Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ida B

Katherine Hannigan
Greenwillow Books 2004

Energetic, imaginative Ida B lives in Wisconsin, in a valley full of apple orchard with a stream running through it and a mountain behind it. Her loving parents are good, wise, and kind enough rescue her from the "Place of Slow but Sure Body-Cramping, Mind-Numbing, Fun-Killing Torture" more commonly known as public school. Ida is home-schooled, but she isn't lonely. As she roams the valley she talks to the apple trees and the brook and the rocks, and they talk back, just the way I remember trees and rocks talking when I was young. By the time I get through the first few chapters, I'm drooling just as much as Ida B's dog, Rufus. I wish I'd grown up in a place like that.

But Ida B's idyllic life doesn't last forever. Hard times come, and Ida B has to go back to school. Her family even has to sell some of the orchard. Ida B's a plotter and a planner, she's not going to take this lying down, but will her schemes for fighting back make things better or worse?

One thing very special about this book - Ida B's voice makes ordinary life feel as big and important as it really is. I loved it. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Anybodies

by N.E. Bode
HarperCollins 2004

I wish I had written this book.

Once a week, I volunteer at a school library. They don't know I'm a writer. I haven't told them yet. When I go, I feel like I'm doing secret agent undercover work, spying out what kind of books the kids are reading, finding out what kind of books the publishers are publishing. So last week, as I was slicing alphabetical labels off the shelves with a razor blade (the labels were from an old, outdated shelving system, were all wrong, and were driving me crazy whenever I tried to re-shelve the books), the spine of The Anybodies caught my eye.

I can't say what about it attracted my attention. The title was hidden by a big sticker with the letters PB (for paperback) and then FIC (for fiction) and then BOD for Bode. Maybe it was the charming, powder-blue color peeking out from around the sticker. Anyways, I took the book off the shelf, opened it up and read the dedication:

"THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED to you. Yes, you. Don't be so shocked. Haven't you always secretly thought that you deserved a book dedicated to you and you only?"

I smirked. I grinned. I stood up and asked the school librarian, "Excuse me, but are parents allowed to check out books too?"

The truth is, The Anybodies was written just for me, and for every other person who loves to read. This is a book for readers, and since most books are read by readers, I'd say it hits the market right on target. It is one of those books that just had to be written by somebody, and so it is only fitting that it should have been written by N.E. Bode. It's funny. Hilarious. I laughed out loud several times, once even punching my fist in the air in triumph. The book is also adventurous and heartwarming, for that's what readers want, isn't it? And there are plenty of other goodies, like children accidentally swapped at birth, retired circus performers, fairies that pop out of books, giant peaches, mysterious diaries written in code, a bitter love-triangle, grouchy henchmen, and a perfectly ordinary squirrel.

I'd recommend this book to any child (or adult) who has read everything on the shelf and is hungry for a little something different.