Fall in One Day by Craig Terlson

Fall in One DayBlue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Joe Beck’s best friend, Brian, has disappeared with his father in a mysterious incident. Strangely, in Joe’s small town on the Canadian prairies in 1973 the only thing on the news is the Watergate trials in the states. The news says nothing about fifteen-year-old Brian’s disappearance and there’s little evidence that the adults are actually working to find him. Amid this background of untrustworthy adults, Joe’s uncertain what to do. But when he gets a call from his missing friend, Joe becomes determined to uncover the truth and save him.

Before I began reading Fall in One Day I wondered whether teen readers today would be interested in a book set in the 1970s, but I was quickly drawn into the story and I think many teens would be, too. Terlson weaves historical events: Watergate, LSD use, old movies, into themes that will always strike a chord with teenagers as Joe questions the trustworthiness of adults, one’s responsibility toward one’s friends, and the complications of becoming an individual within a larger society. Joe is a sympathetic character whose loyalty and intelligence lead him to investigate and solve the mystery of his friend’s disappearance.

I received an electronic advance reader copy of Fall in One Day from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century by Sue Macy

Motor GirlsNational Geographic, 2017

Beyond the occasional “Hey look at that cool old car!” I never thought much about the history of cars—that is until I received a review copy of Motor Girls. This gorgeous book about the rise of the automobile industry and its relation to women and women’s rights is filled with primary source material, fabulous period photographs and advertisements, and information that makes a long ago blossoming of technology relevant to today.

Motor Girls relates the way women took to driving from the very first, starting with socialites and actresses and moving on into the middle class. Cars allowed women to get out of the home more, and so women’s driving was controversial. Roads were rough and trips of any great length required skills at tire changing and repairs—skills many women proved themselves amply capable of. World War I allowed even more women to learn to drive as they supported the war effort, sometimes under dangerous conditions. In addition, public cross country drives became an important part of the women’s suffrage movement.

Interesting facts, anecdotes, and historical figures abound in this book. Sidebars include manners for motorists, fashion tips, race accounts, and many mini biographies.

An utterly delightful read, Motor Girls not only contains interesting historical content, but a message of women’s resistance that is very relevant today. Young readers may easily dip into sections or sidebars or read cover to cover. I’d recommend this for classroom, school, and home libraries, and for anyone who needs a feminist boost.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit

cloud-and-wallfishCandlewick Press, 2016.

It’s an ordinary day of sixth grade for Noah Keller until his parents pick him up from school. Then, suddenly everything in his life turns on its ear. He learns that his name is not really Noah Keller, he’s not eleven yet, and their normal American life is being replaced by an extraordinary new life behind the wall in East Germany.

Communication is tricky in his new home, and strangely enough that has very little to do with Noah, now Jonah’s Astonishing Stutter. In East Germany, Noah must speak German, he has not been given permission to go to school, and perhaps most importantly he must follow his parents rules about what he may say or ask and where. It’s a lonely and confusing new world. But when Jonah meets Cloud-Claudia who lives downstairs with her grandmother, his world becomes a lot less lonely but quite a bit more interesting, confusing, and even dangerous.

Cloud and Wallfish is a masterful telling of the tale of East Germany immediately before the demise of the Berlin Wall. Though at first I bristled at Noah-Jonah’s attitude toward him as they upended his life to take him behind the iron curtain, how could they do it without an explanation? How could they be so darned cheerful about it? I soon was drawn into the story and began to trust the kindness and good nature of the parents, and unlike Noah-Jonah, I remained frustrated at the many things they wouldn’t divulge to him.

Anne Nesbit’s writing is unique and appealing as in this passage when the American family is sitting down to dinner with Jonah’s friend from the downstairs apartment. “It was the longest group of words any of them had ever heard Cloud-Claudia say. They all tried not to gape at her. There was a lot of friendly staring at spoons.”

I will want to read Cloud and Wallfish again. It’s a wonderful book to help children today understand the end of the era of the Cold War, but it is also simply a good story about the complexities of relationships, friendships, governments, and life. Highly recommended for schools, libraries, and homes.

I received an advance reader copy of  Cloud and Wallfish from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.