Staff Review — The Red Notebook

RedNotebookThe Red Notebook

Antoine Laurain

Gallic Books Limited

Available now

What a charming novel The Red Notebook is! Antoine Laurain has written a story about two strangers who would be perfect for each other, if only they could somehow connect. But he is a divorced bookseller. She is a widowed gilder. A meeting seems unlikely.

He finds her abandoned handbag, which contains objects and mementoes that reveal her personality but not her identity. A red notebook is filled with her thoughts and musings, and he gradually falls in love with the person who has written them. He uses his superior literary powers (being a bookseller and all) to discover her identity, doggedly pursuing a series of clues that are scattered throughout the text like breadcrumbs.

However, The Red Notebook is more than just a lovely story reminiscent of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry and When Harry Met Sally. The Red Notebook is a love song dedicated to French literature, in particular to Patrick Modiano and his oeuvre. It is Modiano himself who provides the first clue to the handbag owner’s identity. There are references to at least 43 other authors, most of them French. Many names are recognizable to American readers.

Reading this novel made me want to read all of Modiano’s novels — sadly, out of 25 or so, only a few are available in English. The only way I see out of this deplorable situation is to improve six years of French well enough to read them!

~ Lysbeth Abrams

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Morse Pond Review — Brown Girl Dreaming

BrownGirlDreamingBrown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

Nancy Paulson Books

$16.99

Available now

I liked Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson because it is a story about the author’s life.The book talks about her family, and I liked that her family is always together.This book is a unique and I would recommend it to everyone.

~ Rachelle,10

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Morse Pond Review — The Lost Children of the Far Islands

LostChildrenoftheFarIslandsThe Lost Children of the Far Islands

Emily Raabe

Knopf Books

$16.99

Available now

The Lost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe is quite a fascinating book. Gus, Leo, and Ila think that they are just normal kids until everything around them turns upside down.  It is action-packed, and has some twists and turns that you never would see it coming. I highly recommend this book if you like adventure.

~ Samantha R., age 12

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Morse Pond Review — House of Robots: My Brother the Robot

HouseofRobotsHouse of Robots: My Brother the Robot

James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Little, Brown

13.99

Available now

The book that I read was House of Robots: My Brother the Robot by James Patterson. What I liked about the book is that at the start Sammy didn’t like E going to his school, but at the end they became best buds. E is a robot that thinks it is Sammy’s brother. Sammy is worried that the other students will judge him as a nerd because of E. The bully in this book is up to no good at their school and is trying to get his crowd back. You should read this book because it is really funny and great to read.

~ Dontae, age 12

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Morse Pond Review — Bending Over Backwards

BendingOverBackwardsPicture Perfect: Bending Over Backwards

Cari Simmons and Heather Alexander

HarperCollins

$6.99

Available now

Bending Over Backwards by Cari Simmons and Heather Alexander was a great book. If you enjoy gymnastics or cheerleading then you’d love this book. I do gymnastics, so it was easy for me to understand to follow the story. If you don’t, you may not understand some of the terms. Overall I would read this book at least 5 more times. I’ve come to the conclusion that this book is probably meant for girls. Boys may enjoy this book, but I don’t think they’d receive the same message. I’d give this book 5 stars out of 5 stars.
~ Sarah S.,12

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Morse Pond Review — Iron Trial

IronTrialIron Trial

Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Scholastic

Available now

Magisterium: Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (two well-known and loved fantasy authors) was an action packed, mysterious fantasy, where Call is forced to go to a trial to get into an academy of wizards. While there, he purposely tries to fail so he can have a normal life. But, then again his life has never really been normal. When Call is called up to be accepted into the Magisterium his father is furious, and Call has to go to the Magisterium. I would give it 50 out of 5 stars.

Eamon, age 12

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Staff Review — Everlasting Lane

EverlastingLaneEverlasting Lane

Andrew Lovett

Melville House

Available now

Everlasting Lane, by Andrew Lovett, is being marketed as a “timeless coming-of-age tale as charming and haunting as the movie Stand by Me.” It promises something dark underneath the surface, told from a child’s point of view, and it takes place in England, all very compelling reasons to read this novel, at least in my opinion. Melville House is one of my favorite publishers, and this novel seemed different from some of their other books, which intrigued me as well.

Well, I got more than I bargained for.

Everlasting Lane is more like I Am the Cheese morphing into We Were Liars.

