There are many positive things to say about it. I enjoyed the connections to the different gods and goddesses. I was fascinated to read at the end that the only truly invented characters were the 15 year old twins, Josh and Sophie. The premise of the story is that the Dark Elders, those first 'people' (think ancient gods and goddesses) with the help of the immortal, Mr. Dee, are planning on retrieving the codex - or Book of Abraham the Mage. If Mr. Dee succeeds in stealing it from the present caretakers,  Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, the Elders will come back into power and humans will at best, by enslaved by them. Luckily for the Flamels, Josh and Sophie, the aforementioned twins, are there when Mr. Dee makes his move. Unluckily for the twins, the world as they know it will never be the same. 

It wasn't a bad read. It has suspense and secrets. There is magic all over the place. The are battles aplenty. Yet there are some problems with this book for me. First, I'm not that much of a fan of fantasy and this novel isn't written well enough to change this. At times I was just bored. To compound this, I didn't feel satisfied at the end. If you know me, you will know that I hate books that leave issues unresolved. I want to leave my characters doing well. If I am going to read a sequel, I need to love them so much that I will be compelled to read more if only to find out how they are doing. (Some examples include Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching novels and Catherynne M. Valente's September.

I'm content to have read this one if only to say to students that I have tried the series.  

Authentic First Peoples Resources

Today I went to an Authentic First Peoples Resources for Grades K-7 workshop sponsored by FNESC (First Nations Educational Steering Committee.) Not only were we introduced to lessons, units, and literature, we had the opportunity to meet with teachers from across the province and learn from each other. (There were no complaints about the food either)  

Here are a few of the resources our table worked with. 

A River Lost by Lynn Bragg

This heartbreaking picture book left our small group deeply dismayed. Sinee and her great-grandmother, Toopa, tell the story of the people who were forced off their land when the Grand Coulee Dam was built. As the river was lost, so was the salmon, and along with it, a way of life. On top of this ecological disaster, we learn that payment to the people for this loss didn't come for 50 years.

Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
This charming tale tells the story of Coyote's plan to get some animal people, Grizzly Bear, Wren, Snake, Frog, Eagle, and Beaver to work together to steal fire from Curlew, keeper of the sky world. I liked all of it except when snake ate frog.

How the Robin Got it's Red Breast by The Sechelt Nation
This retelling is illustrated with traditional west coast illustrations. It tells how robin helped the humans keep their fire going and in doing this, burned his chest so that it turned red. 

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen turned me on to magical realism. It is my new favorite genre.

Lost Lake involves generations of women grieving the loss of their husbands. It involves learning new ways of coping with this loss.

There is woman and her child. There is a childhood friend with a secret. There is a mother in law who wants the woman and child to be how she defines them. There is an aging aunt trying to figure out what she wants. There is a man and a woman who have been in love for nearly 40 years, but still haven't done anything about it. There is a friendless woman with charms that make men leave their wives. There is the woman who befriends her. There is an uncle who has lost his humanity. There is an alligator who vaguely remembers being human.

They all come together for one last magical summer at Lost Lake. 

Truths about the human condition are revealed. "Like most small towns, the older generations were the one who kept the secrets, to such an extent that the newer generations were growing up with no idea why they were the way they were."

Truths about living life as a reader are revealed. "The books I read when I was twenty completely changed when I read them when I was sixty. You know why? Because the endings changed. After you finish a book, the story still goes on in your mind. You can never change the beginning. But you can always change the end. That's what's happening here."

Lost Lake is a story about endings. It is about having the power to create your own ending through the support of family and friends.

While there are some magical aspects to this book, the real magic is about the power of friendship, love and community.

Spring Break Reading Challenge

Amidst the fury of the last two days of the Scholastic book fair last week, and in spite of the fact that I already had a pile of my own waiting for me at home, I asked students to come up with a list of book suggestions for me to read over spring break.

