Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble is a blind orphan and a thief. His other senses are, of course, exceptionally sharp and perceptive. When he steals a box with three sets of magical eyes and receives a quest to travel to the Vanished Kingdom and rescue the people there, Peter Nimble is challenged beyond anything he has ever experienced in his thieving life. Maybe the Vanished Kingdom needs a blind thief, and maybe Peter Nimble needs to become a hero and find a real home.

Beautiful, humorous, and meaningful writing characterizes this fantasy adventure. The author also inserts little asides that illuminate and explain the story and the world of Peter Nimble. Here are a few sample quotes to whet your appetite:

“Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door – be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle – at fifty paces.
Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise.”

“There is something wonderful that happens between true friends when they find themselves no longer wasting time with meaningless chatter. Instead, they become content just to share each other’s company. It is the opinion of some that this sort of friendship is the only kind worth having. While jokes and anecdotes are nice, they do not compare with the beauty of shared solitude.”

“If ever you have had the chance to spend quality time with a villainous mastermind, you will know that these people are extraordinarily fond of discussing their evil schemes out loud.”

“You may be thinking that his blindness is no handicap at all, and that it somehow gives him an advantage over the average seeing person. Some of you may even be thinking to yourselves, ‘Boy! I wish I were blind like the great Peter Nimble!’ If you are thinking that, stop right now. Because whatever benefits you may believe that blindness carries with it, you must understand that there are just as many disadvantages.”

Caveats: The story does include some rather violent and creepy images and episodes. There’s a murder of murderous crows who peck out Peter’s eyes and who peck another (villainous) character to death. There are gangs of evil apes and a few dangerous sea serpents. The children in the Vanished Kingdom are degraded and enslaved, and the adults are brainwashed into acquiescence. However, evil is ultimately defeated, and goodness and light win.

An interview with Jonathan Auxier in which he discusses the difficulties of writing a story from the point of view of a blind character.

Mr. Auxier also wrote The Night Gardener, another creepy tale with fantastic themes and images.

The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn Erskine’s middle grade novel Mockingbird, about a girl who has Asperger’s Syndrome, won the National Book Award in 2010. The Absolute Value of Mike is about a boy with a math learning disability whose father is a math and engineering genius and wants him to be one, too. Mike’s father is a little bit annoying, and he seems to be dealing with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s himself. Mike is a talented kid, just not at math and science.

I enjoyed this story about a boy who spends the summer with his extremely eccentric great-aunt and uncle, Moo and Poppy. Mike becomes involved in a town project to raise the money for Moo’s friend Karen’s overseas adoption of a boy named Mischa. Then, somehow through a series of improbable events, Mike ends up in charge of the money-raising project. He also manages to nag and yell at Great Uncle Poppy enough to pull him out of his depression brought on by the recent death of Poppy’s and Moo’s adult son. And fourteen year old Mike drives Moo’s car, gets Gladys to sing on video, and organizes a town-wide Do Over Day (the town is called Do Over).

Mike’s relatives and friends take quirkiness to whole new level as Mike spends the summer ostensibly helping get Mischa home, but really figuring out how to deal with his dad’s expectations and his own growing self-knowledge about his real talents. It’s a good story, and Ms. Erskine is an author to continue to watch for good, engaging stories about out of the ordinary middle school/teen characters. She has a new book out (September, 2013) called Seeing Red. I think I’ll look for a copy at the library.

Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

This middle grade fiction book is an odd little ghost story about a girl who finds herself unexpectedly transported into the past and about her little brother Lucca, who’s three years old and doesn’t talk.

Siena’s family is moving from the city, Brooklyn, to coastal Maine in hope of jolting Lucca into talking again or somehow helping him. Lucca, when the story begins, hasn’t spoken a word for over a year.

I liked the story. Siena is a sympathetic character, fourteen years old, obsessed with abandoned things, a little prickly and stand-off-ish because her old friends in Brooklyn think she’s weird. As a matter of fact, she is weird: Siena sees visions of the past and know things about past events and places that she shouldn’t know. Since all of us feel a little awkward and weird at times, especially at fourteen, Siena’s visions and Lucca’s silence can be stand-ins for whatever is making the reader feel out-of-place and misunderstood. That aspect of the book worked really well.

