Written by Lindsay Eagar
In this excellent debut novel, the author shows us a world that is familiar and, at the same time, unfamiliar to most of her readers. When the dementia of Carol’s grandfather reaches a critical point, she and her entire family spend the summer packing up his ranch and getting him ready to move to a protected facility. Carol – or Carolina (Caro-leeen-a) as Grandpa calls her – is slowly sucked into his fantasies. So much so that the reader is never sure what’s real, what’s a dream, and what’s just part of the story. Grandpa, or Sergio (Serge), tells the story of the desert ranch in installments centered around a magical tree and bees that took off with the water from a now-dry lake. Is Carol really seeing bees in the desert and does the tree really grow back overnight? Did Grandma Rosa really travel all over the world while Serge waited for her? Why don’t Serge and her dad speak? Through it all, Carol learns to deal with her teenage half-sister and with starting middle school as she goes through changes of her own.
Fourth graders will recognize some of their own confusion in coming to grips with the world and with people who don’t always act the way they expect. Coming of age is not always easy for anyone in the room.
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- Title: Hour of the Bees
- Author: Lindsay Eagar
- Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
- Grade Level: 4 to 6
- Genre: Family, Fantasy, Dementia
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-7922-4
Written by Cynthia Lord
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Even the most good-hearted person can do the wrong thing for the right reasons. (Not to mention doing a few wrong things for the wrong reasons.) So it is with Lucy, the heroine in Lord’s third novel. Lucy can’t resist trying to win a contest to help a friend, even though she knows it’s a bad idea.
When Lucy and her parents move to a lake cottage in New Hampshire, she immediately befriends the summer family next door. The son, Nate, becomes a constant companion. The grandmother, Grandma Lilah, wins Lucy’s heart with her concern over the loons that live on the lake. Grandma Lilah is not well and frequently gets upset, much to Lucy’s confusion. Lucy’s dad is a famous photographer. When Lucy and Nate aren’t checking on the loons for Grandma Lilah, they’re working on a photography contest for which Dad is the judge. They want to win money to pay for a way to get Grandma Lilah close to her beloved loons one more time. Adding to the tension is another summer resident, Megan, who also wants to be friends with Nate. Lucy’s jealousy is well-founded and adds a dimension to Lucy’s personality, as does the fact that she has trouble coming to terms with her father’s frequent absences. She wants more attention from him.
Fourth graders and up will love the bond Lucy forms with the birds and enjoy the creative ways in which she interprets the categories for the contest. Their hearts will go out to the older woman in her struggles. Many reading activities are suggested by Lucy’s participation in tracking the loons, in her photographic pursuits, in her kayaking, and in her desire to help Grandma Lilah.
The author’s website, www.cynthialord.com, has many more reading activities.
- Title: Half a Chance
- Author: Cynthia Lord
- Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
- Genre: Contemporary fiction, nature, dementia, friendship, family
- ISBN: 978-0545035330