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Some Kind of Happiness
by Claire Legrand
(Simon & Schuster)
11-year old Finley Hart is a troubled, anxious, highly imaginative kid. Many of her days are ‘blue’ days. Her parents are getting a divorce and decide to send her to her grandparents’ place in the country for the summer where she meets her extended family for the first time- a mess of cousins, her aunts and uncles, her sweet Grandpa and restrained Grandmother. They all have their own complex stories to tell. And it is here that she finds the Everwood, a magical kingdom in need of help, which until now has only existed in her mind and the pages of her notebooks. There is a family secret to be uncovered, rifts to be healed, peace to be found, and the Everwood to be rescued from grave danger. By saving it, Finley may just be able to save herself. Legrand deftly weaves all these elements together to create a rich tapestry of family life, heartbreaks and joys. It’s rare to be privy to the inner thoughts of a troubled child. Finley has her challenges but we get her and we root for her and we rejoice in the strength she ultimately finds.
Written by Kirsten Hall
Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
(Enchanted Lion Books)
This picture book creates a dream-like world where you’ll want to spend a little time: lingering in forest scenes rendered in muted, earth tones, absorbing the changing light of the seasons. Spring erupts in a riot of greens and the forest animals are busy with their routines, until they spot it, a gold leaf. The shining leaf, its gold ink contrasting sharply with the organic colours of the forest, elicits in the animals a fierce desire to possess it for themselves. First the warbler seizes it, then the chipmunk, then the mouse; each animal has a plan for this new treasure. Except the fox, who just wants it because everyone else does. By the time the grasping animals are through with it, the leaf lies in tatters - gold ink spattered across the page - and the animals realize with sorrow that it is gone. Memories of the gold leaf fade as summer days stretch long and bright, and autumn fades to winter. But when spring dawns again, the animals are watchful. Has it returned? Indeed it has, but this time they have learned. Now they are all golden, literally and figuratively: “Their happiness was that it had come back to them after all.” Kirsten Hall’s gentle poetic fable is complemented beautifully by Matthew Forsythe’s evocative illustrations which playfully range from close-up realism to surreal forests of geometric patterns.
Valeria Luiselli's Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions is an incredibly moving, tragic, and enraging book. Luiselli, a wonderful novelist and essayist, is also a volunteer interpreter for the federal immigration court. She interviews unaccompanied child migrants from Mexico and Central America - and there are 40 questions that she must ask them and then record. This is a very clear-eyed indictment of the inhumane treatment of child refugees by both the Mexican and the American governments. This is an ongoing crisis, and the individual stories of children and teens give a personal face to the horrors of the larger experience. The recent news of the truck in San Antonio, packed with migrants, both dead and alive, and including many children, is a recent reminder of the necessity of humane refugee and immigrant policies. The title itself "Tell Me How It Ends" is what her daughter asks Luiselli when she hears the partial stories of some of these children. Acknowledging the real stories of these children is a start in making sure the endings aren't as grim as they are now. A necessary, beautifully-written book.
Sarah Perry's sophomore novel The Essex Serpent is a lush, gothic, romantic tale, and a perfectly engrossing read for long summer days. Rumours of a legendary sea monster emerge in a Victorian English village when a man is found dead. At the same time, a young and liberated widow comes to the seaside town to search for fossils, and falls into a deep and strange relationship with a rector and his dying wife. The Essex Serpent is full of wonderfully descriptive language, suspense, and dark humour, as well as deft portrayals of subsumed passion and social and sexual mores. You'll be sucked in to the story, and will wonder if you can hear the flapping wings of the approaching serpent!