Monday, February 25, 2008

"Elijah of Buxton" by Christopher Paul Curtis

Did you ever wish you could go back in history just to see how people looked, and talked, and dressed, what they ate, etc? This book is the next best thing to a time machine; it provides the reader with a first-class ticket to observe the community of Buxton, Ontario in the 1850s. Buxton was (and is) a real town that was founded by and for newly-freed slaves, most of whom escaped from their American slave owners. (The photo to the left is of a replica of the Freedom Bell, which was rung each time a newly escaped slave experienced their first day of freedom by seeking refuge in Buxton.)

The people of the community come alive through the eyes and voice of Elijah, who has the honor of being the first child born into freedom. (He also holds a more dubious and disgusting honor of "anointing" famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass after he jiggled baby Elijah a little too emphatically after a feeding.) Elijah has been pegged as being a "fragile" boy - one whose tears and fears are always a little too close to the surface. As Elijah faces the challenges of adolescence, we get a fascinating, a very funny, glimpse into what it must have been like to grow up in a warm, supportive, rural community.

Curtis enhances Elijah's voice with plenty of humor (my favorite story involved Elijah's overwhelming fear of snakes), but the humor stops and real drama begins as Elijah travels to the American side of the river in order to attempt to retrieve stolen money that was to be used to buy a community member's still-enslaved family. Elijah's exploration of a seemingly-abandoned barn - and what he finds inside it - is both heart-stopping and heart-rending.

Read the novel "Elijah of Buxton" for the humor, the drama, and also for a fascinating glimpse into a group of people in the process of overcoming the physical and mental barriers to freedom.

Rated FIVE out of FIVE stars.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Kissing Kate" by Lauren Myracle

Have you ever read a book that you just can't seem to put down? Well, "Kissing Kate' is one of those books. It is about 2 teenagers and as you can tell by the title they end up kissing... If you would like to read this book, pick one up at your local library. I loved this book because it grabbed me attention. The characters are really cool to get to know. I rate this book as a five out of five stars.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs" by Jack Gantos

Did I hear you say that a "love curse" doesn't sound all that bad? Like something that might involve lots of chocolate and flowers? Think again! The "love curse" of the Rumbaugh family is obsessive ... no, Obsessive ... wait ... REALLY OBSESSIVE maternal love. And the Rumbaugh family hobby? Weeelllllll, that would be taxidermy (the preservation of dead animals).

YOU put the two together....

The gruesome sum is the basis for this quietly horrifying novel that follows the story of Ivy Spirco, a girl who grows up in a small town in Pennsylvania with nary a worry. After all, when a girl loves her mother the way Ivy does, whose got room for any worries? Well, except for the one nagging thought she has about the inevitable day her mother will die....

This novel starts out very quietly and unassumingly, until you realize you can't help developing goosebumps that get bigger with every chapter (or maybe it's that funny feeling you get in the back of your throat when you come across something very gruesome) . You can almost feel empathetic with Ivy and her solution to the Love Curse.

If you are the type that is disgusted by anything freaky, steer clear of this book.

If you are the type to like a lot of freakishness and bizareness with your horror, this is the book for you - FOUR and a HALF out of FIVE stars. And maybe get a blood test for any weird strain of love curses that may be flowing through your veins!

(Oh, I strongly suggest this for more mature readers.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

"Breakfast at Bloomingdale's" by Kristen Kemp

Ever dream of breaking out of your humdrum existence here in smalltown USA in order to pursue your "real" life and perfect career elsewhere? If so, you will easily identify with Kat Zappe (not her real name), who grew up in upstate New York dreaming about the day she will escape to NYC to pursue her dream of being a successful fashion designer with her much-beloved grandmother, who is also her fashionista-partner. Unfortunately, Kat must go solo in the pursuit of her dreams after the sudden death of grandma. Her back-up plan, running away from her estranged mother with her high-school boyfriend, also comes to a screeching halt when her boyfriend bails, leaving her stranded on the side of the highway on their way to create a new life in NYC. Not to be deterred, Kat zealously pursues her short-term goals (getting to and finding a place to live in the city), medium-term goals (winning a fashion-design contest for graduating high schoolers), and long-term goals (having her own fashion line, "Breakfast," for sale at Bloomingdale's) in a manner similar to heat-seeking missile seeking its target.

Although the writing, told in Kat's first-person style, can at times seem choppy and disjointed, it is always true to Kat's love and obsession with creating fashion. You will easily join in the fun with Kat and her mates as they design, cut, sew, and drape with abandon, and as Kate learns that while it may not be easy, creating a true life for oneself is always worth the effort.

(By the way, my 14-year-old daughter LOVED this book, and made me read it when she was done. I am glad she did.)

I rate this book FOUR out of FIVE stars.

So what dreams would you like to pursue to create your "real" life?