It’s the summer before 7th grade. Spunky, headstrong Violet Raines plans to do what she always does; go to fish fries with her best friend Lottie, bike and explore with her friend Eddie, and watch the thunderstorms her sleepy town of Mitchell Hammock, Florida is famous for. But when new girl Melissa Gold shows up from Detroit, she threatens everything that Violet holds dear. Soon Lottie is more interested in soap operas and makeovers than swimming and alligator hunting. Despite Lottie’s attempts to bring the trio together, Violet and Melissa just can’t seem to get along. When lightning literally strikes, Violet must decide what’s more important: desperately clinging to the past or embracing changes for the future.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is a wonderfully sweet story about that precarious time between childhood and adolescence, growing up and the power of friendship.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth
Juvenile fiction | 176 pages | August 2008 | Walker Children’s | 9780802797919 | Library copy
“Nothing was right in my family, and I dreaded the day my sins were gonna catch up with me, but the bayou made me feel like the world was full of beauty and possibilities. Like someday, somehow, just maybe, I could be the girl I wanted to be.” (p. 124)
Livie Mouton’s mother has the “sleeping sickness”. After an accident on the bayou that Livie believes is her fault, her mother is now lying in a coma in their front room at home. Everyone else seems to know how to help Mama, how to believe that with their love and care she will get better. But Livie is so burdened with guilt over the accident that she can’t even go near her mother. Livie has always felt like an outcast in her own family, unable to be helpful and capable like her older sister Faye, or sweet and charming like her baby sister, Crickett. Since the accident, Livie has felt more out of place than ever.
Livie decides to visit a traiteur (healer), with the hopes that she will be able to help where the doctors have failed. Miz Allemond instructs Livie to make a healing string, that with faith and prayer, is sure to work. She must tie nine items that are special to her mother onto the nine knots and then tie the whole string around her mother’s ankle. Then she must find nine good memories. This worries Livie, as she’s spent most of her 12 years at odds with Mama, the two never able to see eye-to eye. Once the string falls off, Mama should be healed.
The Healing Spell is wonderfully atmospheric and Little’s vivid descriptions of life on the Louisiana bayou are fantastic. I could feel the sticky air, smell the hyacinths, hear the buzz of the mosquitoes. Livie’s intensely fragile emotional state was palpable throughout the story. I could relate to her fear of her mother lying motionless on the hospital bed, of the way she felt as though she didn’t understand how to help when everyone else just seemed to know what to do. Despite a few instances where the author told rather than showed to move through the action, I found The Healing Spell to be a thoroughly enjoyable and moving story about family, growing up, love, guilt and ultimately, forgiveness.
The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little
Juvenile fiction | 368 pages | July 2010 | Scholastic Press | 9780545165594 | Library copy
“I had a very bad August.
A very bad August.
As bad as pickle juice on a cookie.
As bad as a spiderweb on your leg.
As bad as the black parts of a banana.
I hope your August was better.
I really do.” (p. 1)
Just before the beginning of third grade, Eleanor finds out her beloved babysitter, Bibi, is moving to Florida to take care of her father. Eleanor misses Bibi terribly and is sure that her new babysitter, Natalie, won’t be able to take her place. But Natalie surprises Eleanor with her love of board games, lemonade and photography. Little by little, Eleanor lets Natalie into her life, while still hanging on to the wonderful memories she’s shared with Bibi. Told in free-verse and accompanied by Matthew Cordell’s adorable illustrations, Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie is a slim, sweet story about facing loss and gathering the strength to move on. I’d recommend this book for fans of Clementine or Judy Moody.
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg
Juvenile fiction | 128 pages | March 2011 | Amulet Books | 9780810984240 | Library copy