Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen

By Donna Gephart.  New York: Delacorte Press, 2012.

Twelve year old Olivia Bean loves trivia!  Her head is full of facts and tidbits.  It's not surprising that her favorite television show is Jeopardy! and she never misses an episode.  The only subject she struggles with is geography.  No matter how much she studies, she just can't remember names of cities and countries.  Even so, she has the opportunity to try out for Kids Week on Jeopardy! and she goes for it.  After interviews and a mock game, she finds out she's made the list of finalists.  The show is taped in California, which is where her dad has lived for the past two years since he left the family.  Will Olivia win Jeopardy! and will she re-connect with her dad?

At first glance, it appears that this book is all about trivia questions and game shows.  To a point, it is.  But, what I really appreciated about this story was the back story of what Olivia has been going through the past two years.  Her father is a gambler, and from snippets revealed in conversations Olivia has with him over the phone where is so eager to end the conversation so he can make it to the tables, he has quite the addiction.  But, to Olivia, he is dad and she loves and misses him and wishes he were home.  She doesn't understand why he left her, her little brother, and mom to run off with her best friend Nikki's mom and take Nikki with them.  She doesn't understand why her mom has a new live-in boyfriend Neil.  As Olivia struggles with her feelings about her new life situation, she comes to realize who is important in her life and what defines a family.  This is a wonderful book, especially for a reluctant reader, because the chapters are very short and begin with a question just like Jeopardy! which the reader should have the answer to at the end of each chapter.  Also, you learn some fun trivia, too!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak

It's a sad day for lovers of children's literature.  Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak died today at age 83.  He wrote one of my favorite books, Where The Wild Things Are, when read at storytimes inevitably causes children to break out into "a wild rumpus."  Read his obituary here.  He will be sorely missed.