Watersmeet by Ellen Jenson Abbott

Today, I’m featuring theYA fantasy Watersmeet by 2k9 debut classmate Ellen Jenson Abbott. From the moment I saw Ellen’s cover, I wanted to read the book. It’s one of those covers that says, “Listen, I have a secret you want to hear.” And what a secret lies in those pages!

Abisinia, an outcast in her dystopian world, escapes from the only home she’s ever known to find the father she’s never known.  The prejudice and discrimination she’s endured through her short years prepare her well for the difficult journey she undertakes – to a mystical place she’s heard about called Watersmeet. What it doesn’t prepare her for is the depth to which her own heart could carry those same types of feelings.  I’ll use epic here because her journey represents the journey of the entire world Abbott has created.  It is a world of extremes, where your physical appearance determines your status and races are steeped in hatred and mistrust. The town of Watersmeet provides a haven where creatures of different backgrounds can come to learn trust and acceptance – if they don’t destroy it first.

Things to like about this story: It’s good fantasy and good fantasy is difficult to come by. The world and characters Ellen created are real and their struggles are are eminently identifiable with prejudice and discrimination in our own real world. Her world is vivid and easy to imagine. And don’t forget about that beautiful cover – never underestimate the power of a great cover!

Audience: Upper midgrade, YA and adult. It does contain some violent elements.

Ellen Jenson Abbott has created a unique and wonderful world and characters that I care about. I see Abisinia continuing her journey into adulthood and becoming a force for good in her world. I hope that sequel comes out soon!

Road to Tater Hill by Edie Hemingway

Today’s review is again from a fellow 2k9 classmate – I’ve got a theme going here. Edie Hemingway’s midgrade, historical fiction novel Road to Tater Hill was a terrific read.  It stuck with me long after I finished it and I kept imagining the characters and hoping for their happiness. Tater Hill is a book that makes you feel good when you read it – and it does so in a quiet, slow paced narrative that reminded me of sitting on my grandmother’s front porch and rocking away while she told me a story.

In  Road to Tater Hill, main character Annie and her mother have come to the mountains of North Carolina to visit with her grandparents while her father is on assignment overseas with the Air Force. Annie’s mom loses her baby due to a premature delivery and Annie is emotionally shut out by her mom, who is sinking into a deepening depression. Her loving grandparents spend all their time worrying about Annie’s mother so Annie seeks to understand her own pain and loss by spending time alone.  She discovers a mystery woman who has returned to Tater Hill after many years away.  This woman’s own journey through grief and loss makes her a most appropriate friend for Annie during this dark time. The characters’ growth through the story is woven delicately into the narrative and Hemingway’s tender portrayal of a family’s coping with tragedy is beautifully done.

Things to like about this story: Strong characters, loving relationships with grandparents, a great sense of place in the writing, and a happy ending that stays with you for a long time.

Audience recommendations: 4th grade through upper middle schoolers. classroom reading, book club reading.

Road to Tater Hill gracefully portrays our ability to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and rebuild it. Thank you, Edie Hemingway, for this important book.