I also liked that (minor spoiler!) we never do find out why Lucca quit talking. He simply tells Siena, eventually, that he just doesn’t want to speak. Sometimes, contrary to our psychologically fixated society, kids just do stuff and make decisions for reasons that make sense to them but to no one else. And if they make bad decisions or crazy decisions or even inexplicable decisions, it’s not always someone’s fault. I liked that Lucca just didn’t want to talk. Actually, I had a child who was not totally silent, but who didn’t want to talk to anyone outside our house for a long time, so she didn’t. She grew out of it.

One thing bothered me about the book: SIena, when she is in the past is able to talk to a young man named Joshua who is suffering from PTSD or depression or some combination thereof and get him to “come back” to his family who are suffering because of his illness and withdrawal. She says:

“What will happen if you don’t is what I told you: all the people you love are going to fall apart. Their lives will be full of the darkness you’ve brought home. They will remain faceless to you. But if you get up, if you try to let a little of it go, if you make new happy memories, you can have them back.”

So Joshua “comes back.” The same thing happened in another middle grade novel I read recently, The Absolute Value of Mike by Katherine Erskine. Mike gets mad at his great-uncle, an old man who is depressed and guilty because of the death of his adult son, and the words Mike says to his great uncle Poppy somehow snap him out of his lethargy and depression and bring him to full recovery.

It’s unrealistic and puts a lot of pressure on kids to imply that if they just talk to a loved one who is depressed or grieving and say the right words and tell the person to snap out of it, they can bring that loved one back from the brink. Yes, sometimes people who are experiencing a mild depression can bring themselves back and recover with the help of wise words from another person who loves them. But sometimes, often, it takes more than a good talking-to. It takes medication or time or therapy or many talks or prayer or?

Nevertheless, I liked Listening for Lucca, and I recommend it with the above caveat. It was a sweet book. (I liked The Absolute Value of Mike, too, but I never managed to get a review posted. Great book, quirky misfit characters, good story-telling, even though a bit unbelievable.)

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

The INSPY Awards are blogger-initiated book awards for fictional literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith. The awards were given in several categories in 2011, including the category of “literature for young people”, and I got to be judge in that category. The INSPY Awards took a break in 2012, but they’re back this year. And the list below is the “long list” of nominated books in the Literature for Young People category for this time around:

Wreath by Judy Christie
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo. Semicolon review here.
Thundersnow by Sheila Hollinghead
Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan. Semicolon review here.
Cake – Love, Chickens and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin
Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee
The Embittered Ruby by Nicole O’Dell
The Shadowed Onyx by Nicole O’Dell
Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker
Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK by Betsy St. Amant
Temptation: Solitary Tales No. 3 by Travis Thrasher
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Three of the books on the list I’ve already read and reviewed, as indicated. Actually, I read How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr, and I thought I reviewed it but can’t find the review anywhere. I liked all three very much. I read a couple more of the books on this long list this past week: There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones and Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker (review coming soon).

Ms. Jones is a rather prolific author of teen romances for Christian girls. Her books were all over Lifeway last time I was there. I rad one of her other books a year or two ago and thought it was just “meh.” This one was fairly low on the scale, too, and would have received a complete pan, were it not for the setting: Ireland.

Finley Sinclair, daughter of a wealthy hotel magnate, and sister to Will whose death in a terrorist incident has put Finley’s life in a tailspin of grief, is headed for Ireland to spend a year studying and trying to reconnect with God. Will came to love and know God when he studied in Ireland, and Finley hopes to follow in his footsteps, literally by visiting all of the places Will wrote about in his travel journal. Color Finley grey: grief-stricken, questioning, recovering from a mental breakdown, and lost.

Enter Beckett Rush, teen heart-throb, Hollywood player and bad boy, and star of a series of vampire movies. He’s in Ireland to film the latest movie in the Steel Markov vampire franchise. Beckett and Finley meet on the plane, clash, and hope never to see one another again. Alas, predictably, they are destined to meet again, clash again, and eventually fall in love and live happily ever after.

OK, it’s not quite that cliche. Take away the “live happily ever after.” Beckett and especially Finley are dealing with way too many issues to have a traditional happy ending. Beckett has a pushy dad who doubles as his greedy manager. Finley has mental health issues, a grouchy school assignment, and the loss of her faith, as well as the afore-mentioned grief and Beckett to keep her busy and confused.

