September 27, 2013

Tween Reading…The Books that Kept Me Page-Turning Earlier this Year (Part 1)

This past Spring I spent a few months consulting with our favorite children's librarian back in Hudson, Miss Beth, and reading my way through the Tween bookshelves. If she recommended it, I read it. And for the better part of 90 days I devoured 16 books…and had a ton of fun doing it!

Lesson learned: when you have a 2 and 4 year old, what better place to find your literary adventure launchpad than your local children's library? I was spending all my time there anyway! And it was much easier to peruse books for myself while keeping a watchful eye on the tots-at-play when I didn't have the leave the children's area.

Well, I've been meaning to share the fruits of my adventure with you for quite some time. And it seems there is no time like the present. So, welcome to part one of my many-part series on tween reading. I hope you enjoy this foray into the lives of 9-13 year olds as much as I did. There are some amazing authors in this genre, and I will most certainly be back to visit again soon.

And so we begin...

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
This was the first book I read on this adventure. And what a lovely beginning it was…

David, 9, recently lost his mother to a freak accident. His father travels for work constantly, leaving him to take his anger and grief out on his grandmother. Primrose, 13, is a strong, smart girl living with an unstable, flighty mother. Despite their age difference, David and Primrose forge a tight bond within a sometimes rocky friendship, eventually helping each other deal with what is missing in their lives.

It is a beautiful, moving story about two very quirky, yet totally lovable kids. You will grow to love them both and cheer for their happy endings. Eggs is a sweet story with well-crafted prose…and it's a super quick read (as are most of the tween books). I highly recommend it. (Plus it made me love the name Primrose.)

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Okay, so technically I think this might qualify as Young Adult fiction, depending on your library, but I read it next and loved it, so here you go…

This story is both hilarious and heartbreaking and it captures early adolescence so well you will feel like you're back in it…or at least it will stir up memories and visceral feelings from that time in your life and you will look back on that kid-you-once-were with fondness and compassion.

Steven is living the normal 13 year old's life, complete with playing drums in the jazz band, a crush on the hot girl, and an annoying younger brother…until that brother is diagnosed with leukemia, leaving Steven to attempt to navigate his new, strange world. He is, quite realistically, equal parts selfish teenager and caring champion.

It's a great read. (But you might shed a few tears.)

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes is an amazingly talented author. He wrote one of my favorite picture books My Garden, as well as the sweet Chrysanthemum. And I've now read two of his tween books, both lovely. Olive's Ocean was next on my librarian reco list.

12 year old Martha and her family are headed to her grandmother's home in New England for their annual summer visit when the mother of her deceased classmate, Olive, arrives on her doorstep with a page from her daughter's journal. In this single page Martha learns more about the quiet Olive than she ever knew before, and finds a kinship with this girl who is already gone. At the Cape, Martha realizes that things in her life are changing: she is faced with her Grandmother's mortality, as well as her own, she watches her father struggle with his own life choices, and she stumbles awkwardly into the world of Boys.

Kevin Henkes' book isn't splashy or showy or loud. It is quiet and subtle and well-crafted. And with him you will revisit the growing pains of childhood--the anguish and heartache and confusion, as well as the freedom and awe of being 12. You should go there.

Well, that should get you started. I'll be back soon with more tween reading reviews.

Until next time, happy reading!

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