Posts tagged ‘Sharon Creech’

April 25, 2011

someone else’s shoes

I like the title of this book.  Walk two moons.  It is so fully of poetry, meaning, and beauty.  Just like the book itself.  I’m a late comer to this book. Chances are, if you are the type to read a blog about children’s books, you’ve already read this one.  So really, I wanted to post just to say that if you haven’t read it, you need to.  And if you have read it, you should take a moment to reflect on how lucky you are.

I realize my last post was also about a Sharon Creech book, and I’m currently reading another one by her, so this is also sort of a dedication to my recently discovered love affair with her books.  As a reader, I feel like I’ve been given an incredible gift.

Title: Walk Two Moons
Author: Sharon Creech
Genre: Fiction
Age: 9 and up, Upper Elementary and Middle School

Summary and Review:

Sal is understandably upset when her mothers leaves.  She doesn’t understand why she left and why she hasn’t come back yet. Then, when Sal’s father learns that her mother is never coming back, Sal and her father pack up their farmhouse and head to a city where her dad has befriended another woman and Sal meets a strange girl named Phoebe, whose mother also leaves.  The story of Walk Two Moons is aptly told as Sal is walking in her mother’s shoes–driving to Idaho with her grandparents along the same path her mother traveled, determined to bring her mother home.  As she and the wonderful characters of her grandparents take their road trip, Sal tells them the story of herself and Pheobe, their friendship, their antics, their school friends (some of whom are characters from another Sharon Creech novel) and the lunatic they think is following them.  One of the impressive things about this book is its attention to the adult characters, people usually left out of a middle grade novel.  You learn a lot about the mothers and fathers of both Sal and Phoebe, as seen through Sal’s eyes.  While they don’t play a major role in the book, they do play a major role in how Sal and Phoebe see the world, and the reader is challenged to think about the parent-child relationship in a powerful way.

The two stories of Sal’s road trip and Phoebe’s adventures are interwoven in a way that brings more meaning to both.  And the true meaning of both of their lives is really only discovered at the end, after Sal has truly walked two moons in her mother’s mocassins.

Follow-up with the kids:

There is a great discussion guide on Sharon Creech’s website at: http://www.sharoncreech.com/novels/walk_two_moons_guide.pdf

April 12, 2011

if you chase it, it might chase you back

This book is a portal.  I opened its page and was instantly transformed.  So transformed, I was confused.  Was I the reader or the main character?  Was I on my couch, breast-feeding one son and patting the other, Sesame Street blaring in the background and the book balanced on my lap?  Or was I walking an ancient trail, uncovering its stones and its secrets one by one, finding a path as I found myself and my family along the way?  Or maybe I was the writer?  Did I write this book?  Conceive of its characters?  I feel I know them so well that I might have.  I can’t really say.  I loved this book!

All I know is that this book drew me in so deeply I can’t decide if I should ride this wave of bibliophilism (wow! that is totally a word!) and pick up another book immediately (preferably one by Sharon Creech) or just call it quits when I’m ahead and never read another book again.  Not sure yet, but in the meantime, I’ll write one (last?) blog entry.

Title: Chasing Redbird
Author: Sharon Creech
Genre: Fiction
Age: Middle School

Summary and Review:

Zinny is the quiet daughter in a large family, the one who listens to her sisters’ gossip at night in their too-crowded, shared bedroom, the one who collects bottlecaps and rocks, who spends more time with her aunt and uncle next door than her mom and dad in her own busy house.  She is an honest character, so true to her age and the human race that it seems Sharon Creech must have studied the very souls of her readers before she typed these words.

There are so many things about Zinny that I love, but mostly it is her honest confusion about life that gets at my heart.  Some of us (a rare few of us) will admit to being confused about the meaning of life.  But I’ve never heard anyone express out loud the ways that confusion can take hold on a daily level.  I love that Zinny admits to being afraid at times that she isn’t who she thinks she is.  That she is actually someone else, and that the real Zinny is dead, or the real Zinny is off somewhere and she is merely watching her.  I love that Zinny admits to being afraid of the “hand of God” and thinks that God has challenged her personally in peculiar, creative ways.  I love that Zinny admits to searching for a relative she knows has passed away, and I love that she finds her.  I love that Zinny is scared of the attention from a boy and of her own feelings.  I love the way Zinny learns about herself and her family, as if piecing together a mysterious puzzle, something that allows her to really understand some of the important things about being a daughter, a niece, a sister, and a girlfriend–none of which she truly attains until she first understands some things about being herself.  And I love, very much, the dichotomy in Zinny–how she feels so powerful that she believes she might have singlehandedly caused more than one death, but at the same time so useless that no boy could possibly ever like her.  If that isn’t growing up, then what is?

When Zinny starts to unravel the mysteries and dig up the stones of an old, historic trail near her farm in Kentucky, she takes her first step from being “one of those Taylor kids” to being “the one who’s digging up the trail.”  That transformation, from an overgrown past to a well-used walkway, from an unknown girl to a girl who knows herself well enough to like herself, is the story in this remarkable book.

