Thursday, October 14, 2010

Serious Business: Fall Kid Lit

“The Way it Works”
By William Kowalski
ISBN No. 978-1-55469-367-2

“Silver Rain”
By Lois Peterson
ISBN No. 978-1-55469-280-4

Available through

“The Way it Works” is one of Orca’s “Rapid Reads” and presumably that means you can breeze through this 128-page book in one sitting. Then again, given that it’s about a homeless hottie living in his car after his mother’s medical expenses and death leave him both destitute and drifting, you won’t be able to put the book down until you’re finished anyway. For this is the kind of book that Orca does best: character-building through adversity. You just have to keep reading to see how things turn out – and whether our hero will win the heart of the pretty girl who doesn’t know he lives in his car. And while tweens and teens will enjoy the book, adults and writers will be equally fascinated with the economy with which Kowalski manages to draw full-fledged characters, create increasingly dramatic situations and then resolve it all in just a hundred-plus pages. Wow one.
“Silver Rain” is only fiftysomething pages longer than “The Way it Works” so it isn’t labeled a “Rapid Read” but you won’t be putting it down until you’re finished it either. What the first book had in plot, “Silver Rain” has in plot PLUS historical significance. Here, a destitute, depression-era 11-year-old named Elsie deals with vagrants, bread lines and a local dance marathon while searching for her missing father. Yes, “Silver Rain” is “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” for the tween set and it must be read - if only for curiosity value. After you pick your jaw up from the floor, however, you’ll find that this story feels wholly and respectfully authentic to its time period. There’s a Nancy Drew aspect to the book, of course (and that’ll keep the young readers reading): Will Elsie find her dad? What’s going on over at the dance marathon? But what’ll keep coming up is how Peterson gets the little, evocative details just right: old coats, stained-glass windows, and a house that looks “like a spider’s web, with the wash lines zigzagging across it.” Wow Two.