Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli

This novel-in-verse is a quick read that captures the emotional turmoil of losing a job, moving away from family and friends, and starting over in a new city from the point of view of an 8 or 9 year old. Diana's sun-drenched yellow house with white shutters, a maple tree, and daffodils is "stitched against the sky," providing comfort and security like the wren's nest cradled in the wreath on the front door. She wants a new bike for her upcoming birthday and has a lovable and annoying younger sister called, "Twink." Her best friend Rose wears a floppy purple hat and goes cross-eyed when Diana gushes about nebulas and stars. Diana's second passion is poetry. When she wins a poetry contrast Twink can't understand why since her poems "don't rhyme." When her father loses his job and her grandpa falls ill, Diana is upset by her parents decision to move in with grandpa.

While the words and imagery are not complex, making this book accessible to young readers, the complex situations and changes within the character, Diana, make it good for older readers striving for language fluency. The illustrations support the text and plot offering another reading aid. Diana's situation is relatable for many readers whether dealing with losing and making a friend or stressful situations resulting from a sick relative or financial difficulties. The anger that Diana expresses is authentic and her vulnerability makes it easy to get into the story. She changes from resenting her family's move to accepting it.

The younger sister offers comic relief from being sweet and annoying. When Twink sees that Diana is sad because she didn't get the bike she expected due to her father's job loss, Twink wraps her favorite stuffed toy, George, and gives it to Diana. Twink looks like she is about 4 years old and as most readers know, sharing is mighty hard for little kiddos. I laughed when she tells Diana she's "loanding" George and wants him back by the end of the day. The illustration of "itchy" Twink in the carseat with her mouth wide open complaining about the long ride is my favorite. Diana is giving her the evil eye that Twink is oblivious too. The next page shows Diana holding Twink as a baby who is stroking her cheek lovingly. The sibling dynamic of loving each other and fighting is well-done in the text and photos.

When Diana moves she meets a boy her age and struggles with being his friend because he is a boy. Even though Sam Peter Ling "...loves astronomy as much as I do," has a telescope, plays her favorite game "Scrabble," and has star parties, she doesn't like that he is a boy. Diana seems to be having an issue with gender segregation. She verbalizes it to Diana and Sam, who respond to her concerns by asking why does that matter? I like the simplicity of their response. Diana seems to agree with them because the next page has Diana getting a new bike and the subsequent page has her describing her new house and new friend. I did want a page of Diana deciding that its okay to have a friend that is a boy versus the reader having to infer it. In a nice circular ending, the last page has Diana describing her new house and plans she has made with her new friend.

The bird's nest on the door becomes home to three chicks named, "Snap, Crackle, Pop," by Twink and they move before Diana's family. The nest is a symbol of Diana's home and the birds are a symbol of Diana's family. She hopes that the birds will visit them in their new place. When she moves and her grandpa shows her a way to stay in touch with her friend Rose, she realizes that she doesn't have to say goodbye permanently. She and Rose can still communicate. Bird's are dependent in the nest until they learn to fly on their own. Diana is learning to be independent and make new friends. She is growing up and changing becoming more mature. Like the birds that flew away, she too, is learning to spread her wings and soar.

4 Smileys

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