Tuesday, February 03, 2015

When Everything Feels Like The Movies: Ra-rah for YA

I was really excited to read this book.  When I found out that Laney Liu was defending it in this year's Canada Reads competition, I grew even more excited.  So when my stack of books arrived in the mail last week, I chose to read this one first.

When Everything Feels Like The Movies is a YA novel starring (no, really...starring) Jude Rothesay, a teenager with nowhere to fit in or belong in his small town.  Jude is gay.  He likes dressing up in women's clothing. His mother is an aging stripper with low enough self-esteem to keep welcoming his abusive, addict stepfather back into their lives.  His bio dad is AWOL.  His best friend betrays him.  Those who love him do it so secretly or in such a twisted way that it ends up being just as hurtful as hate.

And he's bullied.  Seriously bullied.  End-up-in-the-hospital kind of bullied.  But he kind of gives it right back, publicly taunting others.  He distances himself from reality by imagining he's living a Hollywood life, where his "haters" are just the price he pays for fame.

I wanted to love this book.  Instead, I like what it's trying to do.  (It's a strong kind of like.  As in, I don't want to marry this book, but I would invite it to my intimate wedding.)  The melodrama was a bit hard to read at times, even though I get that that's the point.  Raziel Reid has created a character who is pitiable, lovable, and lothable all in one paragraph.

Do you want to read it yet?  You should.  I'll warn you: it's graphic.  But that's kind of the point, too.  Reid is trying to get you to feel something as you read this book, and its not exactly a comfortable feeling.

It's not the first time that Canada Reads has featured a YA selection.  I think it was 2009 when Fruit was nominated...and that's still one of my favourites.  So maybe after you read When Everything Feels Like The Movies, you could read Fruit.  Read them both.  And weep.  Because that's kind of the point.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Flora & Ulysses

My first surreptitious night read!  Orson will stay awake and stare at the reading lamp for way too long.  If it's dark, he gets all dozy and sweet so quickly.  It took me a while to figure out that I can read in the dark...if I read on my iPhone.

I have already raved about the amazing selection of ebooks and eaudiobooks available through the Kitchener Public Library, and the slickness of borrowing them using the KPL and Overdrive apps.  So I can go on and rave about Kate DiCamillo's book instead.

Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery Award for 2014.  This honour is given for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" each year.  So kind of a big deal.

In my mind a children's book that can appeal to both kids and adults, speaking to them on two different levels simultaneously, is the ultimate read.  (Kind of like the Pixar movie of the literary world.)

Flora & Ulysses is classic and edgy at the same time.  Classic with its nods to E.B. White (a focus on beautiful vocabulary, with definitions tucked right in to the story) and Roald Dahl (adult villains and outcast, misunderstood child heroes).  Classic because it addresses issues of importance to children: divorce and unconditional parental love.  Classic--and even a bit old-school--because of the absence of up-to-date technology.  (The machines in this story: a fancy vacuum cleaner and a typewriter.  No smartphones here.)  Edgy, because it incorporates poetry and comic strips into the traditional novel form. Quirky, because narration of the story is shared between Flora Belle and a superhero squirrel named Ulysses.

Up to this point, my favourite DiCamillo read was A Tale of Desperaux.  I thought that would be the best read aloud ever for a class of Grade 3 students.  Then it was made into a movie and I figured I would have to wait a few years before considering this book for a class read aloud because students heads would just be full of images from the film rather than their own imaginations.  Now I'm thinking Flora & Ulysses is up there, too.  It could be a great class read-aloud of its own--with a little bit of creative thinking on how to share the comic book pages (document camera? hmm).

Worth a read.  And maybe even a reread.

This crosses #7 off the list: a book with non-human characters.  (Thank you, Ulysses the Squirrel and Mr. Klaus, the cat.)