Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Monday, April 14, 2014

Counting By Sevens vs. Forgive Me. Leonard Peacock

As I read through the opening chapters of Counting By Sevens, I began to assume that I would soon hit a moment where the quirkiness factor of Willow would move from mildly interesting to mildly annoying, thus starting a downward spiral that would lead me to lay some smack on a book that many kids would really like. To my surprise, that didn’t happen. That’s not to say I loved this book, which I didn’t, but there was something about it that kept me going and I’ve been struggling these past few days to articulate what it is. Here’s what I’ve come up with: if I just told you the plot of the book, it wouldn’t be hard to picture some of the emotional range of the text. If I further told you that we spend much of the book looking through Willow’s eyes you might go ahead and buy that extra box of Kleenex, but the power of this book doesn’t come from its ability to hit emotional chords, though it does do that. While we do get a roving third person narrative that allows us to access the rest of the cast of characters, it is through Willow’s generally affectless voice that we experience much of the book. What I wasn’t prepared for was how powerfully the author wields this narrative technique. While Willow is unfailingly (and often hilariously) honest with us, there are clearly gaps in her perceptions of the world around her. These gaps allow us to enter into the narrative in a unique way: I never truly felt I was experiencing what Willow was experiencing, but I felt like I was trying to fill in some of those gaps for her and thus was more fully engaged with the narrative than I had anticipated. I’ll be curious to see if that sentence actually makes sense to the rest of you who have read the book, because ultimately, it is my primary rationale for why I’m going with Counting By Sevens over Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. I know I was a little rough on old Leonard earlier in the smackdown, but I don’t think it is a bad book. I stand by my earlier contention that it is a little too heavy-handed at times and tends to paint with broad strokes where a little nuance is required. Counting By Sevens is not immune to this tendency either, but on balance, I think the narrative is asking more of us as readers and there are some underlying themes about the profoundly human struggle of connecting with others that I think could be appreciated by readers of varying ages.

Zombie Pick: Well, if Bomb scatters little bits of More Than This around the Smackdown yard (as appears to be a strong possibility at this late writing) my vote would go to More Than This which I thought offered more than (get it?) all the other books. If it gets through, though, then I’ll vote to bring back an early casualty: Code Name Verity. I think it deserved a better – or at least more drawn out – fate.

1 comment:

  1. That sentence absolutely makes sense and, for me, is what is so unique about this book. It is how you can read a book about an orphan and not finish the experience in the fetal position. We are doing this book as a Newbery Book Club selection with Div Two kids Thursday and they are very excited about it. In addition, both Arlene and I used this book for sentence study with grade eight students with beautiful results. Go Willow!