As I think about it, this book would have made a good K-drama: Finley falls asleep on Beckett’s shoulder and drools, the two feud but are thrown together in spite of themselves, there’s a group of nasty, jealous girls at school, Finley has a sidekick, Erin, whom she mentors, lots of K-drama tropes. An awkward kiss or two, change the nationalities and the setting of the novel, take out the God-talk, and it would work on Korean TV just fine. In fact, it would work better on screen and with some editing.

I probably wouldn’t have made it through this one, though, if it hadn’t been set in Ireland. Give me a vivid setting, and I’ll follow you anywhere. And I got to read parts of the dialogue with an Irish lilt inside my head. A good plot and some engaging characters would have helped the journey, however.

Other reviews in which the blogger thought it was just peachy (I may be in the minority on this one): Edgy Inspirational Romance, YA Books Central, Christian Novels, Tree Swing Reading, etc.

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

When thirteen year old Sophie, bored with her life in the summer of 1960 in rural Louisiana, wishes for a magical adventure, a nameless, capricious, ghostly creature sends her 100 years into the past to the year 1860 in Louisiana, just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Sophie gets a lot more adventure than she bargained for, and she soon realizes that going back into the past isn’t all fun and games.

The Freedom Maze is kind of a Gone With the Wind tale, set on an antebellum Louisiana plantation and told from the point of view of the black slaves instead of the white masters (or mistresses). In fact, it might be a good balance or antidote to Gone With the Wind and other romanticized versions of life in the Old South. It certainly wasn’t all belles and balls and big dresses, especially not for the slaves who made the economy and culture of the region workable by their bondage and labor. I thought it was fascinating, educational, well-written, and terribly sad, with a touch of hope at the end. Older middle grade readers (age 13 and up) who are interested in learning the truth about what slavery was really like will find the story illuminating.

Warning: This book contains “hoodoo” and herb magic and superstition and ghostly magical creatures. The way these things were portrayed in the book wasn’t a problem for me as a conservative, evangelical Christian, but if you don’t want any elements like these in your reading or your child’s, then The Freedom Maze is not for you. Even more problematical for some readers might be the recurring stories of attempted rape and miscegenation as slave owners “meddle with” their female slaves producing light-skinned progeny who remain enslaved and considered “black.” That this sort of thing happened frequently is undeniable, and the descriptions are not graphic. However, my eleven year old would be clueless and confused as to what was going on in this story. My thirteen year old just might learn something about the tragedies of life and of our history.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

I finally got a chance to read this third book in the Penderwick series, and I can tell anyone who hasn’t already read it that it’s just as good as the first two books about the Penderwick family of four girls—Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty—having adventures and growing up.

In this particular installment of the Penderwick saga, Jane falls in love herself when she tries to write a romance for her bold protagonist, Sabrina Starr. Skye becomes the OAP (oldest available Penderwick sister) while Rosalind takes a vacation. And Batty collects golf balls, makes a new friend, wears a large orange life jacket through most of the story, and discovers her own special giftedness. Jeffrey, the girls’ friend from the first book, is back, and many of the adventures involve Jeffrey and his musical talents and his family trials and tribulations.

I truly think the Penderwick series is going to go down in history as classic children’s lit, comparable to Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books and Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy family series. I’ve picked a couple of samples of Ms. Birdsall’s spot-on depiction of sisters who really love each other, through thick and thin.

This paragraph is Skye, trying to decide what to do about Jane who has developed an unfortunate crush on a skateboarding BOY!

“Skye managed to get off the porch and outside without punching Jane in the nose and making it swollen all over again, and she was quite proud of that, at least. But now she was really concerned. How could she protect Jane from this idiocy? Wondering what Caesar or Napoleon would do in this situation was worthless. Skye needed a tree to kick now, immediately. Poor patient birch trees—this wasn’t the treatment they deserved. But kicking them calmed Skye down a little, enough to help her realize that she did after all have someone she could talk to about boys, crushes, and dancing with Popsicle sticks. Aunt Claire, of course. Skye apologized to the birch trees and began to plot how to broach these painful subjects without giving away Jane’s secrets.”

