The Plot in Five Sentences or Less: During the Summer of Love in 1967 in the Haight District of San Francisco, Joanne falls in love with a hippie named Martin. Their relationship develops as Joanne watches her family and world change around her. Her sister Denise enters a loveless marriage and is sexually harassed at work while her brother Dan is interested in joining up and going to Vietnam. As Joanne’s relationship with Martin develops, she experiments with drugs and protesting against the war while also carving out time to excel at her piano practice.
My Take: Against my own predictions, I enjoyed this book and believe that young adult females interested in the 1960’s will get a kick out of it. When I began this book, my fear was that it was going to simply be about a silly, moon-eyed girl pining over a boy. Janet smartly puts in the side plot of Joanne’s burning interest in the piano and, because of this, I felt much more interested in this character. My one quibble was the placement of the characters at the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. The scene was too short and inserted rather desultorily into the narrative. Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised by this story of young love in the 1960’s. Ages 13+ due to drug use and profanity.
One Interesting Note About the Author: Music plays a big part in Janet’s life. She has been taking piano lessons since the age of 7. She plays guitar as well, but feels most inclined to play classical piano. Find out more about at her website.
The Plot In 5 Sentences or Less: Bitty is a canary that lives in the town of Coalbank Hollow, West Virginia in 1931. Caged with other canaries in a boy’s room, the birds are daily taken to the mines and used as methane and carbon monoxide detectors. The mines are dangerous for man and bird and alike, so Bitty concocts a plan to escape. After springing himself, he makes his way to Charleston where he plans to somehow petition the state government to make mining safer. Along the way he meets lots of new friends, makes some enemies, and learns that changing the status quo is not easy.
My Take: This is a solid anthropomorphic book in the spirit of E.B. White or Dick King-Smith. I learned a lot about mining and also about birds (before reading this I couldn’t tell a grackle from a crow). Some readers may quibble about a bird somehow knowing to make their way to Charleston to legislate for mining conditions, but, hey, its a children’s book. Ages 9+
One Interesting Note about the Author: Madelyn’s first children’s “book” was called “Mommy’s Flying Birthday Cake.” You may view a copy of it here.
The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less: Georgie Burkhardt is a 13 year old girl living with her mom and grandfather in Placid, Wisconsin in the 1870’s. When the book opens, Georgie is mourning the death of her older sister Agatha whose body has turned up miles away near Dog Hollow. The body is too decomposed to be recognized, but it is wearing Agatha’s distinctive dress. Georgie refuses to accept that her sister is dead and slips away one night with Agatha’s former beau Billy McCabe on a journey to Dog Hollow. But seeking answers will put them in great danger and test Georgie’s bonds of sisterhood.
My Take: This is an excellent YA mystery set in the mid west in the 19th century. The characters are well developed and I did not find them artificial as I so often do in YA fiction. Timberlake does an excellent job of expressing that Georgie is a strong female without making her into some over the top Katniss Everdeen. I did think that the ending could be more mournful and therefore more poignant and open ended, but people love happy endings. One Came Home makes me want to read more by Timberlake. Ages 12+
One Interesting Note About the Author: Passenger pigeons play a large role in this book. Timberlake’s inspiration to write One Came Home derived from her discovery of the rich history of this extinct bird. In 1871, the largest nesting of pigeons ever recorded occurred in south-central Wisconsin. The entire length of it was 125 miles long!