I’ve always wanted to read Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied, not just because it won the (US) National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2008, but also because I was familiar with the author’s work.
Writing as Jude Watson, she penned Beyond the Grave (#4), In Too Deep (#6), and part of Vespers Rising (#11). I always appreciated how she brought out a more personal side to Dan and Amy — and even the baddies! — and I was eager to read her most notable work.
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I’ve been seeing The Cricket in Times Square ever since the librarians let me sneak into in the “big library” when I was in first grade (the primary levels in our school used to have a separate kiddie library), but somehow I never got to read it, not until I found the audio book at the bargain bookstore.
I can’t listen to an audiobook without having read the book first, because my attention tends to drift away after a while, and I end up tuning out the sound. I wanted to listen to the Cricket audiobook because the box said it was narrated by Tony Shalhoub, so I dug out the wornncopy of the book I had lying around in Planet TBR and decided it was finally time to give it a shot.
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I loved the 1998 YA novel Holes by Louis Sachar, which won both the Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, so as soon as I saw the spin-off novel Small Steps on the bookstore shelf last year, I knew I wanted a copy.
Fortunately before I splurged on a full price copy, I managed (with great surprise) to find an excellent hardcover copy in the bargain bin at Book Sale for a measly P60 ($2)! Haha, that’s normally what I would spend for a bargain book, but it was practically a steal so I was grinning from ear to ear as the cashier wrapped up my purchases! :)
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“My best friend, Frita Wilson, once told me that some people were born chicken,” begins Gabriel King, and he is convinced he is one of them. He is afraid of thirty eight things, among them: fifth grade, bullies Matt Evans and Frankie Carmen, spiders, alligators, earwigs, loose cows, robbers, centipedes, falling into the toilet, and calling a teacher “momma” by accident.
It is the summer of 1976 in a small town in Georgia, where Gabe is the most picked-on boy in school, while Frita is the only black girl in town. Frita convinces Gabe that it’s time he conquered his fears and all summer, she helps him cross off each of the 38 fears on his list before they move up to fifth grade together. But it turns out that Frita has her own list, and while she and Gabe are facing the things they’re afraid of, she’s secretly avoiding her greatest fear: the Ku Klux Klan that’s active in their town.
This is one of the few books for young readers I’ve read that deal with the nature of fear and confront it in a very mature way, showing how you can be scared and yet be brave at the same time. I also like how the book reveals the reality of racism, and tempers it with friendship, understanding, and family, and balances the gravity of the issues it tackles without taking any fun out of the book.
Plus points for book design,too :)
My copy: put up for mooching last year
My rating: 4/5 stars