Two Middle Grade Verse Books

I read these two back to back while getting my hair done a while ago. And since they were so similar in style and tone, I figured I needed to review them together.

Eva of the Farm
by: Dia Calhoun
ages: 9+
First sentence: “On top of the hill, I lean against the deer fence and write a poem in the sky.”
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Twelve-year-old Eva lives on her family farm in Eastern Washington. For the most part, she’s been happy, but tough times have hit the area, and things are Changing for her. Her best friend’s family lost their farm and had to move to Seattle, and they’ve grown apart in the months since. And since finding out her family’s finances — not to mention the mounting medical bills from her younger brother’s illness — were more than precarious, Eva’s been trying to find ways to help, to find Hope in her life again.

For the most part, the book is a lovely verse novel. I liked that Calhoun tackled the plight of small farmers, and how hard it is to keep the small family farm going in this era of Big Farm. I enjoyed the imagery, and I especially liked the relationship Eva has with the Bead Woman, and the things about Hope and Love she learns. The thing that didn’t work for me was the poetry within the poetry. See, Eva’s a poet, and her poetry played a big role. But I almost felt like it was overkill: to have a novel in verse, and then throw in extra poetry. It just didn’t work for me. (And, yes, I skipped all the poems.)

But, otherwise, it’s a lovely little book.

Looking For Me
by: Betsy R. Rosenthal
ages: 9+
First sentence: “I’m just plain Edith.”
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This one is a slim historical book about a large Jewish family in Baltimore based on the author’s mother’s life. Edith is number four in a family of 12 children, growing up during the Depression. Her father is remote, trying to make ends Follow my blog with Bloglovinmeet running a diner. Edith doesn’t really know who she is: she’s always being bossed around by her older siblings and being expected to take care of her younger ones. She doesn’t think she’s the brightest person (she doesn’t know all the big words, and she can’t spell terribly well). But she has a good heart.
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While enjoyable, Looking for Me lacked the emotional punch that I wanted from this story. Maybe it had something to do with the form — though usually, verse novels don’t turn me off — but, I wanted more from this one. There’s a death that wracks the family, but I felt… nothing. I wanted to feel pain and hurt, and hope when Edith began recovering, but I was kept at a distance by the novel, and I found that ultimately disappointing. Also, while she got the business and crowdedness of a big family, she missed, somehow, the deep friendship and love that exists in a family that large.

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t brilliant either.

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