The Four Seasons of Patrick

The Four Seasons of Patrick is a well crafted and well written first chapter book by Susan Hughes.

Patrick is happy with his family as it is–he and his father and brother. But his dad’s friend Linda joins them occasionally for supper, with her daughter Claire. Soon there is talk of Linda and Claire moving in with them. Suddenly Patrick feels there is no room for him. His solution? He builds a tree house as a getaway. But Patrick finds the tree house can be more than a getaway.

We need more of this type of book for the early reader. Thank you Susan Hughes.

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“Maud” by Melanie J. Fishbane

Reading Maud, by Melanie J. Fishbane was like coming home. It is well researched but fictionalized account of the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, aged 15 to 17.

My mother first read me Anne of Green Gables when I was pre-adolescent. I continued on to read the whole series and other L.M. Montgomery books, especially the three Emily novels, time and time again.

For people like me Maud gives the world of Anne and Emily and the others more depth and colour. A child with a lively imagination and romantic notions,  like so many of her characters, Montgomery is brought up by overly stern grandparents at a time when education for young women and becoming a writer was not acceptable. Yet she finds direction and eventually the supportive love of community.

It was a wonderful read in which Gilbert Blythe came alive as Nate and Will, Diana as Laura, Anne’s favourite teacher in Avonlea as Miss Gordon, Emily’s struggle to become a writer, as her own struggle.

For young adults who have not yet read L.M. Montgomery, Maud gives a glimpse into the times and the lack of opportunities for women. It encourages young women, who find themselves at odds with the society around them, to imagine and explore writing. And especially to persevere.

The last paragraph of the novel, Fishbane has Montgomery dreaming and planning her future writing career.

She would write about girls who dreamed of words, art, music and love—girls who were embraced by their communities and families, even if they were considered queer (a.k.a. odd). She would create stories that came from the dark corners of her soul, giving voice to her rainbow valleys, shining waters, and disappointed houses. She would find a home for herself within them, living in the in-between.” (p. 366)

“Whatever Doesn’t Kill You” by Elizabeth Wennick

“I was six days old when Travis Bingham murdered my father” is a great opening to this YA novel. Now that Travis is out of jail, Jenna at 15 wants to confront the killer. Although unsure what to say, she knows is that her life would have been much better if her dad had lived.

Really?

“But every story’s got a flip side – Underneath the surface there’s a rip tide Powerful and yet denied. To know the story of a stranger: That can be a might re-arranger–Let it be a downright game changer. Let that story in.” (from Let it Matter, a song with music and lyrics by Elizabeth Alexander)

Jenna does “let that story in”. And it is a “downright game changer.”

Read Whatever Doesn’t Kill You by Elizabeth Wennick and find out how.

 

“Thin Places” by Lesley Choyce

This fine YA novel Thin Places by Lesley Choyce is more a modern day folk tale. The teenage boy Declan has a heightened capacity for sensing. Much to his father’s dismay, he hears voices in his head. One day it’s the voice of a girl, a girl he begins to see and to fall in love with.  He is                                                                                                                                              “Out of place, out of time”                                                                                                                                          in an “Upside down universe”.                                                                      He becomes     “ A boy on a Mission”.                                                                                                                          “Clues” and “Parental advice”                          follow.                                           “Then something strange” happens…                                                                                                                             there is “A girl in (his) bedroom”.                                     He becomes a traveller,                                                                                                                                                                         to “Beaches” to “The sand, the sea, the sky”…

This is a haunting song to life and to love and to the quiet spaces, the thin places, between time that beckon.

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Calvin is a beautiful and simple YA book about big questions and big answers.

Calvin, a 17 year old with hallucinations of a man-eating tiger called Hobbes, has a psychotic break at school and is taken to hospital. He thinks if he can convince Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes (which ended in 1995), to write one more strip with the Calvin character now also aged 17 and minus the comic strip character Hobbes, his personal Hobbes will also disappear. He escapes from hospital with his best friend since forever, Susie, intending to walk across a frozen Lake Erie to Cleveland to meet Watterson and see this one last comic strip. It becomes a life threatening journey but ultimately life enhancing.

Playful and funny, serious and tender, both metaphoric and always real, it is a love story to life.

White Jade Tiger by Julie Lawson

Generally stories of modern day youth finding themselves in another era do not appeal to me. Why? Usually becomes some things do not ring true. But White Jade Tiger captured me from the beginning.

Jasmine’s mother dies, leaving her of course devastated. Then her father’s job takes him away and she has to live with her aunt. More loss and disruption for the 12/13 year old. Shortly after, her class has a school field trip to the local Victoria China Town. As Jasmine explores, she inadvertently passes through a doorway into the early 1880s. There she helps her new friend, Keung, search for a white jade tiger amulet. This search takes them to the Fraser Canyon, the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and a satisfactory conclusion to their adventure.

Never once did I feel the story farfetched. Julie Lawson’s historical descriptions are detailed and convincing and the developments in the story line equally convincing—including the final twist.

This is a reissue of a good book for middle grade readers.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Santa Claus brought me this book in my stocking. It won the Governor General’s Award for young people’s literature in 2017 for good reason. It is more than a fascinating YA read.

Told from the point of view of a Metis teen on the run called Frenchie, the story follows him and his ad hoc family of other Indigenous people as they try to avoid being taken by government agency Recruiters for their bone marrow. This dystopian novel is set in the not too distant future with elements of danger, adventure and love. A rich and complex drawing of characters moves the story compellingly along.

More importantly this book looks back at our colonial past and points to the future consequences of current policies with regard to climate change and pipelines. This is a book for adults as well as young people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Optimists Die First” by Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die First is an excellent YA book. To cope with a family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde sees danger around every corner from eating a hamburger to walking near a construction site.

In a mandatory art therapy class she, the fearful pessimist, meets a quirky group of teens who all have their burdens. Among these is Jacob the apparent optimist who seems so normal except for his prosthetic arm. This is a love story between Petula and Jacob that threatens to not be.

A wonderful tale with even more wonderful and believable characters. A must read.

Lisa’s War

I have read may of novels by Carol Matas over the years. They have all been good.  Lisa’s War jumped off the shelf at the library the other day and I read what I thought was a new one of hers. Good as usual, it is the simple but well told story of a Jewish girl who helps herself and others to escape the Nazi occupation in Denmark.

What I found particularly interesting was the Afterword. 

“Because of the courage and resourcefulness shown by the Danish people, both Jews and Gentiles, Denmark was one small bright corner in that terrible time. Of some 7,000 Danish Jews, only 474 were arrested and sent to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, while the rest escaped to the safety of neutral Sweden.

But this great escape could not have happened if the SS had succeeded in trapping families in their homes on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. That shameful plan was foiled by G.F. Duckwitz, the member of the German embassy staff who was in charge of shipping in Copenhagen. Duckwitz risked his own life, first by trying unsuccessfully to prevent the roundup and then by secretly passing on a warning.”

This is not a new book. It was published in 1987. Well written, it is an oldie but a goodie.