Friday, August 30, 2013

Whirligig Review

Book talk:  Brent was used to being the new kid at school, but it still wasn't easy.  He promised himself that this time would be different.  He would use everything he had learned from all his other schools and make it into the popular crowd.  His plan had worked so far and he had a ticket to the hottest party in town.  He was feeling on top of the world, until he discovered that the party had a theme no one told him about.  Things only went from bad to worse and soon a little drunk and very angry he'd make a decision that would take him beyond regret.

Rocks my socks:  Whirligig takes a difficult and complex topic and represents it in a concrete way.  Brent has to cope with the unintended consequences of his decisions and try to find forgiveness when he's not sure he even wants or deserves it.  His victim's mother decides to ask for a rather unusual atonement that involves building whirligigs across the country to spread joy and wonder as her daughter might have done if she had lived.  The positive effects of these whirligigs are told in vignettes alternating with the main storyline. These vignettes were my favorite parts and I loved the characters contained in them. I'd read full-length novels about any of them.  The main storyline had many interesting elements as well from Brent learning to appreciate the joy of working with his hands to the way he found solace in constellations.

Rocks in my socks:  While I can see what Fleischman was going for by interweaving the vignettes with the main story like a whirligig, I found it difficult to follow.  If he had just labeled the chapters with the year and the character it would have been fine.  I've read other nonlinear narratives that I was easily able to follow thanks to these simple aids.  As it was though it took me longer than I'd care to admit to figure out what was going on and spent a large part of the beginning of the novel confused at how the different characters knew each other instead of being free to really enjoy the story.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this book to teens looking for a realistic fiction novel with some depth.  It would make a great class read because it's short but there's plenty of fodder for discussions.  The book deals with some emotionally complex issues, so I'd save it for at least 7th grade and up.


Paul Fleischman has a site with a bio, Q&A, etc

MacMillan has a site for the book with reviews and more info

Apparently the second annual Whirligig Wars was held in July.  Go to their website to view all of the fantastic and whimsical entries.  Including this magic-themed one:

And this wonderfully detailed Steamboat Willie one (and it's from Eugene--I was just there!)

Source: Copy provided as part of faculty & staff book club

Whirligig by Paul Fleischman: buy it or check it out today!

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