Monday, December 4, 2017

Hattie On Her Way: A Review and TWO Giveaways!

Congratulations to Linda Phillips. Random.org selected her name to win an audio book off last week's blog.

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Several weeks ago I pulled one of the books I received at Highlight Summer CampHattie on Her Way (Candlewick Press, 2005) off my TBR shelf. Written by my friend and fellow blogger, Clara Gillow Clark, this girls' middle grade novel weaves together some troubling family situations in a very sensitive manner.


The Review

A sequel to Clara's first book, Hill Hawk Hattie, this book opens in April of 1883 with Hattie arriving at her grandmother's house. Right away, the reader hears her voice:
Pa said hawks don't crash into mountains or trees. He said they fly alert, watchful. But suppose a hawk got itself blown off course, ended up somewhere strange, somewhere it didn't rightly belong? Could it find its way home, fly back to its nest in the hills again? (p. 1)
The imagery of hawks and the theme of Hattie yearning for home repeat themselves. Surrounded by secrets, Hattie tries to get used to living with a grandmother she doesn't know in the house where her deceased mother grew up.
If she [Grandmother] thought we were on the same side together, she might share the shadowy secrets of Grandfather, and why the keys had gone missing and the silver was squirreled away, and why she didn't wear black, and where all the furniture and pictures had gone, and why she had hurried Pa away, and mostly why Ma had run off and never come back. It was a powerful lot to find out. And that's why I had to stay here and behave properly, though sitting so close to Grandmother made me even more lonesome for Pa and Jasper and my real home. (p.28)

A young next door neighbor, Ivy Victoria, pretends to befriend her. Ivy doesn't know that Hattie's mother is dead but relays the town rumor that her mother ran off with her father because her Grandmother killed her Grandfather. This theory only lends credence to Hattie's over-active imagination. 

Hattie's relationship with her Grandmother warms up when she sings Hattie the same songs she sang to her mother. That new closeness makes Hattie think,
Somehow I knew it better not to tell Grandmother about Ma's fairies becoming real to her. "Can you hear the fairies in the hemlocks?" Ma would say to me. All I heard was the wind. "See their gossamer wings?" All I saw were rainbows on raindrops or crystals of frost. She would tilt her head and smile. "They wish me to sing and dance with them," she would say. "Will you dance too, Hattie Belle?" The fairy make-believe was mostly enchanting.  But I didn't want to dance about in the clearing with invisible things or answer them like they were asking me questions or telling me what to do." (p. 63)
On the day that Grandmother unlocks her mother's bedroom, the two of them inspect her mother's dollhouse where she made up imaginary fairies rather than played with dolls. When her Grandmother finds little dresses and cloaks that her mother had made,
A sick feeling came over me like we were caught in a blinding snow together, and I shivered. "She sewed little dresses and bonnets for my clothespin dolls," I said. "She just liked to do it, sew dainty things." I reassured myself that Ma's fairy world had been make-believe and enchanting for both of us until just a few months before she died.
"Yes," Grandmother said slowly, thoughtfully as if she'd stumbled onto something a bit troubling and sad.  (p.121)
In the end, Hattie discovers the truth of the mental illness that plagued both her grandfather and her mother. This "madness" is dealt with in a very sensitive manner and enables Hattie to make an important decision. 

Girls in grades 4-6 will enjoy this historical novel. The only scene that may trouble some sensitive readers is a seance towards the end of the book.  

Two Giveaways

Clara is generously sponsoring this give away. The first winner will receive a Hattie doll plus an autographed copy of the book. The runner-up will receive an autographed copy of the book. What are you waiting for? This is a great holiday gift for the younger sister, daughter, niece, or granddaughter in your life! Please leave me a comment by December 8. Share this on the social media of your choice or become a new follower of my blog, and I'll never your name twice. PLEASE leave your email address and tell me what you did.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Voices on The Road Blog Tour and Giveaway

Who doesn't love audio books? You get to drive, exercise, cook, rake leaves, paint your house, or take a walk at the same time you listen to a book. To help promote the Audio Publisher's Association celebration of audio books, I'm featuring several of my favorites. (If you need more examples, search this blog (top left hand corner under "audio book/s" or "books on CD). At the end of this post is a fantastic giveaway for you to enter!




