Connecting Dots

Connecting Dots516dZBPfoUL__SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Connecting Dots

Sharon Jennings, Author

Second Story Press, Mar. 1, 2015

A Gutsy Girl Book (4): 197 pages

Suitable for Ages: 9-13; Grades 6-8

Themes: Self-Esteem, Family Relationships, Loss, Abuse, Coming of Age, Friendship

Opening: Until I was five, I thought my grandmother was my mother. In kindergarten, I found out the truth.

Book Synopsis: My name is Cassandra. Some people think I’m an orphan.  They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and in my case that’s definitely true. My best friend, Leanna, keeps bugging me to write my life story. She loves writing. Me, I’d rather be an actress. But telling the truth for once about my life could feel good. You see, I always thought my grandma raised me because I was an orphan. But when she died, I found out that was a lie. It’s hard to find out that nobody wants you. For a long time I didn’t have a real home, or any real friends. But things can change, and now I’m sitting here at my desk in my room, writing my story so you can read it, strange or not.

Why I like this book:

Sharon Jennings has written a heartbreaking and heartwarming coming of age story about a 12-year-old girl who is shipped off to the homes of many cruel relatives who treat her with disdain. Cassandra suffers abuse, hardship and finds little love. All she really wants is to find a family and a home where she feels she belongs.

Connecting Dots is a richly textured story narrated by Cassandra.  Cassandra’s character is memorable, strong, resilient, fearless and wise. In the face of such adversity and unimaginable abuse, she finds a bosom buddy in Leanna Mets, who encourages her to write her life story. As Cassandra shares her pages with Leanna, she finds writing cathartic, empowering and healing. Acting in school plays and with a kid’s theater company strengthens her resolve to never lose sight of her dream to become an actress.

The plot is strong, honest, tough and clever, with many twists and turns.  When you finish, you’ll want to cheer Cassandra for connecting the dots in her life. This third installment lives up to the “Gutsy Girls” book. Connecting Dots is definitely a companion book to Home Free, where Cassandra’s friend Leanna is the protagonist.

Note to Parents: There is a mention of Cassandra being sexually abused by an uncle Ernie and punished by an aunt with an enema and beatings. Although the book is for readers 9-12, parents may want to judge their child’s maturity level.

Other Gutsy Girl Books: Finding Grace, by Becky Citra; The Contest, by Caroline Stellings; Home Free, by Sharon Jennings; and Connecting Dots, by Sharon Jennings.

Sharon Jennings has written over 60 books for young people, many of them award winners and nominees. Home Free, the prequel to Connecting Dots, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, and the Silver Birch Award. Visit Sharon Jennings at her website.

Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books reviewed and listed on author Shannon Messenger’s blog.

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A Chanukah Noel

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Sharon Jennings, Author

Gillian Newland, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Moving to a foreign country,  Feeling left out, Chanukah, Christmas, Friendship

Opening:  “One day, Daddy came home from work and said, “I have a big surprise.  We are going to live in France.”  I wasn’t so sure I liked this surprise, but I left home with Mommy and Daddy and sailed all the way across the ocean. 

Synopsis:  Charlotte and her family move to France.  She doesn’t speak the language and is put in a lower grade.  She finds that foods in her French village some times taste and smell strange.  Many of her classmates are friendly, except Colette.  At Christmas the village is beautifully decorated.  Charlotte is Jewish and wants to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas.  She’s disappointed when her mother tells her they will celebrate Chanukah.  At least, at school she can participate in the festivities of decorating the class and bringing a gift.  When Charlotte discovers that Colette is poor and won’t be able to celebrate Christmas either, she sets aside her hurt feelings and comes up with a plan to help her friend and celebrate both holidays.

Why I like this story:   Sharon Jennings has written a charming story based on the true story of her friend.  Readers never learn the origin of Charlotte’s country, only that she is Jewish and she finds Christmas in France exciting.   It is also a story about feeling left out.  But, Charlotte shows a lot of compassion and helps a poor classmate enjoy Christmas with her family.  I enjoyed the story, but wished there was a little more shown about Charlotte’s Jewish Chanukah tradition.  Gillian Newland’s illustrations are rich and capture both the holiday spirit and the feeling of a timeless French village.

Resources:  Chanukah or Hanukkah activities for children and teachers can be found at this website.