Archive for June, 2013

ALA 2013 – Caldecott Preconference Reception

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

I’m at ALA Annual Conference 2013 in Chicago! Tonight’s my earliest night, so I thought I’d post a quick one about my travel day and the first night’s activity.

I had a nice middle of the day flight. But alas! My problems with vertigo and vestibular migraine I think contribute to a fact I had to face: I do not handle turbulence well. It was a turbulent flight and I did NOT feel good by the time it was done. I knit when taking off and landing to try to combat that, and I sit by a window, but that wasn’t enough. Following with a 45-minute subway ride didn’t help.

Otherwise, it was an enjoyable flight. I started reading Savvy, by Ingrid Law, because I always bring paperbacks I own on trips instead of library books, and in my rotation up next is an award winner, and Savvy was a Newbery Honor Book, so it qualifies. Turns out, this copy was signed to me by the author at ALA Annual Conference in 2011! What took me so long to read it? I’m loving it.

One thing I hate about reading on airplanes — you have to stop when the plane lands! But I do have some bedtime reading tonight!

And Shannon Hale tweeted that her new book, Dangerous will be at booth 2105! That is going to be my *first* stop when the exhibits open tomorrow. Though I may not make it there right at opening, because I still have to register, and get permission to bring a rolling cart on the exhibit floor, so I don’t aggravate my vertebral artery dissection. (I don’t want another stroke. The first one happened after ALA!) So they better still be there!

I oh so foolishly spent an hour and a half waiting for a shuttle and then taking it to try to register tonight. Foolishly, because I hadn’t read that they closed registration at 5. I thought they closed when the shuttles stopped at 6. And we didn’t even get there until after 6, because traffic was awful. But I was able to scope out Chicago.

And then — the wonderful part! I’m doing the Preconference tomorrow: “A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal.” It’s happening at the Art Institute of Chicago. Even though I don’t know a lot about art, I just had to go to this. And tonight they had a reception for attendees, with several Caldecott Award and Honor winners signing books — and an exhibit of original art from their books.

Why is it so amazing to look at original art? The books are wonderful, and the pictures are designed for books. But looking at this artwork took my breath away.

I did resist purchasing picture books. Though after I went away, I thought what an opportunity it is to be an Outstanding Aunt to my two new nieces. (We’ll see if there are more signings.)

I do have to show Paul Zelinsky’s wonderful shirt, made with images from the fabulous Z Is for Moose (which was a 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out).

And I can even tell you who the people are in the picture at the top. Here’s another one, a little more blurry, but with more of them looking at me:

Top row: Chris Raschka, Paul Zelinsky, Leonard Marcus, Marla Frazee, Brian Selznick, and Kadir Nelson

Front row: Peter Brown, Pam Zagarenski, Melissa Sweet, Erin Stead, and her husband, Philip C. Stead.

And here’s a view from the side:

Tomorrow, I get to hear these people talk about creating picture books! I’m so excited!

Review of Doll Bones, by Holly Black

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Doll Bones

by Holly Black

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 244 pages.
Starred Review

Wow! Holly Black has surpassed herself with Doll Bones. It’s a kids-going-on-an-adventure novel, a ghost story, a growing-up tale, a story of friendships changing, and a story of coming to terms with parental expectation. And it’s all carried out beautifully.

Zach and his friends Alice and Poppy have an incredibly detailed imaginative world going. In a episode that reminded me of the ship scene in Momo, Zach leads his action figure William the Blade on a pirate ship adventure, attacked by Poppy’s mermaids and assisted by Alice’s Lady Jaye.

But Zach is twelve years old, and it’s not only other kids who think he’s too old to play with action figures. When Zach comes home from basketball practice, his Dad has thrown all of them away, saying it’s time for Zach to grow up. Zach doesn’t want to tell the girls.

That anger curdled inside his belly and crawled up his throat until it felt like it might choke him. Until he was sure that there was no way he could ever tell anyone what had happened without all of his anger spilling out and engulfing everything.

