Tuesday, March 15, 2011



Lauren Myracle

Cat has had a miserable three years. Because of a traumatizing event when she was 13, she has basically shut herself off from all her friends, even her best friend Patrick. Now it may be too late to make things right. Patrick has been found at the convenience shore where he works, horribly beaten and in a coma. Worse yet, it looks like the attack is because Patrick is gay, and in the small, backwoods town they live in, being gay is simply unacceptable. Cat knows is attacker is most likely one of the local boys she grew up with, and she is determined to find out who it is and if the attack was truly a matter of homophobia. As she delves into the mystery, she discovers how many of the town are addicted to meth, and that their addiction will drive them to any lengths to get what they need.

I was fortunate to attend on of Lauren Myracle’s sessions at the North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference in November where I got an ARC to Shine. My daughter has read the book twice but I haven’t had a chance to read it until last night. I absolutely fell in love with it.

First, the language and the setting. It’s spot-on. I knew Myracle had the language correct with this sentence: “What with the new Wal-Mart in Asheville, almost all the stores in town went on and closed.” Not an important sentence in the story by any means, but the “went on and closed” is rural NC and it enabled me to settle down and engross myself in the language of my cousins. The setting is a small mountain town and I could see it, feel it, as I read the book. Myracle spent time in the mountains when she was younger and it shows.

I also loved the characters. While it might be argued that the adults are somewhat one-dimensional, they are truly part of the background so that Cat and her contemporaries are allowed to be the story, warts and all. Cat is damaged – that is evident from the beginning – but she is able to overcome her past to find the answers she craves. I do anticipate some criticisms to the character of Robert, an eleven-year-old fetal alcohol victim whose impulsive hyperactivity tends to get him in trouble. To those who don’t think his character is realistic, I would say that I’ve taught several Roberts in my 22 years as a middle school teacher.

There are serious problems in Black Creek – homophobia, meth addiction, alcoholism – and they are not at all trivialized. In fact, one of the many reasons Shine should be a mandatory read is to deter people from trying meth. This is not an easy, pleasant read, but I found myself hiding in my office to finish it this morning.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

School Library Journal's Battle of the Books

Last March I followed SLJ’s Battle of the Books with interest, even though I hadn’t read any of the books. This year I decided to read all 16 books before the battle began and I’m so glad I did. Although a few of the books were on my radar before SLJ chose them, most were not. Out of the 16 there were only two that I didn’t really care for, and there were several that I loved but would have never read had it not been for the list.

Which were my favorites? I loved The Ring of Solomon and would have never thought to have read it. I also loved Sugar Changed the World, They Called Themselves the KKK, The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie, A Tale Dark and Grimm and Dreamer. I really think One Crazy Summer will win and it is a superb book, but The Ring of Solomon has my heart and I would love to be surprised.

It will be interesting to see how the judges vote. The actual competition begins on March 14 – and I can’t wait to see who will win each round.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets

Dirty Little Secrets

C.J. Omololu

Lucy guesses she loved her mom, at least mom she used not have – not the mom who has verbally abused her over the years and whose hoarding has made Lucy’s home a place of shame and embarrassment where at her old school the kids call Lucy Garbage Girl. But Lucy has been able to start over at the public high school where she has a best friend and nobody knows her secret. Now Lucy has found her mom dead in the midst of all the junk she has hoarded over the years. She doesn’t call for help. Afterall, “the paramedics couldn’t help someone who’d had their head cut off or had been shot straight through the heart – or had died under a six-foot-tall stack of National Geographics.” (p. 32) And that’s exactly what has happened. Nadine has had an asthma attack and literally died under the piles. The natural thing is to call 911, but if Lucy does that there’s no way her secret won’t get in the news for all to see. So Lucy decides the only way to fix everything is to solve the problem herself – and her solution is drastic, to say the least.

For the most part I enjoyed this one. I must admit there were times that I had to just put the book down because Lucy's pain as she is dealing with a situation that seems insurmountable was just too much. I think this will be a hit with my older girls.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

They Call Themselves the KKK

They Call Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I read this because it was part of School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. It covers the K.K.K. from its birth around the end of the Civil War until the end of Reconstruction, when (at least outwardly) Klan activities diminished, only to return in the early 20th century.

Bartoletti does an excellent job of showing the horrors of the early Klan and explaining how both the whites and the blacks felt intimidated by each other. Complete social change is difficult, and Reconstruction's effort to create equality for all ultimately fails.

I found this book to be fascinating. It is difficult to read in some spots, because Bartoletti doesn't pull any punches when it comes to relating the horrors of the acts committed by the Klan. I really appreciated her use of primary source accounts of both African-Americans and Klansmen.

Is this a book for everyone? Probably not. It is definitely of interest to those of us who live in the South, but I"m not sure how much relevance it would have to people from other regions of the United States (I'd love to know other's opinions about that)