Archive for the ‘Families’ Category

WP_20150911_16_40_33_Pro 1Michael Morphurgo doesn’t fool around. His stories aim for the heart and hit every time. In Half a Man Michael recounts his slow-growing relationship with his grandfather who was terribly disfigured and scarred while in the merchant navy during World War II. When Michael was little, his mother invited her father to family dinners and for holidays, after many years of being separated from him after her mother left.  She told Michael to never look at grandfather’s face! But he did. As Michael grew older he spent summers on the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall with his grandfather. As their easy relationship grew from reading in silence to fishing, his grandfather finally shared the attack on his ship, the hospitalization, the healing, and the separation of the family. Michael said that he was closer to his grandfather than anyone in his life. After his death, Michael read a note left by his grandfather, “Thanks for looking at me like you did.” If Michael had not, his grandfather’s story would have died with him. No one else was told. Ever. Makes you want to buy a ticket to go talk with your grandparents, doesn’t it? Buy it. Give it. Cry over it.

Michael’s WebsiteWar Horse by Michael Murpurgo


“I sit in my tree
I sing like the birds
My beak is my pen
My songs are my poems.”

“Words should wander and meander. They should fly like owls and flicker like bats and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing.”

“We stand dead still and we listen to the night. The city drones. An owl hoots and a cat howls and a dog barks and a siren wails.
We let the stars shine into us.”

You know, everyone with good sense has to love David Almond’s gift of laying magic on hundreds of pages.  My Name is Mina is no exception as it introduces the reader to an exceptional, precocious little girl who loves birds is given the permission and the gift to be herself by a sad and wise mother.  School is a horror for Mina.  Alternative schools are  tolerable but not the right fit for her.  As her mother told the principal, Mina would have her as a teacher, a wonderful yard and her own tree.  In that tree are the black birds to inspire, scold and teach Mina.  Almond shows he is a writer’s writer with this beautiful story that will be wasted on many.

David’s Website


Love? MaybePiper is a cynic about love.  Her mother if on her third marriage, and Piper is the after-school and dinner caregiver to her twin and hyper half brother and sister.  She loves them, and volunteers to help, but.  Then there is Valentine’s Day.  Her buddies develop a love potion that they all consume in order to have romance by the day.  Piper does not buy it.  Instead she designs “Consternation Hearts” for the boutique candy shop where she works, when she has time. Then the most popular guy in school is with her wherever she goes.  She feels great that she is with him, and then not so much.  Charlie, her neighborly roof buddy, is exasperated with her.  What is wrong with him?  Is life just one big disappointment?  Maybe?

Heather’s Website (Colorful and almost edible!) 

Eerie magnetism, with a heaping of evil, a present day siren:   that is Ruby, the older sister of Chloe.   I have met people who can command the allegiance, faith and adoration of others to a nonsensical level, but Ruby takes the cake.  Even balloons with written commands on them obey her will.  Ruby demands that Chloe show her drinking party Chloe’s swimming ability in the reservoir that destroyed the town called Olive, which Ruby insists still has inhabitants walk-swimming with their webbed hands, waiting to snatch the living.  Chloe does it, swims out to the center of it but returns with a boat holding a dead girl.  The incident and drinking party are discovered and Chloe’s dad demands that she live with him.  Two years later she reappears, because Ruby insists, to live with her again.  Who does Chloe see, but the girl in the boat walking toward her.  The dead girl is alive?  That return was terrifying for Chloe and did not bother one other person.  The mental and emotional manipulation of boyfriends, Chloe, townspeople accelerates.  Can Ruby truly make anything happen? Who really is the most dysfunctional of these two sisters?  Here I digress:  this is another YA novel that has a weird anti-Christ statement dropped into the story on page 138 with Ruby stating that Christ is as real as a unicorn. ( If Ruby says it, is it true?)   It is a unrelated and disparaging statement in an amazing novel.  I will always remember these sisters.

Nova’s Website

Thea has been her own care-giver, since mom is flighty and dad seems Aspergers-esque. At the prestigious high school she meets a mesmerizing young man and falls immediately in love with him, Will. Hooked. He is a girl’s dream come true, even keeping their romance hot after he leaves for Columbia. During one love-making session, they do not use protection and Thea becomes pregnant. She tells everyone that she is aborting the baby, but leaves the procedure table, never to return. Both set of parents give them money to begin their lives together with Ian, the baby to which Thea is eternally hooked. Columbia is a must in this arrangement, and Thea worries their relationship into confrontations. Will has been traumatized since Ian’s birth, and when Thea accidentally burns Ian, Will explodes with a demand the adoption of Ian so their lives can go forward. That night Thea packs up to live with her father, the fellow I feel has AS. There are bumps, but things work out. Thea crochets adult replicas of her childhood bikini, and despite her father’s negativity, she persists in her hooked hobby becoming a money-maker. And Dad uses his mathematical skills to admit the market, and help with production. Will? They talk weekly, and there is room for more in their relationship. This is an powerful novel about the fears of a teen mom coming into being a parent, her fears, concern for her baby’s safety, and the epiphanies she has about parenthood, particularly about her parents. Will and Thea’s sex scenes are a bit too much for younger readers. But this would be excellent for a teen parenting class’s novel.

