"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · wondermous


post two of my raid on ‘the coloring book’s’ archives (my other, sleeping blog reflecting the randomness of me).

two books, that if you haven’t checked out, you should.


From March 24, -09

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor.

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.

170 pages.

Nate picked this up at the book fair at school. It is 170 pages and recommended to ages: 8-12. The version nate has is a ‘literature circle edition’ which means it comes with book discussion questions in the back; some of which are not too bad.

If the idea the title incites a discomfort, wait until you get to reading it. Georgina (the main character) is in a difficult situation. She, her mother, and younger brother, come to live in a car (a clunker) after being evicted and having all their money taken by their father who has run out on them. It is very much a story that deals with desperation beautifully. Georgina is in a hard situationand struggles to make good choices. O’Connor carefully erects walls in which Georgina is forced to work around (or ram herself into head-on), walls I found frustrating but necessary to complicate the already difficult situation.

This story is not an easy one (though easily read) and I think that is a good thing. O’Connor creates convincing characters in a well-described setting, though I initially balked at its placement in the Carolinas, accents/idioms included (it felt cliche).

Putting down the book mid-read is difficult because there are tense situations you want to see through. and, alas, it all turns out in the end, though the ending itself is not easy—it is real enough without robbing the child reader of catharsis. I was still haunted, and so was Natalya. Her eyes have been opened to situations of homelessness and the need for compassion and community; and she has expressed a desire to help. On that response alone, have your 8+ take a look at How to Steal a Dog.

All in all, I think O’Connor weaves a good story, creating a tight conflict and leading the characters through it successfully, if not at times surprising us all.

Savvy by Ingrid Law.

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2008.

342 pages.

Savvy is a lot of fun!! though not terribly easy either. Things happen, decisions are made (perhaps rather hastily, certainly emotionally), and adventure ensues. Law has a fabulous imagination, and it slips so easily into the reality of the book, and thus, our reality.

Mibs, born Mississippi, is turning 13 and on her birthday will recieve her savvy, the gift of a special ability. This is a familial inheritence though the story comes to encourage that everyone should find their gifts, their uniqueness–and know that it can work for you or against you if you haven’t developed an understanding of its use and purpose. The lessons are fairly sublte, in the way a good story can relay them.

The characters are well-crafted, and consistently complex. We have a central character (our narrator, Mibs), but she is not the only character to grow or develop. Law handles the cast of interesting characters effortlessly.

I really, really recommend this read. If you like a bit of the magical in your read, I suggest this one. It is a bit coming of age; Mibs is 13, but innocence is still intact, willed there by a girl on the brink of young-womanhood. She comes to a decision to be comfortable with being young, I like this aspect to the story.

I think it is recommended for 9-12, which is fair. I think it is fun for boy or girl, though I think a girl may be more comfortable with the first person narration. The ideas are fun…and some of the brothers have awesome powers savvy!

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