Monday, July 18, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #21 & 22)

I plead late night Harry Potter brain for the lack of post yesterday. It finally caught up to me and I was anything but productive. So, here are two mini-reviews to catch us back up for today.

Back When You Were Easier to Love
Author: Emily Wing Smith
Pages: 296
Age Range: 12+
Published: 2011
Genre: Realistic Fiction/YA
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: **
Rating: PG

Joy and Zan seem to be the perfect couple. The only non-conventional Mormons in their happy little town of Haven, their first date had them marching in a gay rights protest. But when Zan decides to skip his senior year of high school and start early on college back in Joy's former hometown in California he leaves without saying goodbye and Joy is devastated. He'd left strict instructions with his friend Noah to keep an eye on Joy but she tires of his stalker-ish attempts at becoming her friend and is sure that his goody-goody ways are too clean, perfect and irritating to be real. But when she decides to road trip back to Cali under the guise of a college preview trip for a weekend the only person she knows with a car willing to indulge her crazy plan is Noah. Stuck in a car for hours on end Joy learns a thing or two about Noah and herself and their eventual run-in with Zan is even more enlightening.

This is a decent little story about first loves, finding yourself, and making assumptions. I’m not sure how people outside of the Mormon community will take all of the cultural mentions (many of them with a slightly negative bend showing the members as closed-minded, na├»ve bigots.) Joy sticks to her beliefs despite her desire to win back Zan and her evolving feelings for Noah but I’m afraid those beliefs will get lost in the shuffle of those things being mocked. The church is not a perfect institution, it is peopled by humans who have flaws and quirks and failings and I don’t know if those unfamiliar with the teachings of the church will appreciate the subtle jabs at the peculiar culture for what they are or take them to heart as gospel truths about the membership as a whole.

So, take that as you will. It was enjoyable on the whole and yet nothing especially outstanding. 

Grin and Bear It
Author and Illustrator: Leo Landry
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5+
Published: 2011
Genre: Beginning Reader
Cover Score: ***
Overall Grade: ***
Rating: G

Bear wants to do nothing more than make his friends laugh. He practices for hours in front of the mirror, writes hilarious jokes and dreams of the day when he can stand on a stage and bow to an adoring audience. But every time he gets close to a stage he gets horribly nervous!  Finally he signs up at the Woodland Stage and invites all of his friends to come and see him. When the curtains open his knees go weak and he gets tongue tied and runs out humiliated into the forest. He stumbles inside a local watering hole where he falls asleep exhausted and a small humming bird finds his discarded script of jokes. His friends, who’d run after him, hear them and laugh waking him up and the two work out a deal. Bear takes his new job to heart, writing jokes that Hummingbird performs on the Woodland Stage, making the entire audience laugh. Bear finds that he can live his dreams with the help of a friend in spite of his fears.

This was a fun beginning reader book. The vocabulary is a little more advanced, the pages are a bit text heavy, and there are seven short chapters rather than the usual four or five,  making it perfect for readers getting ready to make the jump to early chapter books. There is some humor mixed with realistic emotion giving it a bit of depth and substance which is always nice in a beginning reader; a far cry from the flat beginnings with Dick and Jane.

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