Saskia Maaleveld narrated Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd (Blackstone Publishing, 2017) which I absolutely adored. Ms. Maaleveld brought this historic Charleston, SC story alive through her beautiful portrayal of both white and African American characters.



Ron Butler narrated Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination by Jack Hamilton (Harvard University Press, 2016). His melodious voice fit the tenor of this nonfiction book which depicts the links between racial identity and music in the 50's and 60's. 



Emily Wilden narrated Longbow Girl by Linda Davis (Chicken House, 2016) which is another one of my favorites. At first Ms. Wilden's Welsh accent was a little difficult to follow, but I ended up thinking that her accent lent authenticity to a story that takes place in modern and ancient Wales.



Gemma Dawson narrated Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine (Penguin Random House, 2017). Ms. Dawson did an impressive job with male and female voices and British and American accents in this gripping young adult book about a girl struggling with pyromania. 



Multiple narrators performed Restart by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press, 2017). Each actor did an excellent job personifying their character. As a result, the atmosphere of middle school alliances and conflicts was authentic and realistically portrayed. 




I love to listen to books on car trips. The time passes much quicker when I'm gazing at miles and miles of asphalt highways while my mind is imagining fields of indigo, rock musicians in the 50's,  ancient Wales, or the drama of middle school. My brain is engaged and quite frankly, I have "read" many more books since starting to listen to audio books.  As this article points out, audio books are also great for reluctant readers and audio learners. 

Click on this link for more reviews of audiobooks. As a part of this blog tour, Galaxy Press, Hachette Audio, Harper Audio, High Bridge Audio, Macmillan, Penguin Random House Audio, Post Hypnotic Press, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster Audio, and Tantor Audio have generously donated audio books as giveaways. Leave me a comment by December 1--make sure you leave me your email address--if you win, one of these publishers will select an audio book for you. What a great surprise to receive in the mail!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Raccoon Rescue: A Review

Congratulations to Carol-Ann Ruddy who won Two Thousand Years from last week's blog.

Author Christa M. Miller could have subtitled Raccoon Rescue, The Kits and the Kids. Those four words pretty much summarizes this illustrated book that children in grades 2-3 will enjoy.


Review




Roxy, Rufus, and Renae are three young raccoons who are learning about life outside their comfortable den. As they venture out to gather food they encounter humans--as well as the trash they leave behind. Children will enjoy the interaction between the kits that sounds very much like normal give and take in a family.

Here is an interchange when Roxy gets mad at her brother:


"Don't call me fox-bait!" She leaped at him. 
"Mama!" Rufus screeched and got away barely in time. "Roxy bared her teeth at me!"
"Roxy, don't pick fights with your brother," Mama said. "He was only trying to help you. And Rufus, don't call your sister names. That isn't necessary." (p.13)


Illustrated by Christian Barratt


When the kits see a child who seems scared their mother says, 
"When you see a human acting normal, the best thing to do is leave it alone." 

The youngest raccoon responds, "Can we adopt it?" asked Renae. "Raise it like a raccoon?" (p. 18)

As the raccoons cross paths with Helena, Hope, and their parents, there is misunderstanding conflict, and then ultimately, a new respect on both sides. The final chapter includes clever dialogue which shows the reader how both the animals and the children feel and think.


Author Statement 

Here is Christa's reason for writing Raccoon Rescue.
Raccoon Rescue was the result of spending hours at Izzie's Pond, a local wildlife rescue and sanctuary, volunteering to help care for recovering and orphaned animals -- including raccoons. As I watched young raccoons grow from small kits to juveniles and at last to releasable adults, I grew from simply thinking they were cute, to deeply respecting their intelligence, sociability, and instincts. 
Raccoons are among the most adaptable species, but also among the least understood. In the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Rocket Raccoon is deeply offended by people calling him "vermin" or other epithets that reduce the true measure of his loyalty and quick wits. Seeing people disgusted by "disease-carrying" animals -- at the same time that professional rehabilitators treat them for distemper, worms, and even (via vaccination) rabies -- drove me to write Raccoon Rescue from the point of view of animals who are as uncertain about humans as we can be about them, and hopefully to make us think about how we see them. 
Raccoon Rescue is about the heart of those misunderstandings, and the small steps we can all take to correct them towards humane, peaceful coexistence with our wild neighbors.

Curriculum Connections

The illustrations sprinkled through Raccoon Rescue make this book very accessible to young readers. Read more about the illustrator, Christian Barratt, on Christa's blog. In addition, the book uses Dyslexic font to make it more accessible to readers with learning disabilities. 