And the only way not to tell anyone was to end the game.

Not surprisingly, the girls don’t take kindly to that. Poppy tries to entice Zach back into the game by taking the creepy doll her mother owns, the doll they call The Queen, out of its glass cabinet. But when she does so, that night she has a vivid dream.

“It wasn’t like a regular dream,” Poppy said, her fingers smoothing back the Queen’s curls and her voice changing, going soft and chill as the night air…. “It wasn’t like dreaming at all. She was sitting on the end of my bed. Her hair was blond, like the doll’s, but it was tangled and dirty. She was wearing a nightdress smeared with mud. She told me I had to bury her. She said she couldn’t rest until her bones were in her own grave, and if I didn’t help her, she would make me sorry.”…

“Her bones?” he finally echoed.

“Did you know that bone china has real bones in it?” Poppy said, tapping a porcelain cheek. “Her clay was made from human bones. Little-girl bones. That hair threaded through the scalp is the little girl’s hair. And the body of the doll is filled with her leftover ashes….

“Each night she told me a little more of her story.” Illuminated by the flashlight, Poppy’s face had become strange. “She’s not going to rest until we bury her. And she’s not going to let us rest either. She promised to make us miserable unless we help her.”

So the three kids set out. Zach and Alice aren’t sure Poppy’s not making it up, until more strange things happen. Their plan is to take a bus to the gravesite up the river in East Liverpool, Ohio. But a crazy man on the bus spooks them, and they get off the bus too soon, and then must escape the attention of officials.

I’ve said in other reviews that I don’t normally enjoy creepy stories. But this one is done beautifully. I should say that there’s a lot more scary dread than anything that actually happens to the kids. But I think it’s fair. The doll gets upset when they get sidetracked from their mission, but she has no reason to be upset as they near the goal.

Readers also might fault it for how nicely all the emotional threads tie up in the end. But I loved it. The different emotional threads are woven into the story with a delicate touch, and even though they tie up nicely, it never feels too good to be true.

This book is excellent on so many levels. The friendship between the kids changing on the cusp of adolescence feels real, with all the touchiness inherent in those changes. The quest is in the classic tradition of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The kids aren’t well-prepared, and they argue along the way, but they follow their quest to a tremendously satisfying conclusion.

blackholly.com
KIDS.SimonandSchuster.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/doll_bones.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, M.D.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

To Heaven and Back

A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again

by Mary C. Neal, M. D.

Waterbrook Press, 2012. 222 pages.

Here’s another Near Death Experience book. I grant you that if you don’t believe in heaven, you can probably find ways to explain these away. But for those of us who believe in heaven, stories like these are magnificently encouraging. At the very least, it’s hard to deny that Dr. Neal should have died in the accident she describes. And once you admit that her very survival was miraculous, it’s hard to ignore her description of talking with angels and her sense of mission in her life afterward.

This book isn’t as focused and polished as some of the similar books I’ve been reading. But an interesting aspect is that she felt she was given a mission to help her family through some hard times. And then her son died. So as if a near death experience weren’t enough, this is also a book about a family dealing with the grief of losing a son, and doing so with grace.

As with every other similar book I’ve read, one of her main descriptions of heaven was a place of love:

My arrival was joyously celebrated and a feeling of absolute love was palpable as these spiritual beings and I hugged, danced, and greeted each other. The intensity, depth, and purity of these feelings and sensations were far greater than I could ever describe with words and far greater than anything I have experienced on earth.

This book tells a dramatic story. It also gives us a glimpse of the hand of God in someone’s life. And I find that encouraging.

waterbrookmultnomah.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/to_heaven_and_back.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Catching up and ALA 2013

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

There! with my post last weekend about Caddy’s World, I finally finished posting reviews of books I read in 2012!