And here’s a totally different passage, different in tone and content, about the Penderwicks’ friend Jeffrey and his mentor playing music for them

“From Jeffrey’s clarinet poured a haunting, stirring melody, a soaring string of notes that floated out over the ocean. All alone Jeffrey played, his eyes closed in concentration, until it seemed that the song was ending. But then Alec’s saxophone joined the clarinet, and together the man and the boy again played the heart-stopping tune, note for note. The girls clung to each other, each one feeling as though she’d never really heard music before, and although the splendor of the music was almost too much, the players began yet once more, this time in rich harmony, finally ending with a flourish, so thrilling that when the music stopped, it seemed for a moment as though the world had to stop along with it.”

Now, that’s some fine writing. And the plot and characters are just as good as the writing. Just quit reading my pedestrian attempts to describe the Penderwicks books, and go read one, preferably starting with the first book in the series and then proceeding in order through the three books Ms. Birdsall has so far gifted us with. By the time you finish those, maybe there will be a fourth. I certainly hope we don’t have long to wait for another installment. (On her website, Jeanne Birdsall says it takes her three years to write a Penderwicks book and that there will be five books in all.)

Book 1: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and Very Interesting Boy Z-baby listens to The Penderwicks. Semicolon review of The Penderwicks.

Book 2: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street Reviewed by Sarah at Library Hospital. Reviewed by Carrie K. at Books and Movies.

Book 3: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette Reviewed by Amy at Hope Is the Word.

Newbery Boy Appeal

Around Newbery Award time I heard a lot of buzz about the middle grade/young adult novel Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt had already received two Newbery honors for his books Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars. So people who really liked Schmidt’s most recent book thought it was time for him to win a Newbery.

Come January and the Newbery announcements, Okay for Now won . . . nothing, zip, not even a mention. Nor was Okay for Now among the finalists for the Cybils, even though it was nominated in the YA fiction category. If I had read the book before the award season started and ended, I would have been pulling for Mr. Schmidt with all my might. Okay for Now is an award-worthy book, and a book worth reading.

So, how to describe this novel? It’s got: drawing lessons, juvenile delinquency, child abuse, Jane Eyre, junior high school angst, libraries, literacy training, John James Audubon, returning Vietnam soldiers, baseball stats, Apollo rockets, ice cream and Coca Cola, horseshoes, Percy Bysshe Shelley-hatred, a cranky playwright, redemption, hope and change. Oh, and my favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart, makes a non-speaking cameo appearance. What more could you ask?

The narrator and protagonist, Doug Swieteck, has a voice that is both memorable and endearing. He’s something of a bully as the novel begins, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like him or the book. But then, sign of a really good author, Gary Schmidt managed to enlist my sympathies by slowly revealing the secrets and influences that have come together to make Doug the boy he is: a survivor. I was drawn into the story and into sympathy with the main character almost imperceptibly. And that’s only part of what makes Okay for Now a great book.

Here’s an article about Gary Schmidt.
Review of Okay for Now by Elizabeth Bird at Fuse #8 Production. (Ms. Bird does longer, more thorough reviews than I do, and I like and agree with what she said about this novel.)

The book that actually won the Newbery, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, was, I suspect, trying to be the same kind of book as Okay for Now: historical fiction about a boy growing up in a rather quirky small town, lots of boy-appeal. However, whereas Okay for Now has many humorous moments and characters, it’s essentially a serious book about a boy surviving a traumatic childhood. Dead End is essentially a comedic novel about a boy living in a town full of crazy people. The boy who narrates and lives the story is named Jack Gantos, so I assume the novel is somewhat autobiographical.

The problem with Dead End, for me, was that I didn’t laugh. I didn’t even smile much. I mostly got that quizzical look on my face that you get when you wonder what in the world these people are thinking or doing???? Poison the rats in your basement with doctored chocolates? Really? Gather mushrooms in the wild to make meals for the elderly? Really? Sneak into an old lady’s house dressed as the Grim Reaper to see if she’s still alive and hope you don’t scare her to death? Really? Mow down your mom’s cornfield when you know she’s going to be really mad, just because your dad will be mad if you don’t? Really? And those are only a few of the minor plot points I had trouble suspending disbelief for.

Dead End in Norvelt gets an E for effort, but we each have our own sense of humor. Mine just wasn’t susceptible to Mr. Gantos’s brand of comedy.