One of the neat extras of this well-written book are the 29 pages of Curriculum Connections at the end. I'm giving my copy to one of my granddaughters to read and give to her teacher. If you have a child or grandchild in second or third grade, consider how this might be a better teacher gift this year than another coffee mug!

Caitlin with her Thanksgiving turkey
and Raccoon Rescue!



Monday, November 13, 2017

For Two Thousand Years: A Review and Audio Book Giveaway

This literary masterpiece revives the ideological debates of the interwar period through the journal of a Romanian Jewish student caught between anti-Semitism and Zionism. Although he endures persistent threats just to attend lectures, he feels disconnected from his Jewish peers and questions whether their activism will be worth the cost. Spending his days walking the streets and his nights drinking and conversing with revolutionaries, zealots, and libertines, he remains isolated, even from the women he loves. From Bucharest to Paris, he strives to make peace with himself in an increasingly hostile world.  [Cover blurb]

I confess.

I don't always remember the book blurbs I read when I select books from the Tantor Audio catalog. 

As a result, when I began listening to For Two Thousand Years I was confused. Without dates, cities, or countries marking the sections, I had trouble following the stream of consciousness writing--I had forgotten that this was Mihail Sebastian's journal. On top of that, add the unfamiliar Romanian names and lack of context clues, and it took me awhile to figure out that when the book opens Sebastian is a law student in Bucharist. 


Mihail Sebastian
1907-1945


Having said that, if you are interested in what it was like to be an intelligent Romanian Jew after World War I in the midst of virulent Anti-semitism and Zionism--then this is a book for you. 

Sebastian waxes philosophical about himself and his own writing; God and Judaism; his beloved country of Romania; women, his peers, his professors, and family; politics, Communism and Marxism; the law and architecture (his second area of study). Below are some of his musings; please keep in mind that I did my best to quote the book accurately. 

  • When he observes other Jews who are beaten he tells himself "If I cry, I am lost. I don't want to die of shame."
  • He has friends who fight for the right to be a Jew. "I'm never going to be a revolutionary. I'm not the tough kind."
  • "I belong to a race that can't shut up."
  • "One day we may make peace with the anti-semites but when will we make peace with ourselves?"
  • Margot is the woman he loved but let go. "My big ethereal questions are put aside by her living, personal meanings."
  • He questions the Zionists. "Are Zionists going to work with pick axes an act of heroism or desperation?"  "What are you going to do with the indigenous Arabs who have the right to a natural death, rather than an abrupt one by Zionist extremism?" (this sentiment reminded me of Blood Brothers).
  • His grandmother dies and he wishes she would have embraced it and died more easily. "We die in despair--our last chance to be at peace and be saved." He wonders if mourning is indulgence.
  • He comments on his own journal and sees it as folly and his own desire to feel superior to others. 
  • "I have never had a conversation with someone without wondering if they know I'm a Jew and if they'd forgive me or not."
  • A Zionist friend leaves for Israel and Sebastian muses, "Two thousand years can't be overcome by leaving for somewhere...Only rarely through this history of warfare, victories, and kingdoms, does light pierce the mist. Is it possible to build a new history from such material?"
  • He remembers that as a youth he was assigned to a "special regime" for Jews on guard duty. "This made me feel as if Romania was not my Fatherland. That assignment erased two centuries of history." He did not want to sink into despair or martyrdom as he struggled to love that which he was not allowed to love. "I can't cease being a Jew. But I also will never cease to be from the land of the Danube."
According to Wikipedia, Sebastian first published a novel titled, "For a Thousand Years" in 1934. He was hit by a truck and died in 1945. His journal was discovered and published in 1996. As I listened I wondered if he ever imagined that his personal journal would be published and read around the world. 

This book is aptly narrated by Simon Vane. You can listen to an audio file here. Leave me a comment by November 17 if you wish to enter this giveaway. It may be the perfect gift for your favorite historian. PLEASE leave your email address if you think I might not have it. 



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Customized Emotional Wound Created for Half-Truths!

I don't typically blog twice in one week, but I couldn't wait to share some news with you. Remember when I posted about Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi's new Emotional Thesaurus two weeks ago?