Here’s what happened. First, let me say that when I started writing Sonderbooks in 2001, I worked part-time. I reviewed everything I read. Sometime a year or two ago, when I was behind on writing reviews, I started writing the reviews on my blog as drafts, to post later. Posting later takes some time. Even though I use the blog for content, I like posting the reviews back on my main site, Sonderbooks.com, because it’s a much more browsable site of all my reviews, organized by category, and with links to reviews by the same author and books in the same category. Setting up those links takes some time, but so far I haven’t been willing to give that up, because I like the way the site is a resource for all my reviews.

But now that I have the blog as well, I write the reviews as drafts first, and insert the text into html code and add links when I actually post them.

And I’m a little behind.

Here’s how it stands now, for example. I currently have three books sitting in a pile to write reviews for. (This is good, and greatly reduced from a month ago.) But I currently have 52 reviews written as drafts on my blog. I need to catch up! As noted, I just finished posting the last review from 2012, so I am a good six months behind.

I try to alternate between the oldest reviews I have waiting to be posted and one of the newest, especially books just published that I’m especially excited about, though some slip through. I also try not to post books from the same category twice in a row. That’s actually part of what took me so long with the 2012 books — at the end of the year, I was a Cybils judge, so I mostly read children’s fiction at that time, and alternated posting them with other books. (That’s also why I haven’t yet posted reviews of books I loved, Doll Bones, by Holly Black, and P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia, and Wednesdays in the Tower, by Jessica Day George. Soon. Very soon.)

Anyway, I’m trying to post two reviews per day until I catch up — but it’s not always happening. I did mention that I work full-time now? I also force myself not to review every book I read. I also recently moved, and still don’t have my boxes unpacked, and still haven’t sent out address change cards.

And I’m going to ALA in Chicago day after tomorrow!

I will probably bring my laptop to ALA but leave it in the hotel room. It’s maybe time I should get an ipad with a keyboard, but I’ve been resisting. I’m going to some sort of event every night I’ll be gone, so I have my doubts that I’ll get in much computer time at all.

But, doggone it, this is my own website, right? There are no deadlines. I am never late! And the books are still good reading, even if they have been published for a year or more. (Which is precisely why I like Sonderbooks to be browsable.)

But that’s what’s going on with me this week. And now that I’ve used a good chunk of time writing this post, let’s see if I can get a review or two posted as well.

I hope I’ll see some friends in Chicago! When I first planned to go, I was hoping I’d be getting ready to serve on next year’s Newbery committee, but I didn’t quite get elected. However, ALA Annual Conference is always a great time for being around my kind of people — book people, and learning a lot, and meeting authors, and celebrating books, and getting excited about upcoming titles. Oh, and having a lovely little block of time to read on the plane!

Review of Caddy’s World, by Hilary McKay

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Caddy’s World

by Hilary McKay

Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), 2012. 265 pages.

This is another book about the marvelously quirky, highly disfunctional, and utterly delightful Casson family. The parents are artists, and all the children’s names are colors. Caddy’s World is a prequel that takes place before all the other books. It’s about Caddy and her four friends and all the changes that happened in Caddy’s world when her youngest sibling was born and spent months in the hospital.

I’m afraid I wasn’t as enraptured with this book as I was with all the others. Maybe because I knew the baby in later books, so I wasn’t worried about her? Maybe because I knew some revelations about their philandering father and held that against him back when he was still pretending to be part of a normal family?

This story isn’t as much about the Casson family as it is about Caddy and her three best friends. Here’s how the book opens:

These were the four girls who were best friends:

Alison . . . hates everyone.

Ruby is clever.

Beth. Perfect.

Caddy, the bravest of the brave.

(“Mostly because of spiders,” said Caddy.)

I have to admit that Hilary McKay has a way of making concerns for these girls that transcend the ordinary. There’s a boy Caddy likes who’s a boyfriend to three of them but wants to conquer the fourth. One of them is horrified to be outgrowing her pony. One of them is being offered a scholarship but doesn’t want to leave her friends. One of them has parents who want to sell their house and move to New Zealand. And Caddy finds a little bird and tries to save its life. Then when the new baby is born, it looks an awful lot like that little doomed bird.

