Of Survival and Discovery | #SoRatherBeYoung

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Back in December, Hannah from So Obsessed With and I decided to start a laidback feature where we introduce each other to favorite books of our childhood and joint read another. Well, we have certainly taken the laidback part of this feature to a whole new level. (Let’s blame a broken computer, summer, and life!) That being said, yay for the next installment of You Make Me Feel So Young. (Have you seen the new Geico commercial where they sing this song?)

Let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?

Island of Blue Dolphins Summary Tweet

Joint pick: Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell | First published in 1960

More Than You Know: Scott O’Dell founded an award for historical books for children in 1982. If you are a lover of this genre, definitely check out the list of past winners. This year’s was Dash by Kirby Larson.

Memories Are Made of This: All I remember about reading this book when I was itty-bitty was that I devoured it — which is a little shocking because books with very little dialogue and so, so much nature are not really my thing now.

Second Time Around: I couldn’t stop thinking about how Island of Blue Dolphins was a precursor to dystopians like The Hunger Games. This young girl is forced to find ways to survive for herself, and all alone — not for a game, not for the entertainment/punishment of the government. (I’m sure I would fee this way about Lord of the Flies too.) That being said, I forgot how sad and quiet this book was. It was, though, remarkable to watch her drive build up even during the darkest times. Yay for a strong female lead.

You Can Take My Word for It, Baby: I would have no problem with my future children picking this book up, but my one fear is that dystopians are canceling out classics like this one. (I don’t have anything to back this statement up but I could see why kids want to pick up a shiny cover over something like this.) Otherwise, I can definitely see this book looking so well in not only a lit class but how about a history as well?

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Hannah’s pick for me: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Do You Know Why? “When I was talking to Estelle about the books of my childhood, I realized that many of my favorites are classics. But which one was I going to make her read? Since our discussion was initially taking place during the spring, I wanted to choose a book that fit the season. And that’s what inspired The Secret Garden! Mary Lennox (who truly is “quite contrary” in the beginning) experiences so much growth, which makes this book a great character-driven read. I was hoping Estelle would be transported by the magic of the story!” — Hannah

Can’t You Just See Yourself: I am the worst at reading classics. I always promise myself it will happen, and nope nope nope. I avoid it a lot. I’m so mad at myself for waiting to read The Secret Garden (for the record, my old coworker lent me her copy 2 years ago and that’s the copy I read for this project). It started off a little slow especially because Mary was such a brat (not surprised) and then really picked up as she fell in love with her freedom outside and all the possibilities at Misselthwaite Manor.

I Give You My Word: Definitely a book I would pass along to the future kids of the world. I can only imagine the discussions of literary devices, symbolism, and even art projects that could supplement the reading of The Secret Garden.

Before the Music Ends: My mission for you: find a beautiful version of this book and read it as soon as you can. Though some of the dialogue hasn’t aged as graciously with time, it’s a delightful read about many different walks of life finding second chances and blossoming once again. I’m so glad Hannah convinced me to read it. (Now I’m ready to read The Little Princess!)

What’s the last book you picked out of your “vintage” bookshelf?

We’d love to hear! Be sure to check out Hannah’s SOBY post today too!

Stay tuned for next month (we promise!) when Hannah & I joint read: Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger by Louis Sachar! #SoRatherBeYoung

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth â‹… Estelle Reviews

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe BoothKinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth ( web | tweet)
Published August 26, 2014 by Scholastic Press
Pages: 256 | Target: middle grade
Keywords: foster siblings, urban settings, summer school, friendship

Eleven year-old Jarrett is pissed off, and it has nothing to do with his mother taking in more foster kids. He’s not too psyched to have to share his room with a 12-year old stranger, Kevon. Why does the newest addition to his family have to be older than him, better looking, great at basketball, and able to make new friends almost immediately?

Jarrett finds out soon enough that Kevon is less than imperfect. He has no trouble raising his voice to Jarrett’s mom when it comes to the best way to care for his younger (special needs) sister. He’s prepared to do whatever it takes to escape this foster home and be back where he belongs — living with his dad on the other side of Newark. This is okay with Jarrett because he just wants his room back.

