March 26, 2014

A celebration of trees

Picture a Tree
by Barbara Reid

A tree can be many different things, from a drawing of bare branches to a tunnel of green. Reid's signature plasticine sculptures are amazingly detailed in each individual leaf and trunk. They delightfully mirror the people and animals around them. A particularly wonderful double-page spread reflects the changing years as seen on the surface of a pond or river.

Simply beautiful.

March 19, 2014

Sigrid's story

The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden
by Jill MacLean

Sigrid Sugden is a member of the Shrikes, the toughest group of girls in school. But when they endanger the life of their favourite victim, Prinny Murphy, Sigrid makes a decision that puts her own status in jeopardy. 

Sigrid wants to change her life. But her attempts at atonement backfire. No one trusts her and no one wants to give her a second chance. Sigrid finds an unlikely ally, however - Hud Quinn. Hud's a bully himself, but Sigrid senses another a side to him. Since he's the only one willing to speak with her, she starts to think of him as a friend.

Sigrid's examination of her past life gets at the root of bullying and how hard it is to deal with. The other Shrikes, especially Tate, are dangerous. MacLean doesn't flinch in portraying physical abuse, animal abuse, and destruction of property. But having the story told from the bully's point of view provides a different perspective that is worth examining.

An excellent book to read and discuss. Highly recommended.

March 13, 2014

Prinny's story

The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy
by Jill MacLean

A companion story to The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, with Prinny Murphy as the narrator. Prinny has a lot to deal with in her life. There's her conflicting emotions about her mother, who can't stop drinking, her father, who rarely pays much attention to her, and her best friend, Travis, who's become friendly with Laice, the new girl in town. Even worse, she's being blackmailed by the Shrikes, a gang of girls who've been tormenting her all year.

As Prinny struggles with all these issues, she gains strength from a novel called Make Lemonade. Reading isn't easy for Prinny, but she likes the book because it's written in verse and because she likes the main character, LaVaughn, who has a hard life too. 

Prinny's story is often raw and searing, with its realistic depiction of bullying and its attendant fear and humiliation, and the damage caused by people's flaws and secrets. Yet Prinny learns that there's still a lot of good in the world if she gives it a chance.

March 11, 2014

Newfoundland life - Travis' story

The Nine Lives of Travis Keating
by Jill MacLean

Just 365 days - that's how long Travis has agreed to his dad's experiment of living in a tiny coastal town in Newfoundland. But he soon regrets it. The kids at school ignore him while Hud, the resident bully, has him in his sights. Plus, Travis is still dealing with residual anger at his mother's death. Then he discovers a colony of abandoned cats down at the wharf.

As the days count down, Travis becomes tentative friends with Prinny, whose mother is an alcoholic, Hector, who rarely speaks, and Abe, a crotchety old farmer. By accepting their help in caring for the cats, Travis gradually comes to terms with his grief and mends his relationship with his father. He also realizes that any town can be called home.

Jill MacLean's realistic depiction of a Newfoundland community makes The Nine Lives of Travis Keating a wholly satisfying and Canadian read.

March 5, 2014

Magical mystery tour

Up in the Air
by Ann Marie Meyers

For as long as she can remember, Melody has always dreamed of flying. So when she suddenly finds herself in the land of Chimeroan, it's like a dream come true. She has wings! But to keep them, she has to solve three clues and find the treasure. On her journey, she meets unicorns, witches, elves, and dragons, but despite the magic, she still can't shake the memories of the accident that paralyzed her father. Melody thinks the accident was all her fault. But memory is a funny thing. Sometimes they reflect things that never really happened. 

A beautiful book about letting go of the past and trusting in yourself.