Monday, August 12, 2013

Great Escapes Book Tours Guest Post & Review: Getting Back To Normal

The Importance of Theme in Books for Kids of All Ages

        In this, the Age of Electronics, kids wants books that grab their attention at the get go and don’t let up till the end. They want an intriguing story written in a smooth, reader-friendly style, populated with easy-to-love and easy-to-hate characters. No sermonizing, no moralizing, no mind-numbing descriptions or explanations.  But hidden, like a well-tuned motor, the book’s theme drives the plot, leaving memories for years to come. A good book for young readers lives on indefinitely, regardless of the year in which it was written.

        The underlying theme of all children and YA books is growing up and learning to cope with problems, conflict or loss. Childhood is “supposed” to be a magical, carefree time, when in truth children are vulnerable to bullies, divorce, disabilities, war. The list goes on and on. Reading about young protagonists in difficult situations gives kids insight, hope, and encouragement to deal with the problems in their own lives.

        In my YA, Getting Back to Normal, sixth-grader Vannie Taylor has recently lost her mother. Her father can’t face living in their home without his wife, and moves Vannie and her young brother to a cottage on the estate where he manages events. Vannie wishes her life would get back to normal. Instead, things are spiraling out of control. Her father has begun to rely on Mayda, her mom’s best friend. To Vannie’s horror, they eventually go out on a date. Vannie acts out, making it very clear to both her father and Mayda that she doesn’t approve of this latest development. But after a heart-to-heart with Mayda, Vannie learns something that allows her to make a conscious effort to accept her father and Mayda’s relationship. Slowly, her life will get back to normal, and in ways she never expected.

        Relating to a disabled sibling, being the new kid in school, and coping with bullies are themes in And Don’t Bring Jeremy, my first novel for children. Sixth and seventh graders, Adam and Jeremy Krasner, have just moved to a new neighborhood. Jeremy has neurological disabilities. He often acts up, which embarrasses Adam no end, especially when their mother insists that they play on the same Little League team. Adam is happy when Eddie, the coach’s son befriends him. He can’t understand why Eddie makes fun of Jeremy, but he’s determined to hold on to his new friendship. And then bad things start to happen in school, and it looks like Jeremy is responsible. Adam discovers the truth, and he and Jeremy confront the culprit. Adam learns to appreciate his older brother and to recognize Jeremy’s strength of character, which  flourishes despite his disabilities.

        The theme of No Boys Allowed is coping with the aftermath of divorce. Sixth-grader Cassie Landauer, her older sister Corrine, and their mom all react differently  when Cassie’s father divorces her mother, marries a young lawyer in his firm, and moves to another state. Cassie declares war on all males, including her best friend, Bobby. However, she secretly starts to add to the stamp collection her father has left behind. Then Great-Uncle Harry moves in to convalesce from a heart attack, and discovers her secret. Cassie must undergo one more loss before she begins to accept and deal with the changes in her life.

        Though Rufus and Magic Run Amok, which was an International Reading Association--Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice, is a humorous book, important themes run through it: the responsibility of learning to control magical powers and dealing with a bully. Rufus Breckenridge has mixed feelings when he discovers he has magical powers like his mother, grandmother, and aunt. For one thing, Big Douggie, who’s been chasing him home from school these last three years, is suddenly afraid of him. But being an “empowered one,” as his mother calls it, means taking lessons to control his magic and to learn how to use it to help others. Bor-ing, Rufus decides. And so he keeps his secret to himself. His magic grows unchecked until it’s running amok. To his amazement, Rufus manages to hit a home run and to deal with Big Douggie without using his magic.

        Taking responsibility and dealing with what life doles out isn’t easy, but these are the important themes of books for kids of all ages.

Author:  Marilyn Levinson
Title: Getting Back To Normal
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Publish Date: May 29, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Great Escapes Book Tours & the author
Book Blurb: Sixth-grader Vannie Taylor’s mom has just died. Her father’s completely lost without his wife and brings Vannie and her younger brother to live in a dismal cottage on the estate where he manages craft fairs, dinners, and other events. A ghost named Archie befriends Vannie, and helps her prepare a wonderful supper for her brother. After Vannie discovers Archie’s secret, he asks Vannie to help him make amends for something in his past. But helping Archie means accepting a very large change in her own life. Things get back to normal for Vannie, but not in a way she’s ever imagined.

Review: This is a wonderful book for the younger crowd. When I was in grade school I read Apple books by Betty Ren Wright and I instantly felt like I was reading one of her books as I dove into this one.

Marilyn has a fantastic set of characters with Vannie her brother Robby , her dad, her aunt Mayda and her friend Tammy as well as Theodore the cat and Archie the ghost.

The story is told through Vannie's eyes and she really is the picture of the typical 6th grade girl. She's almost grown up, but not quite and her world has been turned upside down. Not only has she lost her mother, but her father isn't coping well and they are moving to a cottage on the grounds of the estate that he works for.

That really makes for a lot of pre-teen angst and even more angst from her younger brother Robby. It doesn't help matters that their dad isn't the best parent in the world. He's way more concerned with work then keeping house. I really felt sorry for the 11 year old who was learning to cook from recipes she was given by Archie the ghost.

Vannie is really inquisitive, as is her friend Tammy and they really work hard to uncover who Archie is, though Vannie is a little less enthusiastic about the request Archie has for her. It has to do with her aunt Mayda getting a husband. (I'll say no more, as that would be SPOILERS)

I recommend this book highly to the pre-teen set. It is a quick, fun read that kids and parents will enjoy.

Rating: 5 flowers

About Marilyn Levinson
Marilyn Levinson, a former Spanish teacher, writes mysteries, romance, and books for children and young adults.
Her romantic suspense, DANGEROUS RELATIONS, is a love story entwined with an intriguing mystery. GIVING UP THE GHOST is an entertaining ghost mystery. The first of her Twin Lakes Mysteries, A MURDERER AMONG US, was awarded a Best Indie of 2011 by Suspense Magazine. A new edition of A MURDERER AMONG US and its sequel, MURDER IN THE AIR, will be out soon.
A ghost, a mansion, and a feral Maine Coon cat feature in Marilyn’s brand new YA, GETTING BACK TO NORMAL. Three of her popular out-of-print children’s books, AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, NO BOYS ALLOWED, and RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK are now available as ebooks.
Marilyn is co-founder and past-president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives on Long Island.

web page:
Untreed Reads books:
Amazon page:


Gram said...

I'm going to look for this new-to-me author soon...Dee

Marilyn Levinson said...

Dear Gram,
I think you'll enjoy GETTING BACK TO NORMAL. It's one of my favorite books of all those I've written. Happy reading!

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