Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kid Konnection - Jennifer L. Holm

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. Today, I'm going to share with you some wonderful middle grade books written by the award winning author Jennifer L. Holm. After reading two of her books, I definitely have a huge appreciation for her writing. And I have to say, she has some very cool ancestors!

Summary: It isn′t easy being a pioneer in the state of Washington in 1899, but it′s particularly hard when you are the only girl ever born in the new settlement. With seven older brothers and a love of adventure, May Amelia Jackson just can′t seem to abide her family′s insistence that she behave like a Proper Young Lady. She′s sure she could do better if only there were at least one other girl living along the banks of the Nasel River. And now that Mama′s going to have a baby, maybe there′s hope.

Inspired by the diaries of her great-aunt, the real May Amelia, first-time novelist Jennifer Holm has given us a beautifully crafted tale of one young girl whose unique spirit captures the courage, humour, passion and depth of the American pioneer experience. -- Harper Collins

Our Mother-Daughter book club decided to read OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA for July. While I was busy requesting it at the library, Booking Daughter pulled it out of her stash of books (her TBR pile looks like a mini-version of mine and obviously we have no idea what's in it!) I was pretty excited when OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA was announced because I love it when we read award-winning books for our book club, and OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA was a Newbery Honor Book in 2000.

I just devoured this book! In fact, I started it right before I planned on going to bed. I read almost half of it and then fell asleep. When I found myself awake a few hours later, I decided to read a chapter or two until I could fall back asleep. Little did I know that I would stay awake for the next hour or so finishing this wonderful novel.

OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA tells the story of May Amelia, the youngest child in a family of all boys who lived in a logging community in Washington during the late 1800s. She is most definitely a tom-boy who is forever being told that she needs to act more like a respectable young lady. May Amelia has no desire to act like a girl; however, she does want a sister in the most desperate way.

May Amelia is an extremely lovable and memorable character. She is so tough and brave and strong, and I think young girls can't help but look up to her. There are also some very interesting secondary characters in the novel including May Amelia's brothers, her parents, her aunts and uncle, and even the horribly mean grandmother. Each person that May Amelia encountered brought something special to her and taught her some valuable lessons about life and love.

Throughout the course of the novel, the reader experiences both the ups and downs of Amelia's life through her eyes. The book is at times very funny and at times extremely sad (and disturbing), but it is always entertaining. I enjoyed seeing how Amelia dealt with her family and the tragedies they faced, and I loved how resilient she was!

OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA is a wonderful historical fiction book for children. It's apparent that Ms. Holm did a tremendous amount of research to bring this time period to life for young readers. She did an amazing job of showing what life was like in the late 1800s in Washington, and it definitely wasn't a pretty picture much of the time. May Amelia and her family had to face poverty, illness, and death among other things. Today's children (and parents) won't believe how fast May Amelia was forced to grow up -- she was cooking, cleaning and tending a baby before she was even a teenager.

I pretty much loved everything about this book, even the inspiration behind this novel -- it was based on Ms. Holm's grandaunt's diary. Like May Amelia, Ms. Holm's grandaunt was twelve years in 1900 when she first began writing in her journal. Her journal included many of the family's adventures which Ms. Holm managed to incorporate into OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA.

OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA encompasses so many wonderful themes including love, isolation, perseverance, loss, grief, healing, abuse, forgiveness and hope. There is no doubt that this novel is an excellent book club selection, and I actually think it is a must-read for middle grade girls.

Summary: Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. -- Random House

Right around the same time as our book club decided to read OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, I received Ms. Holm's latest novel TURTLE IN PARADISE. I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous cover and took it to the pool with me. I was expecting a light, fluffy, girly type of book, but that wasn't really the case. TURTLE IN PARADISE was just a wonderful book for children filled with some humor, adventure, and wonderful life lessons. (I sure hope the cover doesn't prevent boys from reading this book!)

This novel is geared towards kids ages 8 to 12 years old, so it's perfect for Booking Daughter. She hasn't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm pretty sure that she will love it. TURTLE IN PARADISE tells the story of Turtle, a young girl who is forced to move to Key West, Florida, to live with her aunt. The novel takes place during 1935 gives the reader some insight into time time and especially The Great Depression.

When Turtle arrives in Key West, she is immediately thrown into an entirely new world. Florida with its palm trees, water, and local cuisine is very different from Pennsylvania. In addition, Turtle finds that it's not always easy to make new friends especially when all of your cousins are boys. But most all, Turtle begins to discover things about herself as well as her family that will forever change how she sees her life.

I would classify TURTLE IN PARADISE as historical fiction, and I just love books like this because I believe that there is an opportunity for children to learn about a different time period. What I appreciated so much about TURTLE IN PARADISE is how well Ms. Holm brought the time period and the locale to life. She also created a very fun and entertaining story, filled with lots of action and adventure, that kids are certain to enjoy.

As much as I adored this book, I thought the Author's Note at the end really made the book even more meaningful to me. TURTLE IN PARADISE was inspired by Ms. Holm's great-grandmother who emigrated to Key West from the Bahamas in the late 1800s. Many of the stories and anecdotes in the novel were based on stories that Ms. Holm heard from her relatives. I also liked that the Author's Note section included a great deal of historical information along with some photographs from the time period.

If you can't tell from my review, I just loved this book! I appreciated all of the life lessons about growing up and the importance of family. In addition, I thought the author kept the story interesting with lots of little surprises throw in. As a result, I highly recommend TURTLE IN PARADISE, and I think it would make an excellent mother-daughter discussion book!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


Anonymous said...

My daughter enjoyed Our Only May Amelia a few years back-- I think she even suggested I read it, but I never did. I'll let her know about the new book-- it sounds good!

bermudaonion said...

I just read Turtle in Paradise last night and I loved it too! Jennifer L. Holm is definitely a gifted author.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I loved Our Only May Amelia and have heard lovely things about Turtle in Paradise. It's going on my list.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I love historical fiction for kids and so does my daughter. Both May Amelia and Turtle in Paradise sound great. Thanks for the Kid Connection reviews!

Alyce said...

I haven't heard of either of these, but love a good children's fiction book. Thanks for the recommendations!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

These both sound so good! I love to wonder about how I would have done (i.e., how quickly I would have been dead) if I were trying to survive back in pioneer days, or even in 1935!

Beth F said...

Our Only Mae Amelia was such a good book. When my niece read it a few years ago she encouraged both my mother and me to read it too. All three of us loved it and got something out of it. I really need to look into more of her work.