Thursday, July 27, 2017

Azalea, Unschooled by Liza Kleinman, illustrated by Gideon Brook

I'm in two minds of this title. I really wanted to read it; there are very few books featuring homeschooled kids and even fewer featuring non-ex-hippy homeschoolers. On the other hand, no library in my consortium or the entire interlibrary loan system had it and it's from a small press so is a little more expensive. I ended up purchasing an ebook on sale and settled down to read it with an open mind.

Azalea is used to picking up and moving every year or even every few months. She mostly enjoys being homeschooled and she likes the relationship she has with her parents. She's not so sure about her increasingly grouchy teen sister though. When the family moves up to Portland, Maine, for her father to start a new business driving a tour bus, Azalea at first things it's business as usual. But this move is a little different. For one thing, instead of joining up with the local homeschooling community her mom has gotten them into a different group; unschoolers. Azalea isn't sure about this whole unschooling thing. She's also starting to have some doubts about her father's life choices and his business acumen. Finally, for the first time in her life she's making friends and when her sister starts talking about their inevitable move, Azalea realizes that she doesn't want to move, yet again. On top of everything else, someone seems to be sabotaging her father's new business. Is it her new friend's old friend? Azalea is determined to find out.

There's a lot going on in this book - a mystery, familial struggles, changes for both the girls as they become older and start seeing their parents in a different light, and at times the unschooling part of the plot seems plopped on top of everything else. Some of the explanations of it are an info dump (and it's not a new movement - it dates back to John Holt's writings from the 60s and 70s - which is reflected in the unschooling group's leader's hippy persona). I did appreciate the positive spin given to Azalea's family's school choices and the way the family chooses to blend different methods in the end. One thing I am always firmly against in homeschooling is thinking that there's only one way to school children correctly - different methods and choices work for different people.

Verdict: It's not a bad story, if a little heavily packed with plot trails, and Azalea is a fun and interesting character. I'm not sure it's so riveting that it would grab the average reader though. A good choice if you have unschooling families in your area.

ISBN: 9781939017581; Published 2015 by Islandport Press; Ebook purchased for review by myself

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