A Trio of Books for Youth

Due to the fact that it takes me a couple of weeks to put together the behemoth monthly book posts, I have decided to break it up a little. Since my last post, I’ve read three good books for youth which, conveniently enough, provide me with a modicum of a theme for my first assay. Alas, for those of you who receive this in their inbox and are only interested in my parental goings-on (though I would argue that my reading has a lot to do with my parenting) your inbox will sag a little more under the weight of more emails from me. However, lest you are feeling very self-pitying about this, let me remind you that we are living in the digital age and trashing this missive is as easy as clicking on the little delete icon.

So stop complaining.

First book:

Crossed by Ally Condie

This is the second book in a projected trilogy by Ally Condie. I reviewed the first one in my last book post and really enjoyed it. Condie’s  dystopian world building is excellent as well as her main character’s , Cassia, slow realisation that all is not well in a world she had hitherto never questioned. The second tome follows Cassia into the outer provinces, in pursuit of Ky, who had been taken and shipped out as a decoy to populate the war torn villages. Cassia is in a labour camp and has to find a way to escape. As she is a citizen, she will not be chosen to go to the villages so she hides her papers and pretends she is an anomaly, sort of like a whitewashed, futuristic version of the untouchables. To be an anomaly however does not only depend on your parentage – you can condemn yourself to it by defying the Society.

Told in alternating chapters by both Cassia and Ky, Crossed falls prey to the pitfall of the second in a trilogy novel. It is rambling, a little disjointed with an extremely unsatisfactory ending. Much of it takes place with both Ky and Cassia on the run – at first separately and then finally together. But miscommunication and errors on both their parts erodes the trust between them. The love triangle is still there, though the third point, Xander, only makes one cameo in the whole book.

However, it is a fast-paced read, and Condie does a good job at making both Ky and Cassia as flawed  and human as possible. Although the ending feels anti-climactic, Condie brings the reader back to the Society in a way where to not read the third volume in this trilogy is not really an option.

Second Book:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jaqueline Kelly

I just read Kelly’s biography and discovered she lived on Vancouver island before moving to Texas. Hmmm. Curious.

But I digress. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a lovely story for the 9 to 12 set, about an eleven year old girl discovering her grandfather, Darwin, her love of science and the crushing fact that the world is expecting different things from her.

Written from the perspective of Calpurnia, we meet her in the last six months of 1899, on the eve of the new century. She is the only girl, right, smack in the middle of six brothers. Although her home life is a happy one- there is love and understanding between the members of the family, Callie feels like she is a constant disappointment to her mother. For she would rather go off with her grandfather with a butterfly net and a notebook to observe the world around her. When she and her grandfather discover what they think is a new species of vetch ( a sort of hairy leafed plant) months are spent in agonising anticipation for a letter of confirmation from the National Geographic society.

In the meantime, her mother decides Callie must learn the domestic arts, to Callie’s utter horror. Callie does not know how to tell her parents that she does not want to be a housefiw. She wants to be a scientist.

A lovely, slow read about a girl who is building up the courage to confront and oppose the world’s expectations for her future, the evolution of Calpurnia Tate is at once an interesting historical novel for kids, a moving and funny coming of age story and a charming portrait of a large family.

I would recommend this book for girls who are avid readers and interested in science. Although I am sure everyone would enjoy it, it might be a hard sell for those kids who need more plot.

Third book:

Scribbling Women by Marthe Jocelyn

Reviewed from a Librarything copy

I loved this book. Unfortunately, like many of the review copies I receive, I tend to lump these books in a corner and give priority to my own personal reading wish list. Well, once again I am stuck eating humble pie.

Scribbling women is a unique compendium of women in history. None of them were writers, but all of them left behind journals, letter or in one case, childhood scribblings that have helped to illuminated certain aspects of their society. It begins a thousand years ago with a courtier in Japan. Jocelyn then moves to 18th century England and the plight of Margaret Catchpole who was sent to Australia for stealing a horse. Her letters home  are an intriguing account off life in a penal colony. From women explorers to Nellie Bly, Jocelyn describes these women’s lives in clear, easy to understand prose. It was a real delight to read and have recommended it to the grade 7 and 8 English teacher as  perhaps a source for a project in her class.

Note: The Tundra site puts the book at 14+ but I think it would be an interesting read aloud for younger kids (9 to 12). In fact, I was thinking of reading it with my daughter, but we are going through the Percy Jackson’s together and I am afraid it might take a while.

Happy Holidays!

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