The meetings that last two months have had fairly low attendance, so there weren't as many books reviewed.
February's author was Lois Lowry, who I think most of us are familiar with. We did find some titles that we hadn't read before, though. Becca and I both read Messenger
, the third book after The Giver
and </i>Numbering Blue</i>. Becca thought that most readers would probably want to stop with The Giver
; Numbering Blue
depicted a dog-eat-dog, primitive society, a cautionary tale of humanity's self-destruction. Much like The Giver
, there was little explanation for its existence, and plenty of loose ends. Messenger
was the same; Lowry has a tendency to focus on characters rather than exposition. All three books present very different societies. Gossamer
was another quite sappy book, according to Heidi. It's told from the point of view of a fairy that gives happy dreams to abused orphan children (d'awww) and fight the "Sinisteeds" that bring nightmares. This time the happy ending is the child's mother working to establish herself so that she can be with her son again.
Throughout these books, it was pointed out several times that Lowry puts a great deal of power in names. This may appeal to younger kids, but it is likely to put off more mature readers. Anastasia Krupnik
is another long-running series of Lowry's; a bit more light-hearted than the others, it's set in modern times with a realistic heroine (and an all-too-realistic family). The morals are still a bit obvious, however, so they're definitely for a younger set.
March's meeting was again with just three people, although we all read more than one. This month we picked Newbery winners, a particularly hot topic what with the controversy surround the new winner, The Higher Power of Lucky
by Susan Patron. Laura and I both felt that the inclusion of the word "scrotum" in no way detracted from the value of the book. It was well-written and an affecting tale of a little girl who's lost her mother and is trying to find her place in a tiny desert town. Both her fears and her dealings with her friends, her guardian, and the little boy from next door ring true. It deals with grief and loss, more so than canine body parts; I think the average ten-year-old would be well-served by picking it up.
Laura also read The Whipping Boy
, the 1987 winner by Sid Fleischman. A spoiled prince has never been punished; it has always fallen on his whipping boy. When he decides to run away, he brings along the boy, who is the closest thing he has to a friend. However, when the two are caught, no one believes that the illiterate prince, who has never been forced to learn anything, is actually royalty.
My second book was Criss-Cross
by Lynn Rae Perkins, the winner from 2006. It felt disconnected to me; the running theme, that of missed chances, interconnections and coincidences, seemed overly literary. The narrative followed the stories of several young friends in high school, as they spend a summer variously learning guitar, listening to the radio, saving little old ladies, and looking for love. Not bad, but I wouldn't call it a driving narrative.
Rebecca was ambitious and read three. The 1996 winner The Midwife's Apprentice
, by Karen Cushman, tells the story of a Medieval homeless girl pulled off the streets by a midwife, who appears mean and uncaring. When the girl runs away, the midwife find her again and tells her she needs an apprentice to believe in herself. The depiction of the Middle Ages and midwifery was accurate and included a historical note in the back, something that would be good for kids learning history (as well as an introduction to the idea of midwifery).
The 1979 winner The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin is a much more amusing book, full of plays on words. A young boy finds a dead body next door, and the heirs to the fortune must solve the muder.
She didn't recommend Crispin
by Avi. While this 2003 winner also has a good depiction of the Middle Ages, she felt that the ending was completely contrived (even for a children's book).
Next month's meeting will simply be our favorite YA/kids books. We'll be meeting at Borders on the Westside on Tuesday, May 1st at 7pm.