I have not read the first book in the series, so I came at this book with no prior knowledge of Joey or his relationships with family members.
Looking at the book from a Newbery perspective (the book received an Honor in 2001, and was a National Book Award Finalist), I can easily see that characterization was probably one of the number one attributes the committee was recognizing in giving the book an award. The main characters are all sharply and realistically drawn. Carter is trying to do what he thinks is right, he just is a failure. The grandmother is mean, but reading between the lines you can see that she really does care for Joey, even if he drives her insane sometimes. There are all too many adults in the world that just aren’t the nurturing type, and if she is not very nice, she’s also not malicious either. This is a dysfunctional family, but a realistic one.
Joey’s voice is very strong, and the sentence-level writing is clear and well done. There were some great analogies and good strong writing on display. Joey’s actions make a certain kind of sense when we view the world from his perspective, as each new idea builds on an old one, even at the point where a more rational person would stop and think “hmm, that’s maybe not such a great idea”.
I quite liked this book, which won a 1968 Newbery Honor, more so than the winner that year – which was also by the extremely talented and apparently very quick writer E.L. Konigsburg. I realize I’m probably very much in the minority, but I’ve never liked From the Mixed Up Files. It’s been a number of years since I’ve read that one, so I’m not sure how they compare in being distinguished literature, but this one was, for me personally, more fun to read.
I would have realized it was from the sixties, even if I hadn’t looked it up. There were some dated references. Only fathers have jobs. A kid dresses up as cigarettes for halloween. When a candy plant makes the air smell of mint, Elizabeth is excited that she can “pretend to be smoking a menthol cigarette.” But while some of these small details are dated, the story, about a complex relationship between a somewhat lonely girl and a controlling friend is timeless. I liked that in the end it was clear that Elizabeth had taken a more equal role in the friendship, but that Jennifer was still Jennifer.
I especially liked the analogy where Elizabeth’s father says that even though 98.6 is the “normal” temperature, many people are higher or lower than that, and then Elizabeth is proud that she’s not 98.6.
I was surprised when I got to the Christmas show and Jennifer’s mother was easily identified as being the only Black mother in the room. I was listening to an audiobook, so the illustrations had not told me that Jennifer was black. The implication is that she’s the only black student in the entire school. I’m not sure what racial overtones that gives the story, where Jennifer’s favorite food is watermelon, she says she’s a witch, and is noted several times as having no manners. Does Elizabeth more readily believe that Jennifer really is a witch because she is an exotic Other in a school where she is the only black student?
Ruby Pepperdine is waiting to give a speech, the chosen Essay Girl for her town’s annual parade and celebration of the donut. But as the moments tick down towards her big moment, she has bigger worries than whether or not her cue cards are in the right order. Her friends are angry with her, she’s desperate for her birthday wish to come true, and, worst of all, her beloved grandmother is no longer here to give her a center. Can anything fix all of Ruby’s mistakes, or is her wish doomed?
I loved this book about a girl trying to recenter herself after the death of her grandmother. The characters were generally well drawn – I have met kids like Nero, and I have definitely met friends like Lucy. I liked that while Lucy is obviously self-absorbed, she does truly care for her friend, rather than going the easy route and making the book about growing away from one friend into a relationship with someone that’s a better fit.
The setting was delineated not just with the made up history of the town, but by the many people within the town. Each person was a unique individual that could have had a book for their own complicated stories, which we as readers only get the slightest glimpse of.
I thought the use of the “If you were …” was well done. It could easily have been overdone and cutesy and unbearable, but the writing managed to walk the line perfectly.
The structure of the novel, with a framing story set in a single day while frequent flashbacks fill in the background of what’s going on, worked excellently, keeping the tension evenly high throughout. (Well, not high tension the way a thriller has, but enough that I always wanted to know what was going to happen next.)
The last thing Angie remembers is the Girl Scout camping trip. Then, suddenly, she’s standing in front of her house, her feet sore and wearing clothes she’s never seen before. Her parents freak out when she shows up on the doorstep, and she’s shocked to discover that she’s been missing for three years. She’d think it was a joke if she couldn’t see for herself that her body has aged, and that she has new scars she can’t remember getting. But what happened to those three years worth of memories? Where has she been? And who took her there?
If anyone reads the book flap they will find out the following, but if you really don’t want even the slightest shade of spoilers, be warned and don’t read ahead! Angie can’t remember what happened because “Angie” wasn’t there: she has multiple personalities that took over to protect their Pretty Girl – 13. Some of those personalities are happy to give Angie back to her former life, but others are upset about relinquishing control. Angie has to struggle to reintegrate herself, both back into her former life, where all of her friends have moved on and grown up in ways that she has not, and internally.
Some of Angie’s experiences were very disturbing. While there is nothing explicit, it is also clear that Angie was physically and sexually abused during her captivity. Readers should be warned that these images may be disturbing or upsetting.
This was fast paced and high on the tension, a page turner, but it also didn’t tread any major new ground in the sub-sub-sub genre of multiple personalities. There were some extreme coincidences that stretched believability. The ending, while incredibly dramatic, was also somewhat over the top. Still, I would recommend this book to people, especially girls, who like mysteries, tension, emotional wringers, or thrillers.
A very sweet book. It almost made me want to quit my job and take up waitressing, Hope was so convincing in describing how essential a good server can be to changing people’s lives. (She makes it clear that it’s hard work too, but it’s the joys and triumphs that stick with me.)
I appreciated that this book did not have an unrealistically happy ending. The ending was still happy, but not in a rainbows and sunshine perfect way that would have done a disservice to the rest of the story.
