Monthly Archives: August 2016

Laura’s Bookshelf: The Mystery of Hollow Places

PF tag

I know my friend Heidi Mordhorst is getting ready for a juicy-good school year. Heidi is hosting Poetry Friday this week at My Juicy Little Universe.

It’s the last Poetry Friday before school begins.

Let’s have a serious talk, friends. Last year, I was sitting in my teen’s school auditorium for an awards ceremony. The event celebrated students who were academic achievers, as well as stand-outs in art, volunteerism, and other areas. My kid wasn’t being recognized. She was alone, unseen in the production booth, running sound for the event (a skill she picked up from volunteering for a local theater troupe).

Earlier in the school year, my husband and I realized that our child suffers from depression, which runs on both sides of our family. As soon as that lightbulb went off, we were able to work on treatment. That has made a huge difference in all of our lives. (Here is a listing of online resources for teen depression.)

So, I sat in that auditorium to support my amazing daughter and began to think: There are hidden kinds of achievements. Where are the awards for the kids who struggle to make it to school every day? Who deal with learning differences or mental illness? Why don’t we recognize and honor kids who work hard and achieve their best despite coping with depression or chronic illness?

Last week, I mentioned that I often avoid reading books that I know will be emotionally difficult for me. Most of the time, when I finally dive in, I’m glad that I read the book.

But sometimes there’s a book that I mistakenly think will be a straightforward sci fi novel, a thriller, or a fantasy, and the author slips challenging themes in there! To be honest, I love when that happens.

Rebecca Podos’ THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES is one of those books.

Teenager Imogene has never known her mother. She lives with her father, a scientist who now writes medical thrillers, and his new wife. When her father goes missing, Imogene is sure that her mother will have a clue leading to his whereabouts. After reluctantly accepting help from her best friend, Imogene plays detective: First she must find the mother who left her as a baby. Then, she has to find her father.

Sounds like a straightforward teen mystery, right? What underpins this story, adding layers to Imogene’s character and her worldview, is that her father’s mental illness has relapsed. Imogene’s hard edges, her mixed feelings about her closest friends and the emotional walls she puts up, all reflect the fact that she has grown up with a parent who (most of the time) copes with that illness.

It is a gorgeous book. Imogene’s complicated relationship with her best friend Jessa is one of the most honest portrayals of female friendship that I’ve read in YA. This was a book that I could not put down.

THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES published in January, 2016. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

Recommended for mature eighth grade and up.

Who will like it?

  • Fans of contemporary mystery.
  • Teens who like books about everyday people dealing with extraordinary, real-life circumstances.
  • Kids who like reading about complicated families.

What will readers learn about?

  • What it’s like to have a parent who deals with mental illness.
  • How opening up to friends and family can help those relationships grow and deepen.

I’m pairing a favorite poem with THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES. William Butler Yeatts “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” has a mournful, dreamlike quality to it that reminds me of Imogene’s father.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


What else is on Laura’s Bookshelf?

Middle Grade Books
THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH’S, by Lee Gjertsen Malone (6/16/16)
TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, by Shari Schwarz (3/31/16)
THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY, by Janet Sumner Johnson (3/25/16)
COUNTING THYME, by Melanie Conklin (12/31/15)
FENWAY AND HATTIE, by Victoria J. Coe (12/24/15)
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, by Jen Maschari (12/3/15)
PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban (11/19/15)
MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, by Brooks Benjamin (7/22/15)

YA Novels
UNDERWATER, by Marisa Reichardt (8/18/16)
SWORD AND VERSE, by Kathy MacMillan (5/22/16)
GENESIS GIRL, by Jennifer Bardsley (4/13/16)
THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, by Heidi Heilig (3/10/16)
THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z, by Natalie Blitt (1/19/16)
THE GIRL WHO FELL, by S. M. Parker (11/5/15)
SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, by Jeff Garvin (10/29/15)
SHALLOW GRAVES, by Kali Wallace (10/1/15)

Laura’s Bookshelf: Underwater

PF tag

Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads is our Poetry Friday host today. Stop by her blog for all of this week’s poetry links.

Happy Poetry Friday, writerly friends! It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post. Let’s catch up on news.

