Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Old School Sunday: Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace (1946)

Betsy in Spite of Herself
by Maud Hart Lovelace.
1946. Thomas Y. Crowell.
In Betsy in Spite of Herself, sophomore Betsy Ray undergoes a bit of an identity crisis. Desiring to reinvent herself, she goes to Milwaukee to visit Tib for Christmas and returns home with a new set of rules for her personal behavior. She will spell her name "Betsye," stop smiling so frequently, and begin spending time with unlikely and unsuitable suitors. Unfortunately, Betsy's new attitude drives away most of "The Crowd," invites warnings from Julia about being "spoony" and interferes with her second attempt at the school essay contest.

Even more than Heaven to Betsy, this book brings to life the turn-of-the-20th-century teen experience. What is most interesting are the intricacies of socializing both with long-distance friends and with local boys. Betsy's holiday visit with Tib is so special because they have no immediate way of seeing one another or talking in real time on a regular basis. When they part, they're not sure how long it will be until they see each other again. Living in a world with Facebook and texting makes it especially hard to imagine how hard this would be.

It's also interesting that both Betsy and Julia establish very specific limits on their dating relationships. They don't hold hands at all, and even though Julia is about to graduate and of marrying age, she turns down a proposal in order to pursue her opera career. They are excellent role models for young girls when it comes to setting limits - and how refreshing to read a teen novel where romance is not the main focus! 

My favorite part of the boy-girl interaction in this book,  though, is the dance programs! I love that each girl has her own program listing all the dances of the evening, and that the boys just come along and sign themselves up to dance with whomever they like. I was also amused by the various meanings attached to the number of dances requested by any given boy, and what was considered acceptable, and what was considered rude. I can't help but think that this old-fashioned method might have removed a lot of awkwardness from my own high school dance experiences.

Betsy in Spite of Herself has me completely hooked on these characters. Betsy's future beau, Joe, has started to become more involved in the storyline, and more of his backstory has come to light, so I look forward to seeing where their relationship might lead in the next book, Betsy Was a Junior.

I borrowed Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself as a single volume from my local public library. My review of Heaven to Betsy appeared last week.

For more about this book visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Picture Book Review: Bug on a Bike by Chris Monroe (ARC)

Bug on a Bike
by Chris Monroe

Quick Booktalk

A bug sets out on a bike and picks up a motley group of followers as he travels to a surprise destination.

About the Illustrations

The illustrations for this story are detailed in some places and almost sloppy in others.  Certain pages look as though they have been illustrated by a child while others clearly represent the work of a trained artist.  The cover is not particularly eye-catching, and I would expect it to be overlooked on a library display if almost anything else were next to it.

Story Time Possibilities

I could never recommend using this book at story time. The rhyming text makes very little sense, and most words seem to be used only because they rhyme. The rhythm is consistent throughout the book, but this happens at the expense of everything else, including plot development and characterization. This book is essentially a list of animals and bugs behaving in nonsensical ways that are probably meant to be funny, but did not make me laugh.

Reader’s Advisory

This book might find a sympathetic audience amongst fans of Monroe's Monkey with a Toolbelt series, which is more memorable and better-written. It is also one of the few picture books - along with Duck on a Bike and Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle that features the use of a bicycle as part of the story. Overall, though, this is not a book that is going to circulate much and not the kind of thing I would recommend purchasing for most library collections.


I received a digital ARC of Bug on a Bike from Lerner Publishing Group via NetGalley.

Friday, July 18, 2014

YA Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (ARC)

Say What You Will
by Cammie McGovern
2014. HarperTeen.
ISBN: 9780062271105
Amy is a young woman with cerebral palsy whose social interactions are limited due to her body's unpredictable movements and her need to use a machine to help her talk. Matthew has begun to hear a voice in the back of his mind compelling him to perform certain obsessive acts lest bad things happen to the people he cares about.When Amy decides to attend public school for her senior year, and Matthew is hired to be one of her student assistants, an unlikely friendship blooms into an unlikelier romance.

This book is so much like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, and yet it is also very much its own unique story. Though comparisons to these two bestsellers are inevitable, it's almost a shame, because of the three, Say What You Will is the best written, the most compelling, and the least predictable. The descriptions of both characters' difficulties connecting to their peers provide valuable insight into the challenges associated with physical and mental disabilities. Their interactions with each other also highlight the ways they rise above their limitations to form a normal human bond.

Toward the end of the story, the stakes are raised dramatically, to a point beyond where most readers might expect the story to go. Still, the unexpected turn of events fits well within the world of the story, and tugs heavily at the heartstrings. High school age readers who like their love stories laced with realism will instantly connect with Say What You Will - and hopefully they will begin flocking to Cammie McGovern with the same enthusiasm with which they have embraced John Green and Rainbow Rowell. 

I received a digital ARC of Say What You Will from HarperTeen via Edelweiss.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.