Sunday, April 30, 2017

Four Coming of Age novels

I'm trying to catch up on my reviews, so today I have four coming-of-age novels.

Rain  Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rose has Asperger's. She lives with her father and her dog, Rain. She has an aide at school to help her with conversations or when she gets upset. She also writes lists of homonyms which calms her down. Things have been difficult since her mother died, but they're functioning, until a horrific storm hits, and Rain is lost. Rose has an uphill battle to find her dog despite washed-out roads, and simply being a ten-year-old which means she doesn't have as many resources. When her father loses his job, the difficulties come to a head. The end has a couple of nice twists. Ann M. Martin is reliable as ever, conveying the difficult emotions of Rose very ably, so at the end I feel I understand a little better what it's like to live with a difference like Asperger's every day.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

This is a modern classic of sorts. Set in Jamaica, it covers many years of Annie John's youth, starting when she's about ten, and going through about sixteen. At the beginning, she loves school and loves her parents and life is just pretty much fun, although she's a scamp so she does get into some trouble. But over the years as puberty hits, she gets along less well with her mother, friends come and go, her body begins to develop, and she goes through just a lot of the usual adolescent stages, but with the added bonus of the Jamaican setting, which gives a very different feel to the usual coming-of-age tropes. Annie was a pill at times, so you also have to get past that.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Calpurnia is the only girl in a house full of boys in 1899. Their grandfather lives with him, but all the kids find him fairly scary. Eventually, Calpurnia gets to know him, and they end up working together, collecting specimens, doing experiments, and she even reads Darwin's On the Origin of Species which he loans her. She has to also do her chores, keep up in school, and do the usual things that any girl her age does, but she also wants to help her grandfather discover a new species. But even as she studies how the world changes, she's not happy with the changes happening in her own life, such as her oldest brother courting a young woman. This book was delightful--Calpurnia reminded me a bit of Laura Ingalls, although in a more stable situation (and fifteen years later) as she's got tomboy tendencies but still also a girl of her era, and it's universal how she can appreciate bigger changes in the environment, but doesn't want her home life to change at all. And yet, life does go on and changes are the one guarantee.

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Sasha just turned ten which means he can finally join the Young Pioneers and be a good communist and prove to Stalin how much he loves him. But the night before, his father, who works for the government, is arrested and charged with being a spy. Sasha's mother dies years ago so he is all alone in the world. He doesn't know what to do so he goes to school and tries to pretend everything is okay. He is sure his father's arrest is a mistake and that he'll show up at the Young Pioneers ceremony.

I really liked this book but I found the format somewhat confusing. It's a very graphic book--not a graphic novel per se but a heavily illustrated novel. And the language was also geared towards younger kids, and yet, I wonder what young kids in the 8-10 range would be interested in reading this story? I think if it was given to them, they would, but most of them won't know anything about the USSR or Stalin or Communism (in fact, they might not have even heard of any of these things.)

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked all four of these books out of the library.

All four of these books are published by Macmillan, my employer.

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