As I sip my steeped chai tea, I am lamenting the passage of time, and the end of summer holidays. I’m excited to get back to school, as there are so many books I want to read and recommend to the students, so many displays to create, and so many "next steps" to take in turning my school libraries into Learning Commons, but I also still have so much to do at home to get even more organized, so this time of year feels rather bittersweet.
It’s fitting, then, that I have a book to tell you about that is all about time, The Lost Track of Time by Paige Britt. This delightful middle school novel tells the story of Penelope, whose first day of summer vacation is planned out in fifteen-minute increments by her mother, an event planner who won’t leave a minute unscheduled. But Penelope wants time to daydream and come up with ideas for the stories she plans to write, activities that really can’t be planned, you have to just let them happen and be ready to capture them with notebook and pen. When she finds that one day in her mother’s planner has been accidentally overlooked and there is nothing planned for that day, she seizes the opportunity to maximize her good fortune and goes to visit her friend down the street, Miss Maddie, who, unlike her mother, encourages daydreaming and sitting idly over cups of tea. Something strange happens when she shows Miss Maddie the blank page, and Penelope ends up in a strange land, the Realm of Possibilities, where time is unimportant, and moodling (“daydreaming, letting your mind wander, losing track of time and doing nothing”) is encouraged. She meets Dill, a very tall thin man with wild red hair who informs her that the Realm is being overtaken by Chronos, a man who insists that everyone’s lives, all the Clockworkers, are ruled by the tick-ing and tock-ing of the clocks that are everywhere in his City, the city he plans to expand into the Realm. The only way to stop this expansion is to find the Great Moodler, who has been exhiled to regions unknown by Chronos ages ago. Dill and Penelope set out to find the Great Moodler, and along the way they befriend Coo-Coo, a bird whose home on the mountain is in danger of being swallowed up by the City as well. They are captured by Chronos’ police and sent to jail for wasting time while idling at an intersection. There they meet the Fancies, who will become instrumental in their escape plans. But can they get out and find the Great Moodler before the entire Realm of Possibilities is swallowed up by the Shadow of Doubt that looms over Chronos’ City? This debut novel is an adventure tale full of wit and whimsy, and Britt uses many puns and plays on words that kept me turning pages until I reached a satisfying conclusion. I was thinking that it would be a great readaloud for the grade 4 classes at my schools, or at the very least, I will promote it in a book talk. It was like Alice Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz, with a hint of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys delightful fantastical allegories. I would give it a rating of 8 out of 10.
And I’m nearly finished a book that is the opposite of delightful, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, a Young Adult novel that I will not be putting in my library, as the contents are too mature for the grade levels at my schools, but will be passing on to one of the high school librarians at our PD Day next week. This novel is set in a small town and tells the story of Romy, a 17-year old who had friends, got decent grades, had a good job, and lived a normal life… until a year ago, when she got drunk at a party and Kellan Turner, the town sheriff’s son, takes advantage of her against her will. When she tells her story, no one but her family believes her, and she loses everything; her former friends shun her, she becomes withdrawn, and she loses any connection she had with anyone - she won’t even confide in her mother. When she meets Leon, a guy she works with at the restaurant, things begin to look up, but then it all goes bust when, against her better judgement, she goes out to Wake Lake for the big drunken bash that happens every year for the seniors at the high school. She doesn’t remember anything from that night, but is found the next morning by a police constable on the side of the road miles away from the lake, seemingly hung over and in a bad way. Another girl, beautiful, perfect Penny Young, Romy’s former best friend, also went missing after the party, and Romy is accused of wasting police time searching for her when the whole force should have been looking for Penny. As Penny’s disappearance turns into days and then weeks, Romy’s suspicions grow and she is faced with a dilemma - repeat her story from a year ago in the hopes that someone will listen, an act that may help find Penny alive, or stay quiet and bear the guilt of knowing she could have helped but didn’t. I’ve got about 80 pages to go in this harrowing tale, and so far there has not been a single uplifting moment, but it’s gripping and heartwrenching, filled with a hopelessness and despair that is captured brilliantly by the author. Most of the time that I was reading this, I was thinking in my head, “Just tell someone what it happening to you, tell someone how you are being treated!”, but of course, I know that won’t happen. I hope that this does not reflect the lives of most teenaged girls today, although I’m sure it happens, which is the reason so many sexual assaults go unreported. I’m looking forward to finishing this book today, as I suspect there may be a glimmer of hope awaiting Romy by the end of the novel. It’s reminding me of that classic YA novel, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, also about a girl who is raped by an older student at a summer bash. I read that many years ago, and am now interested in rereading it. Although I haven’t finished All the Rage, I feel confident in giving it a rating: 8 out of 10. Read this if you are drawn to YA novels that deal with traumatic experiences and learning to overcome the emotional aftermath. Do not read this if you are looking for a light, uplifting “summer read”.
Enjoy the rest of your day!
Bye for now…
PS I've added a tentative Book Club selection list for 2017 (see righthand sidebar), but I'll run the choices by my ladies when we meet in September to see if they approve - watch for changes.