Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“Like you, I was brought to a family who loved me and whom I love. I cannot stop loving that family, and I don’t want to. I can only allow my love to increase.” page 377

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Algonquin Young Readers, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2016.
Middle grade fantasy, 386 pages.
Lexile:  640L  .
AR Level:  4.8 (worth 12.0 points)  .

Xan is the witch of the forest.  Every year, the isolated people of the protectorate leave a baby in the forest for no reason she can fathom.  Not one to let an infant die in the forest, she takes it on the perilous journey to the other lands, where the children are heralded as Star Children, and adopted into carefully chosen families.  On the way, she feeds them starlight.  Until one day the aging witch feeds a child moonlight instead…

Barnhill_GirlWhoDrankMoon_FINAL_PRNT.indd

I enjoyed this book, but wouldn’t recommend you buy it.

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Review: …and You Fall Down

“I have come to believe that her life was ruined not by septic shock or noncompliant parents but by cross-cultural misunderstanding.” page 262

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, my edition 1998 (first published 1997).
Nonfiction, 341 pages +reader’s guide.
Not leveled.

This is the story of a severely epileptic Hmong girl and the family and doctors who wanted what was best for her but disagreed about what that was.  It’s also the story of the Hmong people in America, and their experiences with the medical establishment.

The Spirit Catches You resized

This is technically a re-read.  However, I didn’t remember much, so it was like reading a new book.  The primary story in this book is Lia’s life and the friction between her family and the medical staff caring for her, but it has a wide scope.

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Review: Visiting Day

“I go to sleep and don’t wake up again until the bus pulls up in front of the big old building where, as Grandma puts it, Daddy is doing a little time.” page 19

Visiting Day, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Puffin Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD1150L  .  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 0.5 points)  .

An unnamed little girl describes her favorite day of the month, when she and her grandmother visit her father in prison.

Visiting Day resized
Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome.

If you had to visit a prison, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite day.  But what if your very favorite person was in prison?  What if your Daddy that you loved more than anyone in the world was a person you only got to see once a month?  For this little girl and her grandmother, Visiting Day is a celebration that causes them to wake up with a smile, and sadness only comes when they get off the bus home, alone without Daddy.

This book is full of vivid imagery that engages all the senses as grandma passes peppermints and kisses.  Teeth are brushed and hair done in preparation for the visit.  Woodson’s writing is, as always, lyrical and beautiful.  Although it’s not presented as poetry, this book would also make a wonderful poem.

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Review: Sugar

“It’s pretty. ‘Til you get close. Then sugar gets nastier than any gator. Sugar bites a hundred times, breaking skin and making you bleed.” page 6

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes, illustrations by Neil Brigham.
Originally published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette, New York, 2013.
My edition is Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade historical fiction, 272 pages + author’s note.
Lexile:  430L  .
AR Level:  2.9 (worth 4.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is the second book published (chronologically the first) in the Louisiana Girls Trilogy.

The ten-year-old narrator of this novel is named after the type of plantation she works on: Sugar.  Slavery ending doesn’t seem to have changed much, other than all of her friends moving away.  Orphaned Sugar doesn’t have the resources or family to leave.  But she does have spirit and dreams – dreams of playing all day, going to school, and even of making new friends.  When the plantation owner decides to bring Chinese workers in,  are they competition or potential allies?

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Since I’ve been complaining about historical fiction featuring black characters, I decided to try to find some good examples, so we took a trip to the used bookstore.  This historical novel takes place over the course of a year, measured by the different seasons of the sugarcane cycle.  It starts with winter in 1870 and moves through planting and then harvest in 1871.  The epilogue takes place in spring of that year. Continue reading “Review: Sugar”

Review: The Lucky Few

The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis.
Zondervan, HarperCollins, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.
Adoptive parent memoir, 223 pages.
Not Leveled.

This is the story of one woman who couldn’t become a mother even though all she yearned for was motherhood.  This is the story of her three children, and the journey she and her husband went through to bring them home and accept them as forever family.

The Lucky Few

This was a fairly light and quick read.  (I finished it in a few hours, your mileage may vary.)  I think if I didn’t know so many people in situations very similar to hers, this might have had more impact.  As it was, I felt like she kept the story extremely positive and glossed over a lot of the harsh realities.  However, that makes sense given that the goal of this book is to reach as many people as possible.

In parts it is more obvious than others that Avis was extremely lucky.  She glosses over the birth family of their daughter Truly Star, which makes sense because she is quite young yet and not ready to decide if she wants to disclose that information to the world.  She has close and loving relationships with the birth families of her other two children.  That’s fairly unusual, especially the birth family reaction to her.  Perhaps it’s a different scenario because they have Down Syndrome as opposed to other challenges.

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Adoption: A Primer

Many people go their entire lives without a thought to adoption or foster care.  Perhaps they see a story on the news or have an acquaintance that decides to care for non-biological children.  When fostering and adoption cross their path, well-meaning people think “what angels they must be” and “gosh, I could never do that.”  (You don’t want to know what ill meaning people say to a parent or child’s face.)

Thus, I’m taking a moment to educate.  In America, there are 3 main types of adoption:
domestic – an American child removed from the home or placed for adoption at the parent’s request.
international – a foreign-born child placed for adoption
kinship – an American child under the physical custody of a family member other than their biological parent, often a grandparent.
Kinship adoptions can be informal (not processed through the court systems) and are often overlooked by a crowded system, or relatives ashamed to admit the parent cannot care for the child.  As a result, these parents are less likely to have access to needed services and support.  Some forms of kinship can later be overturned by birth parents.

No matter what form of adoption, each one begins with a trauma – the separation from birth parents.  In some adoptions, that is the only trauma, and it is followed by much joy.

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Review: Children of the Fire

“The southwest wind in Hallelujah’s face blew pieces of flaming cloth and chunks of blazing hay high above her head.” page 33

Children of the Fire by Harriette Gillem Robinet.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 2001.  Originally published 1999.
MG historical fiction, 134 pages including author’s note.
Lexile:  590L .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 4.0 points) .

In 1871 Chicago, Hallelujah wants nothing more than to watch one of the fires burning around the city, but has no idea how one of those fires will change her life.

Children of the Fire cover

I hadn’t been reading much historical fiction so I impulsively bought this.  We’ve visited Chicago, so I thought it might make a good family read-aloud.

The cover was so irritating.  Why did they include the rich white girl?  Once I started reading, I also noticed that Hallelujah’s hair was wrong on the cover.  In the book it specifically states that her sister redid it into loose braids, not twists (and the cover looks more like ponytail poofs to me)  A large theme of the book is that Hallelujah is able to blend in with different groups because she wears a simple dress, but custom-made shoes, is the daughter of a slave, yet can read and write.  Different people see her in different ways.

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