Both boys learn a lot about patience, because Kevon’s stay is not as short as either of them are prepared for. Soon Kevon is encroaching on his time at the center and with his best friend, Ennis. Jarrett decides to impart his supreme spy skills to find out the real story about Kevon and his little sister but something just isn’t adding up.

I really enjoyed reading about foster care from this angle. Jarrett is proud of what his mom does, but he also feels like she cares a bit more about all the babies coming and going than him. He’s learned to detach himself from the kids the more and more she fosters, because he’s gotten so sad when children have left their home in the past. Like his mother, he’s extremely empathetic and can’t help but feel angry at the parents who mistreat their children.

In addition to the fostering process, Kinda Like Brothers has Jarrett reacting from hearing his teachers talk poorly of his academics. He’s having a lot of trouble concentrating in school, he was absent a lot during the year because of his asthma attacks, and nothing is clicking. He’s totally frustrated because his mom doesn’t seem to be paying enough attention to his, and he’s not sure what the point of applying himself is when everything thinks he’s “dumb” anyway.

All this heaviness is sprinkled with the standard qualms of an 11-year old — the girl he desperately wants to impress, how annoying it is to remember to put on deodorant (and how equally annoying it is to be reminded to wear some by his mom), the recent changes in his best friend, and getting down all the moves for step team. I can’t forget his passion for making movie trailers either. Jarrett may have trouble believing he’s smart but you have to believe he’s going to make it through his school difficulties because the kid is charmingly ambitious. There’s nothing “stupid about that”.

Despite the young audience for this book, I love how we are given some insight into Jarrett’s mother and her own tendencies to push happiness away. There was also the stark (and all too timely) observation that kids in Jarrett’s neighborhood would regularly be targeted by the cops without having done a thing — all because of what they looked like. Certainly a moment that would elicit a ton of discussion in the classroom, in the home, and beyond.

Kinda Like Brothers was funny, smart, and explored the many meanings of family. It touched upon the not so great things we do when we are feeling threatened and how we make up for them; how we protect ourselves and the ones we love; embrace the things we do well and use them to get through the things that are still a work in progress.

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Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy | Estelle Reviews

Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoyDrive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy ( web | tweet )
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 28, 2015
Pages: 288
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: grandparents, remarriage, cousins, new friends, popularity, parents & secrets

Summary: After Grandpa Howe and Grandma Tess get married, Lana and Cassie are invited on their road trip honeymoon. Lana is hoping to embark on a brand new friendship, but Cassie has other ideas — she’s addicted to keeping up with everyone at home. Will this new family survive this trip as the girls get to know each other and still find themselves dealing with stresses from home?

Looking back, it would have been a dream come true to be invited on a vacation with my grandparents sans parents. Grandparents are just the coolest, aren’t they? They understand us in a way that are parents don’t, right? (The spoiling part isn’t so bad either.) So Grandpa Howe and Grandma Tess inviting Lana and Cassie along for their honeymoon road trip sounds like total bliss. Grandpa Howe is Lana’s grandpa and Grandma Tess’s is Cassie’s grandma so it’s a nice way to bring their families together after their wedding. Out on the open road with dessert for breakfast and cool, artsy stops along the way (even a Broadway-themed restaurant) — what could possibly go wrong?

Well…while Lana is completely gung-ho for the trip and looking forward to spending time with her grandparents, Cassie is a bit of the opposite. She’s concerned about her status with her popular friends. If she’s not available to them, how will she remain important? Her solution is to stay permanately attached to her cell phone, much to her grandmother’s chagrin. Lana does her best to stay on Cassie’s good side but it gets tough when she feels like Cassie is constantly putting her down to make her friends look better. All the while, Lana is sure her parents are keeping something from her. She’s worried something is wrong with her mom and being in a car for so many hours on end, has her imagination soaring to new heights.

