Monday, August 31, 2015

MMGM: Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

I picked up this book, because I so enjoyed Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. However, if you’re looking for a book like Rooftoppers, you might be disappointed. This book is utterly unique. Yes, there’s still an orphan, but this is an orphan who grew up in Zimbabwe. And just wait till she arrives in England!

Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):

Even a life on the untamed plains of Africa can’t prepare Wilhelmina for the wilds of an English boarding school in this lovely and lyrical novel from the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure.” Wilhelmina Silver’s world is golden. Living half-wild on an African farm with her horse, her monkey, and her best friend, every day is beautiful. But when her home is sold and Will is sent away to boarding school in England, the world becomes impossibly difficult. Lions and hyenas are nothing compared to packs of vicious schoolgirls. Where can a girl run to in London? And will she have the courage to survive? From the author of the “witty, inventively poetic” Rooftoppers comes an utterly beautiful story that’s sure to be treasured.

What I loved:

1.   An incredible protagonist with a huge heart: What I loved about this protagonist is that she’s not fake (a major theme in the book), she’s genuine, and she’s incredibly unique.

2.    A protagonist who solves her problems by focusing on how much her family loved her: I loved how Will kept reminding herself of her father’s and the captain’s words: “Come on, chook.” “Courage, hey.” Thinking of her dad helped her be brave and solve her problems in a lot of interesting ways.

3.  Lyrical writing.  Like Rooftoppers, the writing is interesting and unexpected. Here’s one example: “The rain began to fall in muddy curtains, soaking her hair, but the warmth from the fries was like a kiss. Potatoes, Will reckoned, solved a lot of problems.”

4.  Interesting use of POV. I have to admit that at times I wasn’t sure if I liked how POV was handled. It weaves in and out from omniscient to close 3rd, to close 3rd of completely different characters. I know my writing teachers would be slashing this with a red pen. But I eventually got used to it and I think it worked for this novel. It gave it a somewhat disorientating feel, which fit how I felt in the African sections and how Will felt in the English sections.

5.  Themes and repetitions: I noticed this, because this is something I’m working on in my own writing. Rundell does a wonderful job of developing her themes through purposeful repetition, whether it’s what Will's dad says to her, the emphasis on fake vs. real, and family and love. I love how these themes worked together.

6. Resolution: I won’t give anything away, but I’m now convinced that while I fall in love with a lot of beginnings, it’s more rare for me to truly love the ending of the book. Cartwheeling is going to stick with me, because of the way Will comes to terms with her problems at the end. It’s a fitting, realistic, and hopeful end. The best kind.

I’ve read other books set in Africa, but none had this magical quality. Rundell is certainly and author to watch.

Parental/Teacher Warning: A minor swear word is used throughout for effect. Use your discretion when reading aloud.

Have you read any magical adventures lately?

 *** I’m sad to say that this will be my last post for a little while. I’ve decided to put this blog on hiatus until I’ve finished some of my writing goals, namely finishing revisions on my MG and getting it ready to submit. I've had a hard time balancing writing and blogging this year, and I think I need to step back so I can focus on my family and writing for a little while. Thank you for supporting my blog. Your insights and enthusiasm for writing and reading always inspire me!

To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Summer Break

I've decided to extend my blogging break a little bit longer to at least the end of August, so that I can enjoy the last weeks of summer and focus on planning for the next school year.

I'll leave you with a shot my elder son took of a hike we went on earlier this summer. It reminds me of the road less traveled.

Oaks Bottom Refuge, Portland, Oregon

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Photo credit: W. Enzor

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ISWG: Get Out and Do

This post is going to be relatively short, because I just got back from a trip and my brain is still on vacation.

But I thought I'd share some pictures of what I did on Monday:

Lava River Caves, Bend, Oregon
Photo Credit (both pictures): W. Enzor
As I was descending this cave, I thought about how I've done more new things this summer than I've done in many years. I might attribute it to having been in the mom of young children stage for the last decade or so, or perhaps I've just been playing it safe.

But one of the side effects of my lack of adventure is that I tend to draw on my distant past for story ideas, rather than be inspired by the present.

Now I still don't know if this cave will ever make it into a story or not. I didn't get a light bulb idea while I was down there. I was too busy trying to keep warm and avoid tripping over rocks.

In any case, I've built up my idea bank. Not only that, but I have a load of sensory experiences to impart to any future character who gets stuck in a cave.

And that made facing my fear of enclosed spaces and bats all the more worth it.

Hope you are all having a wonderful summer, full of adventure!

How does real life inspire you?