April 12, 2016

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Happy Poetry Friday. This week, I'm pausing to think about my friends who struggle with the holidays. 

Festive occasions are especially challenging when we've suffered a recent loss. The grandmother, son, or friend who always told the best jokes at gatherings, made homemade blueberry pie, or gave warm, comforting hugs is absent from the festivities for the first time.

Let's gather together for the comfort
of friendship and poetry
at Buffy Silverman's blog this week.

One of the best parts about being a debut novelist has been connecting with other children's and YA authors in the class of 2016. We’ve had a great time sharing each other’s Advanced Reader’s Copies (ARCs). Several weeks ago, I read Jen Maschari's middle grade novel THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE.

is available for pre-order.

From the moment I opened this book, Charlie felt like a real kid. He's got the in-betweenness of a middle schooler, used to being a goofy little kid, but trying to be a wiser, smarter (and smart aleckier sometimes) adolescent. There's a heaviness to Charlie, despite the natural good humor that peeks through the restrained demeanor he shows to adults and friends. Charlie's mother has recently died of cancer, and loss is where he lives. 

If you don't think loss can be a setting, as well as an emotion, consider the ways that losing a parent affects a young family. Meals can never measure up to the ones prepared by Charlie's mom, nor can they be eaten as an intact family. Dad, engrossed with his work as a way to manage his own depression, forgets to help Charlie and his younger sister Imogen with everyday chores like laundry and packing lunches. Every little detail of their warm, but increasingly neglected home, is drawn to portray how the Price family's lives now, compared to how they used to be.
I found the use of magical realism in this novel to be an effective metaphor for grief. Charlie and his younger sister discover a portal to an alternate reality where their mother is invitingly alive. The more time they spend with this shadow mother, the less present they are in their real lives. By the time Charlie recognizes the danger, he must reach out and accept help from others in order to rescue his sister. To me, the portal world (under Imogen's bed) was symbolic of the ways that grief can pull us down until we feel that we are hardly alive ourselves.

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE debuts in February. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
A heartfelt, beautifully written novel of love, loss, and math—perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Sharon M. Draper.

Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price's mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who's completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and grief group that's anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too.

Just when Charlie thinks things can't get any worse, his sister, Imogen, starts acting erratically—missing school and making up lies about their mother. But everything changes when one day he follows her down a secret passageway in the middle of her bedroom and sees for himself.

Imogen has found a parallel world where Mom is alive!

There's hot cocoa and Scrabble and scavenger hunts again and everything is perfect . . . at first. But something doesn't feel right. Whenever Charlie returns to the real world, things are different, and not in a good way. And Imogen wants to spend more and more time on the other side. It's almost as if she wants to leave the real world for good. If Charlie doesn't uncover the truth, he could lose himself, the true memory of their mother, and Imogen . . . forever.
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE is a middle grade novel, appropriate for third grade and up. Because of the subject matter, younger readers will find it helpful to discuss Charlie's story with an adult.
Who will like it?
  • Readers who like stories that blend fantasy and contemporary elements.
  • Kids who are beginning to ask about and understand the concept of grief.
  • Dog lovers. (Cover dog Ruby is quite a heroine!)
What will readers learn about?
  • People who are grieving need time before they are ready to engage in "normal life" again. 
  • Kids who have suffered a loss have lots of helpers they can reach out to: friends, teachers, counselors, even pets.
  • One way to cope with loss is to share memories of the person who has died.

There were many poems I thought of pairing with THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE. We often turn to poetry in times of loss, so there are wonderful poems on this theme. I like this one by poet and children's author Naomi Shihab Nye because it is powerful in its simplicity.

One Way or Another
By Naomi Shihab Nye

She is gone, where did she go?
He can’t imagine how the house will feel
when he enters it, moving room to room.
Now that the wait is over, a larger pause
will blanket the roof, softness settling
slowly down. By which window or door
may future days enter? 

You might also like the anthology THIS PLACE I KNOW: POEMS OF COMFORT, edited by Georgia Heard.

Candlewick has a PDF about the book here.


Sally Murphy said...

Thanks Laura. Books thatd eal with loss are important, but difficult to get right - I love the sound of this one. I also love the matching poem.

Linda B said...

The book about Charlie sounds lovely, Laura. I am thinking of those children who've had that recent loss in the two shootings this past week.The sadness and shock is unimaginable. Naomi Nye has it right, at least to me. It is those 'minor questions' and 'that lilting reply" that are devastating. Although it probably isn't easy, I'm glad that authors write about hard things for kids. I'm just finishing Glory O'Brien's History of The Future, for YA, and it will be powerful for some to cling to. Thanks for sharing this new book and the poem.

Joy said...

Thanks for this post. What great resources. This sounds like a great place to start in talking about the recent shootings and grief and loss. These are always difficult topics to talk bout with folks of all ages and you have given us a portal for middle grade students, thank you.

jama said...

What an interesting premise to have a parallel world to escape to as a way to cope with loss and grief. Thanks for featuring this new book and for sharing Nye's poem. I also must check out Georgia Heard's anthology.

Buffy Silverman said...

Sounds like a terrific book--although I know the way grief can alter every aspect of your life, I never thought of it as a setting before. The idea of a portal to escape it seems like an especially middle-grade friendly approach. Thanks for sharing the book and the poem.

HATBOOKS Author Holly Thompson said...

Thank you for this pairing post--looking forward to reading The Remarkable Journey and the poems of comfort.

Anonymous said...

Laura, I enjoyed your post. I'm looking forward to reading THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE. The poems on your post touch my heart. This is the first Christmas without my Mom. I have felt like Charlie quite a bit this past year.

Diane Mayr said...

Writing up order cards for the library...

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Aspects of this story remind me of CORALINE by Neil Gaiman. I imagine it's probably quite different, hopefully not quite as dark (no button eyes, for example), but the idea of a parallel universe with an "other mother" is certainly haunting as well as compelling. Thank you for sharing the complementary poem and book too, Laura. Your choices are always thoughtful and appreciated.

Tara said...

What an interesting book, Laura - I will have to be on the lookout for it in February. This sounds like a sensitively written book, one that my sixth graders will appreciate.

Gatheringbooks said...

I am intrigued by the book. But I do agree creating another world or space seem to good way to deal with grief, to talk about it. I have never heard of the Nye poem, but its beautiful. Reading it reminded me of the loss my family experienced early this year. Thanks for sharing.

Margaret Simon said...

Thanks for this recommendation. I look forward to this new book. I did not realize that debut authors would be its own clique in a way,but you all must enjoy supporting one another.

Mary Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Lee said...

(let me try again with better editing before I hit publish...)

This will be one (well, ANOTHER) to look forward to!