In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beach adventures: with and without parents

Dear Annie,

I must research Washington parks with sprinklers before you come to visit, to keep your girls splashing in the manner to which they've become accustomed.  Will also do some digging on books about New York and San Francisco for a two year-old for Tui, who has asked the question on your sprinkler post.

Today, though, as promised, it's time for beach novels.  I discovered
The Paradise Trap
by Catherine Jinks through its very well done audiobook.  This is a beach read in both senses: light entertainment and sandy surroundings.  Marcus and his mum (book is British) buy an old trailer and go the beach she remembers fondly from her own childhood.  She runs into a friend from those days with an inventor husband, children and a robot.  Marcus discovers a basement in the old trailer where one should not exist, and a door which takes the first person who enters to their ultimate "dream vacation."  The vacations all become dark, in the British tradition of magic, and involve everyone needing to work together to escape.  The three parents are equal players in the plot with the three kids -- an unusual occurrence in this genre of kids' lit.  The inventor is hilarious, believing that the magic is all a very clever technological creation, and his wife is constantly demanding better service -- even from six foot tall pink cats who are trying to keep her from leaving the spa of her dreams.  I can imagine a family vacation in which this is the audiobook everyone listens to.  Word of warning, though: the villain, once found, is genuinely scary.  Good for the 8 and up crowd that likes a frisson of creepy -- but lots of laughs too.

I'm bringing
The Worry Week
by Anne Lindbergh to you guys when I see you next week.  The author, who wrote a number of kids' books, was the daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  This one is the story of three sisters who contrive to spend a week without parents in their summer house on an island in Maine.  The plan goes perfectly -- except that unbeknownst to them the house has been cleared of all food.  All they have is a book about wild food in Maine, and vague memories of their parents' cooking.

11 year-old Allegra (Sometimes called Legs) narrates the tale.  13 year-old Alice spends much of the summer lost in Shakespeare, and Minnow, at seven, is something of a loose cannon.  Their first day on their own, they work hard to gather and scrape mussels, which Alice cooks.
   "Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog," Alice sang.
    I had been taking notes on cattail salad, but that caught my attention.   Living off the land is fine, if you have to, but eye of newt is going too far.  What's more, a really weird smell was coming from the stove.  Whatever it was, it wasn't mussels.  It made me feel a little dizzy.
   "Hey, Alice!  What did you put into that pot?" I asked.
   "Gin," said Alice, "and an onion.  I couldn't find any garlic, and there was no more wine, but there was half a bottle of gin left."
   "How much did you put in?" I asked.
   "All of it," said Alice.  "The mussels are ready now.  Could somebody get out the plates?"
   Allegra sees herself as the responsible sister, who tries to get everyone to forage for mushrooms and cattails.  There's a hunt for a rumored treasure.  But the strength of the book is in the relationship of the three sisters.  It's lovely.

 I hope that your students' portfolios are full of excellent surprises.



1 comment:

  1. Deborah, there's info on spray parks on the DC Parks & Rec website here -

    We're planning to check out one in Columbia Heights soon. It happens to be near the excellent vegan bakery Sticky Fingers -- so if you give it a go, be sure to buy a cowvin cookie or sticky bun while you're there!