ENDERS’ Rating: ****
Catherine’s Website

It is during World War II in Canada. Marie Clare lives on the prairies close to Pembina Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Manitoba, Canada. Little does she know when they visit their uncle there, that she and her little brother, little sister and her would be patients there. Marie Clare enters the strange existence of teens with tuberculosis straining against growing pains and a horrible disease and its boring, long treatment. Without much family support, worry about her little brother especially, and a roommate with severe problems, Marie Clare is under lots of stress when she is supposed to relax, rest and become well. Today TB is easily treated while the patient carries on a normal life. During World War II the treatment included being bundled up like a mummy and put outside to breathe clean air.

This book would be nicely coupled with Comfort by Joyce Moyer Hostetter which takes place at a polio sanitarium, another great story about teenagers in a strange situation because of their health problems.

ENDERS’ Rating: ******

What kind of man will create an unbearable family life because of his professional humiliation?

One son leaves to work in China. Another son does not return from college to visit home. They both leave their sister and mother to suffer from the emotional and verbal whippings of the father. They had their share. But Terra carries an extra burden, a large port wine birthmark that covers the side of her face. Another target for needling from her father. Terra’s mom takes her to Seattle for yet another attempt to cure the birthmark. On their way home they spin out on ice and rear-end Jacob and his mother’s SUV. And here starts amazing friendships that heal birthmarks deeper than the skin. Terra and her mother learn about themselves in…China!

You will not like the dad, but you will cheer for everyone else in this amazing story.

ENDERS’ Rating: *****

Justina Headley Chen’s Blog

If you have been under a rock the last few months, let me help you escape. The Help is an entertaining, eye-opening, jaw-dropping novel about the lives of one young woman who is white, 23 years old, and in a southern protocol prison, and how two maids, “the help,” helped her escape.

The Help is about two extraordinary black maids, trying to make a living and trying to survive working for pennies for an array of fussy, social-climbing, vindictive white women. Before they know it they are authors and creating quite a stir in the town of Jackson, Mississippi. Didn’t live during 1962? Not a problem. You will get this book.

ENDERS’ Rating: *****

Kathryn’s Website

Family tragedies can pile up on a person at dizzying speeds and Thomas Makee’s pile is suffocating him. He has dropped out of school, dropped his music and family, but hasn’t dropped his obsession with a former girlfriend, nor drugs. When he tumbled from a table and acquires 10 stitches, he starts part-time jobs in cubicle-ville and at a restaurant sink. Francesca, from Saving Francesca, works at the restaurant owned by a relative and practices her music in the back room. Tom and Ned, the cook, yell suggestions to her from the kitchen. Loved that! Back to the tragedies…they affect the entire family, sorrow dripping from the stories of Georgie, Tom, Dom and others. I was getting depressed. But humans do have the ability to choose their futures, and there is lots of right choices being made to shovel out of the misery. The family dynamics in this Italian (I am pretty sure) family are loud, argumentative and volatile.

Probably not the cheeriest review I have written, but I am hopeful for all the family! Lots of language, so best for older YA readers who can also wrap their minds around the heaviness of the plot. Well worth the read.

ENDERS’ Rating: ****

Melina’s Website

Okay, I have to confess: I snatch Dana’s books at review group. She and Beth Kephart are two writers that pull you into the characters’ feelings so artfully.

Drew, a loner and fellow rat lover, lives with her single mom who has opened a gourmet cheese shop in central California. Since it is a few years before the trend of “trendy food shops” profits are lean, but the bills are not. Also in the shop are gorgeous Nick, the pasta maker and Swoozie, the clerk and replacement grandma for Drew. One of Drew’s jobs is to throw out the expired food to the alley which is whisked away. One night in the alley she meets Emmett Crane who lives on their thrown out foods. Emmett has a secret and Drew is determined to learn more about him. His quest sweeps her up. Does the mission succeed? One thing is for sure, the friendship does.

Wonderfully written so that we see into the souls of these two kids. Oh, and the story is told by Drew as an 18-year-old attending Berkeley. That perspective makes the story special.

ENDERS’ Rating: *****

Dana’s Website