Summer reading picks
Summertime means . . . ugh, summer reading for a lot of students. Many summer reading programs now allow students to choose at least one of the books to read during their time off. For this reason, we will feature two books per issue over the next few months that would make excellent choices. We strongly suggest, however, that students and parents check with their schools and/or teachers for final approval.
Poet and editor Frances O'Roark Dowell has written Dovey Coe, a quietly moving story of a mountain family's struggle to maintain dignity and independence. Dovey, age 12, narrates her account of mountain life with the familiarity of an old friend. Woven into her tale, however, is a murder accusation that seems fairly open-and-shut, and all fingers point toward Dovey as the culprit. Recommended for grades 3-7, the murder is not detailed blow-by-blow (which adds to the mystery) and while Dovey is no saint, Dowell has deftly captured the inner conflict of a have-not who prevails. In the spirit of Where the Lilies Bloom, Dovey Coe is a great study in character development and plot for younger readers, theme and voice for older readers.
Perhaps due in part of wildly successful Harry Potter series, orphan stories are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Peggy Brooke's Jake's Orphan (A Melanie Kroupa Book/DK, $16.95, 0789426285, ages 10-14) is set in the 1926 North Dakota prairie. Tree is taken from an orphanage by a stern farming couple for one year to help with chores. Forced to leave his brother Acorn behind, Tree adjusts to his new farm life in a stumbling, insecure manner. Following an incident at school, Tree becomes the responsibility of the farmer's brother. Soon thereafter, Acorn - who was once linked to a robbery back in St. Paul - arrives at the farm unexpectedly. The plotting is complex and the characters are vivid, but Jake's Orphan's predominant setting and themes practically demand the reader's attention. Don't expect bells and whistles from Jake's Orphan; rather, expect a story as basic as chicken and dumplings, and equally as hearty and substantial.