Monday, May 27, 2019

Emily Out of Focus: A Review and ARC Giveaway

I've reviewed two other middle grade books by Miriam Spitzer Franklin on this blog (Extraordinary and Call Me Sunflower) but Emily Out of Focus is special to me. Miriam and I were in a SCBWI critique group together for many years and I heard about her trip to China in 2006 to adopt their daughter. Emily Out of Focus (Sky Pony Press, 2019) draws from her family's experience in China. I am delighted to share this well-titled book with you.




REVIEW

From the opening pages of the book the reader gets a glimpse into what Emily wants:

-- to be a photojournalist like her grandmother,

and what she fears:

--not liking or being liked by her new little sister Mei Lin,

and what she wonders:

--why did her parents need another child and why wasn't she enough?

In order to follow her grandmother's career as a photojournalist, Emily decides to, 

a) bring along her grandmother's camera to China without her parents' permission so that,

b) she can take pictures and win a scholarship to the best photojournalism camp in the country. 

These threads weave throughout the book and--you guessed it--get her into trouble. 

Right off the plane, she meets a Chinese girl named Katherine who was adopted as a baby. Katherine's family are a part of Emily's group and have come to China to adopt another child. Although Emily has her doubts about Katherine, the two end up bonding over Katherine's secret: she plans to contact her birth mother while in China and needs Emily's help. 

Emily's days are filled with boring meetings over finalizing Mei Lin's adoption, secret adventures with Katherine, and learning to love and be loved by Mei Lin. 

Half-way through the book Mei Lin gets sick and Emily begins to realize how much she cares for her little sister. Another crucial scene is when the group visits Mei Lin's orphanage. Suddenly, Emily begins to see what it was like for Mei Lin and Katherine to be abandoned as babies. When the girls visit the park where Katherine's mother left her (a common practice), Emily watches her friend.
She sunk on the ground, running her hand over the grass, "This is where she left me," she said quietly. 
I just stood there, not knowing what to say. I reached for Nana's camera, but I froze as I looked at Katherine through the lens, the way she was staring down at the grass, a look in her eyes I'd never seen before. Despair. Overwhelming sadness,. Loss. Her eyes were filled with a kind of pain I would never know, the kind that comes from realizing your mother--the person who was supposed to love you and keep you safe--had abandoned you in the exact spot where you were standing.
I put my camera down. (pp. 153-54)

Emily Out of Focus is a realistic portrayal of a 12-year-old girl's coming to grips with a new adopted sibling. Combining Mei Lin's story with Katherine's brings a richness to the novel and will open middle grade reader's eyes to a world they might never have known.  


GIVEAWAY

I am giving away my ARC to one fortunate reader. Leave me a comment by 9 AM on May 30 and Random.org will pick a winner. If you share this on social media or become a new follower of my blog, I'll give you two chances! Please tell me what you do and provide your email address if I don't already have it. 


27 comments:

Becky Scharnhorst said...

Your wonderful review has piqued my interest! This sounds like such a heartfelt story. I’d love to read it!

Keturah Lamb said...

this looks like such a cute book. Would love to be entered ;)

keturahskorner.blogspot.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Becky and Keturah. Your names start the list!

miriam said...

Thanks so much, Carol, for reading and doing such a great job getting to the heart of my story. I greatly appreciate that you've featured all 3 of my books on your site!

Carol Baldwin said...

You're welcome, Miriam. My pleasure!

Danielle H. said...

This book is so unique as I don't find many adoption stories at all and it sounds so emotional and has an awesome setting. I shared on pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/570620215285966432 dhammelef(at)yahoo(dot)com

Theresa Milstein said...

Sounds like a lovely middle grade. I stopped reading after the sick-in-the-middle bit because I didn't want too much given away!

Carol Baldwin said...

AH, I try not to give too much away, Theresa! Your name is in. You and your students will like this one!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for sharing on Pinterest, Danielle. Your name goes in twice!

Diane B said...

Enjoyed reading your review Carol! I think this book would be a great one to read; will need to put it on my "To Be Read" pile. Will share on social media.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Diane. You're in twice!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

Your review makes me want to add this to my TBR list. I've shared on Twitter and FB.
Thanks Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Connie. You're in twice!

Rosi said...

This sounds like quite a wonderful book. Thanks for telling me about it. I will pass on the giveaway. Buried in books just now.

sheri levy said...

Wow! Sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing-

Grannyjo said...

Another great book to add to my gift li st for my grandchildren! I will have to read it first though!
Jo Lynn

Carol Baldwin said...

You will like it Jo Lynn!

Linda Phillips said...

Thanks Carol for this review. Miriam, I am excited for you and this book. I can't help but remember when we (you and Carol and I) were all in the same critique group ages ago. So happy for you on the release of this lovely story!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda. You and your grands will enjoy this book!

Theresa Jones said...

As a grandmother to 7 foster-to-adopt children, this definitely has my interest. I also posted it to twitter and added to my TBR on Goodreads.

Kathleen said...

I'm excited for my fellow Sky Pony author and her newest MG novel! I'm looking forward to reading EMILY OUT OF FOCUS. She has a wonderful way of portraying middle graders navigating relationships whether it is with friends or family members. Congratulations Miriam!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by Kathleen. You're in the giveaway!

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Sheri!

Vijaya said...

What a lovely book! Congratulations, Miriam. Carol, as always, you do a great job of reviewing and introducing new books to us. Thank you. Since I've already won books from you, don't enter me in the giveaway. I'll check it out at the library.

Carol Baldwin said...

Terrific, Vijaya. And if your library doesn't have it-- you can ask them to order it!

miriam said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments! Linda Phillips, I think you were in the group with Carol way back when I made this journey to China! My first version was centered only on a girl adopting her little sister, but I knew I needed a bigger story than that. Over the years and rewrites this book changed so the main character was an aspiring photojournalist, and the last plot element I added was when she gets asked to look for her birth mom. This storyline developed as my daughter got older and started asking a lot of questions about her roots. I hope this story will find its way not only to adopted kids with similar questions and feelings, but to the larger population to expand their definitions of family.
Kathleen, thanks as always for your friendship and encouragement!
And yes, Carol, thanks so much for pointing out that if your library doesn't carry the book, please request it! I've heard they will order the book after they receive a few requests!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for the additional info, Miriam. I should always tell people to ask their libraries to order a book!

"You're Almost in Labor!" A Celebration of Stages

  If you're reading this and have been pregnant for nine long months, or if you've been close to someone during that-seemingly-endle...