Here are their recommendations. 
The Penderwicks series by by Jeanne Birdsall - Every book this kid has recommended to me has been superb, so I plan to read at least the first one.
The Dogs of  Winter by Bobbie Pyron - I accidentally grabbed the The Dogs or War graphic novel from the book fair so I'll have to go looking for this one.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (I know I'm nearly the only person on the planet who hasn't read the series - I did try to read The Red Pyramid but abandoned it.)
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Titanic Locket - I think this is the first in the The Haunted Museum series. I need to search for this one too. 
Go Ask Alice - our copy was out - Ill have to see if I can find one at the VPL 
Magyk by Angie Sage - It was suggested I read the entire series, but I'm starting with this one
Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark - probably one of the weirdest looking book covers I've ever seen - but I'll give it a try
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage - thankfully this was on my list also
Call the Shots by Don Calame
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (I've already read it twice so I'm calling it done!)
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy (thankfully it was also on my list)

My own list includes 
The Runaway King and The Shadow throne by Jennifer A Nielsen
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem
The Archived by Victoria Scwab
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Letters In the Attic by Bonnie Shimko

I've also got some Audiobooks waiting for me
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (I loved love loved The Raven Boys)
Legend by Marie Lu
Alanna: the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

I doubt I will get all of these done. I have a garden to work in and family to spend time with, but I'm gonna try for a book a day!

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

There's something comforting about a good mystery. There are good and bad characters. The plot has some suspenseful moments and will keep you guessing. It has unexpected twists and turns. Eventually the forces of evil will get their comeuppance. It's formulaic, but we know this at the outset, and that predictability is why it's safe.

I read Hiaasen's adult work before he started writing for younger readers. No matter the audience, he takes the formula and makes it his own. On top of this, Hiaasen embeds environmental issues into gripping reads so that we are educated as we are entertained. I've never been disappointed in one of his books. Scat is no exception.

It starts out in a classroom where Mrs. Starch, the nightmarish biology teacher, has her students, including our protagonists, Nick and Marta, terrified. Well, all of the students except for Smoke, who chews up and swallows the pencil she points in his face after she has publicly humiliated him. 

Then Smoke is framed for a deliberately setting a forest fire that results in Mrs. Starch going missing.

Villains are revealed trying to drill illegally for oil in protected wilderness and panther habitat. 

There is a baby panther without its mother. 

You might think Nick has enough on his plate with a father seriously injured in Iraq. In spite of, or maybe because of this, he and his friend, Marta, try to figure out what happened to Mrs. Starch. They end up embroiled in a situation beyond their comprehension. 

There are numerous characters. (I admit to being a bit confused at first. It might be because I was listening to this as an audiobook.) Once I had them sorted out, I just settled in for a whopping great yarn. All of them are developed with emerging complexity as the story progresses. 

I look forward to recommending this one to the mystery fans at school. I think it might even convert those haven't yet discovered the comfort in them. 

Beyond Bullets by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter

One of my library monitors told me his stepdad had written a book on Afghanistan and so I asked if he would loan it to me to read.

I received it the next day.  I started browsing the first page and knew in those few moments that this was not a book to peruse distractedly. Already I was about to cry. I asked for permission to take the book home so I could read it at my leisure. Last evening I sat down and read it.

Rafal Gerszak is a photojournalist who has been to Afghanistan a number of times. This book reflects those journeys and reveals multiple perspectives on the conflict there. It is a difficult read.

The first part of the book deals with his experiences while embedded with a platoon on the front lines. The writing is simple but powerful. His description of travelling in a Humvee in the heat puts us right there, "it's like wearing full hockey gear and sitting in a sauna--times ten. The armor we wear doesn't breathe at all, plus we wear helmets and gloves (which are fire retardant so that, in case of an explosion, we don't burn our hands; plastic gloves would melt to our skin.)" And that is just the beginning. In this section Gerszak takes us through ambushes, searches through private homes, military hospitals,  humanitarian aid drops and rocket attacks. When a child dies despite heroic efforts of people on all sides of the conflict,  we see clearly that "This girl had nothing to do with the conflict, but everything to do with what's wrong in Afghanistan."

The second part of the book reflects Gerszak's time spent with Afghani people.  There are some truly sublime moments - like the day spent at Qargha lake on the Muslim day of rest. What I learned from this section is that in the midst of the hell of war, people try to live ordinary lives just like you and me. There are aspects that will break your heart: life in a refugee camp, the hardships of medical volunteers, watching children die in a hospital, a conversation with a suicide bomber, child labour, and the situation for women and girls.

My aging eyes had a bit of trouble with the contrast between the page colour and the font, but it wasn't overwhelming. I appreciated the boxes on some pages giving me additional information to help me put Gerszak's experiences into context.

The content is heavy and disturbing, but an eye opening read. I will most certainly get a copy of this book for our library.

Frogspell by C.J. Busby

Before I started reading this book I had just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman (a book for grown ups). I was afraid to read anything because, seriously, when you finish a book that stunning, nothing in the world will compare.

