"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=========

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

Sarah, age 16, stopped going to school after her art teacher declared that nothing in life was original, just a repeat of things already created. After this pronouncement, Sarah, who had always been very artistic, found she couldn't even draw a pear so decided that going to school was futile. Instead, to keep up the ruse of attendance, she left the house each morning and roamed the streets of Philadelphia in search of art and originality. While on one of her wanderings Sarah meets up with her 10-year-old self and later with her 23-year-old incarnation. Both her younger and her older selves have important truths for sixteen-year-old Sarah. Young Sarah just home from a family vacation to Mexico reveals just how cruel and abusive her father really is, a truth Sarah has forgotten over the years. Older Sarah, by her mere presence, lets Sarah know she will be OK and the truth, no matter how painful, will set her free. With the help of her plucky, strong-willed mother, Sarah finds a way to reintegrate all the parts of herself and to confront the problems in her life.

I am a big fan of A.S. King and adore her writing style. She is the type of writer that causes me to stop mid-sentence and admire her wordsmithery (I know. That is not a word!) My first A.S. King book was a Printz Honor, Please Ignore Vera Dietzand that book, about a young girl who is consumed by her grief and stuck in a life she doesn't know how to live fully, simply knocked my socks off. I've gone on to read several more books by King: Everyone Sees the Ants; Glory O'Brien's History of the World; Ask the Passengers; and I Crawl Through It. All of the books have a character who is experiencing some near mental breakdown until they are able to get the attention of an adult who is FINALLY willing/available to help them find a way to make sense of their circumstances and their world. As much as I admire Still Life with Tornado, the book doesn't seem all that different than the other books I've read my King. Every year in the past we have added A.S. King's book to our Mock Printz list because of the spectacular writing, and no year since Vera Dietz has her book earned another Printz award. This year we decided to leave Still Life with Tornado off our list. We'll see if we made the right call in January when awards are once more handed out.

That said, I really did like Still Life with Tornado and will recommend it to my students. It carries a very powerful message about the effects of abuse on marriages and on children and it, therefore, may speak to students who are also experiencing abuse at home.


  1. I always like AS King books, but am also confused by them. I definitely need to read Please Ignore Vera Dietz!

  2. I think Ask the Passengers was my favorite. But I loved Vera too. Yes, her books all have the same feel and rhythm. But I still enjoy every one of them.

    1. Students didn't like her books as much as us librarians. She is so literate. I could eat her words!


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