...I wrote aboutThe Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, and OMG I LOVE LOVE LOVED IT:
I laughed SO MUCH while reading it. Laughed and laughed and laughed. If Ethan wasn’t “stewing in the Crock-Pot of betrayal,” he was taking a “dumbwaiter ride to hell,” or becoming part of a “tornado of justice.” I loved the scenes with his triplet sisters; Ethan’s ongoing willingness to play with language (the past tense of high five is apparently “high fove”); and the many, many literary references (“...we were kicking it old-school, searching his files in the grand tradition of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”)
Fauquier County Public Schools has received a request from a parent to withdraw from student use the book “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan which is a part of the high schools’ library collections. A school committee at Fauquier High School decided to retain the book in its library collection, and the parent is appealing the decision to the superintendent.
In an effort to thwart the robbery of a Van Gogh—hilariously, the robbers are taking advantage of the chaos surrounding a publicity stunt robbery okay-ed by the museum and carried out by a world-famous performance artist—the Dead Boy Detectives, Edwin and Charles, save the life of Crystal Palace, the performance artist's daughter.
For a moment, unlike most people, she SEES them. And not only does she see them, but she notices the Saint Hilarion's badge on Edwin's uniform. So, when she comes to, she asks her parents to send her away to boarding school—specifically, to St. Hilarion's.
Knowing that the place is FULL OF EVIL DOERS, the boys bravely follow her, returning to THE ONE PLACE IN THE WORLD THEY WANT TO AVOID.
I liked the muted colors in the flashback panels, and how Crystal is drawn more distinctly than the boys. I love that different fonts are used to differentiate between the two narrators, and how the choice of font evokes two very different voices.
I also especially liked the parallel images in the section where the boys tell us about their pasts through tandem flashbacks.
Their voices aren't just distinct because of the font:
Edwin Paine: The young lady had swooned away, and was now deeply unconscious.
Charles Rowland: The babe was out cold.
Heh. And I love that in case a reader didn't go in aware of the fact, that the authors make it clear in a few way that this is in the same universe as Sandman, the most obvious being this:
Edwin: What if Death had come?
Charles: She didn't.
Lots of other stuff, too: Crystal's desire to be a normal kid; her parents' total self-absorption; the friendship between Edwin and Charles; the easily-drawn connection between the horrors of what happened to them at Hilarion's and the horrors that still go on in schools and colleges today; and then of course the intimations of HUMAN SACRIFICE AND PURE EVIL.
Note to self: never trust a dude with a pipe shaped like a devil's head.
HECK, YEAH. Also! I clearly need to revisit Sandman, which is where the boys first appeared, and I need to read the Children's Crusade crossover series, because they pop up there, too. So many things to read! I AM GOING TO BE SO BROKE.
IN A WORLD where the government regulates the temperature of microwaveable food so that no one burns their mouth on frozen burritos, one girl must fight for her family’s right to consume something other than lukewarm convenience foods.
“I don’t want my food to be safe, or still kind of icy in the middle,” I cried. “I want it to be burning hot and freezing cold. I want to singe the taste buds off my tongue and give myself incapacitating ice cream headaches whenever I eat a freeze pop.” “You want to taste things the way they really are,” said the mysterious new boy in school. “I want to live.”
It’s Becky’s voice that makes Lisa Colozza Cocca’s Providence work. She’s tough and honest; craves affection but is understandably guarded; she’s prone to quoting her father but hasn’t adopted the entirety of his philosophy. She’s practical, but has dreams; she’s generous and tenacious; she’s funny, awkward, creative, reliable, independent and sweet. Though her situation is a very different one, she feels like a direct descendant of another stubborn farmgirl: D.J. Schwenk, of Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen.
Grown-ups tend to think their problems are bigger and more important than the trials kids experience, but guess what? They're not. We're all traveling through life together--and not only that, but every adult was once a child. Too many adults forget that, I think. Too many adults forget what it feels like to be that awkward middle schooler worrying about which table to sit at during lunch. They forget that dealing with changing bodies, ever-shifting friendships, and maybe-getting-divorced parents is hard. So hard. I write about all that stuff (and more), but I don't write with the goal of corrupting my readers. I write with the hope of handing my readers a mirror in which they can see themselves as well as a window through which they can see the pains and joys of others.
And, despite my difficulty with the ultra-quirk end of the spectrum—inhabited primarily by Stargirl and her ukelele—I adored this book. It's basically Hart of Dixie, if Zoe Hart happened to be a formerly affluent ten-year-old. It's got that same city-to-small-Southern-town move, that same solitude-to-community arc, the same cultural fish-out-of-water story, as well as a lot of learning about friendship and not making assumptions and working together and just plain old summertime kid fun.
THE BOOKS! Penny is a huge reader, most of her understanding of the world comes from living vicariously through books, and thus, that affects her thought process and perspective:
Duncan didn't look especially fragile or sensitive to Penny, no more so than anyone else she'd ever met. But looks could be deceiving. Maybe Duncan was like an upsetting book with an ordinary, happy cover. Maybe he was Bridge to Terabithia.
PENNY AND HER PARENTS! There is a whole lot of strife in the household, most of it due to financial woes—and that, in itself, is another plus: speaking as someone who grew up in a "scrimp and pinch" family, as much as adults try to protect them from it, economic hardship is a very real fear for kids, and it's always nice to see it addressed—but there's also plenty of love and affection. And it isn't just Penny's family. All of the various parents at the Whippoorwillows compound are loving and emotionally generous, with their own children and with the children of others, and the children have those same qualities. While that might seem unrealistic to some readers, it's important to remember that the tenants aren't random: every family living there is there by specific invitation.
FRIENDSHIP! As I mentioned above, there are lessons about friendship, about making assumptions, about working together, and about when to ask for help... but all of them are integrated organically into the story, and it's very much a story about Penny figuring things out, rather than a story created to teach the reader. Upon her family's arrival at the Whippoorwillows, Penny almost immediately finds a bosom friend in Luella. They clearly adore each other, but that doesn't prevent them from having disagreements or from—especially in Penny's case, as she's never really had a real friend before—making mistakes.
THE ART! I love it so much when it's clear that the artist did a close-read of the text. Abigail Halpin includes so many dead-on-the-money details that I'm going to hunt around for other chapter books she's illustrated. [ETA: Well, then. That was the easiest research I've done, like, ever.]
It's warm and cozy, it's about family and friends and community, and about how you don't have to go out looking for dragons to be a hero: oftentimes, it's everyday life that brings the real adventure.
Anyway, enough pontificating from me, right? On to the actual book! Clearly, Marthe Jocelyn’s What We Hide succeeded in at least getting THIS reader thinking about truth; about secrets; about lies of malice and lies of boredom, about lies of omission and lies of desperation, about lies to loved ones and lies to ourselves; about perspective and worldview and, yes, the reliability of any given narrator.
Join EFF on April 4th for 404 Day, a nation-wide day of action to call attention to the long-standing problem of Internet censorship in public libraries and public schools. In collaboration with the MIT Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, we are hosting a digital teach-in with some of the top researchers and librarians working to analyze and push back against the use of Internet filters on library computers.
This is why EFF is calling on librarians, students, and concerned library patrons across the country to take action on 404 Day to raise awareness and call attention to banned websites and Internet censorship in libraries. Please join us at 12:00pm PST/ 3:00pm EST for a digital teach-in featuring Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, Chris Peterson from MIT's Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and Sarah Houghton, blogger and Director of the San Rafael Public Library in Northern California for an in-depth discussion about banned websites in public schools and libraries.