On account of this, I decided to go for a book where I had few expectations. Frogspell is a novel for students just into reading chapter books. I figured it probably wouldn't be overly complicated or rich, but hoped I could recommend it to boys and girls who are just moving into reading this kind of book on their own. The best thing about having no, or negative expectations, is that you can be pleasantly surprised. And I was!

It's a simple tale set at the time of King Arthur. It begins with Max Pendragon working out a new spell for the Novice's Spell-Making Competition. Right off the bat we learn a few important things about family dynamics at the Pendragon household. First, although his wife, Lady Griselda, is a witch, Max's father, Sir Bertram, does not much like magic. Second, Sir Bertram has traditional gender expectations for his children. Third, Max has a bothersome little sister, Olivia. Fourth, accidents seem to happen when Max is around magic. 

It is a fun read. Accidentally, the potion Max was trying to create ends up turning Olivia, Max's pet rat, Ferocious, and himself into frogs. After some hilarious  and nearly disastrous moments, they figure out how to reverse the spell.

When the family heads off to Castle Camelot for a festival and 'The Competition,' the children soon discover that mischief is afoot. They uncover a plot to kidnap King Arthur's son and set Lady Morgana le Fay in control of the kingdom.  Max and the rest of them have to come up with a plan to save the prince before disaster strikes. 

What I liked:
I liked that there was lots of action in the plot. I liked the humor. I liked that both the children felt constricted by the expectations their father has for them. The many kinds of characters are developed enough to be interesting, and make the reader want to find out more about them. I like that the ending, while satisfying, sets the reader up to anticipate the next book in the series. This is good because then all I have to do is get them started on the first!

I worry a bit that kids won't get all the historical nuances referenced here, but I don't really think it will matter in the long run. If they liked these, then I can introduce them to move complicated Arthurian legends all in good time.

I plan to pick up the next two in the series, Cauldron Spells and Icespell at the Scholastic Book fair in the library this week.

Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers

"All of fiction is truthful. What you create is your own truth and no one can take that away or change it." - Walter Dean Myers

I love this book. I love these boys.
Darius and Twig are best friends. They are growing up in Harlem and dreaming of ways out. They live inside a world filled with layers of pain. It isn't easy. They have to cope with bullies and gangs. The have to overcome poverty and alcoholic parents. There is violence and guns and drugs. They have to figure out who they can trust.

These boys are smart. They know they have gifts that might help them get out of the world they are in. Darius is a young author on the cusp of being published. Twig is a long distance runner. Still, without one another, they are lost. Even then it's iffy. "Twig thinks I am growing dark, and he is right. He wants me to live through the pain. I don't think I can." They know they can trust each other to be supportive at the same time as keeping one another honest and true.

They are aware that the odds might be stacked against them. "The chorus in school was that if you did the right thing, that if you worked hard you would succeed. And how many worlds was that true in? Was it true in my mothers world? Was it true in my fathers world?" Can these boys do it?

I like that Myers posits significant adult characters to act as understated role models and mentors. At school is Miss Carroll, the writing teacher, and Mr Day, the coach. At home, two charming old men, Mr Watson and Sammy Hines, hang out on the stairs joshing each other, and offering up advice and support to the boys and the neighbourhood. It does indeed take a community to raise a child, especially in these kinds of circumstances.

Walter Dean Myers' writing is heart stopping glorious. Every once in a while I experience it at a visceral level and am filled, simultaneously, with darkness and light.

Some quotes will haunt me for a long time.

"That's one thing we get to be good at, be quiet when we are hurt."

"Maybe the boy did have faith in the dolphins. He had just lost faith in everything else"

I'm definitely getting a copy for our library. 


Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

It is sad that the use of one word in a novel can taint the rest of the work, but for me, this is the way it is. Early on in this book, Mila, the main character and narrator, uses the word squaw in reference to a Native American woman. Whatever the word's origin, it has too often been considered a derogatory term. Here in a modern children/teen novel, it has no place. It depresses me that none of the editors or early readers commented upon this and had it changed to woman.
It's even sadder that there are many aspects to this book that I liked. Let's face it, Meg Rosoff can write. There is a harsh dreaminess to the winter landscape setting.  The characters are realistic. I've worked with enough gifted children to see this truth in Mila. The many relationships between parents and children are finely crafted and tangible. 
While on the surface there is a mystery to be solved, this is really a coming of age novel. There is a time in childhood when we lose our faith in the infallibility of our parents and adults in general. Eventually their secrets are revealed in all their messiness. This is what happens to Mila. 
Sadly, if not for the use of that one word, I would probably get this book for our library.