I wonder how many kids read this book and then wanted to get into local politics? The political situation is a bit too simple for real life (most of the time corruption is far harder to prove, and people in real life are rarely entirely corrupt) but it was appropriate for the audience. I would have made Hope 12 or 13, she often seemed too young for 16, though that, of course, would have meant she couldn’t work. The very young-voiced narrator on the audiobook I listened to may have also contributed to that impression for me.
I loved the symbolism behind the grafting of trees when Hope is adopted.
The setting was clear, the writing was good, the characters were well-drawn. I suspect that there was a lot of debate the year that this book won a Newbery Honor, though I would agree with the committee’s choice to give the actual Medal to A Year Down Yonder.
A Newbery Honor in 2003, this book has a strong conservation theme running through it. I liked that of the two boys protesting the owls, in the end it is Roy’s completely legal efforts to build community support that win the day, versus the more clever but illegal vandalism that Beatrice’s brother uses. I wish that Beatrice’s brother had gotten in trouble at the end of the book not because Lana lied about him stealing but because of what he actually did, which was vandalize the property. However well intentioned he was, and as much as I was rooting for him, it was unrealistic that no charges were ever pressed.
The characterization was well done as long as I accepted that there was a tinge of magical-realism to many of the people and that all of the characters, with the possible exception of Roy, were essentially cariactures. No one in the story came off as anything more than one-dimensional, each of them worried about only one thing: the police officer with his career, Mullet Fingers with the owls, Dana with beating up Roy, etc. And even Roy’s relatively well-rounded persona acted out of character in almost every interaction with Dana.
I’m complaining a lot, but I did enjoy reading the book, I just can see why it was only an Honor and did not walk away with the big prize.
I enjoyed this book as a child, but for some reason as an adult I had come to mistakenly believe that it was one of those books that had a great plot but which didn’t age well in terms of language use. How wrong I was! Re-reading the book, I found it charming in terms of both writing style and events. Harry Cat, Chester Cricket, and especially Tucker Mouse all had different personalities that came through in their actions and dialogue, so characterization was definitely distinguished. I thought the themes of the book – mostly about friendship and that fame isn’t everything – were also clear and well done.
When Sai Fong, the Chinese man, first appeared I thought, “Oh no!” thinking that it would be a horrendous stereotype that might ruin the book for me, times having changed quite a bit since the book won the Newbery Honor in 1961. But I was pleasantly surprised when the character was treated with respect and given a chance to help Mario without becoming a strange mystic or turning into a caricature. There may have been a little too much weird laughter, but I choose to see that as him being a cheerful fellow. I was listening to the audiobook, so it’s possible that any illustrations might have been off, but I couldn’t see them, and plus the Newbery is awarded for text alone.
Humphrey the hamster is thrilled to join Room 26 as the class pet, but is devastated when his beloved teacher Ms. Mac turns out to be a substitute – and unable to take him with her when she leaves for Brazil. The new teacher, Mrs. Brisbane, is a wonderful teacher but absolutely hates the idea of taking care of a rodent. Humphrey wonders if he’ll ever feel welcome in the class, despite the adoration of his “classmates”.
This was a cute, funny story that would be perfect as a read-aloud book for elementary aged children. Humphrey has a very strong, distinct voice and a unique perspective on life. His many attempts to help the children who bring him home for the weekend are heartwarming and sweet.
While slight, the story is engaging and sweet. Highly recommended for elementary-aged students.
Doug Swieteck is less than thrilled about having to move to “boring Marysville”. Far from his familiar New York, moving to Marysville presents a whole slew of new problems for him, while not erasing any of his old problems. After all, his family is moving with him. Over the course of the next year Doug reluctantly comes to make friends with the spunky Lil Spicer, and to become a part of the community, much to his own surprise.
This was a wonderfully written book. Doug’s voice was spot on, and I really felt like we were in the mind of a defensive eighth grader. The way that he chooses to reveal or hide information from the reader was masterfully done. Even at the end, there are still several aspects of family dynamics that remain implied rather than directly stated. We can understand Doug and his family as much as by what’s left unsaid as by what is revealed explicitly.
That being said, the plot of the book occasionally disappointed me. This is the sort of book that should be relishing the small details of life in Marysville: getting a job, learning to draw, developing a relationship with the people in town. Therefore the plot elements that stray from this – such as the Broadway incidents or the two sudden out-of-nowhere medical emergencies – really jarred me out of the world of the book, and interrupted my pleasure in the reading. This would easily be the best book I’ve read all year if it were not for the uneven feeling that the extremes of the plotting introduce. Instead, it “merely” makes my “extremely good” list.
At first Natalie is devastated when her formerly popular Ask Aphrodite high school advice column is bombarded with negative email from boys accusing her of just writing what girls want to hear without understanding how boys think at all. Then she realizes they are right: she has no idea how the male mind works. Asking boys the big questions is no help: they either get defensive and clam up or tell her what they think she wants to hear. As part of a madcap scheme to win a journalism award, Natalie manages to weasel her way into an all-boy’s boarding school for a week – disguised as a boy.
This was silly and cheesy and filled with as many surprises as your typical peanut butter sandwich, but it was also fun. Did I for a moment believe that Nat and her friends could have gotten away with this? No. But I still enjoyed going along for the ride.
The characters were all stock pieces: the genius that has no social skills, the jerky jock, the callous rival, the incredibly hot kid from a tough background that is “unexpectedly” sensitive and sweet. The only character that truly felt realistic was the drama teacher who tries awkwardly to have a heart to heart with the disguised Nat, believing him to be gay. (And I’m not sure why more people did not come to this conclusion. I think it would have made for a more interesting book that could have explored more than just the trite “boys are more complicated than they appear; girls have to stop trying to be something they’re not to attract boys” message.)
Will this win awards? Not likely. But will it amuse for a few hours? Absolutely.