Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

This is another book that I've seen around a lot and always with positive reviews.  When "I am Sam" recommended it on another post, I put it back on my hold list at the library.  (I missed it once already!) And it came in on my Kindle which I love!

I really liked this story, but I couldn't help compare it with books that I've already read.  When the story begins, CeeCee's mother is slipping further into mental illness and her father is slipping further away from their family.  Poor CeeCee is left to deal with tragic and embarrassing circumstances and has no friends at school to support her.  Luckily she has a sweet old lady neighbor who fills in a couple gaps and helps CeeCee survive.  Similarly to The Secret Life of Bees, CeeCee ends up moving to the Savannah, Georgia and forming strong motherly bonds with some great women.  I enjoyed CeeCee's perspective and insights.  I would categorize this as a coming of age book.

When CeeCee is thinking about how much she would like a friend she says, "Every day I ached to hear my footsteps walk in rhythm with those of another girl."  I love that, and the clever way that Beth Hoffman illustrated her point.

There are really no positive men characters living in this book.  However, CeeCee's great uncle is spoken about fondly. "He was a powerful man and a kind, kind soul.  Usually them two things don't go together."

I loved this conversation CeeCee has with her aunt Tootie, "One day you'll do something, see something, or get an idea that seems to pop up from nowhere.  And you'll feel a kind of stirring--like a warm flicker inside your chest.  When that happens, whatever you do, don't ignore it.  Open your mind and expore the idea.  Fan your flame. And when you do, you'll have found it."  I think about that a lot as a parent.  I want my kids to find things they are passionate about.  I think as adults we recongnize what we really like to do more easily.  But I guess we don't always have the freedom to pursue those things.  But when we do, I believe we are much happier and that carries over to all the other things we have to do with our time.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I would recommend it.  I've been trying to put my finger on why I didn't love it.  Simply put, it's just not as good as a lot of other books that follow a similar story line.  I thought it was weird that the women in the south who seemed to know everyone, never introduced her to any children.  That seems like the most obvious thing they would have done.  It happens by accident toward the end and it adds a really sweet element.

I also think that CeeCee didn't feel as real to me as other young heroines.  I think the writing just needed to be developed a little more.  The author created a great character, but she doesn't entirely come alive.  For example, she loves to read, but we aren't given a lot of insight into which characters or books mean something to her.  I loved when she read Nancy Drew to Oletta, but we only get Oletta's comments.  I wish that we knew what inspired or comforted CeeCee in what she was reading.  I think it would have helped us understand her.

I love that nothing SUPER horrible happens after the initial tragedies.  There were some moments where I was worried.  In fact several incidents were written with un-realistically happy endings.  But I rarely mind that!

I also really liked all the crazy ladies she meets in Savannah.  The neighbors are almost cartooney in their eccentricities.  The homes and the parties are well-described and lovely.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

This was a fun children's mystery.  I think it would be great for 4th-6th graders, but maybe even better if read as a class.  It definely feels old fashioned.  I can imagine really great discussions and enrichment exercises to go along.

The book begins with a wide variety of people being selected to live in an apartment building, and then ultimately chosen to solve a mysterious death with the reward of a huge inheritance.  Mr. Westing has put them in pairs and given them clues.

Of course each team is made up of two individuals who greatly benefit from their new friendship.  Most of the characters learn something and change for the better by playing the game.

The writing style is cook, the mystery is clever and I recommend this book for a quick fun read.