Title: I’ll Give You The Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson
Publisher: Dial Books
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
Like We Are All Made of Molecules, I’ll Give You The Sun straddles the line between middle grade and young adult fiction. Unlike We Are All Made of Molecules, I’ll Give You The Sun falls much more solidly into the young adult category.
This book is also told from alternating points of view, twins named Noah and Jude. Interestingly, the chapters from Noah’s point of view are told when he was thirteen-years-old and Jude’s chapters come three years later when she is sixteen. This is not just a gimmick, it is part to the story. In Noah’s chapters, the twins are close and life is pretty good. In Jude’s chapters, the twins have lost their bond, their personalities have switched and it is clear that something has happened to blow their lives apart.
As the story progresses, going back and forth between Noah and Jude’s narratives, readers discover what happened and layers of secrets and deception get revealed. Although Noah (and Jude) are obviously younger in his chapters, the word choice and content may still be uncomfortable for younger middle grade readers.
I’ll Give You The Sun is a powerful, heart wrenching story about art and loss. It has a message for readers of many different ages but will resonate most with those mature enough to relate to the myriad of emotions explored.
Title: We Are All Made of Molecules
Author: Susin Neilsen
Publisher: Tundra Books
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
This book is aimed at a slightly older audience than most of the books I include on this site (in some places it is listed as middle grade, in other places young adult). I’m including it because it’s good – very good – and also because the categorization of books based on age is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
It is told from the alternating view points of thirteen-year-old Stewart and fourteen-year-old Ashley, who are thrown together when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Although Stewart is gifted (or perhaps because of it), he is socially immature and the chapters told from his perspective are clearly middle grade. But Ashley, although only one year older, is in some ways precocious putting both her voice and the content of her chapters into the young adult category.
The book tackles mature content matter, most notably the fact that Ashely almost gets raped, which may be difficult for some younger readers to process. (It was difficult for me, as well, but likely in a different way and for different reasons.) Still, I would argue that preteen readers should be exposed to some of these issues in the safely and context of the book before they are experiencing it themselves.
This is a topic I will be addressing in future posts. Age of main character, target audience, and content maturity is an issue that’s affecting my own writing a lot lately. In the meantime, I highly recommend We Are All Made of Molecules for middle grade readers (and above) who are ready to tackle more challenging content and love a good book!
Here’s the blurb from Books-A-Million, Amazon, Indigo, Barnes&Noble, and Indiebound:
Cut from AAA hockey last season, seventh-grader Hudson Pickle needs to make the basketball team this year. But, after having an asthma attack at the first tryout, his chances aren’t looking good. His former best friend, Trevor, is also trying out. But he won’t even speak to Hudson since Hudson had all but ignored him while concentrating on hockey. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, now his uncle Vic — who’s been staying with him and his mom since a suspicious fire at his house —has been diagnosed with a genetic respiratory illness. Could this mean Hudson has something worse than asthma? And while this DNA mystery is being unraveled, will the truth about what happened to his father finally be revealed as well?
Yolanda Ridge’s compelling coming-of-age novel for middle-graders combines humor, action and mystery — with a dose of genetic science to keep things interesting. It offers a rich reading experience with complex characters and a multilayered story. Thoughtful, authentic and likeable Hudson will inspire readers with the grit and perseverance he relies on to get through his difficulties, and the self-deprecating wit he uses to manage middle-school social dynamics, evolving friendships and a changing family structure. There are also multiple mysteries running throughout the story — involving Hudson’s father, his uncle and his own health — that are sure to keep the pages turning.
It’s already available for pre-order but won’t hit the shelves until September!
It’s off to the printers! Hitting the bookstores in September. More information to follow!
Part of my resolution for 2017 is to do more teaching. To that end, I’m pleased to announce the following courses I will be offering through Selkirk College:
Introduction to Children’s Literature
Course ID: ARTS 1084A
For those wanting to know more about children’s literature in order to write a book of their own. Learn about the different categories of children’s books and how to identify your target audience. Using examples from current and classic books for readers from newborn to age eighteen, participants will examine what makes a children’s book successful. Leave with a plan for getting your book idea onto the page. Guided by Yolanda Ridge https://yolandaridge.com/
February 2 to March 9; Thursday 7:00pm – 8:00pm (6 sessions)
Creating Your Children’s Book
Course ID: ARTS 1084B
Do you have an idea for a book aimed at children ages newborn to eighteen? In this course, you will learn how to write and revise your book to suit your target audience. In each class, we will examine one aspect of a successful children¿s book and apply it to your work in progress. Includes 1:1 feedback with Yolanda, leave with up to 5 pages of a completed draft.https://yolandaridge.com/
April 6 to May 11; Thursday 7:00pm – 9:30pm (6 sessions)
If one of your resolutions is to try your hand at writing or learn more about the genre, please consider joining me! Go to http://selkirk.ca/ce/courses/arts-culture/writing find out more.
There is a lot of talk lately about 2016 being the worst year ever. In terms of world events, I don’t disagree. More personally, however, I realize more every year (and every day) just how fortunate I am. Looking ahead to 2017, I hope to share my good fortune with others and do my part to make the world a more tolerant and accepting place. I’m looking forward to the release of my book, Inside Hudson Pickle (I just saw a sneak peak of the cover and can’t wait to share it here), as well more writing and sharing of good books.
But we still have a few more days left of 2016 and I want to wish everyone a very happy and joyful holiday. I hope we all find a sense of peace that can carry us into whatever lies ahead.
Best wishes. xo yolanda
Title: The Wild Robot
Author & Illustrator: Peter Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
A middle grade book about nature triumphing over technology? Yes, please!
On the surface, The Wild Robot is a book set in the not-so-distant future where robots (or robot creators) rule everything but the small island where ROZZUM unit 7134 (aka Roz), gets stranded after her cargo ship sinks. Beyond that, it is a story of love, community, and the force of nature with layered themes that will resonate with a wide range of readers. The relationship Roz develops with an orphaned gosling, Brightbill, is so touching and full of humanity that it brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. Not your typical robot story, that’s for sure.
Although character development is paramount, Peter Brown does not sacrifice on plot. Essentially a survival story, the ending is shocking, sad and oddly satisfying (with more than a hint about the possibility of a sequel).
As another reviewer said, “This book will do for robots what Charlotte’s Web did for pigs”. Read it (or listen to the audiobook) – I promise it will make you re-think the future of Artificial Intelligence.