Linda Townsend won Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Charles Ghinga
Kathleen Burkinshaw won Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Hackl
Jane Leah B. won Nature's Friend by Lindsey McDivitt
Mary Housel won The Extraordinary Ordinary Moth by Darlin Gray
Thanks to all of you who entered these giveaways. Don't give up! I have lots more books to give away.
I am blessed with amazing writer friends whose stories inspire my writing. This week I am pleased to share BEHIND THESE HANDS by my writing buddy, Linda Phillips. Some of you may remember the cover reveal and when I blogged about Linda's unique path to publication for this book, which is her second novel in verse. Now you can glimpse inside this beautifully written young adult novel that came out last week. I must note that it was hard selecting which poems to share. There are many more that are poignant, eloquent, and carry the story forward.
Fourteen-year-old music prodigy, Claire Fairchild, is headed towards a music competition. Her only worry is if she takes first place over her best friend Juan--who is actually proving to be more than "just a friend." The book opens with Claire's piano practice interrupted by her younger brother Davy who is visually impaired and recently diagnosed with a learning disorder. He smiles a lot and Claire thinks,
It bothers me that he smiles so much,
maybe because it doesn't seem normal;
maybe because I know for sure
if I were in his shoes
my smile would be the first to go. (p.6)
This is her first attempt to write down the music she has composed for the competition:
"The Kite" takes off
in the dead silent stillness
of this tiny room
as if the breezes were driving
through these walls,
and I chase it with the melody
that has gelled in my brain
these weeks of practice,
I slide on the bench
to the little table,
and begin the task of setting down the notes
that are strung across my brain,
ready to pluck down
like washing on a clothesline. (p. 15)
Into the middle of her preparation that is constantly interrupted by her parents worries about Davy, his medical tests, her need to watch both brothers while her parents work, and her own self-doubts, comes devastating news:
The suspense is over.
Our house feels like
those pictures you see
after a tornado levels
but the victims are alive,
shuffling around the debris
in a daze.
It's called Batten disease.
it's going to get worse. (pp. 31-32)
In heart-wrenching verse Linda leaves nothing to the imagination as Claire and her family reel from the news that truly does get worse: Davy will die from the disease, Claire is unable to concentrate on practice, she wants to give up music all together because it feels meaningless, she is pummeled with guilt, her father won't talk about the diagnosis within the family, everyone acts like their family is normal when it is anything but, her mother is coming unraveled from lack of sleep and worry, and a cooling off with Juan that she can't explain--these are all more than Claire can bear.
Batten has rearranged our family
like pieces of familiar furniture
placed awkwardly in a new setting. (p.72)
When genetic testing reveals that her other brother, Trent, also has Batten, Claire finds out devastating news about herself:
What does that mean
what she just said?
What does that mean?
I put my head in my hands
seriously feeling faint now,
miles away as if I had just stepped
of my own body. (pp 96-97)
Into the middle of this devastation steps Claire's best friend, Mia, who drags her along on a journalism assignment. Together, they befriend Mrs. Shepherd, an elderly woman who shares her past sorrows as well as her wish that she had celebrated life more. This, along with attending the Batten Disease conference with her father, gives Claire the tools and drive to regain purpose and a plan to combat "the beast."
I know I'll find a way to help my brothers.
I know that wasting my time feeling sorry for myself
needs to be a feather
not a rock.
I know that celebrating life needs to be a rock
not a feather.
I know it might not be a bad day after all
if I keep this up. (p.199)
BEHIND THESE HANDS doesn't cut corners or pretend something is pretty when it isn't. Batten Disease cuts short the life of young people and leaves families devastated by pain and loss. But it is the story of a brave young woman who faces it head on and learns to celebrate the life of her two young brothers. In the end, she, Juan, and Mia meet with her parents to plan a fund raiser for Batten research. Other friends come to the house singing one of Mrs. Shepherd's favorite songs, "This Land is Your Land."
We all join in.
Out of the corner of my eye
I see Davy and Trent sitting at the top
of the stairs,
smiling and clapping.
Mom brings them down and we finish the song.
"Are we having a party?"
"Yeah," Trent says, rubbing his eyes,
"How come you didn't invite us?"
All eyes fall on me.
"This is just a preview, guys,
the first of manyand you will be invited
to every single one of them.
I promise." (p. 288-9)
This book belongs in the classroom to help young adult readers gain empathy for those facing severe medical difficulties. As Linda demonstrates in two scenes where bullies tease her brothers; it is often easy to pick on those who are weak.
I am giving away my autographed ARC to one fortunate reader. Leave me a comment by Thursday, July 26 to enter. PLEASE leave me your email address if you don't think I have it. If you start following my blog or share this on social media, I'll enter your name twice--but let me know what you do!
|Linda on her way out the door|
with her two verse novels-
on her way to ALA!