Middle years fiction review – Between Heaven and earth By: Eric Walters

betweenBetween Heaven and earth is part of the seven series of books published by Orca.  The series can be read in any order, and each book is written by a different Canadian author.  The premise of the series is that a grandfather has seven grandsons. In his will he has left each grandson with a different task to complete, each book tells the story of a different grandson.

Eric Walters has published over 70 novels for grade 5-8 students, and I’ve read many of them.  I tend to recommend them heartily to students who like adventure novels.  Some of his books (like most authors) are better than others.  I had a hard time with this book.  I find that he often has main characters who are far too full of themselves and as the book progresses they learn more about the world around them, and that they still have a lot to learn.  Nothing wrong with that, although it gets a little painful when it takes 3/4 of the book for the character to really start to become more worldly and less annoying.

DJ is the main character of this book, he’s the oldest grandson, and takes himself to be the leader of the family, as though it’s his job to make sure everybody is doing what they should be, at least according to his standards.  I think this trait was supposed to be endearing, but I just found him so obnoxious, and such a know it all that I had a hard time getting past his traits to even start liking him or the book.

The task DJ has been given is to fly to Tanzania and hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro  and distribute his ashes at the top of the mountain. DJ assumes this will be a simple task, who can’t climb a mountain in 2 days?  Who needs to listen to the local guides? Why wouldn’t  you speak  to customs officials in another country as though you know so much more than them?  DJ is 17 and knows better than anyone how things should be done, at least according to DJ.  He does eventually grow as a character, but not as much as I’d hoped.

There were also several events that happened in the book that were flat out dangerous, and got solved far too easily and quickly, it made the book feel a bit false to me.  I’m hoping to read the 6 other books in the series, and since they’re written by different authors it will be interesting to see if I have a very different take on the writing style of each story.

grade 6+

Young Adult graphic novel review – Relish: my life in the kitchen by: Lucy Knisely

relishI’ll admit that it took me almost a full chapter to really get into this book.  I’m so used to graphic novels being in a set format, there was so much more text above each comic box that it threw me for a loop initially.  But once I was I used to the format, it was pure love.

Lucy Knisley tells a delicious tale (quite literally) of growing up in upstate New York with foodie parents.  How her first memories are tied directly to food “I’m lucky to have grown up with cooks and bakers, eaters and critics, and meals to remember.  My memories are formed in conjunction with my palate.”

As I read this collection of vignettes from her life, I found myself smiling, and reliving foodie moments in my own life.  Laughing at the fact that I grew up in a house with three spices in the cupboard (salt, pepper, and Paprika for deviled egg decoration) and how my palate grew and changed once I left home.  Good food can bring so much joy and so many memories.  I’ve never seen someone put it to words and drawings so poignantly! I need to read it again to really savour it honestly.

Her chapter on Junk Food made me laugh many times, knowing that even good foodies love their processed food in it’s disgustingly good glory as much as the rest of us.  While her description of finding the world’s perfect croissant in Venice, and then attempting for months to recreate it without success was my favourite chapter in the book.   “The mysterious deliciousness of those croissants continues to haunt me.  I suspect that the ingredient I lacked in Chicago was the anticipation and delight of waking on a morning of possibilities, far from home and school, in an ancient, watery city.”

It’s the recipes at the end of each chapter that really bring so much more to the book, I”m excited to try them!  Always pertaining to something that happened that chapter, and with drawings and interesting descriptions on how to make each recipe, it will be hard to look at cookbooks without delightful drawings included.

I need to hunt down her first book, French Milk now!

grade 9+ (for comprehension not content)

Teen review – The New Normal By: Ashley Little

newnormal

I hate when a book doesn’t get to the point.  You read the blurb on the back and it sounds so exciting, so great, and then it takes half the book to get to that aha! moment that drew you into reading the book in the first place.  The new normal is the opposite.  The opening sentence grabs you immediately, “I am losing my hair, I don’t know why.  I’m only sixteen”  Tamar Robinson’s back story is filled in for you in the first two pages.  She’s losing her hair and her twin sisters are dead “They died from riding in cars with boys. Stupid, drunken boys.”

Tamar’s parents are a complete mess, her dad sits at home in a fog while her mother hides from her grief by doing yoga 24/7, which leaves Tamar more alone than she ever thought possible, and wondering how you grieve the loss of sisters that weren’t all that likable to begin with?

Many parts of this book reminded me of The reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, 
especially with it set in the suburbs of Calgary and the family dealing with the grief of losing a sibling, how do you define yourself as a family after something like this?

Tamar is incredibly likable, and laugh out loud funny. Trying to get through grade 11 in one piece.  There were a few loose ends that fell into place a little to nicely and abruptly at the end of the book in order to finish it up in the allotted pages, but for the most part this is a really great read from a new Canadian author.

age 14+