Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where the Lilies Bloom

Title:  Where the Lilies Bloom
Authors:  Vera and Bill Cleaver
Target Audience:  13 and up
Reading level:  9th grade
Main characters:  the Luther family
Roy:  father
Devola:  18, oldest daughter
Mary Call:  14, second daughter
Romey:  only boy
Ima Dean:  5, youngest child
Kiser Pease: owns the land and house in which the Luther family live, wants to marry Devola

Summary:  The Luther family lives in the mountains of North Carolina.  Cosby, the mother, has already passed away.  When Roy Luther realizes he's dying, he calls Mary Call in and requires some promises from her.  First, she is to be sure the family has pride in themselves.  Second, she must keep the family together and accept no charity.  Finally, she must not let Devola marry Kiser Pease.  If she can't keep it from happening any other way, she should go to town to tell the judge Devola is "cloudy-headed."  Devola is often referred to as "cloudy-headed" throughout the book because, although she is eighteen, she seems more of a child than five-year-old Ima Dean.  Also, Roy doesn't want a there to be a big fuss about his passing--no undertaker, no preacher, not even a funeral--just a simple burial up on the mountain. 
The book details the many trials of the Luther family following Roy's death.  The children learn "wildcrafting"--hunting through the forest for roots, berries, bark, and other things that people outside the mountains use to make things such as medicines--to sell for money to buy food and shoes.  Mary Call is worried about leaving Devola and Ima Dean home when she and Romey go back to school--if someone stops by, the girls may slip and say something that will let out that Roy Luther is dead.  Mary Call and Romey cannot spend time with friends from school because of worries that they might find out.  Some people are insistent on talking to Roy Luther, Kiser included.  The climax comes when Mary Call gets sick after spending a winter afternoon trying to find a cave in which the family can live, since they are being kicked out of their house.  Finally, Devola's "cloudy-headedness" seems to have disappeared--she and Kiser are going to get married, the family house and some land are put in Devola's name, and Mary Call recovers.  The harvesting will continue come spring, with plants too numerous for Mary Call to list.

Review:   Although not told from an overtly Christian perspective, God is referenced in the book.  At times, in the depths of winter and their troubles, Mary Call and Romey feel forgotten by the Lord.  But as the book ends, with spring on the way, Mary Call realizes that these thoughts are childish and wasteful.  The book deals with the trouble lies bring and how difficult it can be to keep a lie going.  There is also an issue of whether it is acceptable to break a promise--Mary Call promised a dying man that she wouldn't let a marriage between Devola and Kiser happen.  But when Devola somehow matures and loses her "cloudy head," the reason for that promise has disappeared.
Although the book uses some phrases and wording that may not be common to the average young reader of today (both regional mountain language and language that may be slightly unfamiliar because the book was originally written in 1969), I believe that most of the wording will be understandable by context.  I enjoyed the book, which was a National Book Award Finalist.

4 stars--Out to eat.

Pretty good. The writing is good. Any objectionable elements are treated very well. No problems. I would read this author again. I'll probably keep the book to re-read.

Love in Christ,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Hello again, y'all!

This week's review
Title:  Happenings
Author:  Katie Cobb
Target Audience:  12 and up (according to the publisher)
Reading Level:  8th grade (according to a formula I found online)
Main Characters:
   Kelsey Gene Blackwell:  17-year-old senior
   Mrs. Delaney:  Advanced Placement English teacher
   Russ Blackwell:  Kelsey's older brother, and legal guardian

