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June 2023

Rebecca’s life is turned upside down when her mother suddenly takes Rebecca and her little brother from their Baltimore home to their grandmother’s home in Atlanta. Expecting a quick trip, Rebecca is shocked to learn that they have left her father behind, and will be staying in Atlanta. New school, new kids, new house, new city. Rebecca is furious with her mother, and homesick for her dad and Baltimore.

When Rebecca discovers a magical bread box in her grandma’s attic, she thinks that she has found an easy solution to her problems. But even though her wishes are being granted, her problems seem to multiply. Somehow, Rebecca must figure out a way to make everything right again. This would be an excellent book to read in conjunction with Eight Keys. Both books have similar themes of grief, bullying, friendship and family, and it would be interesting to compare and contrast how the characters deal with their problems. Another excellent read for 5th-8th grade girls.

After committing an unspeakable crime one rainy night, Allison is sent to prison. Her sister Brynn is left to deal with their parents, their high school friends, and her guilt at being the only one who knows what really happened that evening. I’d categorize Gudenkauf’s books as “chick lit suspense.” Fans of Jodi Piccoult and Kristin Hannah will appreciate it. I also very much enjoyed her first novel, The Weight of Silence.

Quinn and Sprout live with their mother, aunt and grandma.  They see their father every other weekend.  Quinn tries to make it all work and makes numerous excuses for her fun-loving yet distant father, until she discovers something about him.  His house is filled with “trophies” that he has stolen from the many women he has married and divorced.  In an impulsive act, Quinn reaches out to her stepsister, Frances Lee, and the 3 sisters together embark on a journey to return the trophies to their rightful owners.  On their journey, the girls discover much about what true love really is and isn’t.

High school girls (and their moms) should read this book.  It’s one of the best books about dating (even though it’s a novel) that I’ve ever read.  Without being preachy or condescending, the characters, both old and young, share what they’ve learned about true love and men who are worth loving.  Some examples:

  • “This is who he is, who he will always be, and no amount of your love is going to change that.” p. 69
  • “When it comes to relationships, second thoughts should be promoted.”  p. 139
  • “Love is never unsafe.” p. 176
  • “A relationship–it shouldn’t be too small or too tight or even a little scratchy.  It shouldn’t be embarrassing or uncomfortable or downright ugly.  It shouldn’t take up space in your closet out of a guilty conscience or convenience or a moment of desire.  Do you hear me?  It should be perfect for you.  it should be lasting.  Wait.  Wait for 100 percent.” p. 312

Henry Day is stolen by some changelings when he is 6 years old.  Henry goes to live in the forest with the other changelings, and becomes “Aniday.”  Meanwhile, a changeling takes Henry’s place in life.  No one knows that the boy who was “Henry” has disppeared.  No one knows that the boy who is now Henry is really an imposter.

But a simple synopsis of this book cerainly doesn’t do it justice.   Donohue’s book is rich with detail and depth.  He explores the parent-child relationship; the power of books, reading and writing to bring meaning and understanding; the beauty of friendship; the myth of the changelings; and the freedom of forgiveness.

My favorite quote comes when a changeling observes a human boy reunite with his mother after an hour playing at the park.  The changeling observes:

A thin smile creased [the boy’s] face when she arrived, and without a word he jumped down from the swing, grabbed her hand, and off they went.  Their behavior and interaction baffled me.  Parents and children take such everyday moments for granted, as if there is an endless supply.

The changelings spend hundreds of years longing for a human family.  Too often I feel as if I spend the time I have with my children wishing it was naptime!  The reminder that the moments I have with my precious children are finite is a timely and necessary one.

Lou Ann Walker is the oldest daughter of deaf parents.  As a young toddler, she learned to help her parents with tasks that they could not accomplish in the hearing world.  Walker loved her parents, but struggled to come to terms with their deafness and what it meant for her and their family.

I found this book fascinating for two reasons. First, I haven’t before read such an intimate portrait of what it means to be deaf.  A quote from Helen Keller that Walker used is a good summary of the difficulties that Walker’s parents faced:  “Blindness cuts people off from things; deafness cuts people off from people.”  Second, because Walker was born in the 1950’s, most of the technology that we take for granted today was not in use.  When Walker’s parents had to make a doctor’s appointment, they had to drive to the doctor’s office to make the appointment.  There was no email, no fax, no internet, and TTY machines were just in their beginning stages.  I wonder how the isolation that Walker’s parents felt and their dependence on others would be different today.

There’s so much more I could say about this unique book, but I just don’t have the time.  Walker should be commended for her sensitve exploration of such a personal and tender subject.

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