Tag Archives: CAMEL

Read. Review. Recommend.

The first book I completed read in 2017 kept me reading so that I wanted to finish it in one sitting.  Instead of staying up all night as I wished to do, I relished each scene and word, stretching out my reading to two days.  The language is authentic teen speech which resonates for any age.

Have I grabbed your attention?  Guitar Notes by Mary Amato begins with a perfect title and cover.  Don’t you love language with two meanings?  You know this book is about a guitar player, probably a teen, and guitar music has notes.  Notes also mean communications between friends.  Paper messages, texts, or voice mails can also be short notes between the main characters- one who is almost perfect and one who has no friends. How Amato brings them together over a guitar is masterful.

How do I decide who will want to share this book?  A teen, a singer, a parent who needs to understand teen angst?  They will all enjoy it!

What a great title to begin my reading challenge of 2017.  I will be reading many easy readers and early chapter books for my assigned judging project with CYBILs, helping to choose the best of 2016.  Guitar Notes was a delightful start to my reading with a Meaty book offering genuine Language.  (Check out the CAMEL reading rating in my previous blogs.) Since Mary Amato is a local author writing about Maryland, this book also fits the setting rating, too.  (E=Exceptional time and place)

Happy Reading in 2017!  Find your own reading challenge and enjoy every word.

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Filed under Children's Literature, Reading challenges, Realistic Fiction, Uncategorized

CHARACTERS YOU WANT TO KNOW: PART 2

Google reminded me that Langston Hughes said:  “My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind.” Google’s short biography on the anniversary of his birth reminds us that “[h]e hoped to inspire black writers to be objective about their race and embrace it, though felt the young writers of the Black Power movement of the 1960s were too angry.”  He was born on Feb. 1, 1902.   Not only an inspiration to African Americans, all writers and readers can reflect on his heart-felt comments.  My posts about “Characters You Want to Know: Parts 1 & 2” try to illuminate for all readers some memorable children in contemporary literature who will help us to understand humans who have foibles and troubles as we all do or “all human kind” as Hughes reminded us.

If you enjoyed the Characters You Want to Know in Part 1’s post,  here are more amazing characters which will add to your list of great books ones that teach us all empathy for children and any humans.

Another complex character I recommend is featured in What To Do About Alice?(with a long subtitle) by Barbara Kerley. (She is also the author of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins).  We adults may remember Alice Roosevelt Longworth anecdotes from when her father was president, but this book takes a fun approach with imaginative illustrations to help us understand the point of view of a young daughter living in the White House. Some reviewers on Amazon say that this book will help to introduce a “character” children will want to read more about.  I agree especially when I read that Alice was an unhappy adult so her early life leads to her complexity.

As well as reading, I love to knit and cook.  All my hobbies require good eyesight, so I was inspired to read about the life of Laura Bridgman who held on to only two of her senses after a childhood illness.  Laura could only taste some food and could use her remarkable sense of touch after losing her sight, hearing, and sense of smell.  She could knit and tat and she learned to read and write before Helen Keller at the Perkins Institute in Boston.  What an inspirational story Sally Hobart Alexander wrote in She Touched the World: Deaf-Blind Pioneer !  This ambiguous true “character” intrigued me because she was not Helen Keller, the delightful deaf/mute writer who was loved by all who met her.  Laura was an impatient, jealous, demanding child who helped Samuel Howe become famous in the late 1880’s. I think Sally Alexander, a blind author and teacher, aptly named her book which is written for older elementary children.

How can Mia Winchell compete in school and in this character-loving post? She is the synesthetic narrator of A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Moss.  Thank you to my niece Gretchen Schmelzer for recommending this fascinating book to me.  We writers can only wish we shared Mia’s “gift,” for she can see sounds, smell colors and taste shapes.  Wouldn’t those extraordinary powers be helpful to us writers?  Since this section is about MEATY characters, I guess Mia would be uncomfortable with my language. I cannot describe the taste of this book, nor the smell of this “Meaty” child.   Mia’s “oddness” is not easy for her family to understand, but Wendy Moss shares this character’s feelings with the reader.  You will be amazed when you read about this medical condition which is rare, misunderstood, and real!

