Category Archives: younger readers

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

You know those Japanese movies that feature creepy, dark-haired, evil spirits that go on a killing rampage as they seek vengeance for some perceived wrong? You know, like “The Ring” or “The Grudge.” If you haven’t seen the movies, you’ve seen the movie trailers, so you know what I mean. (View the trailer for “The Grudge” here, if you need a reminder.)

Okay, so this book, “The Girl from the Well,” features such a ghost. She was wronged in death and tossed down a well. And now, she seeks vengeance against those who kill children. Sounds creepy and scary, right? Well, not so much, but perhaps, in this case, that fact does not matter.

“The Girl from the Well” is told from the point of view of the ghost, and as the story opens, she is drawn to a young man named Tarquin who bears some unusual tattoos. The boy seems to be cursed, as an evil energy follows him like a dark, angry cloud. The ghost is intriqued, and soon, she meets Callie, Tarquin’s older cousin. Callie has always been close to Tarquin, and continues to try and look out for him. Callie is very aware of Tarquin’s tattoos, and the unusual aura he seems to project. Yet, she doesn’t know the true reason for Tarquin’s trouble until she meets the ghost. And then, facts and dead bodies start to pile up like cordwood. Can Tarquin be saved? Callie and the ghost race to find a way to do just that.

This is not a scary book. Rather, it is a gothic tale, one reminescent of a fairy tale or myth. The point of view of the ghost is an interesting one, and the bits of Japanese folklore and history add a nice bit of exotic spice. While the book was not perfect…the point of view voice at times was odd, as it seemed to “float” over the story and reveal it from different characters’ perspectives randomly. The initial change of location to Japan caused the plot to slow down, and I found myself skipping a few pages in order to get back to the ghostly action. However, the story was unique enough for me to finish. This is listed as book 1 of the Girl from the Well series, and while I don’t know if I would be interested in reading the series, the first book was quite enjoyable. This title is a young adult title, but would be appropriate for younger teens who’d like to read a creepier tale.

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El Deafo, by Cece Bell

El Deafo, by Cece Bell

El Deafo, by Cece Bell

When Cece was four, she became very sick. She had meningitis, which meant her brain was sick too. Cece got better and was able to go home, but her hearing was affected; Cece had to wear hearing aids in order to hear, and even those did not work well all the time. She really didn’t mind all that much until she went to school. There, the fact that she wore hearing aids made her feel different and alone. Until one day, Cece realizes that her Phonic Ear hearing aid, a large device she wears strapped to her chest while the teacher wears a microphone, allows her to hear conversations and events all around the school. Cece, with her super-hearing, seems to have a superpower, and El Deafo is born.

El Deafo is told in a graphic novel format, and it is based on the life of the author/illustrator, Cece Bell. Ms. Bell  illustrates some of the difficulties involved for a hearing impared person living in a hearing world, such as Cece can’t lip read her friends at sleepovers with the lights out, she can’t lip read cartoons, and many people, knowing she is hearing impaired, talk to her in over-exagerated ways, which makes it harder for her to lip read them or hear them at all. However, Cece’s difficulties and her feelings of being different and alone are feelings that every child feels at one time or another. What Cece wants more than anything is to feel that she fits in, and to have at least one true friend. By the end of the book, she gains an understanding of her own self-worth, as well as an understanding that others are struggling too. She even finds her one true friend in Martha, but really, it is clear to the reader that Cece had many friends all along.

This is an excellent book for younger readers. It is a book that not only removes some of the mystery surrounding children with special needs, but also shows how we’re all the same, in spite of many of our differences.

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I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

Jude and Noah are thirteen year old twins, and while they are different in personalities, they are incredibly close. Jude is fiesty and wears too much red lipstick. She’s the daredevil of the family, and the apple of her daddy’s eye. Noah is artistic and insightful, and his mother’s favorite. Noah sees the truth in everyone’s hearts and puts what he sees into his art. Jude, the talker for both of them, puts his insights into words and helps the rest of the world understand her complicated brother. Yet, three years later, the twins are barely speaking, and it’s Jude who’s in art school, not Noah. Jude sees the ghost of her dead grandmother, and Noah has sworn off art all together. What has happened to so radically change their lives and drive the twins apart?

Told in alternating points of view, you get to see the twins at ages thirteen and sixteen, and as the story unfolds, you slowly piece together what has happened. Jandy Nelson gives us two amazing characters with Noah and Jude, and she writes in such a compelling style. The book was a little slow to start, and I felt that perhaps the last half of the book tried to take on the emotional issues of too many characters to be completely satisfying at the end. However, Jandy’s exuberant writing style makes up for those minor faults. She has a unique way of showing us a character’s view of the world.

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Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard loves two things: homonyms and her dog, Rain. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Rose and rows are homonyms, and Rain has two homonyms, reign and rein. Rain, a yellow dog with seven white toes, is a gift from Rose’s father, Wesley Howard, who found the dog wandering lost in the rain. Rose and Rain become inseparable, as Rose’s dad is often away at work, or down the street at the local bar, and Rose is lonely. Life is good for Rose; she has her homonyms, she has Rain, and she has visits from her favorite uncle, Weldon. Until one day, Hurricane Susan, the storm of the century, arrives, and Rose’s dad let’s Rain outside in the storm without her collar or tags. Rain is lost in the hurricane, and Rose is devastated. Rose devises a plan to find Rain, and when her plan goes into action, she finds that Rain may still belong to someone else who loves her. Rose will have to be especially brave to deal with the situation, and her life may never be the same.

This is a story about a girl and a dog. While there are many stories out there about girls and dogs, this one is special because Rose is special. Rose is a high functioning autistic, and she has special challenges in her life. In addition to her unique way of experiencing the world, she also has a difficult home situation with a father who struggles to manage his own life, with little patience left over for Rose. The story, told from Rose’s, shows you her challenges in dealing with life, and let’s you see her wonderful, loving complexity. All I can say, without spoiling the story, is that Rose is possibly the bravest, most caring person I know. (Real or imagined.) I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for a similar books, aimed at adults, try “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” This one also features an autistic protagonist. In this case, he solves a troubling mystery and at the same time, he learns more about his connection to his family and to the rest of the world.

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