Thursday, August 29, 2013

Literary Tourism - Florida

I travel today as far Southeast as I can go.  In Florida, we find Disney World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and many, many miles of coast line ...

Which brings us to today's story.

Flush, by Carl Hiaasen - Noah's father has been put in jail for sinking a casino cruise ship.  He admits that he did it, but feels justified because he believes the owner is dumping waste into the Atlantic.  It's up to Noah to prove that his father is right.

Okay, not my favorite book of all time.  I despise message heavy children's literature because I feel like the author is not allowing children to make inferences and really think about what they're reading.  I will admit though that Noah's solution to the problem is quite creative.

It fits this project's criteria because Florida as a setting is important.  The characters seem true to the setting, and many of the events are made possible because it is set in Florida.

8 states down, only 42 to go.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Literary Tourism - Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin

What do Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have in common?  Three Newbery Medal winners, of course!  Two of the following are absolutely two of my favorite children's books, and one has all the makings of a Newbery winner, but I thought it was just okay.


Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos - This book wins the "tourism" prize for Pennsylvania because it opened my eyes to a part of America that I never knew existed.  Norvelt is a community that was created as a farming commune for underemployed coal minors in the 1930's.  It's name was derived from Eleanor Roosevelt even. 

While initially designed to be a sort of socialism, many of the residents eventually turned to capitolist traditions to make a living.  The book takes place in the 1960's, when the town is in decline.  Although not my favorite Newbery winner, it features a cast of quirky characters, like a boy with innummerable nose bleeds, crazy old people that seem to be dying every day, and a father busy digging up his wife's garden to build a bomb shelter.  It's worth a read if you like that kind of thing.


Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse - I had a professor who called this book "The Grapes of Wrath light."  It's a dust bowl era novel in verse that will rip your heart our.  Billie Joe, her father, and her pregnant mother are trying to survive in Oklahoma during drought and depression.  Billia Joe's true love is playing the piano, but on accident she loses her mother and her baby brother.  Her hands are also scarred making it painful to play the piano.  Billie Joe and her father  must learn to depend on each other to survive.  Though the language is sparse the sensory details are incredible.  While reading, I felt grit in my teeth. 

I know that not everyone likes a book in poetry.  But if you are willing to try it, I highly recommend it.  While deeply sad, it does have a hopeful ending.


The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - I LOVE THIS BOOk.   I have probably read it 10 times.  Of all of the books, in this entry, the state it is set in is probably least important.  But some plot elements like a snowstorm and the building's overlook of Lake Michigan are important. 

A group of seemingly unrelated people all move into Sunset Towers, a new apartment building.  The new residents soon discover that they are connected to Sam Westing when he is murdered.  They are split into teams and charged with discovering the villian.  I love this book; I love the characters; I love everything about it.  Read it.  You'll discover why. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Literary Tourism - New York

One of my goals with this little project is to gauge what I have already read that aligns with my very loose criteria. For New York, I even got to revisit a review that is already on this blog.

A Novel Idea by Aimee Friedman  You can link to my summary from a few years ago.  It was for a class so it is actually quite detailed. The reason I chose this for my literary travels is because it featured a lot of tidbits about New York City that I had never before considered - brownstones in Brooklyn, Greenwich village, indie bookstores.  As someone who grew up in a small town, I didn't know that a place could have so many nooks and crannies.  As stated in my review this book is no timeless literary masterpiece, but a fun bit of mind candy for the teenage girl in all of us.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Literary Tourism: Illinois, Michigan

For this journey we aren't going in any particular order.  Many of the books I've read recently seem to be centered in the midwest.  So, today I will cover two of those states.


Hold Fast by Blue Balliett - Many of Balliett's mysteries are set in Chicago.  Her Chasing Vermeer series features a middle school at the University of Chicago.  Hold Fast is also a mystery, but deals with a different population in the city - the homeless.  Balliett writes beautiful mysteries that challenge readers to think abstractly.  This book impressed me so much because it was honest in discussing issues facing the homeless like substance abuse, being undervalues in society, and losing dignity and hope.  This book is also set in the main branch of the Chicago Public Library which I loved of course.


Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis - I had no idea how important Flint was to Michigan until I found multiple references to it in literature.  After some research (read: a perusal of a Wikipedia article), I discovered that historically it was a center of industry.  This book is a historical novel of an orphan looking for his father and is very entertaining.