Peter Lambert is a nine-year (or is he ten?) boy whose life changes in the 1970s when his father dies, and his mother moves them to a village called Amberley. However, as soon as they arrive, Peter feels like he’s been there before. His mother confirms that they used to live in the very same house that they have now moved to. As the new kid at a small village school, Peter endures being treated like an outcast. He makes a couple of friends, Anna-Marie Liddell and Tommie Winslow, who are outcasts too, and together they explore the countryside. Except for the bullying they endure at school, this all sounds very bucolic. However, some of the people and situations that they encounter are completely horrifying. There is a chilling scene with a local called Mr. Merridew and a dog called ‘The Beast.’ Their teachers, Mr. Gale and Mrs. Carpenter, would be arrested if they taught in the schools today. Peter’s mother is acting strangely, and a psychiatrist called Dr. Todd has appeared in their lives. There appears to be a hidden room in Peter’s house, because the window is visible from the outside, but he cannot get in from the inside. Peter gradually realizes that there is a secret that his mother is keeping from him.

So how much can I say without giving anything away?

Peter, and Anna-Maria, and Tommie eventually discover what the secret is, but this is not as straightforward as it sounds. Oh, I do love unreliable narrators! They make you go back and re-read everything because all the assumptions that you have been blithely making turn out to be questionable. It’s kind of like real life: decisions based on unspoken assumptions often turn out to be wrong.

Alice in Wonderland is referenced many times, with the underlying theme of being unable to distinguish reality from unreality. Butterflies are another recurring theme, but the symbolism is variable and open to interpretation: transformation, rebirth, new beginnings, souls of the dead, souls of the dead in Purgatory. Picking one or another here is difficult because I am not sure what is real or what is not real in Everlasting Lane.

Is Peter a traumatized child or is he a psychopath? Has he buried his trauma by making up stories or has he made up stories to bury the truth? Do we all have the capacity to develop into psychopaths at a certain crucial point in our lives? Is there some sort of fork in our personal road, as there is in the Everlasting Lane of the title, where we turn to the dark or to the light?

(I like the word “everlasting”, because I like compound words (which are kind of like word alchemy), and because if you take the opposite of each part of this word, you get the word “neverending”. Combining two opposites means the same thing, like a double negative in math! How cool is that? Keeping the “ing” endings, I made a small flowchart of the combinations:

“everlasting” –>”everending”–>”neverlasting”–>”neverending”. (Do not drop the “ing”s, as that completely changes the meanings.) The two middle words mean essentially the same thing, too, but not the same thing as the first and last words. Why do I find this stuff fascinating?)

I still have not completely decided what happens, or at least, who is telling the truth. If this novel is based, in part, on the author’s life: let’s hope it’s the bucolic English countryside part…

~ Lysbeth Abrams

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Have you all been following the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign? I can’t even explain how impressed I am with this organization. They have managed to completely flip the conversation about diversity in publishing. No complaining, finger pointing, or hand wringing. Instead they offer clear actionable steps and incredibly positive dialogue, not to mention palpable enthusiasm, about the importance of diversity in publishing. If you want to know more about this incredible group of people, check out their website weneeddiversebooks.org.

In our ongoing conversations with the members of the Morse Pond book club, Mrs. Abbott and I have had numerous conversations about diversity in publishing and the importance of reading outside one’s comfort zone. Mrs. Abbott took these photos ages ago and I have been sorely remiss in posting them. Nevertheless, I’m so excited to share these photos. We need diverse books. Always.

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Morse Pond Review — El Deafo

ElDeafoEl Deafo

Cece Bell

Abrams

$10.95

Available now

The story El Deafo by Cece Bell is very interesting. As I learned, surprisingly, this book is actually based on Cece Bell’s childhood. This funny novel is a deaf girl’s adventure through school and her life in general. When I started reading this I had to almost lock the book away to stop reading. If you are looking for a book that is funny, lighthearted, and fast paced, this book is for you.
~ Ryan, Grade 6

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Staff Review — Cat Out of Hell

CatoutofHellCat Out Of Hell

Lynne Truss

Melville House

Available now

Who knows what really goes on in the minds of cats? Or librarians? Maybe things really are as they appear, but maybe not. What if cats had superpowers that they have been losing for hundreds of years, and they blamed us for the loss? How far would they go to get their powers back?

Reality exists for most of us as what we see, but perhaps — beneath the surface– there is more than meets the eye. We blithely go about our lives, oblivious to the dark forces that exist in the lives and minds of — cats. At least some of them.

In Cat Out Of Hell, well, the cat’s out of the bag. There’s murder, and devil worship, and secret manuscripts, and corrupt librarians. And cats.

Lynne Truss writes with a light tone that belies the death and destruction caused by felines. Reading Cat Out Of Hell was like being immersed in a Sherlock Holmes mystery with overtones of Jeremy Bushnell’s The Weirdness, and a disturbing little book called The Improbable Cat, by Allan Ahlberg. I enjoyed it immensely.

~ Lysbeth Abrams

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