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Daily Archives: September 26, 2009

Expectations for books for younger readers

girl readsEver since I started my blog, I’ve had middle grade and young adult book reviews mixed in with the other books I’ve reviewed. Most of these books have been ones I’ve selected to read for myself. Some are books that I’m reading with my daughter in mind.

I have no problem reading books for younger readers.

In her memoir A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle is asked “Why do you write for children?” She answers:

My immediate response to this question is, “I don’t.” … If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words.

Sometimes I answer that if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children. This is usually good for a slightly startled laugh, but it’s perfectly true.

I have several books I’ve read recently, but am waiting on the review while I try to figure out what standard I should hold them to.

Some of them have language that seems noticeably simplified. Some have characters that are acting all too age appropriate. I can imagine that I’ll come across books that back off on subject matter.

Young Adult Books

The issues are different for YA books than for young adults.

I’ve had the issue of teenage characters acting like teenagers, and annoying me.  That’s appropriate for the audience, and I feel I should give them some leeway on that.

On the other hand, the language should not be simplified, and subject matter should not be restricted for this age group.

I use my normal rating scale and call out any issues in my review.  I’ll let the reader decide.

Middle Grade

I’m having a harder time with the middle grade books.  I don’t know that it is fair to hold them to Madeleine L’Engle’s standard.

The best of children’s books clearly are there.  Even when reading the Harry Potter books, I never stopped to worry about any of these issues. I didn’t  need to remember I was reading books written for kids. I just enjoyed reading them, even if I recognized flaws later. This has been true of other books as well.

It isn’t always the case. On the other hand, things that bother me can be complete non-issues to my kid’s book review partner, my 11 year old daughter.

I’ve decided not to assign a numerical rating to middle grade books, because I can’t reconcile decide what scale to use.

I’ll try to call out in my review whether an opinion is relative to an adult reader or a child reader. If I read the book because I wanted to, I’ll represent both views as best I can.  If I read it as a book for kids, I may not bother with the adult view.

Books for younger audiences

In general, I’m not expecting to review books aimed younger than 3rd-4th grade.  There are always exceptions, and I’ll deal with them individually rather than coming up with a general policy.

What do you think?

Is that enough? Is there anything else you keep in mind as a reviewer, or would like to read in my reviews?  What do you do?

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Posted by on September 26, 2009 in blogging, books

 

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Review: Second Honeymoon by Joanne Trollope

Second Honeymoon: A Novel My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I found Second Honeymoon an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

The focus is on a woman whose youngest child has finally left home. Edie has defined herself as a mother for so long that she has no desire to be anything else. Her husband, Russell,  has his vision of how life will be now, and is eager for her to conform to his view.

Edie half-heartedly auditions for a role in a production of an Ibsen play, and (to her great surprise) gets the part. Just as she is rediscovering the actress in herself, who she had put in the backseat for many years, her children return home. As much as she’s wished for this, the experience isn’t what she expected.

Each child had their own story. I was particularly interested in Matthew, the oldest. In many ways, he is the opposite of the rest of his family– neat where they are messy, organized where they are scattered, ambitious where they are laid back. He’s got a successful girlfriend that is ready to move up in the world, and is going at a pace he can’t keep up with. He’s having a very hard time dealing with this.

Ben and Rosa are both much earlier in the process of finding out who they are and what they should be doing with themselves. Rosa is fairly newly out of an intense relationship that left her significantly in debt. Ben is moving in with his girlfriend, who isn’t quite ready to leave her mother.

These characters and more are what made the book work. They had interesting stories. They were each flawed while still being sympathetic. I was interested in where they ended up, even while recognizing the mistakes they made in getting there.

To me, the book reflected the importance of control over ones own life. The characters making their own choices about how they were living had a much easier time coping than those at the mercy of circumstances.

Edie did not choose her empty nest and is miserable.  After they return, she is briefly happy until she realizes that having grown children around is not the same, and begins to take control of her life.  Mathew and Ben both choose to use their childhood home as a place to regroup and move forward, while Rosa only returns home when she has no other options.  Russell celebrates the arrival of the next phase of his and Edie’s life together with very specific ideas as to how it will look, and is also unhappy when events don’t play our as he envisions.

Even though I’m at a different point in my life than Edie is in hers, I could still identify.  I’ve been extremely involved in my daughter’s life, and now that she’s in middle school, I need to start to step back and find another identity to add to the one that has dominated the last 11 years– mother.

book clubI read Second Honeymoon for my Book Club L.

We all liked the book, and enjoyed talking about it.  We all are mothers, and appreciated the warning that Edie’s character gave us.  Out opinions of the other storylines varied, with some spirited discussion on the Matthew and Ruth thread. Several members expressed interest in reading other books by this author.

Our membership has recently jumped after being stable for a long time, and I think I’m going to have to play a more active role as moderator, at least for a while, since we kept breaking off into different conversations.  Anyone have any tips for me?

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2009 in Book Club, books, L, reviews

 

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