Life & Love (Or Something Like it)

life & love( or something like it) by Amber Headrick

horizon at sea

BIBLIO: 2017,Amber Headrick, Ages 13 and up.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Young Adult book
ISBN: 9781548423834

Poetry written for young women tends to be quite powerful. This book of poems is no exception. A quote from the author best explains the intent of this story:” Poetry is the poor woman’s therapy”, as it is both read and written intense feelings can be experienced and empathized with.

Split into several sections, the poems intertwine themes of fairytale and lore, rounding out the story. The writing is well constructed, moving, and unique in style.

This tale is one many can relate to on a very personal level. The author contemplates her childhood, her love life, and most of all trusting those around her- most importantly herself. Starting on a dark note the poems slowly become more hopeful.

I would recommend this book to young girls in high school or college. Particularly those who are struggling with their identity and feelings, as they might discover something about themselves while reading. I think that the poetry is beautiful and I will likely be rereading this title.

Zel

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

girl with leaves book cover

BIBLIO: 1996 Dutton Children’s Books/ Penguin Books , ages 12 to 15, $15.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Middle Reader.
ISBN: 0-525-45612-0

This is a retelling of the classic fairytale Rapunzel. The narrative switches between the three main characters Zel (Rapunzel), Konrad, and Mother (the witch). The plot starts a few day prior to Zel’s thirteenth birthday when she and Mother go to the marketplace. There Zel meets Konrad at the smithy’s when she is admiring and comforting his horse Meta. Konrad gives Zel the gift of a goose egg and they become smitten with each other. Mother, sensing that there is this new part of Zel’s life is threatened and whisks the young girl off to a hidden tower. Konrad searches for the next two years for the girl he fell in love with at first sight and Zel longs for the boy she found so charming. The plot reaches a turning point approximately fifty pages from the end of the novel as the end of the two years approaches. Konrad has finally found his mystery girl, mentally disturbed after months and months of isolation. They spend the night together and Konrad promises to return and free Rapunzel. Mother comes for her daily visit and Rapunzel reveals that she loves a young man and stands up to her mother. Mother uses her witch’s power over the plants to banish Rapunzel to a beachy region far away from their home in the Alps. Konrad comes back to find the witch and jumps and lands on thorns becoming blind. For the next three years the lovers are still separated, Rapunzel gives birth to twin girls and Konrad resumes his search while still blind. He eventually is able to travel to Rapunzel’s new home and they reunite and Rapunzel cries into his eyes, healing them.
This novel closely follows the classic, gruesome version of Rapunzel. The narrative is split into three parts, Zel’s, Konrad’s, and Mother’s. There are eight parts, four of which focus on each character and their interpretation of rejection, loneliness, obsession, and love. Napoli works very hard to create layers of reality and is skillfully subtle in some of her ideas such as puberty and physical maturity, religion, abuse, and morality. She is able to draw out some of these themes because the tale of Rapunzel is quite familiar and reinterpreting it can mean changing such details. This book would be a good suggestion for reluctant readers because of the basic plot. It is also a fair book to read individually.

Angelfish

Angelfish by Laurence Yep

Angelfish book cover

BIBLIO: 2001, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Putnams Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade book
ISBN: 0-399-23041-6

Yep’s novel Angelfish is a captivating tale about a Chinese-American girl Robin. This charming story uses the archetypal story of the Beauty and the Beast to create the storyline and subplot of the book. Robin is a young ballet dancer who has gotten the role of Beauty in the upcoming recital. She dances with her friends Amy, Leah, and Thomas, her counterpart the Beast.

On their way home Thomas teases Robin and she throws her bag at him but instead breaks the storefront window of The Dragon Palace, the pet fish store. Rather than getting grounded and having to give up the recital Robin agrees to work for the surly manager, Mr. Tsow (Cao).

Upon working for Mr. Tsow, Robin is convinced she has met the real Beast. When she tells Grandmother about this awful old man she is reminded that most people are turned bitter by experience, not born that way. Robin reflects on the story of the ballet and vows to find out why Mr.Tsow has turned so sour and uses her experiences in the fish store in her dancing.She notices that Mr.Tsow has a hidden kindness which he shows in particular to his angelfish.

In her search for the humanity inside of Mr.Tsow Robin learns more about China’s history and discovers Mr.Tsow’s dancing fame and helps her Beast rediscover his love for the art.

This is a coming of age tale that shows compassion, heritage, and determination. This book brings up some serious topics such as racism, dark parts of history, gambling, and the effort needed to be part of a family (two busy parents) in a way that is true but easy to comprehend opening up a wide range of discussions.

A great addition to a classroom setting as a way to explore different cultures in a fun way and a great read for kids in general, especially those who have very specific interests such as ballet and fish.

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