It’s true some girls are just not meant to be friends — as much as one side tries, as much as it seems like it should be the case. Lana was an old soul while Cassie was concerned about parties and makeup and boys. They aren’t exactly in the same place when the trip starts. Jealousy also becomes a factor when Cassie sees how close Grandma Tess and Lana have grown to one another. Who can blame her? For the first time, her special relationship with her grandmother doesn’t feel like it’s just meant for her, and when it seems like no one else on your family is on your team, it hurts even more.

But maybe… just maybe each of the girls provide a much needed balance for the other.

It was so refreshing to read a book based on relationships with grandparents, and, like I’ve come to expect from her, Terra Elan McVoy injected her thoughtful writing into this young, wobbly friendship — complete with spot-on observations of technology and how it can take us out of the moment and how it feels as a being young and left out of the grown up stuff. The summer always feels like a time of new beginnings, and I so enjoyed watching a new family make fantastic memories and two very different girls learn to relate to each other. I sure hope they scrapbooked about it when they got home.

P.S. If you like grandparent road trip books (and a box of tissues), be sure to add Walk Two Moons to your reading lists.

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Others by Terra McVoy on RBR: In Deep ; Criminal ; The Summer of Firsts & Lasts | Being Friends with Boys

An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Disneylanders by Kate Abbott | Estelle Reviews

Disneylanders by Kate AbbottDisneylanders by Kate Abbott ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 12, 2013
Publisher: Orchard Hill
Pages: 242
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Disneyland, starting high school, growing up, romance
Format read: Paperback provided by author. (Thank you!)

Summary: Casey is on her annual trip to Disneyland with her parents the summer before high school. This year at her favorite place feels a little bit different after conflicts with her best friend all year, and her nervousness about starting a new school with new people. Her trip starts to look up when she meets Bert, another Disney enthusiast on vacation with his sister and grandma.

Let’s be real. Vacationing with your family is never easy. Most of the time, it’s super fun and all. But there are little fights and annoyances here and there, right? Especially when you are a teenager.

Disneylanders by Kate Abbott does such a realistic job of capturing these precious family quirks in this YA novel, I almost felt like they were pages right out of my own journal from when I was 14. My mom telling me I’m moody when I’m just trying to drive home some kind of point and make them realize I’m not a little kid anymore. Sound familar?

I didn’t like being 14 so much. I had a lot of the same insecurities as Casey. Am I dressing right? What if I don’t make new friends? Why is everyone cooler than me? Will my parents ever stop being so overprotective? And like Casey, going to a Disney theme park gave me some kind of relief every summer. Life was put on pause and I could be in my own little bubble, thinking my own little thoughts and processing the past few months without returning to the real world for awhile.

A mishap with a little girl, a Sharpie marker, and Casey’s pants introduces her to Bert, a fellow Disney fan, who is super cute, 2 years older, and really nice. Casey and Bert hit it off and decide to spend a lot of their vacation together, exploring the parks. It’s so adorable how shy she is with him but how excited she is too. (It reminded me of the first time a boy held my hand; it was also in a theme park and you would have thought it was the biggest event in the world.) Bert is sweet and totally level-headed, dealing with a bit of family drama himself. It’s nice that they have each other as sounding boards because an unbiased opinion sometimes helps you see the light.

While some of the book might sound a little young (it is early high school), I didn’t mind it so much. Abbott creates some awesome irony with Casey spending her time in a world of fantasy and being forced to deal with some not-so plesant grown up things. I really liked that. Plus, the Disney park history references didn’t hurt too much either. For those of you who aren’t Disney geeks, don’t worry. There aren’t so many that they distract from the core of the story.

Disneylanders is a charming and well-rounded story that will have you rooting for Casey, aching for a Disney trip, and feeling all sorts of magic. I can’t recommend it enough. Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin | Estelle Reviews

Rain Reign by Ann M. MartinRain Reign by Ann M. Martin ( facebook )
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends
Pages: 240
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: Aspergers, OCD, hurricane, family, dogs
Format read: ARC paperback from Macmillan. (Thanks!)

