Best Friends = A Better You

We all know adults who are, well, less than mature. We also know kids who sometimes exceed those adults in wisdom. Such is the case in Barbara O’Connor’s new chapter book, Wonderland.

Mavis is a head-strong girl whose mother is chronically discontent, moving them frequently to the next town and the next job that she thinks will finally bring her happiness. Meanwhile, brave Mavis has only one focused desire: to have and be a best friend.

Rose is the introverted daughter in a wealthy family. She has a marginally involved father and an overbearing mother who constantly complains about trivial matters and people who don’t live up to her standards. Chief among her mother’s disappointments is Rose, who silently absorbs her mother’s cutting remarks and retreats when she can stand no more. Rose’s saving grace is Mr. Duffy, the aging gatekeeper of the housing development in which she lives. Together, they laugh, play and genuinely care for one another, yet lately, he has changed. Since the death of his cherished dog, the luster has gone out of life for Mr. Duffy.

Enter a third character, Henry, a retired greyhound whose future is not bright at Wonderland Race Track. He escapes and hides out, fearfully, in the woods behind Magnolia Estates, where Rose lives.

The tale is told in alternating chapters, narrated by Rose, Mavis or Henry.

When Mavis’ mom takes a job as housekeeper for Rose’s family, Mavis instantly decides that Rose will be her best friend. The friendship is rocky at times. The girls must endure the catty behavior of Rose’s mom, the endless discontent of Mavis’ mom in her new job, Amanda, the snobbish neighbor girl all while devising a plan to capture Henry as a new canine companion that they hope will relight the spark in Mr. Duffy.

Not everything turns out as they may have hoped. Still, in the process, friendships, human and canine,  blossom and people grow.  Mavis develops self-discipline; Rose self-assurance and both learn that friendship can foster positive change that spills over to others in your life. A fun read about determination, evolution and the power of friendship.

Written by Barbara O’Connor

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Copyright 2018

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Two Langstons and Poetry

After the loss of his mama, eleven-year-old Langston is uprooted from his home in Alabama.  His father needs to escape the painful memories of the death of his wife and to seize the opportunity in Chicago to earn a better living. For Langston, being transplanted only exacerbates his grief. Not only is he in mourning, but he deeply misses all of what Alabama means to him: a loving grandma, aunt, cousins, friends, rural life, kind folks and southern cooking. In Chicago, Langston is bullied by three boys, only one neighbor speaks to him, people, trash, even buildings are tightly stacked and his dad’s cooking is awful. Respite comes when Langston stumbles upon a library.  In 1946 Alabama, libraries are not accessible to blacks. But, in this Chicago branch, all residents are welcome. A librarian guides Langston to the poetry section and the works of Langston Hughes. The writing of Hughes connects on a soul level with Langston and launches events that help young Langston understand more about the people in his life from bullies, to family to himself. A well-crafted story of love, loss and compassion. Lesa Cline Ransome  has designed a chapter book short in length, but long on complex characters and powerful messages.

Lesa Cline-Ransome follows her novel with an Author’s Note. In it, she provides background on the time period, from the 1940’s through the 1970′,s during which a steady stream of blacks relocated from the South to the North in search of increased liberties and the ability to financially prosper. The author also expands on the library central to the story, a Chicago landmark, conceived by and named after Dr. Hall, an influential black doctor and community leader. The Hall Library showcased the lives and work of successful black writers and was the actual spot where Langston Hughes spent time drafting his own life story.

This would make a great read-aloud, particularly as part of celebrating Black History Month!

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Copyright 2018. Accelerated Reader Level 4.5

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