I’ve come to the last two books in my summer to-read book bag, and happily loved both of them.
See You In The Cosmos is Jack Cheng’s first novel for middle grade readers, and it is such a great read! Eleven year old Alex Petroski has a lot going on in his life – his mother has disappeared into her own world after the death of his father, and his older brother is too busy with his own life many states away to seem to want to bother with him. But Alex has his great love of astronomy and rocket making, his faith dog Carl Sagan (named after his hero), and his plan – to use his iPod to record what human life is like, and launch this into space so that other life forms there can become well informed about life on planet Earth.
With his home built rocket and Carl Sagan in tow, Alex sets off for Albuquerque, New Mexico and the SHARF Rocket Festival, where he intends to set his plan in action. The journey is filled with adventures and people Alex could never have imagined, in the process of which Alex comes to learn more about himself and the real meaning of love and bravery and truth.
Alex is a wonderful character – he is an innocent and yet he is wise beyond his years in many ways, an open and easy to love boy who has a way of bringing out the best in others. Each secondary character has also been beautifully crafted, and the way in which they connect and communicate with each other rings poignantly true. This would be a great readaloud or book club selection. You can hear the audio to Chapter One here,for a sense of what Alex is like – unforgettable!
I loved Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting By 7’s, which soon became a classroom favorite, too. Short, her most recent book, is every bit as memorable.
Julia may be short and small for her age, but she makes her presence known anyway. Her mother insists she try out for their town’s summerstock theater production of “The Wizard of Oz”, along with her younger brother, as a way to be gainfully occupied while her mother works. Julia knows she can neither sing nor dance, but (to her great despair and indignation) is cast as one of the Munchkins anyway.
Events take a turn for the better when she meets Olive, one of three adults with dwarfism cast as Munchkins, too. Olive has much to teach Julia, who comes to realize that “this is going to be the summer when the little people call the shots.” I love the way the ways of the theater and theatrical folk are written about, and I fell just as much in love with Julia Marks as I did with Counting By 7s’ Willow Chance,she’s honest to a fault, hilarious without knowing it, and perceptive about the quirkiness of adults; I enjoyed this book, its laugh out loud moments, and its engaging story. This would make an excellent first readaloud for the school year, too
Here is an interview with the author, in which she shares the inspiration for Short.