The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair

guinevere

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair, by Amy Makechnie, is now one of my favorite books. It’s beautiful. And my cousin wrote it, which makes me famous by association.

Guinevere St. Clair and her sister Bitty have been moved to their parents’ hometown of Crow, Iowa. It’s an attempt to get their mother, Vienna, to get her memories back.

When Guinevere was four years old, her mother’s heart stopped beating. After precious minutes were lost, she came miraculously back to life, but without any of her memories since the age of thirteen. So now Guinevere is helping her father take care of Vienna (who she does not call Mom, since she doesn’t act like one.) Vienna doesn’t remember her children, and usually acts like a child herself.

Also, now that they’re in Iowa, Guinevere has made fast friends with the neighbors, discovered her arch-enemy, and is working on a missing-persons case in her spare time (behind her father’s back, since he keeps telling her to stop poking her nose in other people’s business.)

This is a well-written story that will plant you straight into the Midwest, manure and all. It’s brilliantly written, and offers a realistic, yet still optimistic, look at grief and life’s sometimes horrible surprises. It offers character everywhere it offers pain.

And, as an added bonus for me, there’s little family-story cameos scattered in a couple places. But if you didn’t grow up around Copes, you probably won’t catch those. Which means they’re aptly woven into the text.

I know the author, so I have a bias. I’ll admit that. But as objectively as I can say this, I think this should win the Newbery. And everyone should read it. ♥

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Mattimeo

mattimeo

I started reading the Redwall series when I was in elementary school. I saw a thick book with a mouse on the cover wielding a sword, and decided it was worth a try. Cute mouse, swordplay, what could go wrong? I remember my dad joking on the way home about a mouse sticking his sword in the side of the tire and spinning around as we drove.

Surprisingly, this series was written for adults. Brian Jacques was just writing regular fantasy, with animals as main characters. After some disagreement, his publishers finally convinced him to market to a younger audience, and the cover art got a little flashier. His writing also changed just a little bit, with less references to humans—no more huge carts and horses, for example.

I digress. Mattimeo is the third book in the Redwall series, and I decided to pick it up again for nostalgia’s sake. Jacques is still a good author, but I can’t say I would be picking these books up if I didn’t have just a little old-timey attachment to them. There are some plot holes and convenient miracles that I no longer brush over now. But this book is surprisingly more dark than the previous ones, as the main character (Mattimeo) is kidnapped and sold into slavery. The entire book is about his journey into a creepy  underground kingdom, and his father’s journey to rescue him.

I would recommend this book (and series) to anyone between the ages of 8 and 14, depending on your reading level. And, of course, to any adults who are willing to read a fantasy with animals as main characters. If you haven’t read any Redwall, I suggest picking up the first one before you pick up this one. But if you enjoyed that one, by all means, read Mattimeo. ♦

Fixing Books

Today, my son finally ripped a library book. I’ve been expecting this for the past year or so (as long as I’ve been getting him library books), but he’s been surprisingly respectful so far. Today, however, he got bored waiting for me to read G is for Gzonk (which I was hoping not to have to read at all), and he experimentally ripped a few inches of the page.

So I gave him a time out (which he loves), then considered making him return all the library books without checking any out (which would be torture for me, because I would have to read the same old books we have), and at my husband’s suggestion, settled on making him “pay” for the damages.

And by that, I mean I made him do some extra chores and paid him small change for them. Then we took a little plastic container (filled with his glorious 40 cents) to the librarian.

“Will you tell the librarian what happened?” I asked.

The librarian patiently waited while I prodded a “I ripped a book” out of him.

She started to tell him it was no big deal, but I gave her a look and whispered, “I know, but I’m trying to teach him a lesson.”

She nodded knowingly, then wiped the smile off her face and said thoughtfully to my son, “Well, thank you for telling me. We’ll fix it with some tape.”

“Give her the money,” I said.

She started to protest again, and I whispered, “It’s just 40 cents. Just take it.”

She nodded again and took the money, thanking John for his responsibility. John actually looked really concerned about the book, and I gave him a hug and thanked him for fixing the problem. And then we went about our normal library activities of checking out about a bazillion books. ♦

¡No bájes al sótano!

No-Bajes-Al-Sotano-Stine-R-L-9780590502122

Okay, guys. I’m learning Spanish. And I’m reading books in Spanish to help. But I’m kind of new at writing in Spanish, so here goes.

¡No bajes al sótano! es un libro de R.L. Stine, el autor de la serie Escalofríos. Son libros muy buenos para niños que les gustan libros de horror, y los leía cuando era niña. Ahora, estoy estudiando español, y leí este libro en español para practicar.

El libro cuenta de una niña, Margaret, y su hermano Charlie. El padre de ellos es un científico, y durante la mayor parte del día, está en el sótano. Pero cosas extrañas comienzan, y el padre de ellos comienza a cambiar…

Para un niño, es terrorífico. Para un adulto, es aburrido. Para un estudiante de español, es buena práctica. ♦

Hate That Cat

hate that cat

Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech, is a beautiful, funny look at poetry through the eyes of a young boy. And also, there’s a dog. And it made me cry.

So obviously, I had to pick up the sequel, Hate That Cat.

Much like Jack, I love dogs and hate cats. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and Jack finds there is at least one cat worth loving. The book is his poetry journal for school, but it includes his relationship with the world’s worst cat and the world’s cutest kitten. It also explores a little of his relationship with his mother, who is Deaf.

I love Sharon Creech’s writing. She does a great job of exploring pain, love, confusion, childish curiosity, and humor without ever getting pedantic. I will say: I liked Love That Dog better. Hate That Cat has a “my editor asked for a sequel” vibe to it— but it’s still well worth reading. ♦

Brown Girl Dreaming

brown girl dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical poetry collection by Jacqueline Woodson. Written at about a middle-grade level, the book follows her early childhood experiences, and how she came to love writing.

This book is simple and beautiful. It explores what it’s like to be a child, to not really understand your parents’ decisions, and what it was like to be a Black girl—in both the North and South United States—during the sixties. It also talks about friendship, family, and self-exploration.

I would recommend this book to anyone, especially young Black girls who love to write. ♦

Esperanza Rising

Okay. First of all, I should probably clarify something.

I’m not reading a book a day, guys. I’ve been publishing one book review every day for the past week or so, because I finally kicked my butt into gear and started blogging about the books I’ve been reading for the past few months. Maybe I can blame my toddler, and claim he’s taking all of my spare time. Maybe I can blame my brother’s death, and claim I’ve been dealing with crippling grief. Or maybe I should just admit that I forgot (again) that I had a blog.

At any rate, the book-a-day posts should only continue for the next 14 books (give or take.) I won’t be insulted at all if you don’t read them. (Like I would be insulted normally.)

Anyways!

esperanza rising

Esperanza Rising is a great book. It’s written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and apparently she based it loosely on a grandmother or something. It’s a darn good book. That’s probably why it’s won some awards: the Pura Belpré Award for Writing, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards for Book for Older Children. If you want to be precise.

The story is about a girl named Esperanza, who lives in Mexico in the 1930s. After her father dies, her no-good uncles try to take the ranch (and Esperanza’s mother), so what’s left of the family flees to California, makes it through immigration (legally or illegally—I’m still not sure,) and finds a low-paying job picking produce. The rest of the book is about Esperanza getting rid of her spoiled, childish attitudes and coming to terms with the world around her, good and bad.

It’s beautifully written, culturally eye-opening, and it’s a great coming-of-age story. I think it’s in my top 5 favorite books of all time right now. So go read it. ♦