Crush: The Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Love
Written by Gary Paulsen
This is another book about Kevin, a scheming middle schooler who tries to apply scientific theorizing to developing a romantic relationship with a girl. There are laughs along the way as when he creates a mess trying to provide his parents with a romantic dinner or contemplates computer dating. Kevin can hardly talk to The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, so he tries to observe others in a series of experiments. He succeeds in matching up some other couples, but is finally successful with his own situation only when Tina approaches him. This is an entertaining, wholesome story. The fun is enhanced by the way the main character confidently tries out his wild ideas. The Juneau Public Library has the earlier books about Kevin. This one will be on the shelf soon.
Jump into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall
This story drops the reader into the final months of WWII. Levi Battle, a 13 year-old African American, has been left with his great aunt while his father serves in the army. Levi tells his story with a captivating narrative that brings the times to life. When his aunt decides she is tired of caring for him and that the war must be nearly over she gives Levi a train ticket and sends him to his father’s post in South Carolina.
This coming of age story paints the picture of discrimination in the South—shocking to Levi who has grown up in Chicago—as well as shares the story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, The only African American “jumpers” in WWII. Levi’s voice is strong and true. The other characters come to life through his lively sharing of his journey. Peppered with humor and shaped by Levi’s courage and growing wisdom, the story lingers long after the last page is turned.
On the Run by Clara Bourreau translated by Y. Maudet
This realistic story of a fourth grader learning a family secret has been translated from the French. It is a short book with plenty of action, including asking the big question, facing classmates after newspaper articles appear, visiting the prison, living “on the run,” helping with a fireworks show, and accepting reality. The text matches the mood—being somewhat mysterious. This is an unusual setting (father in prison and the child accompanying him on his escape) but the action seems realistic. I found the book interesting but not fully rewarding.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths written by Sara Pennypacker
This is one of the most delightful reads I’ve experienced in a while. Stella, who is nearly 12, has landed with her Great Aunt Louise for the summer because her mother can’t seem to stay put long enough to take care of her. Aunt Louise manages cottage by the sea and loves to garden. Stella is just establishing a relationship with her when she comes home from school to discover the elderly lady dead in her chair in the den. Angel, the foster child Louise has taken-in to provide companionship for Stella, wants to run but the girls decide to bury Aunt Louise, run the cottages themselves and stay in this place that is starting to feel like home.
As the girls struggle through the summer they learn to take care of each other as well as themselves. What makes this book such a good read is the light touch Pennypacker uses. Stella, serious, craving structure and organization and dependability, has a strong affection for Heloise of Hints by Heloise fame. The story is dotted with Stella’s using these hints to save the day over and over
—from using peanut butter to get gum from the hair of a 3 year-old to tying panty hose coated in Crisco on Louise’s gypsy moth infected blueberries. The scene with a dead Louise in an arm chair is lightened considerably by Stella’s frequent spritzing of the body with Fabreeze.
The other characters are well drawn. Angel, the Portuguese foster girl, is angry but filled with soul. George, the owner of the property is kind but not without flaws. All in all this summer story is a delight and the happy ending points to the ability of the heart to open to love.
Find this one at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library in the Juvenile Fiction section.