Monday, December 28, 2015

New recommendations

This week, I've stepped off the middle grade merry-go-round and I'm reading things my friends are recommending to me.  As you see the list, you'll see I have a pretty eclectic group of friends (lucky, lucky me!).

The first one came from one of my best friends.  She and I have been friends for a LONG time, former co-workers, carpoolers, and neighbors.  We have many books in common and this latest one, "The Nightingale"by Kristin Hannah  I COULD NOT IT PUT DOWN.  It's a World War 2 book and just when I think I'm never going to read another book about World War 2, someone nags me into reading one and this one was worth the nag!  It's about two young women who have grown up in France in the 1930s.  They are sisters but they are not close.  Their mother died before the story starts and their father did not feel that he could properly care for them.  The girls are fairly far apart in age, so the older one is basically left to care for the younger one.  The younger one is very needy and very willful and gets into a lot of trouble.  The older one is afraid of everything and goes along just to get along.  Then World War 2 starts and who are now young women (and the older one is married and has a child) have to figure out how to live in an occupied country and where are they willing to stand up.  I really loved the characters in this one-they are multi-faceted and just when you think you know how they will react, they surprise you.  I also loved the setting-my sister has a home in France and it was easy for me to get a visual image of the villages as well as of Paris.  I was surprised to see that Kristen Hannah had written 22 books so I'm thinking I might need to go back to the library to find a few more of these!

The second one was recommended by one of my former students.  She was doing a presentation at my current school and I was very happily surprised to run into her.  She is an amazing young woman.  I asked what she'd read lately that she liked and she recommended "Gone" by Michael Grant.  I mentioned it to my nephew, who is also in 9th grade and he ordered it immediately.  I was lucky enough to find it at my local library and wow is it good.  It has a really amazing premise.  Modern day, small beach town in California, pretty ordinary day, when suddenly, everyone over 15 disappears.  Kids are surprised and try to figure out what's going on.  Some kids step up to take leadership positions (some that are very scary and seem to be bullies).  Some kids are trying to figure out why this has happened and maybe find a way out.  What's really great about this one (besides the completely amazing premise, are the characters.  The characters are very believable and remind you people you know (well, at least they reminded me of people I know).  The actions they take seem completely reasonable but the plot twists are gobsmacking.  It also appears that this is the start of a series, for which I am very grateful.  The characters were interesting enough that I'd like to see where this going.  

The last one might be a bit of a stretch calling it a recommendation.  I heard Nicholas Gannon speak at the Miami Book Fair about his book "The Doldrums".  I wasn't the only one in the room, but I'm pretty sure he wanted me to read it.  He made it sound so terrific that I immediately went home and put it on hold at my local library.  After several weeks of waiting, I finally got it and it was totally worth the wait.  As Nicholas explained it to me (and everyone else in the room at the Book Fair), the book is about a boy named Archer, who desperately wants to go on adventure.  His grandparents are very big adventurers, but sadly they have disappeared while studying penguins on an iceberg.  His mother believes that Archer is in danger and must protect him at all costs, including sending him to boarding school (which she keeps threatening but hasn't gone through with yet).  He talks to the taxidermy stuffed animals in his house (who are hilarious) and finally finds a friend and then they meet another character who has a very intriguing background.  I hope it's not too much of a spoiler (HE told us about it!), but there is also a girl who is training to be a ballerina but has a tragic accident that involves a truck carrying croissants and some seagulls and a lamppost and ends up with a wooden leg.   It's a very exciting book and the other thing that's really great about this one is the art work.  There are colored pictures dispersed through out the book (like old fashioned colored plates) and they are luminous.  They really set a mood for the story and I loved them.  I also loved the story that Nicholas told that he was doing some of the sketching of ideas as he was building a house in upstate NY.  Someone has some very interesting drawings in their walls!  Anyway, this one has one of  the freshest voices I've heard in quite some time and I really liked it.  
Here is a link to book trailer.   It's full of all the amazing art that Nicholas put in the book.  And here's the cover. 

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