To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

‘Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’

As it’s nearly christmas I wanted to write about a novel that I fell in love with. I believe I’m right in saying that this book started my love for looking at racial prejudice in literature. I must admit though when I first started studying it bored me silly as we went through the meaning of each chapter. Now my battered old copy comes with me on every bookcase and Harper Lee is, in my eyes, a total genius. If you don’t know already the novel is a narrated by six year old Scout as she watches her father prepare to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl. In the deep south in the 1930s you can already imagine that the outlook isn’t good.

The reason this novel has become a classic is because Lee has presented racism through the eyes of an innocent child. As children Scout and her older brother Jem have no perception of colour difference, especially after being raised by a black servant after the death of their mother. While some may call the novel unrealistic, I would disagree. The children’s father Atticus is an intelligent and selfless man, a lawyer who is commited to justice, despite the odds being against him.

As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash’

Aside from the strong moral side of the story, Lee’s description is beautiful. You can feel the heat on your neck, or the stern gaze of Calpurnia from the page. You are at Scouts side throughout the novel. I found it hard to believe she was only six though as the character seemed older but at the same time there are glimpses of  childhood innocence.  I think that Lee has done something far greater than just telling a story. She reminds us of how the actions of adults can impact on children. Scout and her brother Jem are made outcasts by their peers because their father decides to do the right thing. It’s not because the children can make and informed decision, they are simply led into racial prejudice by their parents and never overcome it.

Although this is a short review I hope I’ve convinced you to read one of my favourite novels. I’ve given it 5 stars, simply because I love its message and the power of the words.  I’m hoping you all have a lovely Christmas and if you choose to read this novel it will open your mind so that the ‘holiday spirit’ isn’t just for one month, it can be for that little bit longer and we can all be a little bit more open minded.

Good Girls – Laura Ruby

One picture can change your life…

 

Meet Audrey Porter, one of the smartest students in school, advanced by a year, has good friends,a good family and is to be honest a fairly normal person. She’s known at school as a smart kid. No more, no less. That is until one photo changes her entire life. After photos come to light of her doing something that good girls just don’t do, Audrey has to learn the hard way that people will believe absolutely anything.  And after the photo is posted to her parents Audrey realises that she’s going to have to grow up. Fast.

Although many people will not have heard of this book I think that Laura Ruby is on to an absolute goldmine. I read this novel back when I was around 13 years old. I knew nothing about sex and the word ‘sexting’ hadn’t even started being used yet, but Ruby was able to come up with this in the early days. I see this novel as a cautionary tale, although not in a direct way to the plot. We have to remember that in regards to the picture, Audrey has not sent it herself but somehow everyone finds out and everyone makes an assumption about her  (much like what has been happening in the media lately).

Despite what happens the novel still manages to be funny and charming. Until I moved to university this novel sat with my all time favourites, chiefly because we don’t have a boring heroine who mopes around when her life is ‘ruined’. Audrey is the kind of character that reminds you, your mistakes in school don’t make you who you are for the rest of your life. I’m sure many teens find themselves in a similar situation, well not with photographic evidence, rumours are just as bad. On top of this it deals with the whole idea of  casual encounters and the whole experience of ‘the first time’. Ruby captures the curiosity as well as the honest truth when it comes to losing your virginity. As I said before I knew nothing about sex when I first read the novel and even I found it quite informative as well as entertaining actually!

I couldn’t rate this book highly enough because I honestly think it is a great novel for teenagers. It’s honest, it speaks to them and it is something to make a girl thing. Audrey is a brilliant example for girls to follow. As I said before she doesn’t just sit and cry, she realises what has happened and makes adult decisions despite being apprehensive. It is because of this I give the novel 5 stars *****, I absolutely adored it and think it is a must for any teenage girl.

Heard it in the Playground – Allan Ahlberg

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Please Mrs Butler/ This boy Derek Drew / Keeps coping my work , Miss / What shall I do? 

