JUST A KID
One morning, Meerin Hoy looks out her window to Carson’s Field. There to her shock stand two big development signs — spelling the end to her community’s most beloved park. But nine-year-old Meerin is no ordinary girl. She is determined to act. When she confronts the mayor in person he quickly dismisses her as “just a kid.” It’s time for Meerin to take on the tools of a local activist and save an important community asset from the powers that be. “Just A Kid” by Rie Charles is a timely and entertaining novel for young readers with the underlying message that they can influence the adult world, even when it seems no one wants to listen. Appropriate for children ages 9-12, “Just A Kid” is recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library General Fiction collections.
This review will also appear in the Cengage Learning, Gale interactive CD-ROM series “Book Review Index” which is published four times yearly for academic, corporate, and public library systems.
Additionally, this review will be archived on our Midwest Book Review website for the next five years at http://www.midwestbookreview.com
NO MORE DRAGONS
Alex, at thirteen, faces many problems. He is physically and emotionally abused by his father, bullied by the kids at school, worried about his brother who has cancer, and extremely angry at himself for being a wimp. He expresses all his anger and frustration in letters he writes to his only friend. This helps him to face the demons, find the truth, and solutions to his troubles. He is then able to confront his own dragons.
A compact book with a black and white cover, it is clear written at an intermediate reading level. The reader is able to feel the pain, embarrassment, and frustration of Alex, and then the quiet confidence when he successfully faces and solves his difficulties. There are no illustrations to distract the reader from the mind images created by the text. It is like reading a journal, where the writer’s secret thoughts are uncovered by the reader. This highly readable book is recommended for elementary school libraries. It would be extremely useful to classroom teachers and counsellors to use for classroom discussions as well as recommend to students experiencing these same problems. The author has drawn upon her own experiences as a teacher and social worker, and within the book provides some very useable techniques for dealing with anger, abuse, bullying, grief and loss, and self-confidence building
Recommended grade level: intermediate Date: Jan. 24, 2010 Reviewer’s name: Rosemary Anderson Position: Retired Teacher Librarian Institution: W.L. McLeod Elementary School District: 91, Nechako
In the winter of 2015, a teacher librarian in Penticton BC read No More Dragons to two classes of grade fives. Below are excerpts from letters they wrote to me, reproduced with the teacher’s permission.
“I give No More Dragons a 11 out of 11.”
“It is cool that Alex writes his feelings….that is why I love your book.”
“No More Dragons is a really great book. I think there should be a 2nd one. I wonder what got Alex’s dad so mad in the first place.”
“It is the best book I have ever read.”
“I love your book No dragins. It is very interusting and sad at the same time.”
“I wonder is this about some one you know? if it is…..I hope they did what Alex does. Plus that must have taken alot of courage. I respect him for that!”
“It is the most touching book ever. It brought me some sad but good memorys circling around Tobey. I have a brother that behaves closely to Margy.”
“The book is realistic and has alot of great detail.”
“I loved your book. It really taught me about how families work. Even though they’re not the best family, the end was happy. It was one of those books where it made you think. Those books are hard to find.”
“I think I know what No More dragons means. I think it means the negativity is gone, so the dragon has nothing to feed on so it’s not there anymore.”
“I really enjoyed your book “No More dragon”. My favorite part was the ending I think this is the third best book I’ve ever read”
“It was a great and sad book. I think you should really make a second book.”
“No more dragons inspired me to not give into peer pressure, and not to just stand while someone or yourself is being bullied.””
“Your whole story No More Dragons was really fabulous. It was really emotional. It really reminded me about my dad and me. I really wish the book was longer.”
“I liked when Alex stood up for himself, his mom and Margie.”
“I did not like the dad because it reminded me of my real dad.”
“It was cool that Alex got to drive the car.”
“It made me feel really good about myself and it made me feel like I am as free as a Bird.”
A HOLE IN MY HEART
“Charles has captured the inner reality of an indomitable heroine, and Nora’s unquenchable curiosity and sensitivity to other people are a tribute to human resilience.”
Charles, Rie. A Hole In My Heart. Dundurn, 2014. 155pp.,pb. ISBN 9781459710528.
This book is all about mending broken hearts. Twelve year old Nora has moved to the West Coast from the BC interior with her family so they can recover from the death of her mother. Her father is busy with his surgical studies, and her older sisters are in nurses’ training. Nora is unhappy at home and her new school. Then her favourite cousin Lizzie becomes one of the first kids to undergo risky open heart surgery. Nora attempts to have a normal family life while helping her father deal with the loss of his wife, her cousin’s risky surgery, friends dealing with abuse, and life as a teenager in a new school and community.
