Friday, November 20, 2009

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

Biblio Bits One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones, Simon and Schuster, 2004 (ISBN 9780689858208)

Reading Level/Interest Age 820 lexile/Ages 14+

Genre Realistic Fiction, Poetic Narrative

Plot Summary
When Ruby's mom dies, she has to go live with her father in Hollywood. She leaves her best friend and boyfriend behind to go live with the man who never took the time out of his very busy life as a famous movie star to know her. Ruby's life is over! Now she's a celebrity daughter whose dad is trying annoyingly hard to make up for lost time. She attends an alternative private school with lots of other celebrity-offspring and weird classes like: Dream Interpretation, Organic Gardening, and The History and Uses of Aromatherapy. Ruby is trying to hold the pieces of her old life together, while figuring out how to trust this new life with a dad she's never known.

Critical Evaluation
Sones has created an engaging story with a realistic protagonist. Ruby's concerns about leaving her friends behind, her surliness with her dad, her concerns about her new school all ring very true. Sones' poetry is comprised of very visual, cinematic vignettes, or chapters, that strongly evoke emotions, details, and nuances that move the plot along. Although the plot was predictable, it was an enjoyable read. The amount of white space on the page will entice reluctant readers or readers with challenges. Because the content is suitably mature for upper-middle and high school, older readers with low skills might find both the content and presentation accessible.

Reader's Annotation
It's not just that her mom died, but Ruby's being shipped off to Hollywood to live with the dad that never took the time to know her. Oh, and to make matters worse? He's a totally famous movie star!

Author Information
Sonja Sones grew up in Newton (MA) and earned her B.A. at Hampshire College in film-making and photography. She moved to Hollywood to work as a personal assistant, but when she realized she was awful at making coffee she found work as a film editor, animator, production assistant, and photographer. Sones is married with two children, and lives near Hollywood. (Information in this author bio is from her official site.)

Challenge issues
Oh yeah. Lots of material here, like some swearing, mature themes, sexual themes (wanting/thinking about having sex, not doing it), homosexuality, references to drugs (not doing them), etc.

Booktalking Ideas
If the middle school girls that I know are any indication, this is another title that probably won't need booktalking because the students will be promoting it among themselves. I think it would liven up a poetry booktalk to include this title (or some of Sones' other books), showing that poetry can be narrative. I would want to read a short selection to students so they can hear the authenticity of Ruby's voice.

Curriculum Ties
Poetic narrative is such an intriguing notion that I think an 8th grade language arts class might try it as part of a creative writing unit. I would envision an assignment that asks students to sketch the outline for a short story and then translate it into a short story told in poetic narrative. The "chapters" have a way of capturing a moment, providing evocative imagery, yet still giving information about relationships and plot. It is a very visual way of telling a story, almost like a story told in pictures.

Why this book?
Well, Sonya Sones. The 8th grade girls all love her and the books are hardly ever on the shelves, but I had resisted reading one of her books until now. I was surprised to actually like it!

MSBA Reading List 2005-2006.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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