Hilary McKay’s books are always charming. I think I’d suggest that readers start with this one, chronologically the first about the Casson family, and I suspect they won’t be bothered by the things they already know, like I was. I also suspect that most readers who once meet the Cassons will want to read on.

HilaryMcKay.co.uk
simonandschuster.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/caddys_world.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

read by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra

Listening Library, 2013. 9 hours on 7 compact discs.
Starred Review
2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner

Sigh. I didn’t want this book to end. I hated going to work today, having to stop in the middle of the last CD. When I got home, I didn’t even think for a moment of leaving the CD in the car. (And I’d done the same thing on CD 5, finishing it in the house.)

I’ve always liked slow-burn romance, romance that shows the characters, slowly, realistically, falling in love over time, rather than just looking at someone and suddenly falling for them. This book is a realistic, slow, beautiful, exquisite love story.

I loved listening to the story. I liked the way you’d hear what one character was thinking, and then it would jump to the other character’s viewpoint. However, now that I’m writing the review, I wish I had the print book to share good bits with you.

I did *not* like the ending. However, considering that the Eleanor & Park were studying Romeo & Juliet in school (Eleanor being contemptuous that it’s called tragedy), and considering the parallel nature of the title, and that this was also a teenage love story between teens from very different backgrounds — well, it could have ended much worse. I was afraid all along this would end as badly as Romeo & Juliet. This isn’t too big a spoiler: Nobody dies.

But I hated the ambiguity of the very end. And there are many secondary characters whose fates I really want to know about. The author gave us so much detail along the way, is it too much to ask for a little bit of detail at the end? (Apparently it is.) I want to know more!

So you’ve been warned about the ending. But the journey is totally worth it. It starts toward the beginning of the school year when a new girl — Eleanor — gets on the school bus, and no one will let her have a seat. Park finally scoots over and gives her half of his seat, but they don’t even speak to one another for weeks. The back-and-forth narration shows us each one starting to wonder about the silent person on the bus. Then Eleanor starts reading Park’s comics over his shoulder. They still don’t speak.

Meanwhile Eleanor’s dealing with bullying in gym class and an awful situation at home, with four little brothers and sisters to worry about as well. Park’s problems are more along the lines of his Dad making him learn to drive a stick before he’ll let him get his license. As things progress, Eleanor cannot let her family find out about Park.

There were so many little things that rang so true. I liked the way neither would admit they were boyfriend and girlfriend until well after Park had gotten in a fight over something said to Eleanor.

The audio was wonderful and had me driving to and from work almost in a trance. It’s not family listening, though. It’s a love story, and their feelings do grow in passion, which could be quite embarrassing for younger listeners. (I love the way they each marvel separately over how amazing it feels to hold hands. Things do progress from there, but this doesn’t jump straight to making out without giving the small steps along the way their due.) I was listening in the car by myself, so I didn’t have to worry about embarrassment, but the descriptions struck just the right note of wonder and passion, without feeling trite.

If you’re ever in the mood for a love story, I highly recommend this one.

listeninglibrary.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/eleanor_and_park.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Horten’s Incredible Illusions, by Lissa Evans

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Horten’s Incredible Illusions

Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure

by Lissa Evans

Sterling Children’s Books, New York, 2012. Originally published in Great Britain in 2012 as Big Change for Stuart.

Horten’s Incredible Illusions is a follow-up to Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms, and you should definitely read the first book first. I can say with confidence that if you liked the first book, you will also enjoy the second.

In the second book, Stuart Horten has found his uncle’s magic tricks, but now he must figure out a puzzle that involves an adventure with each piece of magical equipment. The puzzle leads to his uncle’s will, which he needs to prove the tricks belong to him.

The puzzle format works well, and this is simply a fun adventure tale for kids. Here’s a sample from when Stuart and April first get to look over the tricks:

They looked at each other. “Once you start using magic, it’s very hard to stop,” quoted April, her voice breathy. “It’s another puzzle, isn’t it? Another adventure?”

