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In the Night of Memory is a sad and beautiful novel about loss and redemption. Linda LeGarde Grover has written a lyrical and moving tale of two young girls surrendered to the county by their mother, an alcoholic, who promises to get treatment and return to collect them. A long while passes before anyone notices that she has disappeared without a trace and her two young daughters have vanished into the foster care system. The story of Loretta and her two daughters, Rainfall Dawn and Azure Sky, is a common tale for women of Native American heritage. Plagued by substance abuse, poverty, violence and racism, women and children become victims far too often. Azure and Rain are the lucky ones. Despite the difficulties they faced in foster care, relatives who remembered their mother used the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act to find and reclaim the sisters. A cousin and his mother take them in and give them a sense of home and family they have been missing for a long time.
The story is primarily narrated by Azure, covering the girls’ scant memories of their mother, their foster care experiences, and their subsequent return to their tribe. It ends when the girls are young adults. Other voices of female relatives appear, filling in the backstory of family and tribe, and the story of Loretta as a young girl. The author creates strong female characters with authentic voices. Their storytelling will keep you enthralled. It is a haunting tale of survival and perseverance, one that is not easy to put down and that will stay with you long after the last page is read.
Steven Wingate, in Of Fathers and Fire, examines the themes of religion and magical realism, the conflicts between faith and doubt, truth and lies, and the shift from childhood to adulthood. This coming of age tale set in a small Colorado town does an excellent job of realistically depicting the characters and the small town they inhabit, where everybody knows everyone and secrets rarely stay hidden..
A young man named Tommy Sandor is searching for something, but isn’t sure what that something is, exactly. He was raised by a single mother who told him nothing of his father until he was fourteen. She led him to believe his father was a saxophone player form New York City who never knew he had a child. In the summer of 1980, in a dusty junkyard town, a now seventeen-year-old Tommy practices his saxophone, an instrument he found in an old car, and makes plans to head to New York to find his father and become a world famous musician. Life has other plans. While playing sax in an abandoned church, Tommy meets a man named Richie Thorpe. Unbeknownst to Tommy, Richie is actually his father and his mother had changed her name and moved to Suborney to hide from him. The conflicts that arise threaten to destroy the whole town.
Wingate explores religion and its pull, both towards good and evil. It explores the relationships between parent and child, men and women, the faithful and the fallen. It is a book that juxtaposes the minutiae of ordinary daily life with the miraculous that occurs around us.
Of Fathers and Fire is a well written and interesting coming-of-age story about a young man searching for meaning in his life, and for the father he never knew. The characters, seemingly simple at first, become more complex as the reader gets to know them.Wingate writes fearlessly about the good, the bad, and the ugly in people and life in rural America. He is unafraid in his exploration of religion and the role it plays, for better and worse, in the lives of people searching for meaning. He blends the magical and the realistic in a most satisfying manner. People who liked Nickolas Butler’s Little Faith (also a Midwest Connections title) will find they enjoy this book as well.
The Line Tender by Kate Allen is an amazing and heartfelt book for middle grade readers, but it is so well written even adults will find it hard to put down. It is a story of love and friendship, of loss and heartache, and of the courage it takes to find your way forward after tragedy strikes. It is the story of how we are all connected, and how those connections are still there even when the person we love no longer is. As the protagonist’s father says: “Some lines don’t break.”
It is the story of twelve year old Lucy, an aspiring artist whose dad is a detective and rescue diver for the police force. Her mother, who died when she was 7, was a marine biologist. Lucy’s best friend, Fred, is a budding scientist who suggests an extra credit project for school – a field guide of the animals they find in their hometown of Rockport, MA. There is only one rule: they must see each animal themselves for it to be included in the guide. Fortuitously, a great white shark is caught by a local fisherman and Fred and Lucy are there when it is brought into port. A search for more information leads Fred to discover a proposal by Lucy’s late mother to study sharks in the north Atlantic. Before they can begin this section of their guide, though, tragedy strikes and Lucy is left alone and adrift on a sea of loss and sadness.
According to the Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) website, the line tender is “one of the single most vital components of a dive team and as such suffers the fate of having a vast amount of the weight and responsibility squarely on his shoulders.” Lucy’s father tells her that she would be a good line tender because, “[t]he line tender sees everything. Reads the divers’ signals, the terrain, the equipment. Uses all the resources to stay connected to the other end of the line.”. It is apt, as both a title and a metaphor, as it is Lucy who finds a way to connect everyone and move forward in the wake of so much calamity, and to remain connected to those she loved and lost.
Kate Allen has created realistic, three-dimensional characters that make you forget the book you are reading is a work of fiction. You will laugh, you will cry, but most importantly, dear readers, you will care deeply about Lucy and her family and friends and root for them as they move forward from tragedy to create a wonderful legacy for themselves and those they love.
The creators of Wherever You Go, bring us another amazing picture book, When You Are Brave, about the nature of courage through a story about a young girl and her family moving to a new home in another place far from where they are now. This wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated picture book is perfect for all ages. Pat Miller’s inspirational words perfectly combine with Eliza Wheeler’s magnificent illustrations to show that “(s)ome days, when everything around you seems scary…you have to be brave.” And together, they show the reader how to do just that.
When You Are Brave is the perfect gift for any child (or adult) who is facing change and is in need of courage. Simple sentences convey deep meaning about the nature of courage and how it exists in all of us waiting for us to unleash it and be brave. Moments we have faced in our past remind us of just how brave we can be when we need to be. The courage of birds, dogs, and caterpillars are used as examples that it isn’t just people who have courage and a need to be brave.
Simple, yet profound, sentences and beautiful, imaginative pictures combine to tell a story and to inspire readers to find the courage that resides in all of us when facing the scary unknown. Appropriate for all readers at any time, it will be especially useful when looking for the perfect gift for a someone facing new challenges or changes in their life. The illustrations are beautiful and the book is so well written, you will not mind reading to your child again and again.