Another title with an Exceptional Setting I chose is An Unlikely Friendship by Ann Rinaldi, which takes place in the White House during the 1860’s. Ann Rinaldi’s book about this unusual attachment is a historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Keckley.  There have been many books written about these two women, but I maintain that Rinaldi gets it just right. You may have seen the movie “Lincoln,” in which Lizzie has a minor role. Read An Unlikely Friendship and you will see her character revealed in the U. S Capital during this tumultuous time.

What is the special language of The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman?  The chapter titles are so intriguing!  Meg Wolitzer, the author of the adult novel The Interestings, writes for children in a language they will love. For Example, Chapter 1, “Lunch Meat and the Chinaman” and Chapter 3 “The So-Called Power is Revealed” will resonate with young readers.   Duncan Dorfman is not a typical elementary child nor are his new friends who are Scrabble geniuses at age twelve.  Her writing has been called “Juicy, perceptive and vividly written.”—NPR.org

What characters have you read recently which should be shared as “Characters You Want to Know”?  The theme of empathy is one that should resonate with many readers like youHappy Reading in 2015 as you find more characters you want to know and share with others!

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Characters You Want To Know: Part 1

“Never be without a good book” is a motto revealed to me, one I adopted many years ago.  Today, I plan to surprise you with book characters, originally written for children, but these are titles I love because the characters create empathy in us.

To put my suggestions in a framework, I will go back to CAMEL. We want to read books with complex characters, don’t we? Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper stars Melody, an eleven year old girl with a photographic memory.  Choosing Melody to narrate this book takes you into her mind for she cannot talk, walk, or write.  Wait a minute, you ask, how can she have a photographic memory when she is as described on the first page? How can she communicate with us, the readers, and with her family and friends?   She has cerebral palsy, is placed in special needs class, forever in her wheelchair.  Melody is a complex “Character You Want to Know!”  I will not tell you the plot of this human story, because you will want to see how it unfolds.

Although we sometimes read predictable novels while at the beach, still, for lasting impact, I think we want ambiguity in our reading choices.  Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a book I will re-read many times.  The books I have chosen for today’s post will help us to understand children who are different from the norm. Willow Chance, the character I want you to know, is a twelve year old genius who reveres the number 7.  She has many unusual quirks and interests so she is not a “popular” child in school. Her life takes a tragic turn and other adults reach out to care for her and try to understand this beautiful child.    I hope you will take Willow into your heart as I have.  Hear about Willow from a young reader who posted a review on Amazon:

“I guess I really enjoyed this book because I am a gifted child myself. I am 9 years old and have recently skipped 2 years of primary school. I loved this book; it really made me cry…. I agree with Willow that sometimes in school it is hard to fit in….’”

One Meaty character you will want to know is Auggie Pullman.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which stars this main character you will want to know, has appeared on many “Best Of” lists in the past few years.  I picked it up and recommended this realistic story to many teachers and parents.  Auggie’s face is never described because, as the narrator Auggie tells us, it is indescribable.  I cannot imagine his life in middle school as others taunt and react to a new boy who has his cranial-facial differences.  Auggie Pullman will surprise you with his resilience to the bullies and those who try to ignore him.

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech, has an Exceptional Setting and it is about a boy who does not speak. Jacob is discovered by a childless couple on their porch one day. This setting will remind you of Anne of Green Gables; it is a small farm near a simple village.  Jacob communicates best with a cow and the dog in this quiet setting, but the couple learn much from him daily. On her blog Sharon Creech says, “It was a challenge to write about a boy who does not speak, but I hope the reader learns as much about the boy through what he does and how he affects others as we might learn if he could use words.”

Language and Literary Devices wrap up my choices for you of Characters You Want to Know: Part 1.  Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is written entirely in free verse and won the Newbery Award in 1998.  It is a difficult novel for children, so I recommend that adults read this historical fiction gem first before giving it to a child.  Billie Joe is a fifteen year old who lives in the dust bowl of Oklahoma and yearns to play piano.  How can a poor farmer’s family during the Depression keep a large musical instrument such as a piano.  Hesse is remarkable when she describes the music in Billie Joe’s heart.  The lines are spare just as the land provided little, but you will love the language.

