Tuesday, April 16, 2019

GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller

GIRLS ON THE VERGE will no doubt be considered a controversial addition to YA literature, but its message is one that should be communicated to girls everywhere. In this reviewer's opinion politics has no place in women's reproductive rights and the right to choose. This may not be an opinion shared by everyone, however, GIRLS ON THE VERGE handles the subject in a sensitive manner that might just change the opinions of some.

When Camille discovers she is pregnant, she knows the last thing she wants is to be a mother at age seventeen. Her plans for the future will eventually include a family, but she is determined that the one mistake she made while on a meaningless date will not ruin her life.

Living in Texas has stacked the deck against girls like Camille. Her trip to the crisis clinic reveals the strict laws of her state. On the surface the staff seems understanding, but when Camille experiences a vaginal probe followed by prenatal advice assuming she will keep the baby, she realizes choice is the last thing she is being offered. The clinic requires parental consent or her appearance before a judge who might dismiss the requirement. 

Camille fears disappointing her parents so she finds help with a planned parenthood representative. They appear before the judge, but her request is denied. Texas is denying Camille's right to an abortion. 

Another alternative is to head to the Mexico border where an abortion drug is available. Accompanied by two friends, Camille uses attendance at a summer theater camp as a cover for the road trip that will hopefully help solve her problem. What follows is an emotionally charged experience in which ideas differ about the choice Camille is making. 

GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller is well written and researched. Readers will better understand the feeling when personal choice is compromised. No matter one's stand on abortion, Waller brings the right of choice to the table and opens up the possibility of discussion that might promote change.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly

Iris may be deaf, but she is quite a girl. At only twelve years old, she is a genius when it comes to fixing radios. Using vibrations she feels through touch, she is able to repair the old radios she finds at a local junk store. When she finishes, she sells them back to the store's owner. Unfortunately, Iris wishes she could just repair radios all day long instead of going to school and dealing with the frustration of trying to communicate with people who don't understand her.

Things at school begin looking up the day Iris's science teacher shows a video of a whale named Blue 55. The whale is a hybrid species and it's been discovered that he can't communicate with other whales. Scientists in several wildlife sanctuaries listening to the sounds of whales discovered Blue 55's song is at a higher decibel than most other whales. Their tracking systems show that he tries to interact with other whale groups, but he is excluded.

When Iris sees the video, she immediately wants to help Blue 55. She begins researching whale songs and hertz measurements to find out how she can create a song specially designed for Blue 55. With the help of her friend Wendell, the school music teacher, and an app on her phone, Iris is able to create a song. She emails a scientist at the wildlife sanctuary mentioned on the video about the whale. She includes a recording of the song she created suggesting they could play it through underwater speakers for Blue 55 the next time he is in that part of the ocean.

What follows is an adventure that takes Iris and her grandmother to Alaska where she hopes to see the results of her hard work in person. Things may not go exactly as planned and she may be grounded until middle age, but Iris is determined to let the whale know someone hears him.

Author Lynne Kelly uses her experience as a American Sign Language translator to create a tale about a young girl and a lonely whale. Whether Iris is simply helping a whale or perhaps finding a way to make herself heard, readers will love this crazy, action-packed adventure.

Friday, April 5, 2019


Life takes a strange turn the day Carter Jones opens the front door and met the Butler. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick takes charge of the Jones household. There will no longer be meals in front of the TV. The usual sugary cereal for breakfast is replaced by steel-cut oatmeal with cream. Carter and his three sisters are delivered to school in an eggplant colored Bentley that draws more attention than Carter wants.

The Butler expects good manners, proper English, and regular walks for Nate the family dachshund. All of this is a bit of a surprise for Carter and his sisters, but his mother welcomes the organization and stability. Carter's father is currently deployed in Germany, and the death of his younger brother Currier still has everyone dealing with painful memories.

Basically, Carter sees the Butler as "a pain in the glutes." This feeling intensifies when the Butler organizes a cricket team and insists that Carter and his schoolmates learn how to play this strange but traditional game of England. Sixth grade Carter is shocked when the Butler suggests the eighth graders on the cross country team should be involved as well. Carter knows well that sixth graders don't mix with eighth graders, but he is about to learn the Butler can handle anything.

Author Gary D. Schmidt shows readers that proper behavior and being a gentleman can create the confidence needed to deal with impossible situations. Quirky characters, humor, and a healthy bit of competition combine to entertain as well as inform in PAY ATTENTION, CARTER JONES. I confess I still don't have a working understanding of the game of cricket, but it makes me interested in learning more.