Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Published in 2008)

I just read this book a couple of weeks ago.

I should have read it earlier, but to be honest, I forgot about it.  I remember a co-worker reading it in 2008, but at the time, my son (the first one) was struggling for his life and then died, and then we were packing up to move 1,800 miles away.   I just did not have the time or energy just then.  And then I forgot about it.  Perhaps I forgot about it on purpose, because it was not written by my beloved L. M. Montgomery.   Nevertheless, it happened, and a couple of months ago, it was suggested to me as something I might like on GoodReads.

I have been more active again on GoodReads in the last few months because I was mostly curious about what recommendations it could produce based on what I’ve read.   I still don’t have everything I’ve ever read listed there.  I am still short, a bit, on LibraryThing, where I have been a full member for over five years as I still prefer it over GoodReads any day.   I’ve been trying to get every book I’ve ever read listed on there, but that will be difficult because even though I started keeping lists of books I’ve read age age 11, I only counted books that were 50 or more pages in length.   Picture books I am way behind on.  I am already trying to remember.

Anyway, I borrowed this book from the library, and reluctantly started reading it.  Within the first ten pages, I had trouble putting it down.   What I liked the most were the glimpses into the short lives of Anne’s parents. There was not really enough about them! (One of my only criticisms of this book.)  The saddest parts were how Anne cannot go to school very often due to the circumstances of the families she lives with.   She wanted so badly to go to school.  She wants so badly to have real family and friends.  Actually, it is fairly depressing at times – but I had to finish the book anyway to make sure everything would lead up to Matthew picking up Anne in Bright River.

The author does not try to capture L. M. Montgomery’s voice, which was good, because that would have been difficult to do. The author herself does a fine job in her own voice trying to capture the story of Anne before she arrives on Prince Edward Island.

I award this book five stars, despite it being rather depressing at times!

One more note:  The most upsetting section of this book is when ALL of Mrs. Hammond’s children are given away.  She does not get to keep even one of them.   That did make me want to vomit.  Perhaps I will give this book 4.5 stars instead.   

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When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour (Published in 1958.)
Juvenile/YA Fiction

I was 13 or so when I first read this book.  That is perhaps a little over the intended audience age . . . but when I discovered it, I HAD to read it.   As I have said in a previous post, I was once a meteorology major.  I liked anything weather and/or disaster-related even then.  

I also have to note that I appreciate the fact that this takes place in the Netherlands and relates what could be the story of some of my ancestors.  At age 13, I did not have much interest in family history . . . that interest was sparked around age 19 (a little maturity never hurts.)   My great-great-grandmother’s family left the Netherlands – one of the island-like areas that were made, in fact, by the dikes – in the late 1880s after their land was flooded a number of times.  They were farmers and shepherds, and the flooded land did not help them make a good living.   They send my great-great grandmother Blazina with two of her siblings to relatives in Wisconsin, and then they came later with their youngest (living) child.  (Blazina’s parents had at least ten babies, but several of them did not survive infancy.  A couple of them were recorded as being born still.)

So this book has given me interesting insight into the lives of my ancestors . . . except for the scenes involving helicopter, of course!  It takes place during the flooding of 1953.  The main character is 13-year-old Lisa Van Rossem.   The book opens with all of the family gathered around sharing their greatest wishes.  They go to bed, and then awaken in the night to half of their house already under water.  They must get up to the attic if they are to survive.  At some point they must get up on the roof.  Suddenly Tante Anna, who is pregnant, is swept off the roof into the water.   They now must all go out in boats and search for her.   Some of them do that while some of the men go to the dike and try to fill in the hole so the ocean will stop flooding their land!

In light of the flooding of 1953 (the failure of, in some cases, very old dikes), the Netherlands has rebuilt their levee system to be the best in the world according to this article:  http://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/levee2.htm

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowery

TitleA Summer to Die

Author: Lois Lowery
Original Publication Date: 1977
Date I First Read: 1987ish
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:  Meg and Molly’s family have just moved out to the country.  Molly is popular while Meg is Meg.  Meg is into photography and such.  She becomes friends with the neighbors and is on hand when they birth their baby at home.  In the meantime, it has become obvious that Molly is terminally ill with leukemia.    Meg learns many lessons about life and death at a tender young age.  

Cover: This (above) is the paperback cover I remember seeing when I first read this book  Molly looks like a ghost already.  Either that, or it was this hardback book jacket cover (below.) 
What I Remember About the Book: I need to re-read this book!  I think I actually own a paperback copy, so I’ll have to dig it out and then re-write this post.   I remember Meg being there when the neighbors had their baby, and then 

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her sister dies.  

