Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This One's for the Dads: New Releases for Father's Day

Have you purchased your card and/or necktie yet? Father's Day is fast approaching and Katie has some recommendations for books that are a perfect (though weird - like all the best dads) match for the day.

These may seem like funny choices for Father’s Day reads. Neither of the fathers in these books are in the running for the Father of the Year Award. In fact, quite often they seem like they are running for whatever the opposite of Father of the Year might be. But a lot can happen in 300+ pages. And sometimes the the influence of the son on the father is the most powerful story of all.
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
The Piper’s Son is a companion novel to Marchetta’s Saving Francesca (reviewer’s note: which is also so, so good). Picking up five years later, it is Tom Mackee’s turn to be saved. After his favorite uncle's sudden death, Tom watches his family implode, drops out of college, and turns his back on music and everyone who matters. The road to redemption is long for Tom, but he finds himself back in the company of the girls who had once been the center of his world, and with their help as well as the support of some new faces, Tom tackles the daunting task of putting back together his broken family... with plenty of music and laughter and love to balance out the heartache.

Tom’s story offers an insightful glimpse into families and the value of forgiveness--for ourselves and one another. Marchetta’s writing is some of the smartest I’ve read in a while. Her dialogue pops off the page and her wit leaves me in awe. And as for her characters... let’s just say if I ever get the chance to live high school and college over again, I’d want Tom, Francesca, and Justine by my side.

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends, an abusive father, and a nightmare of an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him until he finds an ally in Lillian Spicer. Everything that  follows is unlike any other story I have ever read. I could tell you that it involves a copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America*, a member of the New York Yankees, the Vietnam War, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage, but you would probably think I was kidding. But in the words of Doug Swietck, I’m not lying. Doug’s life is quite the nonstop adventure, each event bringing Audubon’s book and Doug’s family one step closer to being whole again.

Okay For Now is yet another companion novel: this one to the Newberry Award winning The Wednesday Wars. In this case, I had never read Schmidt’s previous work, but that didn’t keep me from getting swept away in this remarkable story about starting over, rising to meet the many challenges that come with new towns and little money, and learning to work for your happiness... maybe to the point of inspiring those around you to do the same.
*I used to not get what the big deal was surrounding Birds of America, but then I had the chance to see a copy in person over the summer. And whoa, this book is over 3 feet by over 2 feet in size. Breathtaking. Literally. And if that doesn’t wow you, then imagine this: a copy sold for $8.8 million in 2000. This bird book is no laughing matter.

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