I picked up Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson because I like the intensity of Anderson's writing as she portrays the problems of young teens. And I wasn't disappointed. Type A Kate Malone is a high school senior who runs to escape her feelings. Her father is a preacher, who is more into tending to his flock than his family. Her mother is dead. And Kate takes care of the household and her asthmatic brother. She struggles with her identity as "Good Kate" and "Bad Kate." And if that's not enough stress, Kate is also a Chemistry whiz, a cross country runner, and is totally obsessed with getting into MIT. The only college she applied to.
Kate's life changes as she finds out she didn't get accepted into MIT. She then finds out her neighbor Teri Lynch, the girl who has habitually bullied her, will be moving in for awhile. I was a little disappointed because I felt the relationship Kate and Teri developed was a bit rushed. There was just too much lack of trust to have a relationship develop that quickly. I also had some questions on how Kate managed to deal with being a MIT reject, to dealing with no future college, to being cool with her situation.
I really liked Catalyst. I found the characters likeable and subject matter very realistic. It is an intense read. Can you believe I was feeling Kate's stress? This book made me go back 20 some years ago and think about when I was a high school senior waiting for my acceptance letters. I applied to four colleges, three safety schools and my One. It was my One I was waiting for, that got me all in a mess. I rebelliously told my parents I wouldn't go there because it was their dream. Secretly, I obsessed. To this day, I still remember the despair, stress, anxiety and total elation when I found out I was accepted. Amazing how much power a letter or packet can have.
And now, A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature:
1. Kate Malone and Teri Litch from Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, ages 15 and up: Type A Kate Malone and bully Teri Litch. Two opposite people who find themselves, through circumstances, leaning on each other for help and support. Kate does so much to help out at home. She is smart and strong, but put all her eggs in one basket. When she finds out she doesn't get into MIT, she breaks down. Bully Teri Lynch and her brother Mikey end up moving into Kate's home when their house burns. Teri is strong enough to stand up to a group of football players who tease her. She is protective and wants so much for her brother. Kate and Teri learn there is more to each other and help each other through a major tragedy.
2. Ellie Roma from The Possibility of Fireflies by Dominique Paul, ages 14 and up: What a wonderful book. Ellie Roma is a fourteen year old girl who realizes that she can grab at the possibilities of her life and go after whatever she wants. Ellie is a sweet, vulnerable girl who has a neglectful, volatile mother and a sister who is running wild. Despite the sadness of Ellie's life, she finds hope and reaches for the possibilities.
This is Dominique Paul's first book. She is currently working on the movie based on her book--she wrote the screenplay and will be directing the movie! I will be featuring an interview with Dominique very soon. You'll find out what inspired her to write the book, how she became a director, her advice for aspiring writers and screenwriters and how she embraced the possibilities in her life. We'll even touch on the subject of tattoos, rock and roll, and more...Stay Tuned!
3. Billy's mother from How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell, ages 9-12: Okay, okay, this book is all about the boys, but it is quite amusing. Yucky, but entertaining with its rhymes and pranks. Billy makes a bet with his friends and has to eat 15 worms, 1 a day for 15 days. If he does it, he wins $50 for a shiny, new motorbike. Billy's mother is all freaked out when she realizes her little boy has been eating worms. She calls the doctor and when he reassures her, she is all set to support her boy. When Billy's friends come a knocking, asking her to make sure Billy eats his worms while they are away, Billy's mother saves the day with some tasty ways to eat worms. Now that's a strong mother!
4. Stevie, Alex and Joey from The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald, ages 9 - 12: The three Reel sisters, Stevie, Alex and Joey, all contribute journal entries into this book. It is mainly narrated by middle sister Stevie. I had a hard time getting into this book. It wasn't until I was half way through the book, when I finally started enjoying it. With that said, the sisters love to hang out together and form The Sisters Club, because sisters are forever. Even though the sisters fight, they end up resolving their differences when it really counts to help each other out. The sisters are fun, smart, loving, loyal, talented and earnest.
5. Pinky, Dot and Babs from Three Sisters by Audrey Wood, ages 4 - 8: This easy reader has three short stories about the three pig sisters, Pinky, Dot and Babs. They goof on each other, but are quite supportive of each other. They are not afraid to say things and do their best to make everyone happy. The illustrations are a bit strange...the sisters look like troll pigs.
6. Esther Morris from I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women The Vote By Linda Arms White, ages 4 - 8: Esther Morris was quite instrumental in getting women to vote in Wyoming. She was the first female judge and the first female to hold political office in the United States. This enthusiastic picture book shows Esther Morris accomplishing quite a bit, with her mantra, "I Could Do That!"