If I’m not around here much these days, it’s because, well, I don’t have to have my computer on to do schoolwork. So, 1) I don’t use the internet as a distraction as much and 2) sometimes I don’t even turn it on for a few days. It’s a new world. I like it.
I just finished two books, No One Belongs Here More Than You (Miranda July) and Feathers (Jacqueline Woodson). NOBHMTY had me reading quite a bit out loud to Kitri – one story in particular, “The Man on the Stairs,” was full of those great observations about life and human behavior that you don’t really think about until someone else puts them into words. I don’t tend to find short stories satisfying, but these were unsatisfying in a good way. Often slightly uncomfortable in their intriguingness. Like Me and You and Everyone We Know, not to be recommended to everyone. But I think it’s fair to say that the stories leave you (or at least me) with much the same feeling as the movie.
Feathers was a small book without feeling small. It takes place over a short period of time – only a few days, I think – and it feels cozy at the same that it feels expansive. It wasn’t what I expected it to be, but it was satisfying (I seem to be using that criterion a lot lately) which is a good thing in a children’s book – the part about not being what you expect. If you lay out what happens, it sounds like it’s packed with issues, but it’s not, really. Also, I really wanted to be part of the family it describes. Sit on my grandmother’s lap (even if you’re too big for it, like sixth grader Frannie) and eat chicken and mashed potatoes. Heck, I’d even eat the greens.
I couldn’t help comparing it to a similarly sized and issue-packed children’s book – Flip-Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson. Now, if you’ve ever been around me while I read or talk about Bridge to Terabithia, you’ll know of my abiding passion for the work of Katherine Paterson. I think of Lyddie whenever I hear the phrase ‘we can still hope’ – and I automatically translate in my head to ‘we can still hop.’ I remember being engrossed by Jacob Have I Loved in middle school. Picking up The Great Gilly Hopkins in my college library was one of the things that got me back into reading children’s lit. But Flip-Flop Girl was disappointing. The issues felt like too much, Vinnie ticked me off (sure she has plenty of reasons to be obnoxious, but does she have to be so obnoxious? It was almost too believable to be enjoyable) and I wonder how much it would appeal to kids. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t on some levels extremely well written. The grandmother is a great mixed bag of a character – full of flaws, but as an adult I can see how behind all her mistakes, she’s really trying to do the best thing. The mother is loving without being perfect. But I just wonder if it can transcend being an issue book – dead father, brother stops speaking, moving to a new town, being an outsider at school, friend whose father is in jail, etc.
Finally, and this is the most exciting part of this entry (best for last, and all that), I ditched Thirteen Moons to listen to Life as We Knew It. And not just any copy, but one that arrived in the mail straight from the author herself. I saw she had a giveaway of copies of the audio book, and thought surely I must be too late to snag one, but lo, there was one left and it turned out to have my name on it. You might remember how it sucked me in and made me want to ration my food when I first read it, and something tells me this time around will be no different. Susan Beth Pfeffer mentions on her blog about trying to elicit from parents at a reading which parts made them cry – and damned if the very first disc hasn’t already had me tearing up. I’m driving around town, picking up a bundle of local, organic veggies and just knowing what’s about to happen brings a little tear to my eye. Of course, when I was driving home from delicious hamburgers and grilled zucchini at my parents’ I turned a corner and there was the moon. And really, you can’t look at the moon the same way anymore. But really, only one bag of chocolate chips? I know what I’ll stock up on come the end of the world. Verdict on the audio so far: the voice is appropriately teenagery without being obnoxious – hits the right note. Once I finish listening (and once Kitri has a turn with it) I’ll pass it along to my library. Thanks, Sue!