I still remember the majority of that poem. While I was growing up I was a tad obsessed with Mr Ahlberg and although I haven’t thought about it in a while I really fell in love with both his poems and stories. As a child we always had a lot of Ahlberg’s work in our school library, I’m guessing this is for many reasons. The reason I chose this book out the many I had read is because it is so well written. It is almost as if he were a child himself. The poems were funny, believable and reading them as an older reader now I can still sit down and have a good giggle. Times may have changed and the stories may not be as relevant to modern day school children but I’ll be dammed if they don’t hold the same magic.

This is only a short review because, frankly I don’t want to over analyse. There are certain books that you simply enjoy reading and this collection of poetry was one of my favourites. For me the book holds a lot of memories. I hope there are still children now who will grown up thinking the same.

Will you love me? Cathy Glass ****

The story of Cathy Glass’ adopted daughter Lucy is one that will truly break your heart. As anyone who has previously read Glass will know all of her novels are difficult to read with stories of loss, abuse and neglect. Lucy however is something else entirely. It is possible that it is worse because Lucy’s casue could have so easily been resolved when she was a much younger child, something that is clearly on Cathy’s mind throughout the novel.

The novel is incredibly detailed for the little information available. Going from Lucy’s time with her mother as a baby and any parts that the family have been able to put together the novel covers large chunks of Lucy’s terribly hard life. Born to a young mother and an absent father Lucy was often left on her own as a baby as her mother  tried to work and pay for them both. Although the first living conditions they face are definitely the worst it doesn’t get much better for the young mother and baby. The novel is very well put together in the fact that there is no sour feelings towards Lucy’s biological mother Bonnie, instead you sympathise with her and understand as much as you can what and why she did. It is also made evident that some women are just not mothering, especially if they have never been cared for themselves.

The hardest part however is not that Lucy is put into care, rather that she is pulled in and out and her mother is given the choice to keep letting her down and after numerous foster placements Lucy knows other children do not have to live like this. The only criticism I have is that the parts before Lucy lives with Cathy seem incredibly story like. Although I understand this and it does give us the relevant background I felt that sometime you would forget this was real life for Lucy. On the other hand we can assume that Lucy had a lot of input in this story, unlike many of the other children Cathy has written about.

For the first time in my reading I have encountered a somewhat negative attitude towards social services, however, this is not without reason. Lucy’s first social worker seems to be too concerned with being politically correct rather than Lucy’s well-being and happiness, often missing obvious signs. If I didn’t know this was a real story I would be sceptical of the ending and the miraculous turn around however it is possible that as Cathy declares herself Lucy was ‘destined’ to be her daughter. I do have concerns with the attitude of the social worker as I believe that it should be the child decision in regards to how they follow their culture. In Lucy’s case for example, she had never been a part of a Thai family and the idea that this was being forced upon her was very odd. As well as thi,s I found the relentless struggle for Lucy to be put with a family member alarming. Just because someone is family does not mean that Lucy would have had a good relationship with them; I was incredibly relieved when Lucy was able to stay with Cathy.

As always Cathy appears to have the magic touch when it comes to Lucy. Taking care of an angry 11 year old who has never been truly loved means Cathy has her work cut out for her, but as readers will know, she doesn’t give up easily. With the help of her two children Aiden and Paula, Cathy shows Lucy family life and the love that she deserves. It is impossible for this novel not to capture your emotions and love the Glass family even more. I follow Cathy on Twitter and Facebook and the pure joy from the family is evident. As a reader I found hearing from Lucy herself on Cathy’s pages really hit home, this girl is now in her 20s and finally with a family she can love and call her own. As a true testament to not only Cathy but also her family, Lucy is now studying at university to become teacher (possibly inspired by the teachers who tried to help her), something she may never have achieved without her foster carers.

I gave this novel 4 stars, that is ONLY because I found it slightly hard to get into at first. Once a few chapters had passed I was once again absorbed and could not put it down (there is a reason it has been in the top 20 for  over 9 weeks!). Although I have only just finished Will you love me I can’t wait for Cathy’s next book in March as her novels are addictive.  If you would like to read more about Lucy’s story please click here. I wish nothing but the best for all of Cathy’s family and firmly believe that as a family they have done an incredible thing.