Books on the Blog: Two Middle Grade Books About Growing Up and Discovering the True Meaning of Family
The World from Up Here by Cecilia Galante
Reviewed by Ginny McGarvey
Rating: Very Good-Book of Note. Level: Elementary School/Middle School. Genre: Realistic Fiction – 309 pages.
Summary: Wren Baker is afraid of everything and when her mother is hospitalized in a different state, requiring her father to go also, Wren and her brother with Asperger’s syndrome are forced to live with their aunt and cousin who are new to their town; and Silver, her cousin appears to be afraid of nothing at all and inspires bravery in Wren.
Annotation: Wren Baker is afraid of everything. Her mother, suffering from depression must travel from their Pennsylvania home to an Ohio hospital for treatment which means that her father must go as well. Wren’s new to town and her Aunt Marianne and cousin Silver offer to care for Wren and her brother who has Asperger’s syndrome. Silver does not appear to be afraid of anything. As the girls become close, they inspire each other, and when they climb the forbidden Creeper Mountain, they discover parts of themselves and rely on each other.
This fast paced, well written novel is sure to thrill young readers. It is packed with suspense and its many plot twists will engage and entertain readers. With all the action that abounds, the story comes full circle and all that is mysterious is resolved and explained making it a very fulfilling read.
Recommendation: This book is highly recommended for any elementary or middle school library as a Book of Note and will relate well, engage, and entertain young readers.
Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Reviewed by Lynne Dorfman
Then, as we were turning onto the main road into town, I saw a black horse out in a field, eating grass and swishing its tail at flies. I shook my fist at it three times and made my wish. That was the rule for black horse wishing. If you see a white horse, just make a wish. But for a black horse, you have to shake your fist at it three times. (p.43)
Set in a small town in North Carolina, Charlie (short for Charlemagne) learns many important life lessons. Her family is broken – “Scrappy” (her Dad) is in jail being “corrected” and her mom just can’t meet the everyday challenges of raising two children on her own. Charlie’s older sister Jackie goes off to live with her best friend’s family, and Charlie is sent to Colby to live with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus.
Charlie has been making wishes since the fourth grade. The truth is, she’s been making the same wish since then. A boy named Howard, a dog named Wishbone, and her aunt and uncle come into her life and change it forever. Charlie discovers that she finally gets her wish – it’s just different from the one she had imagined.
The descriptions of the rural South and Charlie’s family and friends are realistic and awaken the senses. When he (Howard’s Daddy) stood up, I thought his head was going to go right through the ceiling, he was so tall. He had great big freckled hands and fiery red hair and twinkly blue eyes. He smelled like grass and sawdust and gasoline all mixed together. (p.84)
Charlie is filled with anger. It’s not common for a book to feature a very angry eleven-year-old girl, but Barbara O’Connor does it perfectly. Charlie learns how to manage anger with the help of her friend, Howard, who reminds her to say “pineapple” as a code to remind her to control it. She makes mistakes, but she learns how to take responsibility for her actions and to apologize when necessary.
Barbara O’Connor gives us a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a loyal, sage friend, a loving aunt and uncle, and the dog who is her constant companion and friend, finally discovers the true meaning of family and gets her wish. I must tell you, Wish captured my heart from start to finish!
Ginny McGarvey is a teacher librarian at Kennett Middle School. She is a member of TriState Book Review Committee and is a 2016 PAWLP fellow.
Lynne R. Dorfman is a Co-director of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. She believes that attending her 1989 summer institute on the teaching of writing was one of the best things she ever experienced as an educator. It changed the way she thought about writing, reading, and learning forever!