Book H00t #23 The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

This novel has won the Bellwether Prize (an award for literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships) but it doesn't read like a 'worthy' book. And by the way, what a great cover illustration.

I enjoyed Rachel's story. She is the sole survivor of a fall which claims her mother, brother and baby sister. How and why they fell from a rooftop is the spine of the narrative. Rachel's father, an African American GI, and her Norweigan mother's relationship is complicated by alcohol abuse. So there are issues of racial identity on top of having to come to terms with the accident and the expected trials of adolescence.

Adding more layers to the narrative are two more viewpoints; one from a boy who witnesses the fall, the other from a co-worker of Nella (Rachel's mother). We also have brief, probably too brief, comments from Nella's journal. Rachel comes to live with her grandmother, and there are a lot of humourous moments to relieve some of the tension. The story resolves sentimentally with readers wanting more from what is quite a brief novel.

Happy reading, happy tales,

Barking Owl

Book Hoot # 22 When The Hipchicks Went To War

When I picked this up, I was sceptical. How could a 16 year old find herself performing for the troops in Vietnam? But, I went along for the ride. And I was really glad that I did because when you get to the author's notes at the end, you realise that not only was it possible, that it did happen.

This is a well researched and tightly written narrative by Pamela Rushby which sensitively explores issues surrounding the Vietnam war.

Kathy is ready to leave school- but the possibilities open in the 60s are limited. She is frustrated setting perms at the local salon, her friends are heading in different directions and she dreams of breaking free from her insular town. The first step is a job as a go-go dancer, but the real opportunity comes in an audition to entertain the troops in Vietnam. So Kathy flys off with two other girls who make up The Hipchicks. They come back to earth awfully quickly.

As well as looking at this fascinating period in history, there are other themes that the novel touches on: what happens when your best friend is protesting against conscription and you're essentially earning a living from war, the tricky relationship between mothers and daughters and all the drama of first romances.

A very satisfying read, recommended for 14-16 year olds.

Happy tales,

Barking Owl

Book Hoot #21 Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals is certainly a difficult read for those of us who do, eat animals that is. There are some passages that I flicked over, I just couldn't have those images in my head before sleeping, but there are also some enjoyable moments here too. I find Foer's writing so clever and emotive and insightful.

While this is a book written by a vegetarian, its not a polemic. Foer moves through the unacceptable factory farming practices used for fowl, cattle and pigs. After reading this, you will think again about what goes in your mouth.

The parts I enjoyed the most were the comments about traditions and the role that food on the table plays in these ceremonies. Foer asks us to consider if a tradition like Thanksgiving, for example, could be the same without the turkey. The kindness in the personal moments in this story act as a counterpoint to the cruelty in others.

So, this isn't an easy book to read, but if you love animals it's essential.

Happy tales,
Barking Owl