Wednesday, April 25, 2012

See You at Harry's

See You at Harry'sTitle: See You at Harry's
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Summary: As Fern enters middle school, everyone in her family is dealing with their own problems. Her father is worried about the business, her mother only pays attention Fern's baby brother Charlie, her sister Sara is miserable working at the family diner while all of her friends have gone off to college, and her brother Holden, who she is normally close to, is dealing with his sexual identity. In the middle of all of this, Fern feels ignored- well except by Charlie who is always following her around and annoying her. The only person keeping Fern sane is her level-headed and optimistic best friend Ran. He almost makes her believe that everything will be okay. But then everything changes and even Ran cannot believe that all will be well.

What Kellee Thinks: This book is brilliant. Jo Knowles has taken a story that seems like a coming of age story and made it about not only her, but her family and so much more. Now, I don't want to say too much as the devastation in the book was not what I expected and I want to allow you to feel the same shock as I did. What I thought this book was going to be about ended up being a subtext to what the family must really wade through. 

I read this book in one sitting and the emotions I felt through this book were such a roller coaster ride. I cried for about 1/3 of the book, I laughed often and was so very proud by the end. My heart was exhausted by the time I finished. 

I love this book very much. I will give you three reasons. 1) Very rarely (like only 2 other times) has a book made me laugh out loud and cry within pages of each other. 2) Fern is a young girl that is so relatable and likeable that you can't help loving her and her voice. 3) This book is beautifully written and will stay with you for a long time. 

What Jen Thinks: As a mom, I was so mad at Jo Knowles while reading this book. I was completely blindsided by the unexpected happening. It caught me off guard and it made me so sad. Looking back, there were some clues, but I really think most readers won’t suspect what happens in this book. As a reader, I am amazed by how Jo is able to bring readers into the heart of the main character. I was just as shocked as Fern and then my emotions seemed to mirror hers as I continued to read the story. It is a true feat that Jo Knowles has accomplished to bring readers into this experience. She did a great job of writing Fern’s emotions as she deals with what happens.

As a teacher, this was a book that I couldn’t really booktalk. I was telling a 6th grade student about it each day as I read more…until I got to the “unexpected happening” and then I couldn’t tell her anything else about the book. I had to tell her she would just have to read it if she really wanted to know what was going to happen. There was nothing else I could tell her without giving it away. Of course, as soon as I was finished, she was desperate to read it herself. And she did and she loved it. She devoured it.

Most of the books that I award five stars or five hearts to are books that have really touched me emotionally. If an author has written a book that has the power to make me cry, then it’s a five star/heart book right away. Usually I have connected so much with the characters that their story brings me to tears. Sometimes their story hits closer to home than others. I think lots of readers will identify with Fern’s story in somewhere along the way.

I wish I could tell you more about the story other than it was very well-written and that it will most likely make you cry. Doesn’t that just sound like a book you have to read so you can find out what happens to Fern and her family? You know you do!
Read Together: Grades 5 to 8 
Read Alone: Grades 6 to 10
Read With: Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Snatch of Text: 
"When we finished sniffling, my mom adjusted herself in the bed so she could look at me. 'Fern,' she said softly. 'Do you know why I named you Fern?'
I nodded looking at the drawing of the girl on the cover of the book. 
'Why?' she asked. 
'Because Fern is one of your favorite characters?'
'And why is that?'
I shrugged. 
'Because Fern cares,' she said. 'From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul. I knew you'd be a good friend. A hero.'
I looked at my chest and tried to feel my soul buried in there, deep in my heart. 
'It's true,' my mom said. 'Not everyone would share a sandwich with Random Smith.'
I smiled, feeling my soul stir a little." (p. 3)

"Holden is always running off in a huff, and I am always the one searching for him and bringing him home. Holden's named after the main character in The Catcher in the Rye. I wasn't supposed to read it until I'm older, but I snuck my mom's paperback copy out of her room last year. The pages were all soft from her reading it so many times. The book is about this boy who's depressed because he things everyone he knows is a phony, so he runs away. I understand why my mom liked the book and all, but I personally think is was a big mistake to name your kid after a boy who tries to kill himself, even if he is thoughtful and brilliant. My favorite parts in the book are when the main characters talks about his little sister, Phoebe. Sometimes I think I'm a little like Phoebe to our Holden. Because in the book she's the one he goes back for. And that's sort of like me. Only I have to go looking for him first." (p. 25-26) 
Mentor Text for: Voice, Plot Development, Making Connections, Dialogue, Characterization, Descriptive Writing, Predicting
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you wanted attention from you parents but had to compete with another sibling or you parents' job or something else that took their attention from you.
Topics Covered: Family, Identity, Friendship, Sexuality, Grief

 *Thank you to Jo Knowles for sending us each a copy of the ARC to review for the blog* 

We Both *heart* It:
Join us on May 8th for a very special interview with 
See You at Harry's author Jo Knowles as well as a giveaway.

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