Although the story takes place in 1959, many of the problems are the same as today: making friends at a new school, wearing the right clothing to fit in, joining the right clubs and activities, first jobs (babysitting). The story is well written, and poignantly portrays the emotions experienced by the characters, from despair and grief to learning how to feel whole again. Recommended for middle school and secondary libraries.
Recommended grade levels: 6-10. Date: Oct. 2014
Reviewer’s Name: Rosemary Anderson Position: Retired Teacher Librarian
Institution: W.L. McLeod Elementary School District: 91, Nechako Lakes
Charles, Rie. A Hole in My Heart. 160p. ebook available. Dundurn. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781459710528; ebk. $8.99. ISBN 9781459710542.
Gr 6 Up–Twelve-year-old Nora is growing up in 1959 Canada. After the death of her mother and a move to a new city, she is grieving and lonely. It doesn’t help matters that her cousin Lizzie is in need of a risky operation to fix a hole in her heart, and the outcome is uncertain. In spite of her sullenness, however, Nora eventually finds a baby-sitting job, gets involved in the school play, and helps out a classmate whose father does “dirty” or “bad” things to her, and uses her mother as a “punching bag.” When Lizzie and her family come to stay so that Lizzie can have her surgery at the local hospital, the crisis helps to draw them all together and heal wounds physical and metaphorical. Nora eventually tells an adult about her friend’s abusive father and the girl is taken out of the harmful environment. The interesting setting might help readers look past Nora’s initial prickliness and root for her as she finds her place in a new home, though some of the darker subplots may prove troubling for some.–Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Brighton District Library, Brighton, MI
from the School Library Journal in the United States
Review by Sophia Hunter from Canadian Materials
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
At the funeral, the air was heavy. People smiled fake sorts of smiles. Grandma’s face was all pinched in but it kept smiling too. Ladies visited, people I didn’t know, old people, people that felt stiff like boards and brought orange bread and tuna fish casserole. Overnight, Dad went from a happy man, someone who laughed and made stupid puns to…I’m not sure what to—a man all closed-in? My favourite thing about Dad was his laugh. Where is it now? Is Aunt Mary right? Is he struggling too? Even my bossy sister Dorothy?
A Hole in My Heart is a novel with some heavy and challenging content. The heroine, Nora, is a junior high school student who recently lost her mother to leukemia. The story picks up after the mother’s death at the point where Nora’s father has relocated the family to Vancouver where he is upgrading his training to become a surgeon. Nora’s older sisters are in nursing school. This move from Penticton has added to Nora’s trauma as she has trouble making friends at her new school. Her father is too preoccupied with his own grief and his studies to provide the support Nora needs. Nora’s sisters are also distant due to an age gap.
Despite the intense sadness, there are some sources of support for Nora. She exchanges letters with her cousin Lizzie who has a congenital heart defect and is waiting to come to Vancouver for a new type of surgery. These letters help both Nora and Lizzie work through some of their respective issues. Another source of support is the Quinn family for whom Nora works as a babysitter. Mrs. Quinn lost a child to polio and is able to understand some of what Nora is going through.
Worked into this already emotional novel is a side story involving a neighboring child who is the victim of incest. This component is not well developed and, as the novel is set in 1960, the issue is framed in nobody-talks-about-incest manner that was typical of the time. Nora mentions the problem to a neighbour who convinces the father to go away and not come back. There is no suggestion of notifying authorities. The book would have benefitted from including an author’s note clarifying the difference between the resources available for handling sexual abuse in 1960 versus 2014 to ensure that younger readers do not get the wrong message. This is especially critical given the publisher’s age recommendation of 9 years plus. Librarians, teachers andparents may have reservations about suggesting this book to younger readers without discussing this important point.
One intriguing element of the novel is found in the details of life in 1960 that the author has worked hard to include. The reader is taken through the fashions of the time, changing attitudes to talking about things like pregnancy, advances in surgery and new technologies such a televisions. The story, other than the reservations already mentioned, is well-written. It is told in first person by Nora, with Lizzie adding her perspective through the letters. Nora also writes messages on her bedroom chalkboard, messages which are shared with readers through highlighted blocked phrases throughout the book. Nora is occasionally too reflective for her age, but given the challenges she faces, perhaps this is not too surprising.
A Hole in my Heart would be well-suited for ages 11 to 12. The female lead characters and inclusion of topics such as having your first period make it most appealing to girls.
Recommended with Reservations.