"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

Every year I attempt to read all the best YA literature published that year and in my mind I attempt to select the select the best of the best which should win a Printz Award or Honor. Every year I fail in my attempt to read the best and books like The Carnival at Bray fly below the radar, I don't hear anything about them, and suddenly they receive a Printz Honor. It happened last year with Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal and The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna in 2013. They aren't necessarily bad books, they just are books that few reviewers are talking about so it is a shock when they win the prestigious award.

This is the small little blurb that the Printz committee wrote about The Carnival at Bray, a book published by small company, Elephant Rock Books:
The Carnival at Bray---In 1993, Maggie is dismayed to leave Chicago and her beloved Uncle Kevin behind when she moves to a small Irish town. Yet it is within this evocative setting that Foley unwinds Maggie’s exceptional coming-of-age tale, where Maggie discovers music and forgiveness as antidotes for grief.-ALA Youth Media Awards
I thought the coming-of-age portion of the story was really effective. Maggie who comes from a dysfunctional family is forced to move with her mother and sister to Ireland when her mother marries an Irishman. Maggie is distraught partially because she is leaving her uncle Kevin, the only adult who seems to understand her. he is the one who introduces her to Kurt Cobain and grunge music. It is difficult to move to a new area during senior high school and even more difficult when the move involves international borders. Maggie has a hard time making friends her age and finds herself doing things she knows are wrong just to please her few friends. She does find solace in her relationship with an elderly gentleman, Dan Sean O'Callighan, who is content just to sip tea with Maggie in calm silence.

When Maggie falls in love and has to confront her feelings about a sudden death at the same time, naive Maggie thinks she can strike out on her own on a forbidden pilgrimage first to Dublin and then to Rome.
Things don't work out the way she envisioned them and now she is forced to make more decisions about her life and future without any supportive help from her family.

The Carnival at Bray is a good, solid story. Students will be drawn to Maggie as she navigates the ups and downs of her teen years. Descriptions of the Irish setting and people will enlarge cultural understanding also.
I hope to find student readers for this book among kids who enjoy reading books set in other countries or those who enjoy alternative music. References to Kurt Cobain are a plus since he was a Seattle-native. He still has a fan base in the area.

Rating 3.5/5

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