Stuart closed his hand over the star, and felt the six prongs dig into his skin. His heart was suddenly thumping; he felt both excited and slightly frightened, and he knew from April’s expression that she felt the same. The hunt for Great-Uncle Tony’s workshop had been a wild and exciting chase, sprinkled with danger and magic, and now another quest was beckoning. But for what? What was the prize this time?

He felt his hand tingle, and he knew that the object he was holding was so full of magic that over fifty years it had bleached the paper it was wrapped in; he could feel its power.

sterlingpublishing.com/kids

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/hortens_incredible_illusions.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

Harper, 2013. 486 pages.
Starred Review

I had brought this book back to the library, figuring I’d never get around to reading it, so I should give other people a chance. I made the mistake of looking inside to get the flavor of it — and was instantly hooked. I brought it back home and bypassed all of my plans and made it the next novel I read.

Here’s the first paragraph:

The Golem’s life began in the hold of a steamship. The year was 1899; the ship was the Baltika, crossing from Danzig to New York. The Golem’s master, a man named Otto Rotfeld, had smuggled her aboard in a crate and hidden her among the luggage.

The beginning talks about how Rotfeld decided he wanted a wife and turned to Schaalman, a disgraced rabbi who dabbled in the Kabbalistic arts. Here’s a warning Schaalman gives to Rotfeld:

“The results may not be as precise as you might wish. One can only do so much with clay.” Then his face darkened. “But remember this. A creature can only be altered so far from its basic nature. She’ll still be a golem. She’ll have the strength of a dozen men. She’ll protect you without thinking, and she’ll harm others to do it. No golem has ever existed that did not eventually run amok. You must be prepared to destroy her.”

But Rotfeld dies during the passage to America, shortly after waking the Golem. With no master, she hears the desires and wishes of everyone around her. Terribly distracted in New York City, she meets a rabbi who knows what she is and helps her pass for human.

Nearby, in the neighborhood of Lower Manhattan called Little Syria, a tinsmith is working to repair an old flask and releases a jinni. The Jinni doesn’t remember the last several hundred years. Last he knew, he was in the Syrian desert, paying more attention to humans than other jinn said was good for him.

The Jinni, too, must pass for human in New York City. He works for the tinsmith who released him. Made of fire, he can heat and mold metal with his bare hands. But he’s not willing to merely stay in the shop.

Both the Golem and the Jinni become restless, since, after all, they don’t have to spend their nights sleeping like the humans around them. They both can instantly see that the other is not the human they are pretending to be.

Even though it’s a very different story, this book reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with a world so much like ours, but with these magical deviations. As in that book, the characters are deeply explored and all the implications of the world built are lived out.

The Golem lives among Jews and the Jinni among Syrians, but they find each other and change each other’s lives and outlook. Eventually, they discover a surprising connection between them, a connection that could mean their destruction.

This book captivated me all the way along. It explores what it means to be human, as we look at these two creatures passing as human: one made of clay, and one made of fire.

harpercollins.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/golem_and_the_jinni.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Cup and the Crown, by Diane Stanley

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

The Cup and the Crown

by Diane Stanley

Harper, 2012. 344 pages.
Starred Review

Molly’s back! The Molly who saved the kingdom in The Silver Bowl with the help of her strange powers, seeing visions in a silver bowl, has now been made a Lady. But the king has a commission for her. She is to go find a Loving Cup, made by her grandfather, with the power to bind two people together. He needs it for an important alliance. And since Molly has been having nightly visions about such a cup, she agrees to go.

In this volume, we find out much more about the source of Molly’s magic and her family history. I think you could read it without having read the first book, but I almost want to say you shouldn’t read it without reading whatever’s coming next. I’ll simply say about the ending that it annoyed me. I’m hoping Diane Stanley can write a third book that will reconcile me to those events.

