Monday, January 22, 2007

The Book of Bright Ideas

Kring, Sandra. 2006. THE BOOK OF BRIGHT IDEAS. New York: Random House. ISBN 0385338147 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

It is the summer of 1961, when fiery 25-year-old Freeda Malone and her sassy nine-year-old sister Winnalee roar into a quiet rural Wisconsin town. When an offer to rent a house outside of town is made, the pair decides to stay. Unbeknown to nine-year-old resident Button Peters, this single decision will change her life and the lives of her family forever.

At first shy and nervous, Button is in awe of the more worldly and beautiful Winnalee who doesn’t go anywhere without the urn containing her dead mother’s ashes. Soon a strong friendship develops between the two. Button spends the summer helping Winnalee look for fairies, discovering and recording life truths in Winnalee’s “Book of Bright Ideas,” and generally trying to keep out of trouble. She also spends much of her time quietly observing the adults around her. In spite of wagging tongues, Button’s kind-hearted aunt befriends Freeda. Even Button’s parents, her prudish self-loathing mother and emotionally distant father, cannot escape the influences of Freeda Malone. Their transformation is slow, but gratifying. However, before the summer is over, Freeda’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude and mantra of honesty is challenged and harsh truths are revealed.

Kring has written an engrossing novel with characters that linger long after the book is closed. Button narrates this story and her character’s innocent simple way of describing complex relationships is refreshing. This is one book where the characters and plot are equally intriguing.

Children can compile their own list of “bright ideas,” be they silly or serious.

Other books for young adults about friendship and life lessons:
Anderson, Jodi Lynn. PEACHES: A NOVEL. ISBN 0060733063

By S. Zulema Silva Bewley

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