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January 14, 2010 Edition
Thanks to Emma’s smuggled science experiment goose, Freud, her dad wins 50 million dollars in the lottery! The lump sum is enough to upset the whole family. Emma’s dad quits his job without a second thought, but Emma’s mom can’t let go of hers – but eventually can’t take the pressure of keeping it. Emma’s older sister, Jules, won’t tell her what the money has done to her life, but Emma finds herself wondering why she’s staying in college being hit up for money by friends and total strangers… and realizes she doesn’t have to be there. As she and her family crash around (figuratively) learning how to deal with the changes that all that money brings, they find themselves brought nearly to the breaking point before gradually finding ways to grow up and learn to be themselves again.
In a series of letters home, 15-year old Vospop Vsklzwczdztwczky (“call me Voss”) tells his best friend all about sneaking into America on a container “sheep” full of counterfeit “chiss poffs” with his morose father and crazy uncle and immediately get into “dipp, dipp trobble.” Voss’s exuberant, creatively-spelled English is well-worth deciphering as he gets a $100,000 a year job chaperoning a rich man’s daughter, dodges the young woman foretold to be his wife, foils the Slobovian mafia, and rescues his father from a organ-donating hospital. Laugh-out-loud, share-with-a-friend funny, this is nevertheless has lots to say about bravery and humanity.
This beautifully written contemporary story of music and faeries will draw you in by the first chapter. Deidre is a talented harpist with severe stage fright when she first meets Luke Dillon, who introduces himself by holding her hair back as her stomach has its way with her before a competition. Despite this inauspicious beginning, Deidre is immediately smitten. Strange things begin happening around Deidre and she discovers that she is a cloverhand, a mortal who can see faeries. Luke, it seems, is a gallowglass, a faerie assassin sent to kill her by order of the faerie queen. But instead of killing her, he’s fallen in love. Can they defy the queen?
When her mother gets too sick to work, fifteen year old Ruby Jacinski is the only one left who can support the family. She takes her mother’s job, packing pig’s feet in a factory, but at just over $12 a week, it’s barely enough to keep them afloat. When she gets offered a job at a dance hall as a “taxi dancer” (paying nearly $50 a week) Ruby jumps at it. The catch is that it’s not the kind of work a respectable girl does and she lies to her mother about working night shifts as a telephone operator. But in the 1940s there aren’t many jobs out there for young immigrant women, and this one seems the best of all worlds: it enables her to pay off their debts, keep up with the bills, and best of all, dance. As Ruby’s lies pile up, she finds there are even less reputable jobs out there, and to her dismay, it seems she’s destined to do them if she doesn’t find a way out.
In her small arctic village, Ashley Anowiak spends her nights caught in terrifying dreams about shamans and bears, and her days trying to make sense of them. Her family has recently moved from a larger town to be closer to her Uncle Jonah, a native shaman, who refuses to leave the village he was born in even though he can no longer live alone. Thanks to climate changes, the village is slowly being eaten by the sea and the polar bears, which were last seen decades before, are now returning to the area. Ashley herself seems to have a spiritual connection to the giant bears that is getting stronger the longer she lives in Nanurtalik. Both mystical and practical, this is a rich and enchanting coming of age story.