Monthly Archives: March 2010

Fever 1793

Fever 1793
Laurie Halse Anderson

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.

I blasted through this book, picking it up on Tuesday for book club on Thursday.  It’s kind of good that I did because I have a weak stomach, so I really didn’t have time to linger over the gory bits, even if I’d wanted to.  We had paired this book with Jim Murphy’s American Plague, which I didn’t finish but which gave a great overview of the facts, especially because the fever first affects Anderson’s characters well into the epidemic, it seems.  There were a few details that I was sure Anderson would bring back around because of the way they were introduced.  For example, the family owns a parrot that flies away; I was sure he would bring word to the separated family members – ridiculous, yes, but because how it was presented I was disappointed when it didn’t happen.  There was also a mysterious object falling to the ground with a thud that I was sure was some secret clue to something and was just casually explained on a later page.  That said, the characters were wonderfully alive and I was fully invested in the story and moved whenever characters died (which was, um, all the time).  I also thought some of the details of how the free blacks were treated and acted was a bit unrealistic, especially with the contrast in Murphy’s book.  Overall, a solid piece of historical non-fiction that addresses a time period and a tragedy hardly even mentioned in history class.  (For fifth grade and up.)

An Undone Fairy Tale

An Undone Fairy Tale
by Ian Lendler

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars.

This is the most hilarious picture book I’ve read in quite some time.  I could not stop giggling – which is not helpful if you work in a library!  A friend and I read this to the third graders last week, which is a perfect duet book.  Half the text is telling the story of the fairy tale, and the other half is the behind-the-scenes look at why you should slow down, because Ned the painter isn’t done with the pictures and so the King’s crown will have to be a doughnut and they’ll have to ride into battle on their snails.  Ned runs around making substitution after substitution and eventually they spell a very different ending.  A bit more advanced than Paper Bag Princess, I’d say, but along the same lines and more entertaining.

Geography Club

Geography Club
by Brent Hartinger

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.

This title slid across my desk at the public library to be checked in.  There was something about the title (“did someone seriously write a book about a geography club?”) and the cover photo (“it looks like this boy has something to hide”) that made me pick it up and read the inside flap.  Turns out, no, Hartinger did not write a book about a geography club.  He wrote a book about a bunch of small-town high schoolers who manage to find each other because they’re all gay and, in their desire to have a safe space in which to talk, create a new school club. “We just choose a club that’s so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!”

Throwing a wrench into that plan is a straight girl who DOES want to join; by the end of the book, she is one of their straight allies.  There was so much about this book that was right on, but a few aspects of the dialogue that were stilted or otherwise unbelievable.  However, the general tenor of the book was great.  Normally I have trouble with books that hit you over the head with how autobiographical they must be.  However, according to the author, “Not all of my books are autobiographical, but much of Geography Club sure is. Russel, my main character, is pretty much me, updated for the 2000s. Except I was a lot more neurotic.”  But Russel is believable and likeable and so are the rest of the characters – mostly three-dimensional, dealing with issues other than being gay.

I was discussing this book with the librarian at my school, who said she couldn’t imagine a single kid at that school who would read it.  I may not know the middle schoolers that well (we mostly deal with the K-5 half of the school), but chances are, that kid is out there, possibly more than one, and this book would be especially important in an environment where you can’t imagine anyone reading it.  I think that’s the whole point.  In the meantime, I am enjoying a little fantasy about slipping this book to a kid and then having a coded exchange about geography.  Love it.