Monday, July 24, 2017
MMGM: Beautiful Blue World
I picked up this book at my library. I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and the fact that it was about two girl friends, but seeing it was by Suzanne LaFleur closed the deal. I'm convinced she can't write a bad book—and her ability to convey emotion is extraordinary.
If you like suspenseful books about war or the power of friendship, this book is for you.
The synopsis (from Amazon):
Beautiful Blue World is a thrilling and moving story of children who become the key to winning a war.
Sofarende is at war. For twelve-year-old Mathilde, it means food shortages, feuding neighbors, and bombings. Even so, as long as she and her best friend, Megs, are together, they’ll be all right.
But the army is recruiting children, and paying families well for their service. If Megs takes the test, Mathilde knows she will pass. Megs hopes the army is the way to save her family. Mathilde fears it might separate them forever.
This touching and suspenseful novel is a brilliant reimagining of war, where even kindness can be a weapon, and children have the power to see what adults cannot.
What to love about Beautiful Blue World:
1. An expertly drawn girl friendship: While boy-girl friendships are very common in kidlit (possibly to appeal to both kinds of readers), I find them less common in real life. The story of these two girls really resonated with me and reminded me of the close friends I have from childhood. We need more books like this that show girls sacrificing and looking out for one another (no more mean girls, please).
2. A close family relationship: You would think that because a family is willing to send their daughter off to work for the army, that they do not care for her. So the neighbors think. But Mathilde's close relationship with her sisters, her mother, and especially her father were so lovely. LaFleur’s use of memorable details makes this happen.
3. Mathilde’s gift is not your typical “talent”: Mathilde is not chosen not for her math or science or writing skills, but her gift with people. It made me think of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences; academic smarts are not the only kind of smarts. What a wonderful message for kids.
4. Children are important and insightful: I think what will appeal to a lot of kid readers is how the children in the book are integral to the war effort, though not in ways you might think. The emphasis in this book is how adults might from kids.
5. Suspense, emotion, and depth: This is a book I had a hard time putting down. When I analyze why, it wasn’t just that it was suspenseful and had high stakes; it’s that those stakes had meaning and emotional resonance. While you might speed read through this book to find out what happens, it’s not a book you’ll quickly forget.
I’m not sure what to compare this to, although the testing at the beginning reminded me of THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY, the high stakes and emotion of THE HUNGER GAMES, and the war time setting (albeit a made-up country) of many fine MGs about life during World War II.
If you like Suzanne LaFleur’s other work, this is vastly different, but the strong emotional core that she excels at in LOVE, AUBREY and EIGHT KEYS (reviewed here) is very much present.
And if you enjoyed BEAUTIFUL BLUE WORLD, its sequel, THREADS OF BLUE is out in September. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Mathilde!
Have you read any books set in war time that you enjoyed lately?
If you'd like to check out more Monday middle grade books, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.