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Fighting Words — Review

Thought for the Day:

“If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework you can still be writing, because you have that space.”
~ Joyce Carol Oates ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

Aaron Elkins has a good article HERE in Writer’s Digest that will give you 3 Ways to Know When to End Your Chapters.

Ryan Lanz has a terrific post HERE on A Writer’s Path about Showing vs. Telling. He has some very nice examples and great reminders.

Back in the day when I was still teaching, I always had lessons about homophones through the year. One can ruin a piece of writing — letter, essay, story, etc. — with using the wrong homophones. HERE Writer’s Rumpus has a good post on homophones.

I love words and wordplay, so puns are a favorite of mine. I ran across a whole bunch of puns recently (can’t remember where), and I saved them for a day like this when I am really busy and need something quick for this. Heck, even my meme is a pun! I sure hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Let the groaning begin.

Dad, are we pyromaniacs? Yes, we arson.

What do you call a pig with laryngitis? Disgruntled.

Writing my name in cursive is my signature move.

Why do bees stay in their hives during winter? Swarm.

If you’re bad at haggling, you’ll end up paying the price.

Just so everyone’s clear, I’m going to put my glasses on.

A commander walks into a bar and orders everyone around.

I lost my job as a stage designer. I left without making a scene.

Never buy flowers from a monk. Only you can prevent florist friars.

How much did the pirate pay to get his ears pierced? A buccaneer.

I once worked at a cheap pizza shop to get by. I kneaded the dough.

My friends and I have named our band ‘Duvet’. It’s a cover band.

A little off topic here. If anyone out there who uses WordPress can tell me how I can manipulate the Featured Image, I would appreciate hearing from you. I can’t seem to get the best part of the cover as my featured image.

Last week I offered a copy of Amy McDougall, Master Matchmaker by Gary Pedler to one of you. This week’s winner is Sue Heavenrich. Congratulations, Sue! I will get your book out to you soon. If you don’t know Sue, she is a writer from upstate New York who focuses on science writing. She wrote one of my favorite picture books of the year, 13 Ways to Eat a Fly. She also runs two blogs — Archimedes Notebook and Sally’s Bookshelf. I follow them both and find terrific books reviewed there.

Today I want to talk about a book I won from Completely Full Bookshelf. She always has wonderful reviews. I often step aside from book drawings because I am always buried in books, but sometimes the books look so good, I just can’t help but get in the running. I was lucky enough to win Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It is quite an extraordinary book.

Della is ten years old. She and her older sister, Suki, are starting life anew at a foster home. A woman named Francine has taken them in, and Della isn’t at all sure she is going to like it. But Francine is plain spoken and not particularly demanding. She takes the girls shopping for school clothes and, though she doesn’t give them much of a budget, it is enough for their needs. And, of course, Suki uses some of her budget for something Della wants. Suki has always taken care of Della. Always. Their mother had gone to prison some years ago and left them in the care of her boyfriend. Nobody questioned it. That is where they were staying. The alternative, as far as Della knew, would be living on the streets, so staying with Francine might be okay. At school, Della is bullied and says some words she shouldn’t have said, and gets in trouble. The principal is a pretty perceptive and kind person. She and Della work out a way for Della to say whats on her mind without using unacceptable language. Della makes a good friend, a girl named Nevaeh, who has been bullied by a classmate for a long time, the same boy who bullied Della.

Suki and Della find living with Francine is a safe place, but Suki screams through terrible nightmares almost every night. Della knows it probably is because of the thing their mom’s boyfriend had done to Della, the thing Suki witnessed, just before they moved, but Della can’t seem to do anything to help Suki. Suki eventually tries to kill herself, and ends up in a psychiatric hospital. This is when Della really discovers Francine’s heart.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is a very complex story which covers a lot of ground. There are themes around family, friendship, bullying, abuse, foster care, and more. It is a hard book to read, but it needs to be to truly tell this story. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has done a spectacular job with this difficult story. The writing is beautiful and the voice is pitch perfect. In the author’s acknowledgements, she thanks her editors for helping her craft a book for ten-year-olds. I frankly would be hard put to offer this to any but a few very mature ten-year-olds. It’s a terrific book and an important book and has a lot of good information for kids, but I would not be comfortable handing it to most kids that age. I recommend adults read it first and be ready for some difficult questions and discussions as young people read it. That said, I hope it gets the wide readership it deserves.

I have no giveaway this week since I will donate the nice hardback copy I got to the school. Don’t forget to check for other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.

11 thoughts on “Fighting Words — Review”

  1. Thank you for the shout-out! I’m so glad you appreciated Fighting Words as much as I did—it was a truly astounding read, and I felt like it was one of those books I wanted to spread to more readers by giving away a copy! Your review is totally spot-on, and I can understand your hesitance about handing this to a 10-year-old despite Bradley’s intent—I think older middle-schoolers and younger high-schoolers might be more ready for this story. But I did appreciate Bradley making this story as manageable for young readers as possible without losing substance!

    The puns you shared today are super-fun—I especially love the “disgruntled” pun! And the meme is delightful as well! I also love the quote—I feel like there are a lot of ways I could cram my own writing in but simply don’t, so perhaps I should work on that at some point. I hope you enjoyed your weekend, and thanks so much for the great review!

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  2. Hi Rosi! Loved the whole post, especially the puns. But as a former city bus driver, I would like to beg people NOT to write while driving a car as suggested in the Thought for the Day. I say this with love and a chuckle.

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  3. This sounds like a pretty heavy book for youngsters. I agree, these themes must be dealt with, but I would think carefully before putting it into a student’s hands. I’d really want to know they had someone trustworthy to talk with as and after they read it.

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  4. I loved this book and thought the difficult subject matter was handled really discreetly. Today’s (and yesteryear’s ) kids know about abuse – many of them firsthand. I personally would not have a problem sharing FIGHTING WORDS with 10 year-olds.I think most of my readers know more about the difficult subjects in my books than I do. My thoughts are: those who are fortunate not to know first hand will benefit from reading a story like this because it may protect them or help them to speak up if they sense danger for themselves or others. And those who know will be so grateful for a character who understands what they’re experiencing.

    Thanks as always, Rosi for your thoughtful reviews and gifts to writer friends.

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  5. What a powerful story.with characters and a setting perfect for the plot. I jotted this title down when it appeared on CFB’s blog but haven’t had the time to even find a copy of this book. I’ve nudged this one to the top and hope to get to it this summer. Thanks for featuring on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.
    Great links today. I especially enjoyed the on on Show vs.Tell.
    No answer for your featured image problem. I tired using it when they first introduced the technique and gave up after having the same results as you. I’ve gone featureless ever since.

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  6. I loved this powerful novel! It brings a the topic of sex abuse out into the open and may just nudge a reader to seek help. Beautifully written! Remember sexual abuse starts very early for some children. For children, the PB “Don’t Hug Doug,” would be a book to discuss boundaries and that kids have the right to set boundaries — sexual abuse could certainly be part of that conversation. Enjoyed reading your take on the book.

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  7. This book sounds like a really powerful read. I have worked with a lot of students in foster care and have some friends who foster as well. It’s an important story that needs to be told, but I would agree that a parent/teacher should use discernment before handing it to a child.
    I really enjoyed your quote today!

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  8. Thanks for reviewing such a thought provoking book, Rosi. I’m glad you’re giving it to the school where it will have a large audience!
    I chuckled at the puns, love to read them, don’t have the brain to write them!

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