Today is a little bit of an odds and ends post. It’s my last post of 2014, since I’ll be taking the last two weeks of December off to celebrate Christmas with my family. So, I want to fit everything in.
First, I want to share two marvelous middle grades for you. Both of these are books I’ve read to my kids in the last few months. One is more recent and one is a classic.
I have to admit that I tried reading this a few years ago and couldn’t get into it. Then I realized this was the perfect book for both my sons. It has art (for my older) and insects (for my younger). There’s something about reading aloud a book, sharing it with others, that really makes a book come alive. This time, I could hardly put it down.
What I loved about this book:
- POV of a beetle: Never, ever did I think I would love reading the POV of a beetle, but it was exceptionally well done. Not only did you get this inside view of life in the walls, but it was a good choice, since Marvin (the beetle) was so central to the action. The boy character, while endearing, didn’t drive the plot as much.
- I love with Broach’s books that you always learn something about art or history. Although the paintings by Durer in this book are made up, you learn a lot about Durer (one of my favorite artists) without even thinking about it.
- I loved the theme of friendship, of sacrificing for your friends, and finding that kindred spirit outside your family. I think kids will relate to that.
- The pen and ink drawings throughout really add to the text.
Now this is a bit of an old-fashioned read. It was written in the ‘50s, but I chose it because it takes place at Christmas and is set in France. If you can look past the anachronisms (like a French girl named “Suzy”), it’s a delightful story. Like MASTERPIECE, it’s told from an unlikely POV, an adult, a French hobo named Armand. The kids, though central to the story, are not as fully developed as Armand’s character, but that didn’t seem to turn my kids off from this book. But Armand—what a great character! He loves living under the bridge and can’t handle it when a family of starlings (children) takes his spot. He’s determined to have nothing to do with them, but eventually, of course, that changes. This book is very short (less than a 100 pages). I loved that the writing was descriptive, but sparse, not a word was wasted. Getting to experience Paris at Christmas, from the POV of a homeless man and kids, was what made this book for me. And did I say that the illustrations are done by Garth Williams, illustrator of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? That definitely added to the old-fashioned appeal.
Finally, I wanted to do an update on my goals for 2014. I set the bar very low for myself, or maybe it’s just they were rather vague, so it’s not hard to say I met them. But the writing things in 2014 that I am most thankful for:
- Finishing a MG manuscript (after writing 2 YAs). This manuscript I started five years ago and put aside when I got discouraged. I still can’t believe I finally finished it.
- In June, I applied for a Darci Pattison Novel Revision Retreat. I’ve wanted to go to one of these forever, ever since I first heard about her Shrunken Manuscript Technique. This is the first time she’s come to my state. The retreat is next month!
- And, of course, I am thankful for all of you! You have made my first year of blogging stupendous. I have been touched and inspired by your comments and support.
I hope you all enjoy your holiday season! See you in 2015!