Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jack Strong Makes A Stand

Jack Strong isn’t particularly noble. He’s not a rebel. He’s not an over- or under-achiever – nor, despite his name, is he particularly strong. He’s just a middle grader who’s tired of being told what to do and being rushed from baseball to cello practice; Junior EMT to Chinese lessons, and from math tutoring to soccer games. Not to mention tennis and karate! He insists his well-meaning parents have overscheduled his life and, when he finds no room for negotiation, he takes his protest to the living room couch and refuses to move.

Good for Jack!  We can all learn from this anti-hero. Enough is enough!  I'm right with Jack and have a good mind to put my foot down and go on strike, too.  What will I cut from my own child's schedule?  Both soccer teams are really important.  Should Girl Scout's be cut or gymnastics?  What about the art camp?  She's such a talented artist.  Should I deny her art lessons?

We can all relate to Jack's predicament.  It is particularly timely as millions of overscheduled kids head back to school and gird for crushing schedules devised by parents determined to make their kids perfect or close to it. With college applications years off, but nevertheless top-of-mind for parents with children in the middle- and high- school years, Jack Strong’s crisis is one we know all too well.

Kids who liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, will enjoy this story.

This unique book is by Tommy Greenwald.  Tommy is an advertising executive, and also the lyricist and co-creator of the hit Off-Broadway play John and Jen.

To watch the trailer, click here.

To visit Tommy's home page, click here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

After the River the Sun

After the River the Sun is a wonderfully written novel with a moving and intellectually challenging plot.  I'm humbled by Dia Calhoun's mastery of her craft.  This is a great story for boys, girls, and adults.

"A boy draws on Arthurian legend to ease his grief
in this companion verse novel to Eva of the Farm (2012)."
"Having recently witnessed his parents’ deaths from a drowning accident, Eckhart Lyon is sent to live with his uncle Albert, one of his few living relatives, on a trial basis. A gaming expert, the boy is certain he’ll never enjoy his strange uncle’s rural home without modern technology, but he grows to appreciate helping his uncle rebuild his orchard and hanging out with Eva, from a neighboring property. Despite these brief, comforting moments, he struggles with unrelenting guilt, feelings of cowardice and a desire to make his uncle’s house a real home. Calhoun’s precise verse (“Suddenly the stars beating down / were too bright, / the river too loud”) make Eckhart’s anguish palpable. The boy soon likens himself to Sir Gawain, who proved his worth to his uncle, King Arthur, before becoming a knight. Eckhart’s quest for home and courage is a true test, as his uncle grapples with his own grief and despair and will not commit to Eckhart’s future. A sudden tragedy allows the boy to heed the call of bravery, show his knightly spirit and forge a new family.

About the Author:
Dia Calhoun is the author of Eva of the Farm as well as the fantasy novels Avielle of Rhia, The Phoenix Dance, White Midnight, Aria of the Sea, and Firegold. She makes frequent school visits, sings Italian arias, fly-fishes, gardens, and eats lots of chocolate in her spare time. She lives with her husband, two cats, and two ghost cats in Tacoma, Washington.

More Praise For After the River the Sun…
"In After the River the Sun, Dia Calhoun has written a quietly powerful story of a boy who steps out of a fantasy world of knights and monsters into a real-life quest for family and home. Calhoun deals with loss, healing and friendship in language that is both direct and lyrical, making every page of this marvelous book a pleasure to read."
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, author of The Second Life of Abigail Walker and Chicken Boy.

Click here to learn more about Dia and her great books