Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder

Annie is excited that she's finally going to meet her mysterious grandmother and even more thrilled when she finds out that she lives in an old hotel. But why is her single mother so upset? Is her grandmother really that sick? Annie's first encounter with her grandmother is a shock - she's not the loving relative she'd hoped to meet. She could never like this horrible old woman, even if she is dying. But the next morning Annie wakes up...somewhere else. Fifty years in the past to be precise, where she meets a young girl who's living the hotel. Molly is tired of being cooped up and feels lonely and neglected. Annie is her first friend and the two click almost at once. When Annie realizes who Molly really is, it's almost as big a shock as time traveling - her new friend is the same person as the horrible old woman she met? Annie determines to change the future of her her new friend, but will she change her own future as well?

This is the kind of historical fiction/friendship story that a certain subset of kids, mostly girls, will devour. That subset never included me, so it's hard for me to judge the merits of the story. The interactions between the characters and the historical details are very realistic and make the story feel more, well, real. I wonder though, if the audience for this type of book isn't shrinking. It seems like more and more kids ask for contemporary realistic fiction, fantasy, adventure, etc. Historical fiction, especially this type of character-driven story, seems to be sinking in popularity. Unless it's based around major historical events, the more disastrous and exciting the better, it's a hard sell. It requires more empathy than many kids seem able to produce, especially when it features a child reconciling a difficult adult with the child they might have been.

Verdict: The writing is strong and the historical setting very well done. I'd call this a solid mid-list title. If you have kids who like this genre and the budget to support their interest, go for it. Otherwise it's an additional purchase. Snyder's Bigger than a Breadbox (which this is a sort of prequel to) did ok for us, not spectacularly, but enough to make this worth adding, so we'll just have to see.

ISBN: 9780375869174; Published 2014 by Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher


Rosanne said...

This book is on the Oregon Battle of the Books list for 6th to 8th grade. I've been meeting with OBOB teams all over the state and they like the title. I'm not seeing an empathy problem at all. It's no Hunger Games but not every kid wants the dark edgy story. A couple of kids mentioned that the meeting your grandparent as a child element of the story made for a great family conversation at dinner.

Glad to hear there's still a place for thoughtful books in the library.

Jennifer said...

Good to know!

Ms. Yingling said...

I feel the same way about this. I like Snyder's writing, but the students don't vibrate to it. Also, time travel is a hugely difficult sell, even though I adore it.