Summary: When a hurricane hits inland, Rose’s best companion — her dog named Reign — goes missing. What happens when the one stable thing in your life disappears?

I didn’t realize how timely it would be to read Rain Reign, with the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up. Like Rose’s father said more than one time, the storms never catch them! It was so similar to what we were all saying until the storm came and conquered. I may not have lost my dog, but the storm forever changed one of my favorite spots from my childhood so I understood this feeling of disarray and loss in the book.

Ann M. Martin is no stranger to my bookshelf. I’ve been a huge fan of The Baby-Sitters Club series since I was young, I’ve read a ton of her other books so, of course, I jumped at the chance to read her latest. I haven’t read a ton of books about children with Aspergers syndrome (in fact, I can only compare this to the TV portrayal of Max on Parenthood) but she handles it with sensitivity and authenticity. Rose’s dad cannot grasp his daughter’s tendency to discover new homonyms or recite prime numbers. Most importantly, he doesn’t understand that she cannot control her outbursts and it was heartbreaking how frequently he left her to her own devices.

Thankfully, Rose isn’t totally alone. She has her Uncle Weldon, who drives her back and forth to school and has such a soft and patient way of communicating with her. The total opposite of Rose’s father, unfortunately. (Definitely a point of contention between the brothers too but less of a focus in the story because hey it’s written for middle graders.) And then there is Reign, the dog that Rose’s dad found on a rainy night (get it?) and never leaves his friend’s side. Weldon and Reign provide the most stability for Rose, and for someone who needs routine to get through the day, they were as necessary in her life as food or water or shelter. They kept her going.

The hurricane touching down wreaks havoc on more than their town as Reign goes missing and the routine and life Rose has known changes completely. And it’s not over yet. Martin does such an effective job of showing how isolating Rose’s disorder is through her relationship with her dad and the students in her class, but there is the flip side of it too. Rose is smart, thoughtful, and believes in doing the right thing. She is capable of handling a lot even if she does have some difficulties day to day. Furthermore, there are dependable people in her life who help her work through her behaviors. (Kudos to Martin for including Rose’s teacher aide; they rock!)

At any age, we are always scared of the things we don’t know and so much of Rain Reign is about being accepting and understanding we all have hurdles to jump through.

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Estelle: Jessica Darling’s IT List 2 by Megan McCafferty

Jessica Darling's IT List Part 2 by Megan McCaffertyJessica Darling’s IT List 2 by Megan McCafferty ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/16/2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 208
Target audience: middle grade/JD fans!
Keywords: making friends, middle school, big sisters, family
Format read: ARC from Elena at Novel Sounds. (Thanks!)

Summary: Despite the “luck” she had with the last IT list her sister passed on to her, Jessica needs all the help she can get as old friendships change and new ones in emerge.

While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her own drum. Even though she gets comments on the old band t-shirts she loves to wear and how she wants to dress up like the Periodical Table of Elements for Halloween, she doesn’t change.

The fact that those things stay put when she is literally (I used it right!) questioning everything about her life? Totally admirable.

In the second book of this middle grade series, Jessica is navigating friendships like whoa. Her best friend Bridget seems to be relying more and more on the popular crowd and putting a lot of effort into her boyfriend. Then there’s Hope, who is someone Jess really clicks with but can be so hot and cold. And what about the girls on the track team? How does she know what’s real and what’s not when it seems like her longest and most important friendship is crumbling?

One of the the biggest highlights of this book for me was Jessica’s relationship with her grandma. With her parents so occupied, her grandmother is staying with them for a few weeks and I loved the sounding board she provided when Jessica was feeling a little lost. Not going to lie — made me tear up in some spots because of my own close relationship with my grandma at that age. It was a nice touch to have her a part of the story.

Once again, reading this brought me back to so many of the titles I loved at this age and also made me want to dust off my copy of Sloppy Firsts and get addicted to this heroine from the beginning I know best. I love that these books serve two purposes: entertaining young readers with realistic story lines and a pinch of humor and reminding us Jessica veterans why she is so important to us.

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