It’s almost Christmas, and I’m starting my celebrations early with a steaming cup of tea and a delicious Date Bar and listening to a classical Christmas playlist on CBC Radio Two… what could be better?! We even got a dusting of snow last night!
I read two Young Adult books last week. The first was one that was recommended by a selector at one of the books distributors I use when ordering for my libraries, a novel she described as “ripped from the headlines”. Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson is told from the point of view of Claudia, a grade eight student who, when she returns to Washington after a summer spent with her grandmother in Georgia, is met with silence as she tries to reconnect with her best friend Monday. No one will let her speak to Monday, claiming she is with her aunt, with her dad, or being homeschooled. Does Monday just not want to be friends with Claudia any more, as someone suggests, or is there something more sinister going on? The more people she speaks to (Monday's sister, Claudia's friend from church, teachers at school and even a retired counsellor), the more confusing the story becomes. This thriller about a missing fourteen-year-old will have you staying up late and turning pages to get to the surprising, disturbing but all-too-believable conclusion. This book explores themes of racism, abuse and neglect, and encourages us to stand up for those less fortunate than us. I loved this book, but thought some of the content was a bit too mature for my students. It seemed to me to be more geared for high school students, but no high school student will want to read a book about grade eight kids, so I will keep it in my collection but recommend it to only the most mature grade eight readers.
And I finished reading a Forest of Reading Red Maple nominee, Skating Over Thin Ice by Jean Mills. This novel is told from the point of view of Imogen St Pierre, an eighteen-year-old musical prodigy who is attending her last year at a boarding school near Ottawa. She is extremely introverted and lives inside her music, juggling school work with piano concerts, mainly in a trio with her cellist father and violinist grandfather. When she meets hockey bad boy Nathan, a promising OHL player who has been suspended for the rest of the season for fighting, she begins to explore other aspects of her personality, emerging from her cocooned life and coming into her own. We the readers follow on her journey of discovery as she deals with pressures to perform and advance in her musical career, and ultimately searches for what makes her happy. And while the text was sometimes wordy and the voice of the narrator too internalized, the writing was also often brilliant and the insights spot-on, leaving me feeling that I’ve been left with a better understanding of what it must be like for a musically-gifted student (or a gifted hockey player!) to try to live a normal life and blend in with other kids. Being a classical music lover certainly helped with this novel, an aspect of the reading that I thought would be a hindrance to any grade seven or eight student reading this novel, as most kids of that age would not know who Angela Hewitt, Scarlatti or Ravel are. Still, it was a realistic, moving, yet ultimately uplifting story of self-discovery and the search for happiness.
That’s all for today. Have a Merry Christmas!Bye for now…