Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin & Trish Cook

Summary from Goodreads-

Declan loves death metal–particularly from Finland. And video games–violent ones. And internet porn–any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to hich Declan is never invited). She’s the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested– or it was until today, when she’s dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she’s getting a new brother–of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan’s dad is marrying Neilly’s mom. Soon. Which means they’ll be moving in together.
 
Just as the title suggests, Notes from a Blender has a ton of elements
mixed into one contemporary story about two angry and confused teenagers learning the meaning of family. Mix up a little bit of heartbreak, a touch of grief, two tablespoons of divorce, one cup of homosexuality, with a pinch of bullying and you get one touching, relatable, humorous story.
 
For me, the best thing about the book was the male/female author
collaboration of Halpin/Cook. Readers are clearly able to tell the difference between the two distinguished voices. I loved the alternating points of view, changing from chapter to chapter that show each side of simultaneous events happening throughout the story.
 
Having both female/male points of view will appeal to both female and male readers. Males will be able to relate to the awkward and hormonal Declan. Although Declan is painfully honest about his inner feelings, I really didn’t care to hear about his frequent boners, masturbation, love of porn and sexual thoughts. Too much information! Girls will relate to the beautiful, popular Neilly. Although she is sometimes shallow and self-centered, she falls for the wrong guy and is betrayed by her best friend. For all the unexpected surprises thrown at her, she continually demonstrates how strong and loyal she is.
 
Declan and Neilly together are an interesting duo. Despite their differences, they quickly take to each other, becoming friends and in
turn, help each other grow and change. While this is all nice and great, I would expect a blended family to experience a little more difficulty. Yes, both kids had anger toward their parents, but I would expect a little hostility toward their new step-siblings as well. There was none in this case, and that’s why I’m not so sure this family blending is realistic.
 
Another aspect I found unrealistic, was that almost every character
expresses their disgust with anyone who drinks. Since Declan’s mom was killed by a drunk driver, I can understand why he disagrees with drinking, but why is Neilly so against the idea? For trying to be edgy and in-the-know with teens, you would think that the authors wouldn’t try to be overly preachy about not drinking. I felt the subject was pushed too hard.

Overall, a solid 3.5/5.

“The Bolt Board”

I have to share this gem of a find! The library received a donation of books from the local preschool for our annual booksale. As I was going through the boxes, I found a 1972 book for teachers discussing activities to do in the classroom. Intrigued, I flipped through the pages and burst out laughing when I came across an activity called ‘the bolt board’, which discussed the benefits of blindfolding a child to allow them to develop tactile and visual senses.  Now prepare to check out the accompaning photo…..3….. 2….. 1…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turtle in Paradise Review

I’m back! The past couple of weeks have been crazy busy! On top of all my other duties, I’ve been preparing for the summer reading club (SRC), doing 53 class visits promoting the SRC, and hiring SRC students! Phew. I finally have time to read fiction again! Hurray! While I’ve been listing to a ton of audiobooks (including the very sweet, Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron), I haven’t been able to focus on my ever-growing ‘TO READ’ list. This weekend allowed me to reconnect with the pile of books collecting in my living room. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm (2010) called to me first.

 From Goodreads, “Life isn’t like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She’s smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it’s 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle’s mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she’s never met. Florida’s like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It’s hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.”

LOVED:

-For the most part, I loved this book (and I’m usually not one for historical fiction). I think was due to Holm’s ability to weave historical details into the story, making it educational without feeling forced. Not only was the story based on true family tales but also it is clear that research was done to ensure accuracy.  Although this book is intended for a younger audience, I definitely learned about a lot about Key West (now I really want to visit!). Moreover, I appreciated the author’s notes and photographs at the end of the novel that described her inspirations.

-Turtle’s character is relatable. There are so many words to describe her, but above all, she’s a smart, witty and strong 11 year-old.

Here’s a quote from Turtle:

” Our eyes are different, though. I think the color of a person’s eyes says a lot about them. Mama has soft blue eyes, and all she sees is kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are. The mean boy on the porch has green eyes. Probably from all the snot in his nose.” (p.17).

Growing up in the Great Depression, Turtle doesn’t expect some Hollywood ending—life isn’t a Shirley Temple movie.  Unlike her mother, Turtle is realistic.  Readers learn that she actually obtained the nickname ‘Turtle’ for her hard, unemotional exterior. Although for the most part Turtle was true to her nickname, at times, we were also shown glimpses of a more vulnerable girl.  I think Holm did an excellent job creating the memorable character that is Turtle.

Disliked:

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I think many readers will agree that the ending wrapped too quickly. It was so abrupt that I had to go back and re-read it because I was so confused how it could just end like that. While I wasn’t that surprised, I would have liked a little more details.

Recommendations:

In my opinion, I would recommend this book to middle school students interested in adventure and historical fiction. Although the cover may appeal more to girls, I think that boys would find the Diaper Gang hilarious and enjoy the adventure when the Gang searches for buried treasure. For those looking for a Turtle in Paradise read-alike, I would recommend the 2011 Newberry Award Winner, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (also set during the Great Depression).

 

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