Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Importance of Wings (mg review)

I'm going to say right away that I'm totally on the fence about this one. Did I like it? Did I even realllly not like it? I'm not totally sure. Becky loved it. I'm sure others loved it. But I had some issues, I must admit. I still want to chat about it for you, knowing that others really enjoyed it and I'm not so sure might just encourage you to check it out for yourself (and then argue with me if you love it to!).

The Importance of Wings, written by Robin Friedman, features a young girl that just wants to fit in. Roxanne really wishes to just be a typical American girl with a typical American family. She doesn't want to be Israeli, she doesn't want her mom to be living in Israel, and she doesn't want her dad to work crazy hours for a cab company and emotionally check out. She just wants to have feathered hair with wings, pot roast for dinner, and a mom to take her shopping.

Unfortunately, Roxanne's reality is a bit different. Her dad does work long hours as a cab driver and her mother is in Israel. A lot of the time she and her sister, Gayle, have to fend for themselves for food, as their dad isn't there and when he is, he doesn't really care. When Liat moves in next door, another Israeli girl around their age, and she happens to be a tough, strong-minded girl, proud of her heritage, Roxanne starts to reconsider her viewpoints on being American. Maybe being an Israeli isn't so bad.

The importance of cultural stories for our middle grade readers is essential. I just felt this one fell a bit flat, lacking in a realistic main character. We can all relate to the idea of not fitting in for one reason or another, so the subject definitely has a relatability factor, which is a positive for sure. Roxanne, however, seemed forced to me, almost as if an author was really putting the right words in her mouth, rather than a preteen girl's words. And Liat moving right next door, another Israeli that just happened to be Roxanne's polar opposite, I don't know, I just didn't totally buy it. I don't think the writing convinced me of the unconventional.

I also had a problem with the two issues in the book. On the one hand, I felt that the issue of the father and mother both checking out and leaving two girls pretty much alone, was enough for a book. The emotions for a great story are definitely there, but then there is the issue of cultural identity thrown in too and I don't think either got the right amount of justice.

Maybe you'll love it, maybe you won't, I'm still on the fence.

To learn more, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Importance of Wings
Robin Friedman
176 pages
Middle Grade
July 2009

Thank you to the publisher for a review copy!


Jemma said...

Hi Amanda,

I was wondering if you could define middle grades for us. My daughter just turned 9 and entered 3rd grade. She reads at about a 6th grade level but emotionally is much younger. We have been though all of the Magic Treehouse, American Girl, and Boxcar Children books. They are very simple for her and she can read them in under an hour. So where do I go from here? Is this where I need to start trying the books you label as middle grade? Thanks so much for your help.


Amanda said...

Hi Jemma,

For librarians (myself included) and booksellers, "middle grade" is considered about 5th-8th grade (or about 9-12yrs, give or take, reading/content level. Unfortunately, the dilemma you're in is one that soooo many parents face!

If I review something that I label as middle grade (or any other level for that matter) I try to always mention if there is something inappropriate for the age level it is aimed at or if it contains a high level of violence/language/etc. That way parents with kids reading above their grade level can still feel comfortable handing them a book, without worrying about .

I would suggest letting your daughter read middle grade books if she is able to, though I would definitely screen titles first. Look up reviews on Amazon (or here of course!), or scan through it yourself, just to make sure the maturity level isn't too high.

Hope that helped a bit!