Connecting Dots by Sharon Jennings

February 18, 2015

Connecting Dots Publisher: Second Story Press; Series: ‘Gutsy Girl’ ; 183p.:c2015

Sharon Jennings’ long anticipated companion to the multi-nominated book Home Free has finally been launched!

Connecting Dots is the heart wrenching story of feisty Cassandra Jovanovich, Leanne Mets’ ‘bosom’ friend, first introduced in ‘Home Free’.

We are given a small hint that our central character  has a very direct and forthright attitude, as she remarks on her friend’s constant inquisitiveness about her life. The italicized word “my” in the sentence “so I am sitting at my desk in my room” is a subtle indicator for the reader that this tiny word will become important in the narrative of Cassie’s life.

Society in the late ’50’s and early 60’s often dictated the social norms of the day. It is for this reason that every aspect of family life comes under close scrutiny when the circumstances of Cassie’s birth are established. At age 5 with the untimely passing of her Grandmother, we see how Cassie’s sliver of childhood innocence rapidly diminishes as she is passed through the ranks of various relatives.

Over time she is looked upon as a liability. Facing ongoing criticism, her confusion and mistrust merge into a mask of stubborn defiance. Cassie’s constant ‘tough -act’ demeanor translates further when participating in a school play her ‘acting skills’ win her positive praise. Amazed at how she feels on stage, she vows to explore this revelation and strives to hone it into a new found career.  Cassie faces the ultimate test and when she freezes it is Lee’s genuine open-minded belief in her that comes to the rescue. It is at this awkward moment that the reader is given a glimpse of the real Cassie beneath the cultivated tenacious exterior.

I found this tale of a harrowing childhood to be a sensitive coming of age portrayal. Ms Jennings’ has written Cassie’s story with great perceptiveness and understanding, which is communicated to the reader who in turn cannot help but become an unshakable champion of Cassandra Jovanovich!

Spirited, inquisitive and quirky, “almost twelve-year old” Cassandra Jovanovich, exhibits such a fearlessness that despite all odds, the reader cannot help but admire, applaud and ….be…..amazed!

Highly Recommended!!!     Be prepared “to be amazed at what will emerge!”

Reading Ability: Junior : Intermediate (Grade 6,7,8)

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: Abuse; Acceptance; Grief; Courage; Coming of Age; Acting, Actors; Friendship; Social bias;

Second Story Press: http://secondstorypress.ca/books/175-home-free

Author Interviews : http://www.openbooktoronto.com/atsintziras/blog/interview_with_sharon_Jennings

 

Thank you to SECOND STORY Press for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Moon at nine by Deborah Ellis

April 8, 2014

Moon at nine by Deborah Ellis

Moon at nine by Deborah Ellis

ARC: compliments of Pajama Press

: 273 pages; c2014 

From the publisher:

“A riveting novel set in Iran, where sexual orientation can have deadly consequences.

Based on a true story”.

 

Genre: Realistic fiction

Grades : 8, 9 (intermediate)

 

 

It is the stark dramatic cover of Deborah Ellis’ latest book, that captured my attention.

Reading those three simple words, ‘Moon at nine’….seeing the hazel-coloured eyes staring through two strands of barbwire … for me, is a very powerful image. Resisting the urge to flip the book over, I tried to figure out what this story would be about. My musings were not even near to what Ellis had written.

This story is far from being atypical….it is about a fifteen year old Iranian teen named Farrin, who is the daughter of a wealthy family in 1980’s Tehran, set during the Iran and Iraq war known as the ‘Gulf War’.

We see the story of Farrin’s privileged life, unfold through her eyes. Farrin is dissatisfied — almost bored, with her life, attending an all girls school, while evading daily bombings, and becomes less tolerant with her relationship with her mother.

Her facade of discontent comes to a screeching halt with the arrival of a new student Sadira. Sadira’s outgoing, gentle nature (personality) touches something within Farrin. The two girls connect on a level that has Farrin questioning just who she is.   The pull of Sadira’s steadfastness and compassionate caring personality is something that Farrin cannot resist and they are drawn to each other — like moths to a flame. Though they try to suppress this feeling, but to no avail, Farrin and Sadira find that their friendship evolves into a relationship that can only lead to an outcome that neither girl would anticipate.

 

Freedom … a word that is often taken for granted … and the author has given us a glimpse into a world that reads like a part of history, yet it is still a part of the present … for many young women throughout the world.

This is a story, that I am glad, author, Deborah Ellis had the courage to tell, as it was, for the woman who had the courage to tell it.

Great classroom discussions and highly recommended!!


Awakenings by Canadian author Hally Willmott

October 26, 2013

This debut novel by Canadian author, Hally Willmott., took me by surprise! A teen fantasy with a mix of the supernatural quickly builds momentuem with the sudden and unexpected death of sixteen year old Jacey’s parents.

The story accelerates as Jacey and her older brother, Hudson, race to the hometown of their Aunt and their birth ‘ Nevaeh’ racing toward sanctuary. It is during this period of grief and flight, that Jacey experiences visitations from malevolent entities and visions in a mirror – an image of herself!
Jacey is plagued with more questions then answers….thus begins her journey of self discovery. Will she have the courage and determination to forge ahead and do what must be done or will the outside forces bend her to their will?

This exciting debut novel will certainly captivate teen readers!