Man, I really need to re-read this book!  It’s been at least 15 years since I last re-read it.   I don’t know it I want to.  Ever since we had our first son, and he died, I’ve been really sensitive to books where children and young people die.  

And yes, this book is completely superior to Lurlene McDaniel books . . . of which I was a fan as a pre-teen and young teen.  Yes, as a youth librarian, I have continued to read most of them.  I can’t see I’ve liked them all.  They never made me cry like A Summer to Die made me cry.  Therefore Ms. Lowery’s book is definitely superior.  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 


Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele

Title: Apollo’s Outcasts

Author: Allen Steele
Original Publication Date: 2012
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction and Science Fiction

Basic Summary:  Jamie Barlowe has lived on Earth since being born on the moon during the early building of the colony.  His mother was killed.  His father brought him back to Earth, but because he was born in a different state of gravity, his bones don’t support him. Jamie lives in a “moblile”, but feels really free in water . . .  and loves swimming.   His father is involved in some scientific community . . . and all of their lives are in danger when the president dies and there is a coup d’etat.   Jamie, his sister, and several other kids, are sent to the moon colony.   For the first time, Jamie is “normal” and can walk!  He decides to become a Ranger . . . which is very excited about.   

What I Remember About the Book: Jamie loves that he is able to walk while living on the moon.  

What I Took Away From the Book:  I found that I do like some science fiction.  This is quite accessible without being too science-fiction-y!   The families living on the moon, and the descriptions of their homes and how they live, were believable and made me want to read more.  The action was just enough without being too violent (which I appreciated.)  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney 
Published 2013
YA/Teen Fiction
SPOILER ALERT!
This is the fifth (and maybe final) book about Janie Johnson. Overall, it sews things up for Janie/Jennie (because she decides she’s going to be Jennie after all.) I also like getting Hannah’s deranged view of things. Her hatred of librarians is interesting!  

I personally had several problems with this book. First of all, it takes place in the present day. Texting and Facebook play a roll. This is a major problem for me, as I read the first book (‘The Face on the Milk Carton’) when it first came out over 20 years ago! This book should, at least in my mind, be taking place in the mid-1990s. Yes, there could be some online activity and email, but not everything else. In my mind, Janie/Jennie should be in her mid-to-late 30s now. Instead, she was born just about 20 years ago. It just seems weird. Never mind that the face on the milk carton initiative was LONG over by the mid-1990s.
And secondly . . . 


SPOILER (sort of . . . ) 
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Secondly, Janie/Jennie is way too young to get married. . . I sound like such a grown-up saying this.) It was really annoying when Janie/Jennie kept saying she was going to college to find a husband because that is the best place to find one. (This is in the first part of the book, so not giving too much away. That is just such an old fashioned thought. I didn’t find mine in college!)

Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell

Title: Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berline Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”

Author: Michael O. Tunnell
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2010
Basic Category:  Juvenile Nonfiction. 

Basic Summary:  This is the story of Gail S. Halvorson, the Chocolate Pilot.   One day, while landed to deliver supplies to Berlin in the late 1940s, Lt. Halvorson was inspired to give a group of children there at the landing strip two pieces of gum to share.  After that, he wondered how he could deliver more treats to the children of Berlin.   His fellow pilots donated some of their own candy rations, and from the plan, he would drop the candy by attaching little parachutes made of handkerchiefs.   

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   Some of the children who received chocolate have stayed in contact with Gail Halvorson over the years.  

Notes:   This is a good book for 4-6th Graders.   It is also a 2014 Caudill Award Nominee.   
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.5  

Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg

Title: Annie’s Ghosts
Author: Steven Luxenberg
Original Publication Date: 2009
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Genealogy

Basic Summary:  The author was surprised after his mother’s death that he had an aunt.  His mother always claimed that she was an only child.   After her death, the family received a letter from the cemetery where their grandparents were buried asking if they wanted to plant flowers for them, and for a woman named Annie Cohen.   Mr. Luxenberg investigates, and interviews over a hundred people in an attempt to learn the whole story behind Annie, and why his mother kept Annie a secret.    Much of their unknown family history is also discovered (along with changes of surnames upon arrival in America.)   

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   I just finished reading this book a week ago . . . It is amazing that they wanted to hide their second daughter.   At the time her physical and mental disabilities were considered shameful, at least in their family, and in the area Annie’s parents were originally from.   It made me feel very sad for them all.