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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rain Shadow - Valerie Sherrard

I don't very often emote when I read.  The last time I can remember openly crying during a book is on a plane with my son beside me wondering why mommy was a blubbering mess.  Last night I finished Rain Shadow by Valerie Sherrard, nominated for The Silver Birch Award®.  It didn't take me long to read, but I was on the verge of tears and at times crying through it's entirety.  I'm not trying to be dramatic.  It's that sad.  What's the correlation between the two crying incidents?  The book on the plane was another Valerie Sherrard book, The Glory Wind.  Clearly this author has my number.

In Rain Shadow I literally felt like Bethany.  Yes, yes, we often feel for our characters.  Remember my earlier speech - if you aren't connecting to the book/characters, you either don't like it or you are daydreaming...blah blah blah.  This time I really really was immersed into the story.  I was sad, devastated, horrified and mad for Bethany.  I wanted to yell at the characters who mistreated her, dismissed her, blamed her - what right do they have to make her feel that way when she was clearly hurting all on her own?  I can't remember a time recently when I've felt so moved by what was happening to a character.  My character.  Bravo, Valerie Sherrard.  You've done it again.  I've been moved.

I also enjoyed the descriptions that Bethany uses in the beginning and how they take you through the entire book.  I even went back to them when I finished to go over them again.

Her sister told her she was a jewel and Bethany was a stone:

                    The truth is, I do not mind the idea of being a stone ...  Jewels are 
                         nice with their colour and shine.  But I think stones are
                         more interesting.  Holding a stone can make you feel peaceful and 
                         calm.  Some stones are mysterious, with lines and drawings in them.
                         It is a mistake to ever think a stone is not worth looking at.

Then her classmate Luke makes reference to a rain shadow:

                        ...the plants that grow on the rain shadow side are actually
                        stronger than the ones that get lots of rain...They have to
                        try harder to make it.  These plants never give up...They're
                        strong and brave, like you.

We all should aspire to be stones and rain shadows.  A great read!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews

When I became an elementary school librarian, I inherited a collection of books that had been organized by someone else.  Books were put in YA based on someone's thoughts on what should be strictly for grade 7 & 8 students.  If students want to read these books, they need to be a certain age or they need permission from their parents to 'shop' anywhere in the library.

So while this book is BRILLIANT, the thought of putting it my library gives me anxiety.  I'm usually fine with some mature language and questionable content.  I feel like if a kid can find the f bomb or the adult content, I'm happy because they are reading!  However, the mature content and language is really out there in this book.  But the book is so great!  What's a librarian to do?  I feel like author, Jesse Andrews has perfectly captured the spirit of most teenage boys.

There is no searching for salacious tidbits, this book hits you over the head with them.  But did I laugh out loud?  Oh ya! It is so funny.  If you ever struggled socially at all during high school, you will identify in more than one way to the trials of Greg.

At it's heart, this book is revealing and touching even though Greg claims to be untouched by the sickness and eventual death of Rachel (not a spoiler, as per the title).  He claims over and over again that he is unaffected and learns nothing from the experience:

And then we sat and didn't say anything for awhile.  You're probably hoping I was sitting there overflowing with love and tenderness.  Maybe you should think about switching to a different book.  Even to, like an owner's manual to a refrigerator or something.  That would be more heartwarming than this. 

I politely and firmly disagree.  What Greg does is underline how difficult it is to deal with a friend who is dying, but in his discomfort and awkwardness we are drawn to his endearing way of befriending Rachel.  He doesn't say the right things and it's a little painful at times (actually it's hilarious) but the realness is refreshing.  We so often read about kids who do the right things and say exactly what needs to be said.  That's not real life!  Who EVER knows what to say in times like these?  There's nothing you can say to make it all better.  Thanks Greg Gaines for keeping it real and making me laugh out loud - Something that rarely happens in my reading.