Friday, July 1, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . ..

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown -- Young Adult Historical Fiction/Mystery/Romance

This gothic novel/scrapbook is set at the end of the Civil War. Jennie Lovell's twin brother Toby has died in the war. She feels his presence always around her as she awaits the return of her beloved cousin and fiancee, Will Pritchett. When Will's brother Quinn returns, wounded, with news that Will has died, Jennie's whole world seems to end. Not only does she have a broken heart but her aunt treats her like an unpaid servant. Her Uncle Henry threatens to turn her out unless she uses some of her late father's contacts to hire Mr. Geist, a spirit photographer to contact Will. Jennie wants to believe that Will is there with her, especially after a strange experience at Mr. Geist's studio, but she uncovers a secret that could change her beliefs. However, she can't see to escape the feeling that Will is there making contact with her. She wonders if he is trying to tell her something and if he's unhappy about her budding romance with Quinn. Quinn seems to be hiding a dark secret and she's determined to figure out what it isWith her brother Toby whispering in her ear teaching her to be a spy, Jennie sets out to solve the mystery. This is a fast paced mystery that I just couldn't put down. I read it all in one sitting and far too late into the night. I figured out one piece of the puzzle but couldn't put all the clues together. When Jennie finally did, it came as a bit of a shock. I liked Jennie and felt sorry for her position in life. The rest of her family is fairy stereotypical. The plot was engaging and very different from anything else I've ever read. The epilogue was unnecessary and didn't quite jell with the rest of the book. What I loved best about this book are the period details, especially the scrapbook containing photos, letters and other items relating to the story. The scrapbook is illustrated but based on extensive research of period photos and letters. The fabulous website adds more historical context for the book including spirit photographs, the Civil War, fashion and anything else you want to know about the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone ages 11+.

The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
Miss Kanagawa was made by a master dollmaker in Japan as a gift to the school children of America. She and her sisters travel to the United States as ambassadors. Miss Kanagawa takes her roll seriously and attempts to help four little girls discover the meaning of friendship. In return, she will experience something she's never known before. First she meets Bunny from a wealthy family in NYC in 1928. Only Miss Kanagawa sees how lonely Bunny is despite her riches. Then there is Lois who dreams of flying in Depression-era Chicago, Willie Mae in rural Kentucky and finally Lucy, an Okie migrant with big dreams.

This story is a bit disappointing. Though it's told from Miss Kanagawa's point-of-view, it's mostly about the girls. In any other book, I would have loved to read about those girls but in a book about a Japanese friendship doll, I was expecting more about the doll. The stories of the girls are not interconnected in any way and the lessons learned are really corny and heavy handed.
Younger readers who may not be familiar with the story of the friendship dolls will probably like this book.  The book may be a bit too intense for some young readers.

One of the characters dies.

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