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June 10, 2014

48-hour book challenge: summary
posted by soe 2:09 am

I spent the weekend reading, as stated in the last post, as part of Mother Reader‘s annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. The minimum goal of participation was 12 hours, which is just about what I managed.

During that time, I read five books:

  1. The Skin I’m In: Sharon Flake’s debut young adult novel focuses on Maleeka Madison, who is trying to get through 7th-grade unscathed. She’s got a best “friend” who shares clothes with her and tolerates her company in exchange for completed homework assignments, a classmate who sings unkind songs about how dark Maleeka’s skin is, and now a scarred English teacher whose interest in her potential are just going to bring down a heap more trouble on her head. (171 pages/2 hours)
  2. Walk Two Moons: Sharon Creech’s middle-grade Newbery winner tells the story of Salamanca Tree Hiddle, a 13-year-old who is on a road trip with her grandparents from Ohio (where she and her dad moved the previous year) to Idaho (to where her mother suddenly announced the previous spring she was going to take a solo trip). While on the road, she regales them with the story of her classmate, Phoebe, whose own mother also left home recently, and of adjusting to her new life.

    Sal and her mother are part Seneca Indian (she prefers that term to Native American) and share a love of their tribal folklore and of nature, although she does note that her mother had thought their tribe name was originally Salamanca, when she’d named her daughter. As for the diversity of the book, Creech’s portrayal of Native Americans relies heavily on the somewhat outdated late-20th century vision of Native Americans as being particularly in touch with nature. It was nice that the main character had some Native American blood in her from several generations back, but it seemed mostly peripheral to her life.

    That said, the book was still quite enjoyable and touching and her grandparents (who once were arrested when visiting D.C. for trying to borrow a couple tires from a senator’s car when theirs had flats) were hilarious and now rate high on my list of favorite grandparents in literature. (280 pages/4 hours)

  3. Nowhere to Run: Claire J. Griffin set her young adult novella in D.C. and dedicated it to her Montgomery College students. Calvin is a senior at a dilapidated public high school, but he only stays in school because he’d made a deathbed promise to father to graduate and because he is a sprinter on the school’s track team. He loves to run more than pretty much anything. So when a local gang leader threatens to break his legs (after Cal asks the guy to stop harassing his mom about protection money for her nail salon) and then settles on Cal throwing the District championship, Cal is stressed out. Other things that stress him out as the year inches toward that race are his school principal, who suspend him on wrongful charges of possession; his mom, who wants good things for him, and his kid brother, who looks up to him; his girlfriend, who is a daddy’s girl and who maybe thinks his best friend is a bad influence; his best friend, who is, in fact, a bad influence, but who also has always been there for him until he’s suddenly asking a lot more from Calvin; and his boss, who tries to get Cal to look at the long view and who reminds him that everything in life is a test.

    While I liked the local setting, this book stressed me out unbelievably and I kept putting it down every six pages or so to untense my muscles and to give myself some headspace. While I am not fond of the type of ending the author opted for, I can see it generating good discussions, particularly among teenagers who really do have to make hard decisions in their lives. (110 pages/3 hours) [Thank you to the book’s publisher, Namelos, for sending me a review copy.]

  4. Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream: Written by Jenny Han, this elementary school chapter book portrays 3rd-grader Clara Lee, who very much wants to be the Little Miss Apple Pie winner this year. She can see herself standing on the float, wearing the traditional Korean dress her grandfather brought back for her from his visit there, but to get there she not only has to beat out older girls at her school — and a classmate who has ties to the founders of the town — but also give a speech about what makes her town special in front of her whole school.

    Aimed at younger kids, I think this book will be a hit with its target audience. Clara Lee has an annoying, but supportive younger sister (she kind of reminded me of DJ from the Arthur series), parents who are realistically well-rounded and emotive, and an adorable grandfather, who jots down unfamiliar English words and idioms in a notebook to look up later in his Korean-English dictionary, fixes Clara Lee’s hair every morning, gardens, and helps interpret her dreams. While the main character is a girl, I don’t think there’s anything in the book that would keep a boy from finding it just as enjoyable as a girl would. (148 pages/1 hour)

  5. The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez: Raisin has just moved across the country after her mother remarries and begins a secret blog to share her new life with her two BFF’s back in California. She’s working hard to fit in at her new private middle school and to make friends with the most popular seventh-grade girls, but, somehow, things just never quite go her way (like when she invites one of them over to study for a math test and Raisin ends up having to remove the remnants of a bra from her step-sister’s dog or when she joins the soccer team without knowing the rules of the game).

    I picked out this middle-grade book by Judy Goldschmidt particularly because the drawing of the main character on the book’s cover featured a girl with brown skin. However, were it not for a Latino surname and a single mention by the main character of her “brown skin,” this book could have been about a middle-schooler of any ethnicity. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but may be something potential readers want to know. With several pop-culture references and its use of technology, this book, the first in a series, can feel a little dated at times, as well as somewhat insubstantial. Cute, but I bet I won’t remember it in a year. (202 pages/2 hours)

Thanks to Mother Reader for a weekend full of books. I enjoyed my first time doing the challenge, and will be back next year.

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