This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by four area teachers of children's literature. Today's are by Barbara St. John, retired from Bowling Green State University.
Relationships are always complicated. Several new books introduce us to characters who find unique ways to deal with friends and families.
OKAY FOR NOW. By Gary Schmidt. Clarion. $16.99. Ages 10-14.
Doug Swieteck moves to a new house in upstate New York. It is 1965 and Vietnam veterans are coming home. Doug refers to his new home as "the Dump" and it symbolizes the dysfunctional family Doug comes from. "Stupid" is a word Doug uses often referring to school people, home, and himself. A trip to the library introduces Doug to Audubon's birds. He understands them and his fingers itch to draw. The odds seem insurmountable, but one day, one person at a time, Doug confronts his problems. This is an amazing story of loss and recovery, trust and love, and strength against all odds. An outstanding novel; Schmidt gets better and better.
FRIENDS. By Catherine Thimmesh. Houghton Mifflin. $16.99. All ages.
Thimmesh has collected photographs depicting unique friendships. From the baby orangutan and the kitten on the cover to the basset hound and the owl to a polar bear playing with a sled dog, these images will capture your heart. The text is simple and notes explain where these unusual friends can be found.
THE RUNNING DREAM. By Wendelin Van Draanen. Knopf. $16.99. Ages 14 and up.
Jessica is a 16-year-old runner who is absorbed by track meets; she looks forward to college track and, maybe, an Olympic run. When an accident leaves her an amputee, her dreams are shattered. As Jessica learns to deal with a prosthesis, she finds encouragement in unexpected people and within herself. Will Jess run again? This is a story of tremendous courage.
THE REINVENTION OF MOXIE ROOSEVELT. By Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. Dial. $16.99. Ages 10-14.
Moxie wants to be more interesting, more exciting, and a new school presents her with the perfect opportunity. As she meets new people she assumes new personality traits. Soon, complications arise. Moxie begins to keep notes on her conversations with her new friends. But Moxie is not the only student with a secret. How can Moxie save herself? Her story is funny, thought-provoking, and heartwarming. There's a bit of Moxie in all of us.
THREE BY THE SEA. Written and illustrated by Mini Grey. Knopf. $17.99. Ages 4-8.
A dog, a cat, and a mouse live contentedly in a cottage by the sea. Then a stranger arrives, representing the Winds of Change Trading Company. Will the stranger disrupt their peaceful lives? How the animals deal with the stranger's suggestions will lead to many interesting discussions. (Adults might want to think about this one, too.)
SECOND FIDDLE. By Rosanne Parry. Random. $16.99. Ages 12 and up.
Germany, 1990: The Berlin Wall has fallen. Allied troops are heading home. Jody, Vivian, and Giselle are best friends, Army brats, and talented musicians. They save the life of a Russian soldier and try to smuggle him to Paris. Eventually the KGB, the French National Police, and the Allied Command become involved. Friendship and trust win out.
OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE. By Lorraine Zago Rosenthal. Delacorte. $17.99. Ages 14 and up.
Brooklyn, 1985: Sixteen-year-old artist Ari falls in love and begins to plan for "forever." She refuses to consider complications. Do she and the boy really share the same dreams? Can she trust an old friend? Should she consider what a new friend tells her? How long is forever? Sometimes love is very complicated.