First, I finished drafting my next middle grade novel (my excuse for not blogging). More info on that to come.

Second, I have a few articles to share. Check out educator David Ruby’s post about how Sharon Creech’s verse novel LOVE THAT DOG changed him from a poetry hater to a poetry lover, and transformed his teaching. The post is here. And there’s this essay, about the importance of creative writing in the classroom.

Third, it’s a big week in the Shovan family. Pass the tissues… our eldest is leaving for his second year of college. A few days after the great departure, my husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

Last bit of news: Extra copies of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY audiobook are in my hot little hands. I’m giving away two of the cast recording (9 amazing actors — thanks, Recorded Books!) on Goodreads. This is where you can enter.

underwater

Find it at Indiebound.

I’ve been reading a lot this summer, but we haven’t visited my bookshelf since June. Let’s check out a book and see if we can figure out a poem to pair with it.

I admit to being a scaredy cat when it comes to books with tough themes. It took me forever to open up the pages of THE HUNGER GAMES (loved it). I was reluctant to read Madeleine Kuderick’s YA verse novel KISS OF BROKEN GLASS because deals with teenage self-harm (loved this book too). So I had to work up my courage to read debut YA author Marisa Reichardt’s novel UNDERWATER.

It’s about Morgan, a former competitive swimmer who has become agoraphobic, never leaving her family’s apartment. What changed for this high schooler? She is a school shooting survivor.

Do not fear, fellow softies. UNDERWATER focuses on how Morgan goes from being disabled by her anxiety and PTSD, through her first baby steps into recovery, to a place where she begins to integrate her old self and the person she has become. And Morgan is funny. Her voice is self-deprecating and awkward, full of pain and guilt, but also capable of love for her younger sibling and her mother. She forms a new friendship with the boy who moves in next door, who has secrets of his own. What makes this book such a powerful read is the way Morgan’s voice changes gradually from hopeless to hopeful.

I have been wanting to post about this book for a long time, in part because I have the *perfect* thing to pair with it. Not a poem this time, but song lyrics. (High-five to my musical theater lovers.) You’ll find a clip at the at the end of this post.

UNDERWATER published in January, 2016. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

“Forgiving you will allow me to forgive myself.”

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Recommended for seventh grade and up.

Who will like it?

  • Anyone who likes realistic YA novels with a compelling first-person voice.
  • Teens who are interested in how people cope with trauma.
  • Kids who are dealing with anxiety.

What will readers learn about?

  • What it’s like to experience agoraphobia and how it might be treated.
  • How a traumatic event might affect a teenager.
  • Anxiety may fade, but it doesn’t always go away. People can learn coping mechanisms, but may experience flare-ups over time.

The song I’m pairing with UNDERWATER is “What Would I Do If I Could Feel?” from The Wiz. Ne-yo’s amazing performance of this song on “The Wiz Live!,” is so expressive. As the Tin Man, he tells us how he longs to experience human emotions, something that Marisa’s character Morgan feels is beyond her reach in UNDERWATER. (I need to continue researching, but I believe Charles Smalls wrote the lyrics.)

 
If you’d like to read the lyrics, you’ll find them here. I ended up buying The Wiz Live cast recording — highly recommended.

What else is on Laura’s Bookshelf?
THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH’S, by Lee Gjertsen Malone (6/16/16)
SWORD AND VERSE, by Kathy MacMillan (5/22/16)
GENESIS GIRL, by Jennifer Bardsley (4/13/16)

TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, by Shari Schwarz (3/31/16)

THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY, by Janet Sumner Johnson (3/25/16)

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, by Heidi Heilig (3/10/16)

THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z, by Natalie Blitt (1/19/16)

COUNTING THYME, by Melanie Conklin (12/31/15)

FENWAY AND HATTIE, by Victoria J. Coe (12/24/15)

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, by Jen Maschari (12/3/15)

PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban (11/19/15)

THE GIRL WHO FELL, by S. M. Parker (11/5/15)

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, by Jeff Garvin (10/29/15)

SHALLOW GRAVES, by Kali Wallace (10/1/15)

MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, by Brooks Benjamin (7/22/15)