A few days later I received this email from Angela:

I am thrilled that you've won a Custom Description Thesaurus Entry from Becca and I for the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. So basically, you can pick any wound we haven't covered in our book or at One Stop for Writers, and we will write it for you. This is perfect if you have a character that you want to dig a bit deeper into.  Just follow the link to see which ones we have, and if there's one you would like us to explore for you, we will. 


I immediately returned her email with backstory about Half-Truths and some ideas. The following week the equally amazing Becca Puglisi (honestly, I don't know if this pair ever sleeps!) posted this on One Stop for Writers. How cool is this?

DISCOVERING HIDDEN INFORMATION ABOUT ONE'S ANCESTRY 


NOTES:
Like all wounds, this one can have varying effects on the individual depending on the circumstances. In some cases, the person may discover something that isn't a bad thing (such as the truth about a racial or cultural heritage) but it rocks their world due to how it reshapes their identity. This could be especially challenging if they grew up being taught specific racist beliefs and now they must reconcile with this new information that places them within that same group. In other instances, they may discover something unethical or unconscionable in their family history that they'll have to come to grips with. Another factor to consider is how the character discovers the information. Was it deliberately kept from them or simply an unknown? Do they stumble upon it unexpectedly or was there suspicion in their minds all along? Do they discover it on their own or is it uncovered by someone who goes public with it, forcing the character to process the information before they're ready to do so? As always, examine the event from many different angles to ensure it has the proper impact.

EXAMPLES:
Learning that...
  • One descends from a different race than one has always associated with
  • One's family was never part of the heritage or culture it was supposed to have belonged to
  • One is part of the family because of an unsavory act (through adultery or rape, when a forebear blackmailed or bought their way into the family, etc.)
  • One's ancestors played a part in a genocide (such as the Nazi holocaust or the Khmer Rouge Cambodian genocide)
  • One's ancestors were responsible for the oppression or enslavement of others
  • One's ancestors were part of a far-reaching political cover-up

BASIC NEEDS OFTEN COMPROMISED BY THIS WOUND:
love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

FALSE BELIEFS THAT COULD BE EMBRACED:
I'm not the person I thought I was.
My entire life is a sham.
I don't belong anywhere.
If others find out about this, they'll reject me.
If this part of my life is a lie, then nothing is certain.
My blood makes me guilty by association (if notoriety is discovered in one's family roots).
If I reveal what I've learned to my family members, it will destroy us. So it's best to keep it secret.

THE CHARACTER MAY FEAR:
Losing their sense of identity; not knowing who they are
Being condemned because of their ancestors' actions or beliefs
The family being torn apart by the information
Being ostracized by the family if one shares what one has learned
That, genetically or ideologically, one will become like one's notorious ancestor(s)
That more identity-based falsehoods exist
Rejection by the family when they learn the truth about one's heritage

POSSIBLE RESPONSES AND RESULTS:
Sitting on the information until one can figure out what to do with it
Choosing to protect the secret rather than reveal it
Refusing to accept the truth; living in denial
Becoming conflicted when asked by family members to keep the information to oneself
Rebelling against one's heritage or culture as a way of separating oneself from it
Making excuses for a notorious ancestor's actions
Withdrawing from the family
Feeling confused about one's identity
Examining one's physical features or those of one's family members looking for signs of the hidden heritage
Pulling away from anyone clearly associated with a certain ancestry; preferring racial or cultural ambiguity
Questioning other valued parts of one's ancestry
Lashing out at anyone who knew about the secret
Harboring resentment against family members one believed should have known the truth
Shunning former passions or interests associated with one's family or heritage
Becoming apathetic; losing interest in one's hobbies or activities
Adopting the belief that there is no absolute truth
Becoming skeptical of everything
Falling into depression
Changes in appetite due to stress; rapid weight losses or gains
Difficulty sleeping
Avoiding the truth through drug or alcohol usage
Rejecting everything about one's heritage to distance oneself from the thing one can't come to grips with (throwing the baby out with the bathwater)
Thinking and acting prejudicially against people from one's former heritage or culture
Becoming obsessed with the notorious figure(s) from one's past
Seeking wise and impartial counsel to help one make sense of the situation
Attempting to make amends or restitution for any wrongdoings by one's ancestors
Studying one's true heritage to begin to understand it
Recognizing that one can be proud of one's heritage without accepting the actions or ideology of some of its past members
Empathizing with and reaching out to other people who share one's circumstance
Realizing that one's heritage is only one part of a person's identity

POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES THAT MAY RESULT:

NEGATIVE TRAITS THAT MAY RESULT:

TRIGGERS THAT MIGHT AGGRAVATE THIS WOUND:
A festival, parade, or other celebration of the heritage one thought one belonged to
Learning about other lies—even those with good intentions—told by family members (about the severity of an aunt's illness, covering for an uncle's drunken binge, the existence of Santa Claus, etc.)
A reunion or holiday gathering where the family heritage will be honored
Hearing news stories about a regime or corporation covering up the truth
Seeing others struggling with important facets of their identities (i.e., cultural, sexual orientation, religious, etc.)

OPPORTUNITIES TO FACE OR OVERCOME THIS WOUND:
Seeing someone of the heritage whose people were oppressed by one's ancestors and wanting to help him or her
Being asked by one's child about their ancestry and having to decide what to tell them
Having a chance to right a wrong by telling one's story though it means making it known to the world
Uncovering a secret at work or in a trusted organization and having to decide what to do with the information.
Didn't Becca do an amazing job? Trust me, I'll be pouring over this entry and mining every nugget!  By the way, if you haven't checked out One Stop, here is my blog post giving you a window into how I use this comprehensive writing resource. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Shared WIP Tag III- The Story World

Congratulations to Joan Edwards who won RESTART from last week's giveaway.

Thanks to almost five hundred people who read my second blog in this mini-series of posts about my WIP. That's a new record for a blog post about Half-Truths! In this post, Julian Daventry (the ring leader for these posts) challenged me and my fellow bloggers with ten more thought-provoking questions. Click here for Part I in this series, and Part II.


1. Name a unique aspect of your story world.

Both neighborhoods, Myers Park where Kate Dinsmore lives with her grandparents, and Cherry, an African American neighborhood where Lillian Harris lives three miles away, still exist.  Several years ago I met a gentleman who grew up in Myers Park. Although his grandparents’ home is now subdivided into condominiums, we walked through parts of it. I have used it as a model for the Dinsmore home--including the gardens and the barn out back that once stabled horses. 


George Snyder pointing out the "LS" (his grandfather's initials)
carved into the shutters on his grandparents' home. 

One of my other experts was an elderly gentleman who grew up in Cherry. One day he drove me around the neighborhood and showed me his church and the home he grew up in. 

Price Davis outside his childhood home in Cherry.


2. Talk about one of the important animals in the story (someone's pet or horse; or a fierce animal the MC must defeat).

When Kate leaves eastern, NC to live with her wealthy grandparents, she brings along her goat, Eileen. In a lot of ways Eileen represents Kate’s past that she doesn’t want to let go of. But, Eileen is stubborn and rambunctious and in some ways she represents Kate’s future too. (I’m not going to explain that. You’ll have to read the book to find out more!)

This is research.

3. A paragraph describing something in your storyworld (building, landmark, etc.).

Occasionally, Kate writes poems. In this scene Kate is walking back to her grandmother’s house after secretly meeting Lillian in Cherry. (Crossroads is the fictional town where Kate grew up.)

In Crossroads, nights were soft blankets
stars, my friends.
In the city, harsh street lamps glare,
Giant shadows loom behind every tree.
Footsteps echo.
Is someone following me?

Run across Kings Road.
Safe in Myers Park now.
Breathe.
Goosebumps prick my skin.
Monster mansions line the road.
Quiet. Solemn. 
They don’t care about a country gal
rushing past.
I belong here,
right? 
Not in Cherry.
Where Negros live.

4. Something dangerous in your story world.

This is part of a scene when Kate and Lillian go downtown together.