“June 1934

On the Road with Arley”

Here’s the way I figure it.

My place in the world is at the piano.”

Please read Out of the Dust yourself to get to know Billie Joe. I hope you enjoy meeting these characters who all exhibit gifts to share with readers who strive to understand human nature through empathetic literature.

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Filed under Award winning books, Children, Different Children, Historial Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Mysterious Mysteries!

Who killed Michael Abramowitz?  There are frequent clues in Baltimore Blues, Laura Lippman’s first mystery novel.  Reading blurbs on Sujata Massey’s “Rei Shimura” series books reminded me that I love to read local author Laura Lippman’s mysteries with settings in our Chesapeake Bay region. Don’t you enjoy reading books set in your own area?   I relish being reminded of the neighborhoods, restaurants, and streets I know or want to explore.  Remember CAMEL from my last posting? E=EXCEPTIONAL SETTINGS! Don’t forget about CAMEL to help you to find great books of this and any genre.

So now that we have explored EXCEPTIONAL SETTINGS in the first paragraph, let me tell you how I became enamored of mystery stories.  Mysteries were my first love from when I was an early reader in grade school beginning with “The Bobbsey Twins” series. All my allowance and birthday money was spent in my home town in northern Indiana on these and other mystery series books. I continued to collect and read any mysteries for my age group. Then in high school I subscribed to the Columbia Mystery Book Club, using all my babysitting money on Perry Mason novels. Now I read any thrillers, suspense and mystery novels recommended by reviewers, friends and family.  I love them light, such as Agatha Christie ones, to very dark, such as Steig Larssen’s books and all mysteries in between.  Please let me know your favorites in the comment section!

Returning to the concepts in the CAMEL  acronym  suggested @ Book Club Cheerleader (see below),  let’s explore some of the other traits of a great title.  What is an example of COMPLEX CHARACTERS in the mystery genre?  Sharyn McCrumb in If I Killed Him When I Met Him has two complex secondary characters, Eleanor Royden and Donna Jean Morgan, who are wives accused of murdering their husbands.  The investigators in the story are a forensic anthropologist and two lawyers, Elizabeth’s brother Bill and his partner, A. P. Hill.  You do not need to read the first Elisabeth MacPherson book in the series to understand this interesting title by MacCrumb, still I encourage you to try more books in her bibliography.

Let’s find some stories filled with A for AMBIGUITY.  This trait can be in the theme, the characters, the climax or the solution.  The author of this type of book keeps you guessing throughout the novel.  Many of you have read Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series about the Egyptian anthropologists.  Ms Peters, known as Mertz/Peters/Michaels,  was prolific; as a matter of fact, she wrote under three names.  On her website there is a quote I would like to share:  “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels [and Barbara Mertz]) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.” One of my favorite characters she created is a librarian (surprise, surprise) named Jacqueline Kirby.  Naked No More contains a plot, themes and characters who are ambiguous!

Now I know you are ready for a recommendation of a mystery novel full of M=MEATY issues. Through the Darkness, the sixth book in Marcia Talley’s Hannah Ives series, is about the kidnapping of the protagonist’s one year old grandson.  I do not know how Marcia wrote that one, but she carried it off with her usual flair for suspense, realism and care for her characters.

Yesterday I mentioned a book with letters which covers the LITERARY DEVICES idea.  As a former English teacher and school librarian, my favorite of the entire CAMEL concept for choosing books is LANGUAGE and LITERARY DEVICES.  People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is an untraditional mystery; in fact, it is probably not listed as a mystery on many book lists.  Still this brilliant novel includes clues, an investigator and many characters hiding the facts from others as well as the reader!  This popular novel follows the provenance of an object, an illuminated text from the current times back to the beginning of its inception. This technique has been used by other authors which I will explain in another post.

Here are some mystery blogs and websites I follow:

http://sujatamassey.com/blog/

http://www.marciatalley.com/

http://hankphillippiryan.com/blog.php

http://www.jungleredwriters.com/

http://www.elaineviets.com/

http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/

http://www.bookclubcheerleader.com/Home_Page.html

www.mysterylovescompany.com

 

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Filed under Children, Historial Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, myseries, Mystery, untraditional mysteries