Follow-up with the kids:

Zinny’s thoughts and feelings will resonate with a lot of kids in the midst of the turmoil of growing up and trying on a new identity.  Of course, if you are their parent, they probably won’t talk with you about it.  But that’s the brilliant thing about reading with your kids.  Just ask them about Zinny.  Why do you think Zinny felt that way?  Why did she do this?  That dichotomy of hopelessness and adolescence that I talked about above?  What does your daughter think about that?  You’ll hear some of her own feelings in her responses, and maybe you’ll learn what powers her own, personal dichotomy.

Now, you can start this conversation with the Jake/May issue because that might get them talking, but press further–what about Rose and Aunt Jessie and Uncle Nate?  Zinny’s precious relationship with each of these people tells us so much about what it means to be a live “human bean” that you could talk about this through the night.  And maybe you should.  Get a tarp and two sleeping bags and head to the backyard…that would be the best place to do it.  Under the stars.  Near the birds.

Oh, and one more thing: Zinny had a trail.  What do you or your child have?  Is it a place to explore?  100 books to read?  a new cuisine to learn how to cook?  a new exercise regime to learn and stick to?  What can you uncover that might help you uncover you?

September 14, 2010

Learn to sail, conquer a fear, meet your family–all while WANDERING

If you haven’t started reading your children’s books for yourself yet, this one would be another great place to start.  Sometimes, I think adult fiction gets too carried away in its seriousness, almost as if it feels like unending depression and angst, forbidden sex, and deceit are the only truths in our lives.  Either that, or you’re reading a “fluff” piece about a girl who shops and tries to find Mr. Right.  Either way, with exceptions for a few of my favorite adult authors, I just can’t take adult fiction anymore.

But sometimes (usually, I hope) life is just about living with your family, growing up (and no, I don’t think we ever stop growing up), making mistakes and correcting them, being scared and chasing your fears, arguing and then wishing you didn’t.  This is why in a lot of ways I feel kid lit is sometimes closer to the real thing.  Which brings us to today’s book.  I loved it, and it only made me realize that I haven’t read enough of Sharon Creech’s honored work.

Title: The Wanderer
Author: Sharon Creech
Genre
: Fiction
Age: Upper Elementary and Middle School, 8 – 12

Summary and Review:

Sophie is the only girl on the sailboat.  Together with her two cousins and three uncles, they set sail for England in a journey toward their grandfather.  As an adopted member of the family, Sophie struggles at times to be accepted and also to accept herself on this journey.  As a girl, she struggles to be taken seriously.  And as a 13-year-old, she struggles to understand her place on the boat, in this family, and in the world.  The adventure is cleverly narrated by both Sophie and Cody, one of her cousins.  This duel narrator gives a great depth of understanding to both the journey and the characters aboard.  You get to hear stories from two different points of view and the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions.

A lot of the subplots in this book are really just in-depth character development, told in wonderful ways.  The characters on the boat are real: Brian, the third kid on the boat and the one left out of the narration, is awkward and nerdy, something that Sophie and Cody both struggle to understand and at times very much dislike.  But their dislike is honest and explored in their own narratives–kids reading this story will very much relate, no matter which side of the popularity line they are usually on.

Another character-based storyline is the relationships between both Cody and Brian’s and their fathers, who are brothers.  Cody strives to show his hard-to-please dad that he merits serious consideration while Brian’s dad, immensely proud of Brian’s ability to spout facts at the drop of a hat, doesn’t understand or appreciate Cody’s attitude or joking around.

Sophie’s story, though, is the one to follow as she reveals more about her own journey, her reasons for wanting to go on the trip, and her own relationship with the grandfather that, as Brian likes to point out, isn’t her real grandfather. *SPOILER ALERT*  On the journey you learn that Sophie’s birth parents were killed in a boating accident, and that she is taking this trip because it’s something she feels she has to do, has to get over.  She tells stories to the rest of the crew about her own life and the life of the grandfather she’s never met, and they begin to understand that her stories, which are told in the third person, are actually her, and that the stories of her grandfather, which they think she must be making up, are also true, learned in letters he’s written her.  The theme of a family coming together, an emotional journey alongside a physical one, is real.  It’s good literature, and it makes a strong point for kids to follow.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Definitely talk about the three kids, Sophie, Brian, and Cody, and their differences.  What makes them each click?  What do they each like and dislike?  What are their strengths and weaknesses?  Why do Sophie and Cody dislike Brian so much and what helps them understand him better?  Ask your child if they have friends or classmates like any of these three–help them to see that a group of people with different strengths can really help each other.

A classic topic also are the numerous rifts on the family theme that this book inspires.  Why do the uncles argue if they like each other?  Why do Cody and his dad have such a hard time and what is it that finally brings them together?  Maybe relate these stories to stories in your own family.  Use the time to remember family reunions or big family dinners.  Every family has strife, and some kids can be more bothered by that than others.  Why do families fight and how does a child know if its serious or just part of what happens when a lot of different people get together?  Especially people who love each other so much–doesn’t that just intensify our feelings?  That can be hard for a child to grasp.  But let’s be honest–it can be hard for us to grasp, too, right?