The Children's Literature and Reading SIG focused on older readers (in grades 6-12) for the conclusion of their book review series that includes books that feature characters' adventures with reading. Bauer, J. (2011). Close to famous. New York: Viking.
Foster McFee just finished sixth grade by the skin of her teeth, but now she and her mother are on the run, avoiding an abusive and controlling boyfriend in Nashville. Despite the fact that she can’t read and her grades in school are abysmal, Foster is a talented baker, able to whip up scrumptious cupcakes and muffins. She memorizes the recipes she hears on cooking shows and hides her inability to read from the rest of the world. With the help of a somewhat reclusive, highly strong retired actress and her family and friends, Foster summons the determination to break the alphabetic code and master the art of reading. Bauer serves up delectable descriptions of the desserts Foster prepares, but in sympathetic yet accurate fashion she also describes the lengths to which Foster goes in order to hide her inability to read. Resau, L. & Farinango, M. V. (2011). The queen of water. New York: Delacorte.
- Barbara A. Ward
When she is seven, Virginia is given away to a middle mestizo class family in Ecuador. Having been punished by her teacher for speaking her original language, Quichua, Virginia resolves never to go to school again. Over the years, though, she realizes that literacy and education provide avenues to the life she wants to lead, and she teaches herself to read secretly, studying the science texts of her mistress, conducting secret science experiments, and reveling in words such as “photosynthesis.” Although she is ashamed of her illiterate, indigenous parents and their poverty and culture, she eventually comes to realize that the family with whom she is living will never truly allow her to be a part of their world. They will always consider her to be “less than” because of her own background. Virginia struggles with her own self-identity and disconnection from her own culture throughout the book’s pages. Reminding readers to be true to themselves and their roots, the story of her ultimate triumph over difficult odds is inspiring as she writes a play that is performed by her classmates and is named Queen of the Water.
- Barbara A. Ward
Schmidt, G. D. (2011). Okay for now. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Moving to a new town and a new school in Marysville, New York, isn’t easy when you’re a middle grader—especially when you’re a boy with a secret. In this companion book to The Wednesday Wars, Doug Swieteck’s secret turns out to be his inability to read. Although the book is about much more than that particular struggle, Schmidt nails accurately the rising anxiety experienced by Doug as his teacher begins round-robin reading. As tough as things may be for the seventh grader already, he knows that once his inability to read is unmasked, life will be insufferable. Luckily for Doug, he has help: an artistic outlet in the library as he studies the bird paintings of John James Audubon under the tutelage of Mr. Powell, a kindly librarian, and Miss Cowper, who has him play the part of a novice reading in her thinly disguised tutorial called the County Literacy Unit. Later, after much work, Doug is sounding out the words he needs in order to read bedtime books for the Daugherty children he babysits. Doug’s literacy journey serves as a poignant reminder that it is never too late to learn how to read.
- Barbara A. Ward
We hope you enjoyed this book review series from the CL/R SIG. Click here for more information about the CL/R SIG.