This week's mini reviews features a middle grade historical fiction and a young adult contemporary mystery. I read both of these for the Golden Girls Readathon that Rachael hosted last week and both are new to me authors.
By Shirley Hughes
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
This is the story of Paolo and his family at the end of World War II in Florence, Italy. His father has left to join the resistance movement as he is an outcast because he does not support the fascist regime of Mussolini or the Nazis. His mother does her part often times reluctantly because of fear for Paolo and his sister Constanza. Paolo does not want to stand back and do nothing, so he does what he can by using his bicycle.
What I liked about this book is it is World War II in a different location. I feel that often times World War II is sequestered to England, France, and Germany and sometimes Switzerland, Netherlands, Japan and Russia but rarely anywhere else. It reads quickly and with it being middle grade, it wraps up as best as a war story can.
What I did not like is the alternating points-of-view because it seemed off in this book however, because it switched within the short chapters. I wish each chapter was devoted to one point-of-view as I think that would help the flow of the story and engage readers even more into plight of this family (and the area) of World War II.
By Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My Rating 3 out of 5 Stars
Sawyer Taft is used to being on her own--her mother will take off at times, leaving her alone. When her mother is off on one of these side trips, Sawyer's grandmother walks back into her life and offers her a free ride to college. The catch, she has to come live with her and participate in the debutante season. Wanting to go to college, this seems like a manageable deal to Sawyer plus it would give her a chance to figure out who her father actually is since her mother ran away pregnant during her own debutante season. What ensues is ruffle dresses, gloves, polite small talk combined with not only the mystery of who her father is, but Sawyer ends up helping out her fellow debutante cousin and two others with a mystery that could end up bringing down one of the well to do families.
I found this an enjoyable contemporary with a bit of mystery and intrigue rolled into the package. I really like that Sawyer is snarky and independent--and for the most part keeps that as she rubs elbows with the elite families. I like that she grows as a person over the course of meeting and living with a side of the family she has never known.
I find that I could easily recommend this to a range of readers in my library. I do appreciate the short chapters--I have students that need short chapters so they feel like the can accomplish bigger books in smaller pieces, especially given this book is almost 400 pages (390 to be exact). Snarky girls, a bit of a homage to mean girls, the little overcoming the mighty, and a glitzy side of life many of us do not have access to are more things I can pitch to some of my readers.