Over the lunch counter the WHITES ONLY sign accuses me. I stare at the chalkboard menu next to the large mirror. Will the waitress serve Lillian? She should! Lillian’s sand-colored skin is almost as white as mine! Now I understand why she’s wearing a suit. With less of her skin showing, she’ll blend in better.
      The waitress takes our order without giving either of us a second glance. I spin my stool, trying to relax.  The police officer who had shoved past us when we were standing outside Liggett’s swaggers past the colored kids. He stops, twirls his nightstick, and says something I can’t hear. Whatever he says, the kids nod their heads obediently. But when he turns his back, a boy sticks his tongue out. The kids hold their hands up to their mouths as if holding in laughter.
      I twirl back and look at our reflection in the mirror. Lillian is sipping her Coca Cola like she’s savoring every ounce. “Don’t look now, but that fat policeman we saw outside just walked in,” I whisper. “Pretend like you’re minding your own business. Maybe he won’t see us.”
     “I AM minding my own business,” Lillian hisses back. 
     “Hey there, Officer Duckworth,” the waitress calls. “Want your usual?”
     “Yes, Susie. Two hot dogs all the way!” he looks up and down the counter. “You’re mighty crowded here today. There ain’t a place for a hard-working officer of the law to rest his aching feet.”
     “It’s the special,” Susie jots down his order on her pad. “Brings everyone in off the street.” She jerks her finger towards the colored kids and wrinkles her nose. “‘Specially them.”
     “They shouldn’t give you no trouble,” Officer Duckworth says. “If they do, you just let me and my partner here handle it.” He taps his nightstick that’s hanging from his hip.
      Officer Duckworth strolls along the row of stools, greeting some of the customers, and patting a few on the back. He’s heading right for us! What are we going to do if he figures out Lillian is colored? We’ll be arrested and dragged off to jail! I can’t believe Lillian’s put us in such danger. When Grandmother finds out what we’ve done, I’ll never be allowed out of the house again.
     Lillian’s eyes meet mine in the mirror. Outside of a vein pulsing in her neck, her face is as calm as the fish pond behind Pop’s house. She pats my hand. “My Daddy always says, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained!’”   
     I grit my teeth. More than anything I want to be mad at her, but I can’t. 
     Her passing was my idea.

5. Something delightful in your story world.

Remember the marble in Post II? Kate's grandfather gives one to her one to and Lillian. Uncomfortable with receiving a gift from her white employer, Lillian tries to give it back:


“Nonsense! I have more than I can ever play with.” He laughs and shakes his head. “Besides, who’s going to tell me that an old man can’t give trinkets to two pretty young women?” 
 He slides the marble drawer closed. “It’ll be our secret,” he says. Then he sits down and picks up his paper. I toss my marble from one hand to another. Do I want to share a secret with Lillian? 
Thunder rattles the window. Suddenly, the library door slams open. As if string ties our hands together, Lillian and I pocket our marbles at the same time. 

6. A movie soundtrack that would complement the setting.
I have no idea. But here's a song Kate likes to dance to:
More Research


7. How does the geography impact the story?

The physical landscape doesn’t play much of a part, but this is a uniquely southern story. I recently explained the premise to an older friend in Grand Rapids, MI. Her response made me realize that the politics and history of the South—although studied in other parts of the country—may shock readers who have not lived in the South.

8. Is there a particular location or time period your story you had in mind when creating your story world?

North Carolina, 1952. As a result, I've read about the Korean War, McCarthyism, tobacco farms, fashion, cars, architecture...you name it. See my Pinterest boards for pictures!

9. What is the climate like, and does it play a role in the story?
It's hot and humid in the summers, but that doesn't play a huge role. I've realized that I probably have included too many storms though...

10. Are there any traditions, and do they have an effect upon the plot? 

I can't think of any!
********


I hope you'll check out my fellow bloggers answers and see how they answered these questions.




Monday, October 30, 2017

Restart by Gordon Korman: A Review and Audio CD Giveaway

What if you’re an 8th grade football player who has built your reputation around bullying. You’re suddenly given the opportunity to rewind the clock and restart your life. Would you do it? 

That’s the problem that Chase Ambrose faces in Restart by Gordon Korman. After falling off his roof and going into a coma, he wakes up in a hospital and can't remember anything. Not his mother, brother, or the picture on his phone of three boys (including himself) who are thrilled over some sort of prank. (Note: since this review is of the audio CD provided by Recorded Books quotes might not be absolutely accurate. I did my best!)




Review

I reach back for an image of mom and come up totally empty. Ditto dad, home, school, and friends, and I come back empty….I’m blank. I’m like a computer with it’s a hard drive wiped clean. You can reboot it and it’s operating system works fine. But when you look for a document file to open, nothing’s there. Not even my own name.

The doctor says his ability to access his memory has been damaged and there's no telling when it will return. Meanwhile he must re-meet everyone in his life for the first time. In this way, he learns about himself before his accident. He sees his father and step-mother and step-sister and thinks, "They already know me, but don’t like me. What did I do to them? They look like I’m a time bomb going off in their face. Karin shrinks back like I’m going to eat her."

