By Guest Blogger Ellen Bryant Lloyd
North Carolina authors and books with thought-provoking storylines make up my selections this month. I appreciate books that make me dig deep and really think about what I believe and what is important. Ivan the gorilla made me think a lot about animals in captivity, and tap into what they may feel and perceive, and Melinda in Speak made me aware of the importance of teen literature addressing difficult subjects. And, each time I read Oh, The Places You’ll Go, I am always reminded that life is a journey with exciting adventures, twists and turns, and lots of possibilities. I also enjoy reading authors with roots in the South, especially NC roots, so I thought two Asheville authors were perfect to feature this month. I hope you will consider adding some or all of these titles to your home library. Enjoy!
Preschool — Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
This selection is actually a perfect book for all ages. I have purchased it many times as a gift for babies, and for high school and college graduates. This book is classic Dr. Seuss with his amazing use of language and colorful, quirky illustrations. The story takes the reader on a journey through life, with its ups and downs, challenges and successes, choices and emotions, all with a healthy dose of humor.
Children may seem to love this story because it is fun and whimsical, but I believe powerful seeds of determination, a greater understanding of what it takes to succeed in life, and what can be expected in life are planted with each reading. My husband and I read this story to both of our children while they were in utero, and it was the first story they heard soon after they were born. It remains a family favorite to this day.
Elementary — The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan, the gorilla, captures the heart of readers from the moment he is introduced in the story. He was taken as a baby from in his home in the jungle, and moved many miles away to a struggling zoo-like exhibition known as Exit 8 Big Top Mall. This wonderful story chronicles Ivan’s life, his endearing friendships with Stella, an older elephant, Ruby, a baby elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. The story also features the amazing artwork he created after Julie, the caretaker’s daughter, recognized a creative interest in Ivan and procured art supplies for him. Ivan ends up using his art to help save Ruby from a lifetime of captivity, and helps find a new life for himself in the process.
Based on a true story, this novel has received many well-deserved awards, including the 2013 Newberry Award. In fact, the real life Ivan spent twenty-seven years in his glass cage at the mall before being moved to a zoo in Atlanta, GA. On a personal note, I read this book to a class of 4th and 5th graders during their lunch period over several weeks, and they loved it!
Middle School — Serafina and The Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
This exciting and suspenseful mystery is set in a famous NC home, the Biltmore Estate, in 1899. Serafina lives with her father, the estate’s maintenance man, in the basement of the massive home. She has always been told to never be seen by the owners of the home, as they do not know she exists. She learns to explore her surroundings in the dark of night. When Serafina discovers that children at the estate are disappearing, she knows she must do something. She knows the man in a black cloak she has spied stalking the Biltmore halls must have something to do with the missing children. The journey to find answers and solve the mystery leads to much more than Serafina ever imagined. The author of the novel lives in Asheville, NC, home of the Biltmore.
High School — Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
It is important to know that this is a book that addresses heavy and difficult topics. It is a title that I debated about featuring, but after reading “A Comment About Censorship” by the author, I changed my mind. In her commentary she said, “Literature is the safe and traditional vehicle through which we learn about the world and pass on values from one generation to the next. Books save lives. Contemporary young adult literature surprises some people, because it is an accurate reflection of the way today’s teenagers talk, think, and behave. But these books must be honest in order to connect to the teen reader. America’s teens are desperate for responsible, trustworthy adults to create situations in which they can discuss the issues that are of the highest concern for them. Reading and discussing books is one of the most effective ways to get teens to think through and learn about the challenges of adolescence.”
Melinda is a friendless freshman at Merryweather High because of what she did at an end-of-summer party — she called the police. Over time, she becomes even more removed from her peers, and finds some mollification in her art class. It is through an art project that she is able to face the truth about what happened to her that summer night. She finally finds her voice and the courage to speak up for herself. Hopefully this heroine’s example will encourage readers in a similar situation to do the same.
Moms — Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Sarah Addison Allen is another North Carolina author that lives in Asheville. Since Garden Spells is the debut of six great novels by Allen, it seemed fitting to recommend this one first.
This novel is laced with magic, love and a mystical garden that has been part of the Waverley family for generations. A focal point of the garden is an enchanted apple tree known for growing a special sort of fruit. Claire Waverley is a caterer that creates dishes made with plants from the garden that are known for their magical notions upon consumption. This is a story of family, both past and present generations, facing the past and healing old wounds, and forging newfound bonds with loved ones. It is a delightful read!
Remember to share your thoughts and comments, and you could be selected to win a copy of one of the books, compliments of Barnes & Noble, Friendly Shopping Center, Greensboro. The staff of Triad Moms on Main will choose a random winner one week after the blog runs. (Please be sure to enter your email address when you fill out your comment so they have a way to contact you.)
Ellen Bryant Lloyd is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue. Please visit www.funwithfreckles.com and www.facebook.com/funwithfreckles to learn more about Freckles. Ellen writes a blog about her perspectives on life and parenting at www.mindfulmom.wordpress.com and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She lives in Greensboro with her husband and two children.