Awakenings -- by Hally Willmott

Awakenings — by Hally Willmott


Shapeshifter By Holly Bennett

March 27, 2011

By author: Holly Bennett
ISBN: 9781554691586
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: April/01/2010
Pages: 256

I’ve always enjoyed the works of author Holly Bennett, and found that this new novel did not disappoint!

Shapeshifter…ummm…the word alone just intrigues the mind….and leads into a world of magic that is reminiscent of Celtic folklore and ancient tales. This is the heartbreaking turbulent story of a girl who  shape shifts into a deer in order to escape the relentless pursuit of a malevolent and yet powerful sorcerer.

Bennett has truly intertwined and captured the lore, mystic and magic of  Ireland and reached far back into the  human psyche where the lines were blurred between mortal and immortality. Sive is one of those ‘immortals’ who not only can ‘shapeshift’ but is gifted with a special unquie talent of ‘Song’.  Her ‘singing’ is not of the ordinary and it  is this gift that brings her to the attention of Far Doirche, a sorcerer who first tries to marry Sive. When this fails he begins an all out attempt to enthrall her to do his bidding. Surrounded by courageous family and friends, Sive manages to escape  for a time by slipping past the boundaries of her world and into the world of mortals. Here she finds temporary refuge by taking a mortal form and living within a protective circle that allows her to even become a mother. Her protective instincts have her sacrificing herself to Far Doirche’s enchantment and thus begins her agonizing psychological torment. Salvation arrives in the quise of her son, but have the anguish and distress of being in the sorcerer’s thrall prove to be to much?

  Bennet’s use of different perspectives in the narration of this well told fantasy tale, makes clever use of Irish lore, culture, geography and language.  What is also useful to readers at the end of the novel ,  is the  pronounciation guide in the names and places used, and another version of the legend of Sive.

Interest Level: strong Junior readers/ Intermediate/ Senior

Genre: Myths and legends; Magic; Fantasy

Who would love this book?  Any reader interested in the folktales, legends  of Ireland. 

Author Weblink:

http://www.hollybennett.net/


Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

December 3, 2010

Grade Level: 4 – 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Theme:  Coming of Age

This book was recommended to me by a colleague who has suggested it to students who have been in foster homes, or have led transient lives.  It is a story about a girl who has been in and out of foster homes herself, eventually running away from each of them.  Every other chapter describes in great detail a picture which Hollis Woods has drawn that provides a window into her life.

I found this book a little hard to follow to begin with and didn’t really get into it until about three quarters the way through.  It was a short enough book, with easy to follow language.  The characters are colourful and interesting, however the plot didn’t come together quickly enough for my liking!  I, also, might recommend it to students who would be able to connect with the main character.

ISBN: 0-439-57784-5

Pub: Random House 2002


Wild Geese by Carolyn Pignat

November 25, 2010

 

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Red Deer Press; 1 edition (Sep 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0889954321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0889954328
  • Wild Geese  is the long anticipated sequel to Carolyn Pignat’s poignant book Greener Grass.

    When I saw this title , I just snapped it up and devoured it in one sitting! It is the story of Irish immigration in the years 1845-47 to Canada,during the “Great Hunger”, where families were fleeing the destitute and poverty-stricken land that called home, Ireland. This is a tale of strength, courage, determination, grit, love,  faith and adventure. Through Kit’s narrative we cannot  help but be drawn into the sufferings and deprivations that family upon family had to endure during these lengthy ocean crossings. Pignat ‘s descriptive prose has skillfully brought to life an almost forgotten a part of Canadian history…and time of great trial, tribulation and opportunity.

    Although this is a sequel to Greener Grass, Wild Geese can stand alone. However by  reading the first book it will allow readers to better understand the harrowing  ordeals of the Irish immigrants.

    Reading ability: Intermediate / Senior level; Grade 7, 8, 9

    Genre: Historical fiction, Canadian

    Who would like this book? This book will appeal to those interested in ancestry, historical fiction, and adventure


    After by Hazel Hutchins

    August 5, 2010

    Fountas and Pinnell Reading Level:  Q    Grade Level:   5-7  

    Genre:  Fantasy/Adventure

      Literature Circle set ( 6 copies) available  at  Classroom Support Centre

    Red Maple Nominee 2010 ,  176 Pages

    ___________________________________

    How do families cope in the aftermath of a tragic shooting?
    Follow Kate and Sam to see how families on both side of violence are impacted.” 
    http://accessola.com/forest2010/redmaple/rm1/about.php

    ____________________________________________________

    Review by Karen

    After is the story of told in alternating  perspectives by two young teens that each have lost a sibling at the same store shooting. Kate writes her feelings to her best friend “Amy”  and it is through her entries we become privy to her accumulating feelings of despair, grief, loneliness and an ever-growing  anger.   “ I am so angry. I am so mad.  … all week the silence in our house is has been so loud its like living completely and utterly alone“.

    Sam thoughts also reveal his perspective on what the sudden act of violence perpetrated by his older brother is costing him and his family. He is fearful of showing his emotions and that ” if he ever lets the anger out, the kind of madness that explodes, he ‘d be like Everett and never be able to stop.” 

    A year later as the anniversary of this tragic event draws near, unbearable silences slowly give way to unexpected friendships. The tension climaxes when the two grieving mothers unexpectedly meet!

     Canadian author, Ms. Hutchins has delivered a very powerful book in After. I highly recommend this for any student from grade 6 to 9!

     Author Website: http://www.hazelhutchins.net/