Being in his own room is weird. There are dozens of photos and shelves of trophies. "I’m really somebody. I only wish I knew who. I’ve been parachuted into someone else’s life. What kind of person am I?"

Korman uses multiple points-of-view to show how Chase is perceived by his peers. Through their reactions he gains clues as to who he used to be. In Chapter 2 the reader meets Shoshanna Weber at a frozen yogurt parlor. He smiles at her and she "goes ballistic," dumping her yogurt on his head. "He looked as if he’d never seen me in my whole life—not like he’d played a starring role in destroying my family."

Back in his POV on the first day of 8th grade, Chase gets dropped off and has no idea who anyone is:

All I see are football players who push people out of the way and are supposed to be my friends. They eye each other like they don’t believe me.  I don’t blame them for not believing me. I'm surrounded by all these people and I’m still alone. 
He meets with the principal who chooses his words carefully:

"This is a rare opportunity to rebuild yourself from ground up. Don’t squander it. Millions would want a blank canvas." I’m struggling to find the person I was, and he wants me to change? What was wrong with the old me that now I have to be somebody else?

Chapter 4 is narrated by Brendan, a member of the video club who is shocked when Chase comes to sit with him. Despite Shoshana's disapproval, he becomes Chase's new best friend and invites him to the video club. 

Meanwhile, his football buddies, Aaron and Bear (other POV characters), are loud and obnoxious and wonder why he'd rather hang out with the video kids than with them. Chase tags along when they go to a local nursing home for their community service. He finds out that he'd also been sentenced to service and discovers the awful prank the three of them pulled off. He befriends Mr. Solway, a Korean vet, who jokes that they are "memory loss buddies." This friendship proves pivotal in the book.

Aaron wonders, "Is the old Ambrose trapped in there and will come out and be normal?"  Chase wonders the same thing. His new normal is being a stranger in a strange land. "I’m definitely famous at school, but am I famous good or famous bad? Everyone has a slightly different version of me. Who should I believe?"

As Chase searches for who he once was and who he is now, his father pushes him to become the champion football prayer he once was. Returning memories of feeling powerful and confidant on the football field layer in more conflict for Chase.

Korman's ability to delve deeply into Chase's POV makes this book an insightful look at bullying. In moments of awareness, Chase realizes that he and his friends bullied others to feel better about themselves, and that he’ll never be able to erase their memories of who he was before his concussion. 

The last third of the book moves quickly through misunderstandings between characters, lies, complicated motivations, high stakes, and ultimately to Chase taking responsibility for his behavior before falling off the roof. 

Restart (Scholastic, 2017) is masterfully written and will be a great classroom resources on  bullying. Up until the end it seemed a little stereotypical: before his accident, Chase was the bad, bullying football player, and afterwards he became a goody-goody that Bear and Aaron didn't recognize. But in the end, Shoshanna in her forthright manner gave an honest perspective of Chase: 


It's the mix of good and bad that makes my head spin....
The big question is what kind of person is Chase going to be now? He gave the medal back--that's a plus. But there are minuses too, like at school, when he lied to cover up for his old friends. I'm not saying that to make him look bad; I'm trying to give you a totally honest picture of Chase today. Thanks to falling off that roof, he's been given a chance to restart his whole life.


A Mini-Author Interview (via Twitter)


CAROL: What prompted Restart?


GORDON: The topic of how kids treat one another-and why- has always been fascinating to me. This began as almost a thought experiment about the nature versus nurture of what makes a bully. 

CAROL: The multiple POV works so well for this story. Why did you decide to use it?


GORDON: I've been doing multiple POV for a couple of decades, dating back to NO MORE DEAD DOGS and before. It doesn't work for every type of story, but it's great for portraying an environment- a middle school, let's say--as the rolling, chaotic maelstrom and axes to grind that it really is. Often, different narrators will see the same set of events completely different. It's a style I use a lot lately, and kids genuinely seem to respond to it. 



Audio CD Giveaway


The fact that the audio CD is narrated by multiple narrators conveys the real feel of a school environment. To enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment by 5 PM on November 3. If I don't have your email address, please leave that too! Share this on social media or become a new follower of my blog, and I'll enter you twice. Just let me know what you did in your comment. 

Bonus: Here is an audio snippet from Brendan's POV.