Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Week's Progress

A week ago, I posted a picture of my stack of books to read. I've made some progress, not as much as I would have liked, but it's a busy time of year and I did my best. The picture above is the before and the one below is the after.
I've managed to finish three books of the stack. The first was Tumbleweed Skies by Valerie Sherrard. Set in the 1950s, Ellie is dropped off at with a grandmother she has never met until her father can get back on his financial feet. At first, grandma doesn't even want her and actually blames her for the death of her daughter who was Ellie's mother. Thanks to a gentle uncle who remembers his sister fondly Ellie is taken in. Although the grandmother never truly warms up to Ellie, the two learn to accept each other for who they are. Ellie learns about her mother and father's history and what it is to make and lose a friend. All in all it's a good story and well told in just 150 pages. Frequent readers know how much I like a short novel for our library, especially when it's as good as this one.

The second was Odd Girl In by Jo Whittemore. While it's not really my kind of book, I appreciate this one for the niche it will fill. I'm always looking for good tween literature that doesn't cross the line into inappropriate and this one does that. The Alexis "Alex" Evins lives with her dad and twin brothers and is always up to some sort of mischief. Their scientist mother is off doing research and doesn't play much of a role in the family's life, but does add some drama to the story. When Alex pulls a prank that burns the porch furniture of an elderly neighbor, her father enrolls all three kids in an after school program called Champs. This throws her into a tween love triangle with two over achieving girls competing over the same dreamy boy and putting Alex in the middle. Alex has never been very social and has never had time for the girl drama that is middle school, but now she must wade into uncharted waters and solve the mystery of friendship and mean girls. The story moves along, keeping the reader interested with twists that culminate in the final Champs assignment and obstacle course challenge. I'm pretty sure the fifth grade girls at Bailey are going to enjoy this one next year.

Finally I read Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney, just let me say this about that...AWESOME! Set in the 1930s during the championship run of boxer Joe Louis the book follows the lives of three African American kids with very different stories. Hibernia, the daughter of a preacher, is blessed with an amazing voice and dreams of singing at the Savoy in Harlem. However, her father is a bit overprotective since her mother left them to follow her dream of being a nightclub singer and is never heard from again. Willie is an up and coming junior boxing champion with a drunk, abusive father. When tragedy strikes, ending his boxing career, he is sent away by his mother to the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans where he is nurtured by Lila the children's caretaker and befriended by Otis. Otis was orphaned in a tragic car accident and comforts himself by reciting riddles told to him by his deceased father. Even in the face of his sadness he keeps a positive outlook which helps those around him deal with their pain. The mood of the story and the time period are set through the use of old radios. One in the home of Hibernia and the other by Otis. The story is laced with actual radio calls of Joe Louis' fights on his way to becoming the first African American Heavyweight Champion. Bird in a Box is a touching, heartwarming story of people from different backgrounds coming together around a single historic event. In the author's notes Andrea Davis Pinkney explains the importance Joe Louis played in the African American community. In her story she makes it come alive. I'm placing this one on my Newbery list with Okay for Now and The Trouble With May Amelia.

And now back to the stack!


  1. Moving the Pinkney book up on my stack based on your review. Also sent Ana the link to Odd Girl Out. Sounds like her kind of book these days:-)

  2. If you liked Tumbleweed, then you might like Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpoole - similar premise, set in the present with flashbacks to WWI and WWII...really fantastic historical read :)

  3. Tumbleweed Skies is new to me. I 'm going to have to get that one. I understand about having a lot to do at this time of year. My own reading has been a lot slower than I'd like.