#925 Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Jim lives with his mother, his father died before he was born, in rural North Carolina. He’s never met his dad’s father, who lives up on a mountain in a town close by. His uncles live close though. He has three uncles and none of them ever got married. They each have their own houses, but they eat at Jim’s mom’s house. His mother does all the cooking and cleaning for the uncles. There’s a girl that helps too.

It’s Jim’s tenth birthday and he very much wants to go work in the fields with his uncles. They give him a hoe, not the one he wants, and Jim sets off to work. Things don’t turn out so well. He ends up cutting down two corn stalks and he’s not nearly as fast as he thought he was. His uncles get him a new catcher’s mitt and baseball for his birthday.

Time goes on and Jim’s friend comes down with polio. They don’t know if he’s going to live for a while. The uncles tell Jim that he needs to meet his grandfather, he’ll regret it if he doesn’t. Meanwhile his mother debates over whether to let another man in her life. She worries that either way Jim will miss something in his life.

Jim learns that there are things you don’t always want to do, but sometimes it’s good to do those things.

What I liked

This book is somewhat local, which is nice. It’s obviously set a while back. I think the author does a good job of portraying that time period. Some people had electricity and some people didn’t. The land was worked by hand. It wasn’t an easy life.

Jim did seem to grow throughout the book. In the beginning he’s very much a brat, as many little boys are, for some reason. Some of them grow out of it, thank goodness. By the end of the book I can see some the maturity Jim has poking through the little boy exterior.

What I didn’t like

It’s sad not to know your father or your grandfather. I didn’t grow up with my father and my step-father wasn’t exactly grade-a dad material, not by a long shot. I can tell you that it is difficult to grow up minus one parent. There’s only one side of things, that’s the side of the parent you live with. It doesn’t matter if they’re right, or if they’re wrong. You only get their side of things. Grandfathers are also nice to know. The one grandfather of mine that I have been around is pretty great. He’s taught me a lot of great stuff and he’s a good person. My life would be terribly different without him.

This is a round-about way of saying I feel sorry for Jim. I think it’s unfortunate that he’s going without so much in his life, but the good thing is that he still has his uncles.

Overall

Don’t get into a fight with your best friend when Ty Cobb is watching.

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Did you find yourself feeling lacking if you grew up without one parent?

Do you have a good connection with your extended family?

#920 I Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

I Funny by James Patterson and Chris GrabensteinI Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Jaime’s uncle has told him about a comedy contest for young people and Jaime has decided that he needs to enter the contest. He practices his jokes out on the people who come to his uncle’s diner and on his uncle’s family. Jaime lives with his uncle ever since the thing that happened that put him in a wheelchair.

That’s what makes Jaime different from other kids; he’s in a wheelchair. None of his friends know why yet. They don’t know why he lives with his uncle and his family instead of his parents.

Some people really like Jaime’s jokes, while others might groan. Jaime looks for everyday events to tell jokes about. At the content, things go well. Some people say it’s because he’s in a wheelchair and people felt sorry for him, but others tell Jaime that it’s because he’s truly funny. He begins to open up to his new friend about his life and about the thing that happened. The thing that happened was actually pretty awful and it took a long time for Jaime to get over it, physically. It’s still hard to get over it mentally, but with the help of his uncle’s family and his friends, Jaime’s doing ok and he is funny.

What I liked

I actually liked this James Patterson book. Granted, he did not write it himself, it’s still the best James Patterson book I’ve read. I think this book does a good job of being comedic, but having a reason for someone wanting to be funny. Jaime wants to be funny to help get over a tragedy that occurred in his life. His life got completely turned upside down, but this stand-up competition, or sit down competition in his case, is an effort on his part to move on with his life. Moving on from something awful is an important part of life. How we move on from things can make or break some other things in the rest of our lives. We have to choose to get up and keep moving, just as Jaime has in this story. It’s quite admirable.

What I didn’t like

The thing that happens to Jaime is a little harsh. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but it’s a lot to think about. It could be a little much for some younger people.

Overall

Sometimes the best thing you can do is laugh about something.

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If some terrible catastrophe happened in your life, how long would it take for you to laugh?

What do you think about people who are always telling jokes?

#901 The Perilous Road by William O. Steele

The Perilous Road by William O. SteeleThe Perilous Road by William O. Steele

Chris is living with his family in the Eastern Tennessee mountains during The Civil War. Chris says he hates the union soldiers. He hates that they come and take what they want from farms. He hates this his neighbors didn’t do anything about it when the soldiers came and took their food. They say the soldiers were just hungry. Chris doesn’t think the Union soldiers need his sympathy, or anybody’s sympathy for that matter.

His brother joins the military to be a wagon driver. Chris finds out that a wagon train is coming through so he wants to warn the other side so there will be an encounter, so he tells a neighbor who says he is a spy. When Chris finds out there is an actual battle going on in the area, he takes off trying to find his brother, not thinking that his brother would still be in training.

When he gets to the battle, he  encounters soldiers from the north, who treat him well and are suffering from the war just the same as anybody else and Chris feels he needs to rethink his position on the other side.