Then, there were the plot holes. (These questions may include spoilers.) Five or six (I lost count) murders and no one even figured out till the very end that the deaths were not natural? Jack’s dad learns to fly an airplane in two or three easy lessons? Why did Jack’s mom ground him in the first place when he was only doing what his dad told him to do? Because she’s crazy? If anything in this book didn’t make sense, it was chalked up to the idea that “they’re all nuts.”

Checking in again at Fuse#8, Ms. Bird says Dead End in Norvelt is “weird” and “may also be one of the finest he’s (Gantos) produced in years.” She obviously liked it better than I did. I’m also not as observant as Ms. Bird because I ddn’t notice until she pointed it out that the two books have very similar cover pictures.

Dead End in Norvelt gets a few points for a more evocative and memorable title, but Gary Schmidt was cheated out of a Newbery-award as far as I’m concerned.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Orsu

“I believe that the world isn’t always what we see. I believe there are secrets in the woods. And I believe that goodness wins out. So, if someone’s changed overnight—by witch curse or poison apple or were-turtle—you have to show them what’s good. You show them love. That works a surprising amount of the time. And if that doesn’t save them, they’re not worth saving.”

Breadcrumbs is a surprisingly expressive and meditative tale in the tradition of the Chronicles of Narnia and of Rebecca Stead’s Newbery award-winning When You Reach Me. The story teeters on the edge of despair, and as in the ending to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, not everybody necessarily lives totally and completely happily ever after. There is a price to be paid for the rescue of a soul from the clutches of cold and darkness, which is what this particular story is all about.

Ten year old Hazel has a friend named Jack. Hazel and Jack are best friends. But one day Jack rejects Hazel, and then he goes off with the White Witch/Snow Queen into the woods and into the far North. The story echoes Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, and it also picks up on other Andersen tales such as The Little Match Girl, The Red Shoes, and The Wild Swans. The story also makes allusions to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, the fantasy novels of Philip Pullman, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and other fantasy classics, comic books, and fairy tales.

Ms. Orsu’s novel is rife with points for discussion and even argument. How does Hazel keep going on her quest to rescue Jack when she has no hope, no inner strength, and thinks she is literally “nothing.” Where does Hazel get the strength to escape from the snares placed in her way by the world of the woods while others are entrapped forever? What does it mean that Hazel is willing at the end of the story to make new friends and let go of Jack to some extent?

I liked the novel very much, and I liked the questions it raised. Older children and young adults who enjoy thoughtful fantasy/science fiction, such as A Wrinkle in Time and the fairy tale novels of Donna Jo Napoli, will probably like this story of love, friendship, and perseverance.

Other reviews of Breadcrumbs:
Amy at Hope Is the Word: “Replete with literary allusions and even archetypes, Breadcrumbs hovers on the edge of meaning–growing up, friendship, selfhood, it’s all in this story, but it’s right under the edge. I think much of this might be lost on its target audience; I struggle with identifying it all myself.” (Me, too. I think it’s reflective of our times that the author was hesitant to spell out the exact meaning of the story. Andersen ended The Snow Queen with a verse from the Bible. One can hardly imagine a modern author doing the same and actually appealing to a broad audience.)

Sprouts Bookshelf: “Hazel never wavers from the notion that Jack, the real Jack is still in there, and that he needs her now even more than he ever has. Quite a commentary on growing up but not away, this one.” (Maybe that’s the key: it’s a novel about identity and friendship and hanging onto both. To rescue someone you have to know who you are and who he is and who the two of you are together.)

Bekahcubed: “Their friendship might not last through this adventure. Jack might be changed. Hazel might be changed. When Hazel sets out to rescue her friend Jack, she has no promises that life might return to usual. She might be able to rescue Jack, but she has no illusions that she’ll be able to get her friend back.” (Yes, this aspect of the story really spoke to me. Even fairy tales, maybe especially fairy tales, don’t always work out exactly the way you want them to, the way you had planned in your mind. Andersen’s tales in particular are sort of sad and not very happily-ever-after. But that’s the way things are in this world, and the world of fantasy and fairy tale isn’t really a different world at all: it’s only a reflection of the fallen world where we all live.)

Interview with Anne Orsu at Little Willow’s bildungsroman.

Interview with Ms. Orsu at The Reading Zone.