Kelsey's mother is "away" dealing with depression, and her father died of an aneurysm.  So she lives in her family house with her older brother Nathan, who is in medical school).  Her other older brother, Russ, was appointed her guardian by dad's will, but he lives with his wife and two children.  It's second semester of Kelsey's senior year in high school.  The book starts in the middle of things with Kelsey's best friend upset at her about her decision.
Last semester, Advanced Placement (AP) English was tough.  Two difficult books a month, engaging discussions, writing assignments and challenges to think made the class like college--Kelsey and her classmates would have no problem testing out of freshman English.  Suddenly, Mrs. Delaney is just handing out worksheets and sitting at her desk.  Although Kelsey is good at English and knows she'll be able to pass the AP test without the extra help, she knows some of the other students need the extra help and need the financial help of not needing the class in college.  At lunch one day, Drew, one of the AP English students, makes a suggestion--a peaceful protest.  No one will do any classwork or homework until Mrs. Delaney goes back to teaching like she did before.  All of the students agree, and the protest begins.  No one expects it to last more than that one class period, but it doesn't end.  As parents find out and zeroes are given for worksheets, quizzes, and tests, some of the students seem to want to end it, but can't figure out how--with all of these zeroes, even if they started doing work again, even Kelsey has no hope of passing the class, much less other students who aren't as good at English.  Russ punishes Kelsey for her involvement in the protest with a series of envelopes which each include a different punishment.  He gives one envelope for each day the protest continues (after he finds out because the school notifies students' parents/guardians they are in danger of failing AP English) promising her that the fifth envelope WILL end her involvement.  He tries to convince her to work even if the other students won't.  But Kelsey is torn, feeling that she can't abandon her friends.
Most of the students want to end the protest, especially after they find out the circumstances behind the change in Mrs. Delaney--turns out her husband is dying of cancer.  She attempted to transfer the AP class to another teacher, but no one else was willing or had the certification.  The students find it especially difficult to end the proposal when Mrs. Delaney is absent for several days, so they can't talk to her.
The protest eventually ends about two weeks later after Kelsey offers Mrs. Delaney a proposal--they'll help do chores, cook dinner, and sit with Mr. Delaney; and Mrs. Delaney will have more time to prepare lessons.  Also, if Mrs. Delaney will let them, they'll make up the work they didn't do.  The book ends with Kelsey devising a plan to find out what the final punishment would have been (without receiving it, as Russ has threatened if she tries to open it without his knowing).

Where is the line between being your own person and standing up for someone else?  Might there be another way to handle the situation?  Kelsey is trying to gain independence and make her own decisions without what she sees as her strict brother's butting in all the time.  But she makes a decision based on two options without considering the possibility of other options and follows the crowd.  No one tried to approach Mrs. Delaney respectfully between classes and ask why she had changed.  Sometimes, when you get involved in a group effort, it can seem to have a mind of its own.  That's definitely not a good thing in this case, when even the students who want to stop can't--both because of the grades and because of the solidarity. 
Kelsey and the other students make a bad choice--to rebel against a teacher and refuse to do their work.  And there are consequences.  Zeroes on work drop grades severely.  Five students, including Kelsey, are suspended for their involvement after being reported as the "leaders."  Some of the students are grounded or other privileges taken away.  They realize that they have hurt a good teacher. 
The dangers of speeding are addressed when Kelsey is found driving 93 mph on the interstate with a speed limit of 70--she is reminded of them, although she herself is not in an accident.
There are a few instances of profanity.  Kelsey is interrupted before completing two of them ("don't know sh--" (p.2) and  "was sometimes a pain in the --" (p. 53)).  The word "damn" is used approximately three times.  All of these show Kelsey's anger at the situation.  In all but one of those spoken, another person present is upset at the usage. 
Although some objectionable elements are present, I do not believe they are used just for the sake of having them.  Therefore, I still find this book acceptable, although I personally would raise the age somewhat above the publisher's "12 and up."

3 stars--A good meal.

The book is satisfying. Maybe a couple problems with how things are treated, but overall a good book. Be very cautious with readers who accept everything they see in print. I would try another book by this author.

Love in Christ,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Delayed Review

Howdy y'all!

I have a book read and ready to review, but we had a surprise visit today that kept me from being able to post.  Life happens, even to a bookworm.  I'll get y'all a post tomorrow about what I think is a pretty good book on how a choice that's supposed to just last through English period may keep a few seniors from graduating.  But right now, this tired little bookworm hopes she has the strength to make it to bed.

Pleasant dreams,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Slide

Hi, y'all!