But right up until the annoying ending (and that may be a personal quirk that I didn’t like it), I thoroughly enjoyed this journey. I was a little disappointed to discover Molly has noble blood — it was refreshing to have a character in a medieval fantasy who was a commoner — but I don’t think that’s a flaw. And it did emphasize her strong magical gift.

I like the slowly blooming romance between Molly and Tobias, and what they were willing to do for each other. Yet we still have a certain amount of doubt that they will really end up together (because of that annoying ending. I’ll say no more).

What started with a very unusual magical world — with magical visions in a silver bowl — has become unusual in other ways, including a secret kingdom where magic is revered. Only can Molly and Tobias ever get out again?

dianestanley.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/cup_and_the_crown.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

A Corner of White

The Colors of Madeleine, Book One

by Jaclyn Moriarty

Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2013. 373 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award Winner for Fiction

A Corner of White doesn’t fit neatly into categories. Yes, it’s fantasy, because half of the story is set in a fantasy world. But the other half is set in modern-day Cambridge. In both worlds, we follow a teen with some big concerns. The two teens happen upon a crack between worlds — a crack just big enough to send letters through.

Madeleine, in Cambridge, just turned fourteen. She used to be rich, living a jet-setting lifestyle. But when she ran away the last time (She made a habit of that.), her mother came, too. Now they live in an attic in historic Cambridge, and her mother mends clothing to get them by.

Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello. He’s fifteen, and his father has been missing for months. Elliot’s theory is that the same attacking Purple that killed his uncle Jon carried off his father along with the missing physics teacher, Mischka Taylor. He wants to find the Purple’s lair and locate his father.

But events conspire to keep him at home this time.

I can’t begin to summarize all that goes on in this book. Madeleine is being homeschooled in a cooperative along with Jack and Belle. They’re studying great people who lived at Cambridge before them. Jack and Belle aren’t sure what to make of her stories of when she was rich. She’s not sure what to make of them, with Jack obsessed with horoscopes and Belle reading people’s auras. But she never reads Madeleine’s. Madeleine’s mother is acting strangely, and when Madeleine writes to her father, hoping he will come get them, she doesn’t get an answer in a hurry.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Cello has problems besides the disappearance of Elliot’s father. Elliot lives in the Farms, and crops have been failing. But when the Butterfly Child shows up, everybody says she will help. So why is she sleeping all the time? Then there are the touring Princess Sisters, the sheriff’s deputy who’s so good at finding missing persons, and the couple from Olde Quainte who are renting his father’s shop, with their daughter who never speaks.

During all of this, Madeleine and Elliot exchange letters. Of course, Madeleine thinks he’s making it all up. The Colour Attacks sound like nonsense. She thinks he’s a budding writer who’s invented a fantasy kingdom. But along the way, they both give each other good advice.

For at least half of the book, I was distracted by how completely impossible the Kingdom of Cello’s existence is. They have generally random seasons, lasting a few hours to a few weeks. I’m with Madeleine in thinking the Colour Attacks don’t make a whole lot of sense. In fact, I had to laugh at the Acknowledgments at the end, where the author says, “Adam Gatenby talked to me about farming life and Alistair Baillie talked about physics, and I am thankful to them both. (Here I should note that Adam considers farming in shifting seasons to be impossible, and that Alistair has similar doubts about colors taking on corporeal form.)” I want to add that I don’t understand how the seasons could shift. Ours are caused by the earth’s revolution around the sun. It’s clear they have a sun. How could the seasons shift so randomly?

However, by the end of the book, I was finally won over. I like the story and the characters so much, I was willing to forgive. It took longer than most fantasy tales, but in the end, okay, with small reservations. And I loved the plot twist at the end. It does lead into the rest of the series, but the story in this book still came to a satisfying conclusion.

And I love these characters. They’re not perfect. They’re trying to figure out life, each with their own obstacles to overcome. The plot was well-worked out. That’s what I don’t want to say too much about, for fear of giving something away. But it says a lot that I’m willing to forgive the unlikeliness of the alternate world in order to spend time with these people. And I very much want to know what happens next.

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