Book Recommendations, Relationships

Sometimes, It’s the People Pt.2

My husband and I attend the National Book Festival to discover new books and hear the stories of authors. And, hopefully, collect the current National Book Festival poster. And other freebies.

Another reason for attending (September 2008)

In 2016, I had the privilege to meet a favorite author, Katherine Paterson.

With Katherine Paterson (September 2016)

On Saturday, I unexpectedly met another favorite author, Gary Schmidt. (See here and here.) I purchased a duplicate book so he could sign it.

With Gary Schmidt (August 2023)

Although my husband and I did not seek to have meaningful conversations with strangers, it happened. Three times. I think I would have new, good friends if these women lived closer, or if, perhaps, I had asked their full names. Twice in a row, I have experienced events in which I will fondly remember engaging with strangers.

Who are you meeting?

Book Recommendations

The Labors of Hercules Beal By Gary Schmidt

Children, why do your parents read out loud to you?

When we read a story, we experience things that we ourselves have never done. And especially when we’re young, it’s an opportunity for us to learn about places and people and things that otherwise we wouldn’t know about. And most importantly, it’s a chance for us to become wise … And so it’s out of your parents’ love for you that they want you to become wise. Wiser than your years.

Rev. Matthew Capone

I won’t claim that Gary Schmidt loves his readers like parents love their children, but he gives his readers opportunities to become wiser than their years. The Labors of Hercules Beal has the protagonist—and consequently readers—learn the following truths.

We don’t know what family and friends and neighbors are thinking and feeling—no matter how much we believe we do.

We can’t hide our thoughts and feelings—no matter how much we believe we can.

Perceived enemies are allies and help in unimaginable ways.

The beauty of Schmidt’s writing is that readers are encouraged as these truths unfold during unforgettable, dire circumstances in the life of protagonist Hercules Beal.

Thank you again, Gary Schmidt.

Book Recommendations

Trouble by Gary Schmidt

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

ISAIAH 11:13B-14 (ESV)

A day after I finished Trouble by Gary Schmidt, I reread it, and then, immediately called one son and told him to add it to his “must read” list. I pestered my mother-in-law to read Trouble. Why?

The characters are compelling, and the plots twists numerous and the prose as beautiful as you would expect from a professor of English at Calvin College, but Trouble offers more.

I learned the perspective of people overwhelmed with circumstances and grief. The reply “Fine” means “Please don’t ask questions I can’t answer.”

My understanding of the discrimination that refugees face in the United States increased.

Most importantly, Trouble illustrates Isaiah 11:13-14. The characters—and therefore the readers—are misled by what their eyes see and their ears hear. Righteousness prevails. Justice is given to the poor of the earth.

After the last page is read, the characters will still wrestle with Trouble, but accompanied by Hope and Happiness.

Thank you, Gary Schmidt.

Book Recommendations

Untidy Books: Ungifted

Along the way, I learned that not only do many adults not recognize bullying or destructive behavior, but also don’t know how to deal with it when they do. Gordon Korman has filled that gap with three conversation starting books—Restart, The Unteachables (both here), and Ungifted.

Although Ungifted deals with destructive behavior, the focus is elsewhere. What does it mean to be gifted?

As a result of a school prank wreaking unintended havoc, the prankster, is transferred accidentally to an academy for the gifted and talented. Donovan is below average academically while his new classmates are geniuses. Korman explores the definition of gifted as Donovan makes minor but important contributions to the school’s robotics team.

Separated from classmates who participated in his pranks, Donovan gains perspective on his motives and the consequences of his actions at his previous school. Like Restart and The Unteachables, we leave the story with hope.

One rating was a fifth-grade reading level, which makes it an easy, quick discussion book. Also helpful is Korman’s interesting characters and engaging writing style.

Has a book made a difficult or unpopular topic easier for you to discuss?

Book Recommendations, Parenting

Untidy Books: Gordon Korman

I like tidy books—especially when my family and house aren’t. Good morals. Tight endings. Families you wish would adopt you. Or you could adopt. But, regardless of how satisfying tidy books are, they don’t necessarily change readers.

Last Fall, I discovered and binge-read five Gordon Korman messy, middle-grade novels. We leave some characters on a better—but still rocky—path.

My favorites were Restart and The Unteachables because they explored what I have long believed. Bullies and other wounders are unaware of the damage they inflict. After thrusting their swords and exiting the stage, they forget those left behind—bleeding people with wounds that may leave lifetime scars.

In Restart, Chase has amnesia after falling off a roof. Why does his four-year-old stepsister scream when he is near, and classmates avoid him? As his memory returns, he is appalled at the bully he used to be.

In The Unteachables, teacher-of-the-year Zachery Kermit was shunned and relegated to the worst assignments after an eighth-grader’s folly.  After twenty-seven years, Mr. Kermit’s former student learns the consequences of his behavior and wants to make amends.

Although the themes are serious, the creative plots and memorable characters entertain.

Have you discovered an author?