Posted by: Nancy Novak, Children’s Librarian
I decided to take a week and read a few juvenile fiction books. I chose at random, with just a quick consideration of what I thought I might like. What I got were some amazing stories, all with a similar theme – how’s that for random?
Here’s the theme: Change is the only constant. The Greek philosophers knew it, adults today know it, and it holds true even for kids. These wonderful stories feature characters for whom a big change has occurred or is about to occur, and we watch what unfolds as they react to their circumstances. I loved them, and I hope your kids do, too.
Like Pickle Juice On A Cookie, by Julie Sternberg
This is a very sweet story, sprinkled with simple illustrations by Matthew Cordell, about a girl who loses one of the biggest constants her life – her caregiver, Bibi. Not only do we get a very accurate glimpse of how a child feels after such a sudden uprooting of her world, but we get to see her resolve it in a positive way. Luckily, Eleanor is surrounded by wonderful parents and neighbors who help her along. And her new caregiver, Natalie, is equally understanding, not taking Eleanor’s beginning rejection of her presence very personally. I think Eleanor’s feelings and thoughts will ring true for most kids, as she models how to grow and overcome a very sad event.
Henrietta Hornbuckle’s Circus of Life, by Michael De Guzman
Henrietta’s life in a traveling clown circus (no animals, just clown acts) is all she has ever known, and if she has anything to say about it, not to be changed or tampered with in any way. But the winds of change are blowing. She does everything she can to avoid them – ignores, argues, persuades, stands firm. She and her father, MoMo, are eternal optimists, but even MoMo knows their days as a circus family are numbered. When tragedy strikes, Henrietta must finally face the music. She has been surrounded by loving people all of her life. Now she must decide to depend on the kindness of strangers, the generosity of her estranged aunt, and the wisdom of her mother. As Henrietta begins a new chapter in her life, she leans on her father MoMo’s famous words: “There is work to be done and hearts to be won.” This book won my heart as it may win yours.
Junonia, by Kevin Henkes
I’ll say up front that I love Kevin Henkes’ books – both his picture books and his juvenile fiction. In this offering, Alice Rice comes to her usual summer cottage on Florida’s Gulf Coast fully expecting the same people, the same fun. But this is not to be, and she must contend with new people, including a 6 year old Mallory, who is struggling with some very big changes of her own, and expressing it in negative ways. Alice’s reactions run the gamut from inward reflection to annoyance to outrage as she moves through a 10th birthday party that does not fully approach her fantasy. The junonia, a hard to find sea shell, is part of Alice’s quest for perfection, and becomes a metaphor for the acceptance of imperfection that growing up requires. Henkes knows so well the hearts and minds of children, and I marveled at how he was able to describe Alice’s feelings perfectly, as well as his descriptions of her surrounding environment. In Junonia, the ocean’s not just the ocean: “the surface of the water was like glossy, peaked blue-green icing sprinkled with truckloads of sugar.” Sounds delicious, no?
Junonia the shell may be hard to find, but Junonia the book is not. Check it out!