Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

Lonely But Not Lost: 2 Young Novels Deserve Discovery

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‘No, I am NOT lost, thank you very much. Just takin’ The Scenic Route.’

Ever see a lonely book? You know. A library book perched all on its lonesome on an isolated shelf, looking forlorn and a wee bit lost? Like it’s begging for some intrepid reader to come by and snatch it?

Enter Her Momness. She’s a sucker for lonely books. She found two of ’em in the Juvenile Fiction section of the library the other day. (She hangs out there a lot. Cuz she fits right in. Don’t get me started.)

Anywho, the books are: The Story Web by Megan Frazer Blakemore and After Eli, by Rebecca Rupp. In the first one, hockey… Oh, wait. Mom is elbowing her way into the conversation. As usual. So I’ll let her tell ya about these two “lost” and “lonely” books that deserve discovery:

The Story Web

By Megan Frazer Blakemore

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019

Fantasy

Be bold. Be brave. Be fierce.

Setting

Independence, Maine. Present day. Sort of.

Story

Alice Dingwell isn’t your average fifth grader. For one thing, she could give Jim Craig a run for his money in goal tending. For another, she’s invisible. As in, as soon as her hockey-playing and soldier dad went away, it’s like no one sees her anymore. Why is someone is trying to shut down construction on the park being built in her dad’s honor? Why has Alice frozen out her best friend, Lewis?

Meanwhile, The Story Web is in danger. And the fabric of the world is breaking. The only way to mend it is to tell stories from the heart, even those that are difficult. Can Alice and her friends understand what the animals are trying to tell them and act before it’s too late?

“A Story Web isn’t so much a thing you understand. It’s something you believe… It keeps the world together.”

Themes

Connectivity and community are major themes within this richly imagined story. Also love, loss, guilt, and loyalty. All spun into a web of Story in which Story Weavers and Story Tellers “keep the web intact” and “keep the earth as one.” Quit telling stories and … The Freezing creeps in, encasing the whole world in snow and ice.

There’s also plenty of magic and enchantment. Mythology. Books. Libraries. Intrigue and mystery as forest animals are on the move.

Rich Characters

Brimming with richly drawn characters like Henrietta the Museum proprietress and maker of first class cinnamon toast, and Mrs. Engle, Librarian extraordinaire. Also a crow. A cedar waxwing. A bear cub. And a moose.

In the End

Because in the end, as Alice notes, “Maybe home isn’t just where we are; maybe it’s who we are.”

A delightful read for upper elementary ages and up and anyone who enjoys a  well told tale on the Power of Story.

Our Rating: 4.0

***

After Eli

By Rebecca Rupp

 Candlewick Press, 2012

Fiction

Middle School and up

Mom ended up in Juvenile Fiction the other day. In a hurry. She just grabbed After Eli off the display shelf. Cuz it was at eye level. And an easy reach. With lots of green. And less than 250 pages.

Surprised

We didn’t really expect much. We were surprised!

The writing is geared toward middle schoolers. But it also some big questions:  

  • Is there free will?
  • Do we decide things for ourselves? 
  • Can you jump into a creek twice? Communicate with the dead?
  • What about chaos theory and even worse – math?

Plot

As Danny wrestles with the loss of his older bro, Eli – killed in Iraq – he grapples with other issues and questions: What is friendship? What does it mean to be a friend? How do you deal with an ex-friend who turns on you? What about loyalty? Courage? Compassion?

Meanwhile, Danny’s mom withdraws into herself and becomes an emotional recluse. Held captive by grief, his dad becomes increasingly tense, critical and irascible. How does Danny deal with his family? Can he?

A Lot

The narrator packs a lot into 245 pages, including some rapier wit and a truckload of deadpan humor. Each chapter includes a header identification an new question added to Danny’s Book of the Dead.

There’s also a bittersweet subtext about a summer love and how “Nothing gold can stay.” How “Sometimes you have to destroy the past so that you’ll have to learn how to live in the new world.”

An Unpretentious Gem

Middle  school audiences who enjoy a good story with full-bodied characters and snappy repartee sans grown up sermonizing will enjoy this book. Indeed, After Eli avoids trite cliches and bone-headed bromides. We don’t necessarily agree with everything it it. But it’s still poignant and rimmed with hope. An unpretentious gem of a story.

Our Rating: 3.5

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