Today's review:

Title:  The Slide
Author: Catherine Farnes
Target Audience:  Young Adults
Main characters: 
Taren:  the 16-year-old narrator
Will:  Taren's father
Pastor Bruce Adams
Payne Adams
Other members of the youth group
The Craig family:  Dakota, Jaycee, and Hayden

Summary:  Taren's father left nine years ago.  It was only about eighteen months ago that she stopped waiting for him to come back, but after 7 1/2 years of absolutely no contact, she finally gives up.  Then, about six months ago, he shows up, claiming that's he's become a Christian and wants to do the right thing.  Taren feels neglected and doesn't want anything to do with her father.  She has been pulling away from youth group, neglecting her Bible, fighting with her mother, and wearing clothes that are increasingly shorter.  Taren decides she'd rather go on a backpacking trip with the youth group than spend time with her father, but Will ends up coming along when one of the chaperones is injured while preparing for the trip.  While at the top of the mountain, a near-fatal accident involving one of the boys from the youth group and Jaycee leads Taren to realize that she had made a conscious decision not to forgive her father which has left her sliding down an icy slope.  Suddenly, she wants to know how to forgive her father.  She begins to say something, but is interrupted.  But the interruption allows enough time to think so that when she gets another chance, she is ready. 
Review:  This book deals with running from God and what can happen when even a small decision is made to go against what one knows to be right.  There is more than one person running from God in this story.  Taren, Will, and Hayden Craig are each running in his or her own way.  The book also shows that actions have consequences, sometimes unexpected.  Payne's joking behavior is annoying in youth group, but becomes life-threatening on the mountaintop.  Like in Over the Divide, God uses special circumstances to draw people unto Himself.  The importance of forgiveness is another focus of this book. 

Another book that I love to re-read.
4 stars--Out to eat.

Pretty good. The writing is good. Any objectionable elements are treated very well. No problems. I would read this author again. I'll probably keep the book to re-read.

Gladly forgiven,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Over the Divide

Hi, y'all,

Today's review

Title:  Over the Divide
Author:  Catherine Farnes
Target Audience:  Young Adult
Main Characters:
Jacy Craig, 15-year-old female narrator; as the story begins, she's wondering whether God is real and if so, what he might do to draw her to Him
Dakota Craig, Jacy's brother
Hayden Craig, their father
The hikers
      The Sullivan family (Mom, Dad, and teenage daughters Sophie, and Candice)
      The Adams (Pastor Bruce and teenage son Ezra)
      The D'Arys
             Neil--famous tennis player, 18 years old, planned to come on trip without letting dad know
             Mr. D'Ary--Neil's overbearing father who comes along when he learned what Neil's doing, condescending toward the Craig family
     The two men from Germany
     The newlyweds
     Cara Benoit--an injured hiker found along the trail

The Craig family has lived in Montana and ran Back Trails Unlimited:  Guided Hunts and Hikes since shortly after Mrs. Craig died of the flu eight years ago.  Hayden is still struggling with the loss of his wife, and has avoided talking about her to the point that Jacy barely remembers her mother.  They take several six-day hikes each summer, but this hike will still be surprising.  The customers include a couple of spoiled teenage girls who spend as much time complaining about sleeping on the ground and missing e-mails as they do fawning over the famous Neil D'Ary.  Neil came to get away from tennis and his overbearing father, but isn't able to get away so easily.  When dad finds out where Neil is, he decides to come along, since he won't be able to talk Neil out of it.  Also along are Pastor Adams and his son Ezra.  Pastor Adams' friendship with her dad confuses Jacy, since Hayden doesn't usually let anyone get close to him, and more so since this man is a pastor and Hayden has been angry "at God or fate or whatever" (p. 3) since her mom's death.  (She later learns that it is due in part to Mrs. Adams having died in a skiing accident shortly before meeting her father.)  Rounding out the group are two men from Germany and a pair of newlyweds.
The first half of the trip is hard for Hayden--conversations with Pastor Adams about his wife (which always give him a headache), two missed night's sleep dealing with hiker troubles, getting caught in a heavy rainstorm in cold weather, and hiking more than thirteen miles in one day trying to find help for an injured hiker (Cara Benoit) they had come across all happen on the first half of their trip.  Hayden realizes he's too sick to continue and decides to go down with Cara and her rescuers.  Jacy and Dakota, with Pastor Adams' help, will lead the group the rest of the way.
The rest of the hike is easier, although Jacy spends much of the time worrying about her dad.  When they come out of the woods at the end of the trail and he's not waiting by their van, she is even more worried.  The group is driven back to Back Pack Unlimited Headquarters and everyone but Pastor and Ezra Adams leave.  There is a phone message from Cara saying that Hayden is doing better, but still in the hospital with severe pneumonia.  They decide to unpack and shower before eating dinner and heading into Billings to see Hayden in the morning.
While keeping watch over Hayden in the hospital, Cara has read and discussed Bible passages with him and even got him to promise to go to church with her.  He is released from the hospital Tuesday morning, but stays in Billings with the Adams family for a few days.  Cara has decided to follow her original plans to leave, so she is also in town.  Jacy needs a dress for church, so Cara and Jacy go shopping.  While out, Cara and Jacy discuss God.  Although Jacy has questions about her mom ("not knowing [where her mom is] is way less scary than thinking about her being in hell" p. 134), Cara tells Jacy that they can't know that her mom didn't make a decision for God.  Also, Jacy is responsible for what she knows now--that there is a God who wants her to follow Him.  Later, while driving with her father, Jacy informs him that she has become a Christian. 
As the story ends, Dakota is frustrated with the openness to God that Jacy and Hayden are demonstrating, Jacy is provided with study helps for new believers, Hayden is being more open about his feelings and about Jacy's mom, and plans are made to visit Cara Benoit's family in Florida.  Finally, Jacy likens her salvation decision to crossing the Continental Divide on their hiking trips.  A one-time event that was also the beginning of a new trail.

