When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead - review (sort of) post

Last summer, I got the bright idea that I was going to start these happy little book clubs all over the school where children could read for pleasure and talk about books. There wouldn't be worksheets; there wouldn't be projects; no mention of standardized test skills would leave our lips. With my principal's blessing and cute name (Book Dens), I went forth to conquer our school.

Lots of students signed up! Plenty of teachers jumped on board too! I got them all going and then, finally, I got my group. I didn't play favorites, I took the leftovers: Six boys, seventh grade, all labeled 'struggling readers.'

At our first meeting I touted their luck. They got the reading specialist, the one in charge, the one who held the key to all the books available. While the other groups were selecting from 3 or 4 titles, they would get to choose from the whole lot!

And they chose one of my favorites. "Trickery," my fellow den leaders called. It was my secret wish, my fingers crossed, eyes tightly shut hope. My boys picked When You Reach Me, the 2010 Newbery winner.

Isn't it amazing when you re-read a book you've loved and are reminded why you loved it? I read a lot of books. I wish I were a more tenacious writer and told about them all here. I should have written about When You Reach Me. Though the fancy gold seal and mandated library purchase now trail the glowing reviews, I should have told you that the last chapters will leave you breathless. You'll want to read it again. And maybe, if you're lucky like me, you'll get to read it again with those seeing it new. Magical!

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter - book review

Magical Realism. My favorite. The ability to see the real world through a glimmering eye. I should have known this would be one of my favorite reads of 2010, just from that cover!

Look at the three Hardscrabble siblings. There's Otto. He's is the oldest and has not uttered a word since he was eight, around the time his mother disappeared. He wears a scarf and communicates through an invented sign-language. The middle Hardscrabble is Lucia. She's quick-witted, daring, a bit controlling and understands Otto's invented language. Max, the youngest, is a brainy boy, often deep in thought. One of them is the narrator of the tale, though we wonderfully never get to know which. Mr. Hardscrabble is a portrait painter who travels frequently, returning with glorious tales of the royalty he meets. Through a series of missteps, the siblings end up in the home of their maternal aunt. It is there that the real story begins. The children learn of a mysterious Kneebone Boy, locked away in a castle tower. They, of course, decide that they must rescue him. And in rescuing him, they solve the mystery of their missing mother.

One thing I especially liked was The Kneebone Boy's genre defying uniqueness. For the same reason I shun mainstream media, I embrace those stories (and tellers) who see the world in a different slant, those who are able to impart a bit of magic into the mundane without throwing us into a fantastical world of escapism (don’t get me wrong, I like a good fantasy occasionally too). It’s the ability to look at a situation of normalcy with a magical eye that fascinates me, makes me want to readjust my own lens.

Quirky, odd, charming, witty, affecting, weird: I’ll be waiting to hear more from the Hardscrabble children……