What I liked

I’m not a typical war person, but I’ve read a few novels set during The Civil War. This one wasn’t bad. Chris is being hard-hearted, just as many people tend to be when they think they’re on the right side of something. He finds out that things aren’t so black and white. Just because someone is fighting on the other side, doesn’t mean that they’re not human. They need the same things all humans need. They have the same feelings all humans have. People dying because of a war are people dying because of a war, it doesn’t matter what side they’re on.

I really liked that Chris’ eyes were opened. Just because someone is your enemy politically, doesn’t mean that they’re your personal enemy.

What I didn’t like

Chris’ attitude is all to common. Sometimes we tend to think that our opinion is the correct one and whoever thinks differently is our enemy, and therefore, evil. We don’t stop to consider that maybe both sides are correct in one way or the other, or, that our side is actually the evil side. If we believe something very intolerant and expound upon that belief as the correct one and consider anyone who is more tolerant to be evil, isn’t the more intolerant view the more evil view?

Chris was young and sometimes as younger people we tend to hold onto our “beliefs” as we consider them as if they’re immutable, when, in fact, our beliefs change and grow as we gain experiences in life. Chris did just that in this book.

Overall

It doesn’t matter what side you’re on; we’re all people.

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Did you find that your younger self was too idealistic and strict in your views?

Is everybody the enemy on the other side?

#878 The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney

Amira lives with her family in Darfur. She has two parents and a younger sister. There is also the family sheep, named by the little sister at birth with her cries. Amira enjoys her life. She plays with her sister and the animals; she dislikes the chores she got when she got older.

One day, something awful happens. There seems to be fire all around. The sheep is gone; her father is gone. Everyone must leave. They take only what they can carry on their backs. They walk and walk. They get somewhere. Their house is made of rice bags. Amira’s family changes. She sees a child bride. A white lady gives her a red. Pencil.

Amira learns to draw. Someone secretly teaches her to write. Her mother is not happy about it, but Amira has many dreams, among those dreams is going to school and learning.

What I liked

The prose of this book was wonderful. It moves along and flowed. It made sense and kept a musical tone to the whole story.

Amira is very likable. She is determined to be something more and to learn.

I liked learning a bit more about what happened in Darfur back in 2003. I had heard the term on the news, but didn’t know what it meant. It’s a sad thing, but I’m better enriched as a person because I know more about it.

The author was inspired to write this book because of the events in Darfur. She spent a lot of time researching and doing interviews. I think it’s pretty great to come up with such a beautiful story while dealing with so many terrible things.

What I didn’t like

These events are so sad. I feel bad for Amira. She lost her animals. She lost her home. She lost her father. It was awful. She experiences PTSD, when she’s way too young to experience such a terrible thing, not that anyone is ever at an age to experience such terrible things.

Amira isn’t real, so I’m a little relieved, but there are plenty of real girls who did go through things like this. I feel bad for them. It’s terrible that anybody thinks they have the right to do something like this.

Overall

Beautiful story about awful things.

Weigh in

Do you think you could have made it through what Amira made it through?

Do you feel that you didn’t give education an important in your life when you were young?

#868 World of the Innocent by Nadine C. Keels

World of the Innocent by Nadine C. KeelsWorld of the Innocent by Nadine C. Keels

One of Joy’s friends tells her that Marcas wants to get to know her better and Joy has to pause for a bit. What does that even mean? Joy is part of a community where she participates in a program for college students. There are performances and the arts are encouraged. She is friends with an older man, Mr. El, Elmer. They play chess together and Joy gets advice about life during the games. She has a mother and a father, but things haven’t really been the same with them.

Joy does take Marcas up on his offer. She doesn’t really know what to do or how to act around a man. The two enjoy each other’s company. They talk about life and admire each other’s talents and work in the community. There isn’t this burning passion between either of them, but something does grow between the two and Joy feels it’s right.

What I liked

This is a romance story, but it’s not sappy. It’s not obsessed or frantic, like so many so-called “romance” stories. There is a difference in being obsessed with somebody and loving somebody for who they are. When you’re that kind of “love obsessed” with someone, you’re afraid to show them who you really are. You’re afraid they’re going to run away screaming if they find out about some perceived flaw on your part. When you love someone for who they are and they return the favor, you’re not scared to show them who you are and you might find yourself opening up to them about things you never thought you’d open up to anyone about. There’s a difference between these two. I think Nadine gets it and she was able to put it in words with this story.

Joy is a little hesitant, but she knows she doesn’t have to hide her fears or her flaws from Marcas. Neither of them mind the other’s past or family situation. It’s purely because Joy is Joy and Marcas is Marcas, not because Joy is pretending to be who she perceives Marcas wants.

I also like that Joy has some hangups about stuff, but Marcas doesn’t push her into anything. Look, if you date a guy and he’s trying to push you into something you’re not ready for, he’s a jerk. What’s the saying, “Love is patient; love is kind…”

What I didn’t like

I can’t really say there’s anything I didn’t like, although, there’s some sad.

Overall

Find that person who appreciates you for who you are.

Weigh In

Have you experienced both loving someone for who they are and love obsessed kind of loves?

If so, which one turned out better?