The book focuses on a teenager with questions who comes to realize that, not only is God real, but He wants her.  A teenage boy frankly discusses his faith in God, even without his pastor father present, and points out that his being the son of a pastor doesn't make him a Christian any more than being the child of a trail guide makes Jacy and Dakota trail guides.  It's not real until they do it on their own.  Scriptures are used to support Biblical truths, but it is still left to the hearer to make the decision to believe.  As in real life, not everyone in the group accepts the Christian teachings, and not everything goes perfect for the believers--Mrs. Adams dies and Cara breaks her ankle.  There is even an angry response from Dakota, who considers God a crutch or "a primitive salve for . . . desperate people." (p. 142)
Over the Divide presents the Christian faith well and tackles some tough questions:  But I'm okay, because my parents are Christians, right? If God loves me, why did this have to happen?  Can another person be "the constant in my universe"?
I believe this is a great book.  I have read it more than once previously, and will likely read it again. 

4 stars--Out to eat.

Pretty good. The writing is good. Any objectionable elements are treated very well. No problems. I would read this author again. I'll probably keep the book to re-read.

Curled up with a good book,

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting Started

Hi, y'all!

I'm Bella the Bookworm, and I love to devour books!  My Mission Statement on the right pretty much tells why I'm here:  I'd like to help parents out by giving them a review and summary of books that their kids might want to read.  Although I am a Christian, and the reviews will be from a Christian perspective, these reviews aren't restricted to Christians.  Even if you aren't a Christian, you might not want to expose your children to everything the world has to offer just yet.
My first review will be ready in a couple days, but I wanted to use my first post to introduce myself and the blog a little.
Although I have no little worms--er, little ones--of my own yet, I have been working with children for many years, and have read a lot of children's books.  During my time at a Christian college, I took a class in Children's Literature and a class in Adolescent Literature.
I plan to post at least once a week, maybe more often depending on the lengths of the books.  I'm starting out with some books from my collection, but I'd love to hear from you if you have any suggestions or requests. 
Not all of the books I review will be from Christian authors.  There are many moral books in which good is rewarded and bad is punished that are not written explicitly from a Christian perspective.  My reviews will be based not only on the presence or absence of objectionable elements, but also on how they're used and treated.  So, I may read a book and find out that it's pretty bad.  If so, I'll tell you.
So, not every book on this site will be great.  I'll let you know what I think should be good for kids, and what I think they shouldn't read.  But I'll also tell you why, because in the end, you're the parent of that reader, not me.
I also plan to include some posts about reading or books in general.

Well, I'm off to read my first review book.  Come back soon for a story about a girl on a mountain.

Love in Christ,