What I read (and listened to) on my Summer Vacation by April M
Fair Weather (audio) by Richard Peck … finally got around to this, loved A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago but this one is my favorite by far. The narration is excellent, complementing the story perfectly, which has the perfect mix of history, humor and heartfeltness (new word!) … I admit to getting choked up at the end as I sat and listened to the last three minutes in the parking lot at work. Can’t understand why this is not a multiple award winner. It’s the kind of story that stays with you long after you have finished the book and for me it sparked in interest in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I’m also really looking forward to Peck’s upcoming book, The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts.

People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau … sequel to one of my favorite books last year, The City of Ember. I was a little nervous at first because I just loved the way City of Ember ended, enough to keep you satisfied but open enough to let you use your imagination about the future of that story. One of our pages who also loved City of Ember read the sequel and convinced me to give it a try and I definitely liked it. It’s a page-turner all the way, fantastic writing with a moral that our world could really learn from right now. The threat of famine plays a large role in the People of Sparks as it does in

Among the Hidden (audio) by Margaret Peterson Haddix … it would be interesting to discuss these two books in a book group…both deal with a future that is concerned with famine but Haddix’s novel follows a more dystopian, sci-fi plot while the people in DuPrau’s world are rebuilding what has been destroyed … a more earthy and organic story. What I like about Haddix’s style is the real science and technology bent as opposed to some sci-fi that is more along the Star Wars/Star Trek line (Try Turnabout sometime). In Among the Hidden the future is void of robots and flying cars, yet it is a future none of us would want to live in. The government is totalitarian and among many other crazy laws, enforces a rule that families cannot have more than 2 children. The Hidden are the third children who must hide from the rest of the world for their entire lives. I don’t want to give the story away but it is a very well written story, very suspenseful, a bit scary and sad, and also hopeful. The narration was a little stale … I might end up reading the rest of the series.
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is being called the DaVinci Code for kids. Well, I have not read The DaVinci Code but I loved Chasing Vermeer. It is a mystery, comedy, and art lesson all rolled into one, with a splash of fantasy. I am a fan of Helquist’s illustrations and apparently there is a puzzle hidden in the book…I’ll wait and let the kidlings tell me what it means! I really loved the characters in this story and like how they aren’t fast friends at first. Their relationship develops naturally and progresses as they try and solve this mystery they are both tied into.

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson … I am sure you have all heard about Anderson’s new book…I stayed up until 330 one morning binge reading this book. It was worth it…completely different from these other books on my list but it drew me in until I just couldn’t put it down. It deals with Kate, a young woman crippled by a million pressures around her who has to disentangle herself when someone else’s tragedy becomes her own. Though this other person is impossible to like you can see that through this experience Kate finally is growing and learning more about herself than she probably ever wanted to know.

The Game of Sunken Places by MT Anderson … well, technically I am in the middle of this book. I would like to discuss with anyone who is also reading or has read this book. I became a big MT Anderson fan after Feed but this book is starting to disappoint me. The first chapter was actually the best so far and I could see it really hooking a kid, very intriguing and spooky…but now, halfway through I am feeling like I need to be thrown a bone… it’s too mysterious, too weird … I need a little something … a couple of answers or explanations to motivate me to finish the book. I can see suspense being used to keep the story going but I think us simple humans also need a balance to that to become invested. Sadly, there are no characters I like, I have started skimming, and this morning as I picked it up I thought, “If this doesn’t get better I am skipping to the end.” I ended up falling asleep and dreaming about Asiago bagels but there is still plenty of time left in the day ….

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