So, Dana Reinhardt (author of Brief Moments In My Impossible Life and Harmless) has a third novel coming out in May 2008. The book, titled How to Build a House, is about Harper, a high schooler from California, whose problems include, among others, her dad and step-mom's divorce (Harper later finds out her dad was cheating on her step-mom), her own separation from her step-sister, Tess, whom she loves like a sister and was inseparable from. Unitl, of course, they move out. So Harper decides to run away, sort of. Her dad is in on her summer "time out." Our young hero, so out of sorts that she needs a break to get her head together, puts to practice her eco-political ideology. She goes down south, to Tennessee, to help build a house ala Habitat for a family who's lost theirs to a tornado. In the passing months of summer, she comes to terms with loss and love and real love and real loss.
Linda Sue Park's latest novel, Keeping Score (which is due out in the spring of 2008) is a baseball story, unlike what readers might expect in a baseball story: right--stereotypically you'd think (I would think it anyway, having played ball when I was a kid) that the hero has to be a boy, who plays ball, who is in one kind of slump or another, who has to find it within himself (usually a grandfather or some older person like that telling him to keep up his chin, that eventually the boy'll get that game-winning hit or whatever other kind of encouragement can be offered) to keep on keeping on, and ultimately, against all odds (usually the pitcher is a hulking monster of a boy who eats batters for breakfast) gets the hit. Well, none of that in Park's historical novel. And get this, the main character ain't even a boy, but a girl, and she doesn't play, she learns instead to keep score the old fashioned way, using the symbology of baseball (Xs and Ss and the like), and the girl isn't Korean, but white. Maggie's story takes place in the early to mid-50s, so the only thing that I would expect in such a book as this is that it would have to do with the NY Yankess, the NY Giants, or the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maggie cheers for the Bums, the Dodgers who reach the World Series time and time again, only to lose and to leave their fans looking forward to next year, always next year. But it's not just about baseball. Maggie is affected by the Korean War. Her friend Jim, a fireman at the local firehouse and who roots for the Giants, is drafted, only to return having suffered greatly during his time as an ambulance driver in this "police action," that only recently has been officially called a war, according to notes from Park. Just as interseting to me about this book is that an "ethnic" writer like Park is writing outside the cultural box. I hope folks won't be so silly as to hold it against such a wonderful book that these are not Korean American characters. It's an awesome book. Meant for the language arts and social studies class both. A treasure.
Lastly, and not just because I've got a story in it, but because the book in total is so solid, but the book to get in Febrary is Don Gallo's next anthology: Owning It: Stories About Teens With Disabilities. Who else has solid stories in the book are David Lubar, who writes a very serious and deep story about alcoholism ("Here's to Good Friends"), Gail Giles with a story on Tourette's ("Tic and Shout" in which she focuses on other of its manifestations besides spontaneous cursing), and Alex Flinn whose main character is, in a sense, born again due to a carwreck she's in that results in brain damage and her having to relearn much of what she learned since birth ("Brainiac"). Other contributors include Ron Koertge, Cris Crutcher, Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, Bob Lipsyte, Julie Anne Peters, and Brenda Woods. My story's called "Fatboy and Skinnybones," by the way. Gallo has done it again, and I am so honored to have worked with him on this project, a dream come true.
Get them all. Each so worth it in its own way. But great writing every book.
originally published in slightly different form on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/