Monthly Archives: March 2015

Penderwicks in Spring

by Jeanne Birdsall
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I’ll be the first to admit it: I love The Penderwicks. I have been waiting for this latest installment for ages and it finally came in for me! I tried so hard not to devour it but also didn’t want to lose the momentum of the story, so I ended up staying up too late reading it (and also sobbing).

This one starts out several years after the previous three, with Batty (now about to turn ten) at its center. Rosalind is off at college and Jane and Skye are teenagers. There is much chasing around of boys but in an innocent way. In addition to the four original Penderwick girls, there is their step-brother Ben and a half-sister, Lydia, who is now two. (Lydia provides much of the comic relief that Batty provided in the previous books.) Batty’s dog, Hound, had died a few months before and she still hasn’t really moved on in her grief for him. Batty has discovered she can sing and wants to make money to pay for singing lessons and surprise her family, so she starts walking dogs in the neighborhood to raise money. Several plot twists later, all’s well that ends well.

I really like how realistic the girls’ relationships with each other are. Particularly, in this book, Batty and Skye’s troubled relationship. Skye remains in focus as one of the more fleshed out characters, and both she and Batty work through some tough stuff, including learning how to talk about their feelings and deal with grief. It was a very powerful story, especially about the toll that grief and trauma can take on even a very young person (Batty was four years old when her mother died).

One other head’s up: There is a family friend who is in the army and goes off to war, and a couple of sad scenes saying goodbye to him, so that might be a trigger for someone.

Reads like: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
Adventure/emotions like: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Crossover

by Kwame Alexander
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow, I can definitely see why this won the Newbery Award this year. This novel in verse packs a punch while telling the story of seventh-grader Josh and his twin brother, sons of the legendary basketball player, sensations on the court. Josh feels left behind when his brother gets a girlfriend and they deal with their dad’s health scare in different ways. Josh is a good student and brings his vocabulary lessons into the poems to bring even more poignancy while telling his story.

There were two interesting parts in light of recent events regarding police violence targeting black boys and men, not to mention the history of black men sentenced to prison. On was when Josh and his dad get pulled over for a broken taillight. The police officer lets them go with a warning, but only after his dad pulls the fame card. Josh prays that his dad won’t go to jail. A little later, Josh loses his temper and lashes out at his brother physically. His mother is furious and gives him a lecture, calling him a thug and telling him that “boys with no self-control become men behind bars.” I hope that even those readers who don’t identify racially with Josh and his family can examine their own racial privilege in their reactions to this and have a conversation.