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I can’t count this one for my North Africa Challenge, but the geography and culture of this fantasy world sort of felt like North Africa–or the American southwest: desert winds, adobe houses, camels, cowls and robes, a language related to Spanish or Portuguese.

The story itself reminded me of Dune, not just the desert setting but also the political intrigue and war strategy. Dune is, if you’ve read it, a bit more sophisticated than this book, but then again while author Frank Herbert (Dune, Dune Messiah, and many sequels) overdid the philosophical and political complications to the point of farce, the world of Girl of Fire and Thorns feels more believable and down to earth, if one can use that term in reference to a work of fantasy.

Our protagonist, Princess Elisa, second daughter of King Hitzedar de Riqueza of Orovalle, feels fat, useless and unloved. Then, when she is rushed into an arranged marriage with King Alejandro of the neighboring country of Joya d’Arena, she feels even more disregarded and unappreciated. Alejandro won’t even announce their wedding in his own kingdom for some reason, and the marriage remains unconsummated. Elisa carries the Godstone, the special gifting that only comes into the world once in a generation, but her special gift doesn’t mean anything when she doesn’t know what her service is supposed to be or how to find out.

Religion plays a big part in this story, another aspect reminiscent of Dune. Elisa prays and receives answers to her prayers, assurance of God’s presence through the Godstone which turns warm in the midst of prayer and praise and icy cold in the face of danger. The religious practices and tenets in the world that Ms. Carson has created for her debut novel are not really like any one religion that exists in this world, although the “Sancta Scriptura” that is quoted sounds a lot like the Hebrew psalms in English translation. Anyway, it’s good to see religious practice integrated into a fantasy novel instead of its being jettisoned in favor of a modern, evolved consciousness or vague spirituality.

The moral dilemmas and the coming of age of the main character are all a part of the novel, too, making it a classic fantasy with the usual themes. But Girl of Fire and Thorns is fresh and compelling. Without its becoming a feminist tract, the novel has a strong female protagonist who deals with her own weaknesses without becoming dependent on a man for her salvation and her growth as a character. Elisa is a well-rounded character, sometimes weak and self-indulgent, but finally reaching within herself and looking to God to find the strength she needs to carry out the task assigned to her for the sake of the people of her country and of her world.

The final plus for this novel is that it’s self-contained. It has a perfectly adequate ending, and although I see the wiggle space for the sequels in a planned trilogy, I didn’t feel cheated or teased by a cliffhanger ending. I appreciate that kind of respect shown by the author for her readers, and I will reciprocate by reading the next two books in the series, if they’re anywhere near as good as this one.

100 Valentine Celebration Ideas at Semicolon.

Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand

How long is a mother’s love for her son? Twelve miles long. Frederick’s mama must walk twelve long miles to visit her son who lives in slavery in the master’s Big House while his mother toils far way in the fields. Mama measures her journey in twelve miles of forgetting, remembering, listening, looking up, praying, singing, smiling, dancing, giving thanks, hoping, dreaming, and loving. And she tells Frederick the story of her twelve miles so that he will know who he is and how much she loves him.

Love Twelve Miles Long is illustrated with the beautiful paintings of artist Colin Bootman. In fact, here’s a link to a couple of desktop background illustrations from Love Twelve Miles Long. The story is based on stories from the 1820’s childhood of abolitionist, escaped slave, writer and public speaker Frederick Douglass. In his autobiography Douglass wrote that his mother taught him that he was not “only a child but somebody’s child.”

The love and encouragement of a parent, mother or father, can give a child confidence to rise above difficult circumstances and become more than his background would indicate that he can achieve. I can picture a mother and child reading this book together and using that reading as an expression of love and support.

Four brave employees from LEE & LOW BOOKS set out to see what it is like to walk twelve miles through the streets of New York City from Zuccotti Park to Frederick Douglass Circle in Harlem to the New York Public Library:

Mama had told him that there were things he could not count or measure: there were too many stars, the ocean was too wide, and the mountains of corn were too high. But there was one thing he could measure. Frederick knew with all his heart that his mama’s love was twelve miles long.

Unit studies and curriculum uses for Love Twelve Miles Long: Biography, Black History Month, Frederick Douglass, Family Traditions, Heroism, Mothers, Christian Heritage, Slavery, United States History.

100 Valentine Celebration Ideas at Semicolon.