(Photo Credit: Holly Waxman)
On a more serious note, this book is about a girl whose dad comes home from serving as an Army doctor in Vietnam and my dad was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. I wasn't born until after my dad came home but I've heard (some) stories from him about what it was like to be there and to come home. He has also dealt with a lot physically and mentally because of his time in Vietnam and I've seen what that looks like for him.
While my experience with a dad who is a Vietnam veteran is different from Lucy's, I was still so interested to read her story and see if we might have some similarities. I've read other books set in our around the Vietnam War like The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt and Eli the Good by Silas House and I find that each story I read helps me feel more connected to my dad as I try to develop a deeper understanding of the time period and what life was like from different perspectives. This book gives us Lucy and her dad and her family and how the Vietnam War impacted them and it reminds us that so many families were impacted by Vietnam War in a variety of ways.
Here's a picture of me and my daddy. I love him a lot and celebrating Everything Else in the Universe feels like I'm celebrating him in a way.
You can find my ideas for how to use Everything Else in the Universe as a mentor text below. And be sure to visit the other stops on the blog tour.
Everything Else in the Universe Blog Tour:
Teach Mentor Texts - June 20th
Caroline Starr Rose - June 22nd
Title: Everything Else in the Universe
Author: Tracy Holczer
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 12th, 2018
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: In the midst of the Vietnam War, a young girl struggles to embrace change in this tender family story for fans of Cynthia Lord and Wendy Maas.
Lucy is a practical, orderly person--just like her dad. He taught her to appreciate reason and good sense, instilling in her the same values he learned at medical school. But when he's sent to Vietnam to serve as an Army doctor, Lucy and her mother are forced to move to San Jose, California, to be near their relatives--the Rossis--people known for their superstitions and all around quirky ways.
Lucy can't wait for life to go back to normal, so she's over the moon when she learns her father is coming home early. It doesn't even matter that he's coming back "different." That she can't ask too many questions or use the word "amputation." It just matters that he'll be home. But Lucy quickly realizes there's something very wrong when her mother sends her to spend the summer with the Rossis to give her father some space. Lucy's beside herself, but what's a twelve-year-old to do?
It's a curious boy named Milo, a mysterious packet of photographs and an eye-opening mission that makes Lucy see there's more to life than schedules and plans, and helps to heal her broken family. The latest from critically-acclaimed author Tracy Holczer is a pitch-perfect middle grade tale of family and friendship that's sure to delight fans of One for the Murphys and Rules.
What I Think: As I said above, the role of family in this book is key to the story. Through learning about Lucy's family and watching how she interacts with her family, we're able to learn about her and who she is. Writers talk a lot about show, don't tell and one of my favorite ways to show instead of tell is to incorporate interaction between characters. Adding dialogue allows us to see what a main character might say, how another character would react to the main character, and how they deliver their lines.
In Everything Else in the Universe, we get to met Lucy's parents and her father's side of the family as well as her mother's side of the family. There are so many exercises writers use to get to know their characters better and thinking about their family is one way to do this. Who are your character's parents or caregivers? Does he/she/they have siblings? Does he/she/they have a big extended family like Lucy? Does his/her/their family live close or far away? Your character's family impacts who they are. Their experiences and how they belong to a family shape who they are.
I'll be reviewing another middle grade novel this week, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano. In Love Sugar Magic, the main character Leo also has a large family and she happens to be the youngest. Being the youngest of five sisters makes her want to grow up faster. She wants to be included in some of their family traditions that she doesn't get to be part of because she isn't old enough yet. It would be neat to match these two books and even look at other books with a lens of how the main character and their family plays a role in who they are but also to look at how the author uses dialogue to show family dynamics and to develop a character for the reader.
Snatch of Text:
"'Life is a meatball, Lucy. Always remember that,' Papo said. Great-Aunt Lilliana grunted her agreement. Because a good meatball was all about the right balance of ingredients, and so was life.
As the parade of cars peeled off one by one, Lucy looked back at the sign she and Mom had made together and hung last night: WELCOME HOME, CAPTAIN ROSSI!
When they reached the bottom of the hill, honking and carrying on as though they were a wedding procession, Lucy closed her eyes and tried to imagine Dad's voice when he told her I'll always come back to you.
But she only heard her own." (p. 14-15)