I’ve got a lot of books laying around. I mean, lots. That’s one of the reasons that I started this blog. It just didn’t seem fair. And now, I get to share them with you! So I’m going to periodically (on Wednesdays) be taking some of my old review copies, ARCs and purchases out to give them the light of day. This is the first post for Way Back Wednesday, when I share with you a lovely book that I got at the Heartland Fall Forum about three years ago. I put it in a pile, and there it sat, with its lovely cover beckoning to me. Then I realized it had not only won the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature, but that it was written by the wonderful Molly Beth Griffin, one of the most generous writers ever, who hosts #1kTuesdays on Facebook. So I picked it up for the #24in48 Readathon, and oh my. What a lovely read.
Also, this week, I want you to take a peek up at the top. Yes, up there. See my lovely new banner? I had it custom-designed by illustrator extraordinaire Rebecca McConnell, and it was such fun to work with her on it! I hope you think it is as cozy as I do. This is my dream station in life, folks.
All right. Now, without further ado, let me tell you about Molly Beth Griffin’s Silhouette of a Sparrow!
This is a wonderful story, full of the place and time and thoughts of a girl perched just on the cusp of her life, watching it unfold before her in so many ways. A heroine for the ages, someone to root for.
Griffin pulls you in right away, making Garnet Richardson into a completely sympathetic character, a smart, serious girl who is growing up in a time when old habits die hard. When flappers are scandalous still, and her family wants her to settle down and marry, and be a good wife and mother.
But she likes birds. I love that she likes birds. Birds are things that I never gave two cents about, until suddenly, once I bought a house, there they were. And I gave my two cents. And now I love them. I’ve seen all the birds she counts, the ones she snips out in her miraculous silhouettes. (I can’t imagine how anyone could do that!) I was enamored of the cutouts that served as chapter headings, and often found myself flipping back during the chapter to look at the bird shape. I loved how each chapter somehow touched on this bird, and how it applied to the story. It’s a marvelous framework.
Much of the charm of this (aside from Garnet) is in the time and the place. Like the sweet little book Through No Fault of Her Own by Peg Meier, we are tossed right into a privileged world (though Garnet is reminded constantly how firmly she is on the outside looking in), here it being epitomized by that languid summer lake life, the one that takes place at grand hotels, when women of a certain class really didn’t have much to do but sit around and gossip and embroider. And the gist of the story is that anyone with half a brain could simply go stark raving mad in that environment.
Like many who have grown up in Minnesota, I have heard many times about the amusement park that used to be in Excelsior, which is a sweet little lakeside town. Still, I have lamented that I was just that much too late to ever get to ride the roller coaster next to the lake. I’ve been to Excelsior, and I’ve been to the lake, and I can easily imagine with Griffin’s pert and direct prose the lush green lakeside with the white hotels, and cool breezes, the hats, the park rides. The storms, the birds and the facial expressions. It’s all right there.
What a lovely book, exquisitely designed. What a lovely story, with the will-she-won’t-she tug throughout – there are so many wrong decisions that Garnet could make! And we are rooting for her! This is a coming of age book that deals with issues that might be slightly different than you might expect. (Let’s just say that it may be on the upper end of YA.) And in the end, well, in the end Garnet is Garnet.
Jacketed Hardcover, 224 pages
Milkweed Editions 2012
ISBN 1571317015 (ISBN13: 9781571317018)