Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

Spring Reading

May15

There are some very entertaining new novels for children and young adults that have been published this spring. I have a stack of books to read, and I want to recommend two this week.

fishFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Penguin, 2015) is a novel that many readers from ages 10+ might enjoy. I did! The narrator of this story is Ally, a sixth grader who is struggling to navigate school. She is contending with the typical social issues that occur during those middle school years. As an outsider, Ally is trying to fit in. Her difficulties are compounded by the fact that her father is in the military, and he is currently stationed overseas. Her family has moved around a lot because of her father’s assignments, and school hasn’t been easy for Ally or her older brother. Maybe it’s because she was never in one school for very long, or maybe Ally was very good at faking her ability, but no teacher had picked up on Ally’s academic deficits. The situation in her present school is similar to that in her previous one, she gets sent to the principal’s office often for causing problems. Her new sixth grade teacher realizes that Ally can’t read, and that she is dyslexic. Even though the main character is a girl, one of her best friends is an interesting boy, and this might help with the appeal to our male readers. Ally’s teacher’s words to her are some that all children who struggle need to hear,

Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.

allKate Messner is another novelist who can speak to youngsters as if she were their peer. In All the Answers (Bloomsbury, 2015), her middle-school protagonist is Ava, a girl who is often overcome by her fears. Whether it is family, social or academic issues, Ava feels that she doesn’t have the courage that her best friend, Sophie, does. Ava is also worried about her grandfather in a nursing home and her parents arguing a lot. When she uses a pencil from her family’s junk drawer, Ava is shocked to learn that the pencil has magical powers. When she writes out a question with the blue pencil, she hears a voice that gives her the answer. The pencil tells her that it can only divulge facts, and that “People have free will.” Still, there are not only academic facts that Ava and Sophie learn, but also facts about the boys and girls in their class. Perhaps they weren’t supposed to know some of these facts. How ethical is it to use the pencil?

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