The Girl from Felony Bay

So, I’ve been struggling to finish the last of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. For whatever reason, it’s taken me longer to finish the twenty nominated books than ever before. (I think the abundance of animal books may be to blame.)

Well, last night, I finished another SCCBA nominee (only one more to go!), and this one was probably one of the best of this year’s list. The book was The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson. Even though the book was nearly 400 pages long, I devoured it in less than twenty-four hours. It was excellent.

Abbey Force has had a rough time of it lately. Her father is in a coma and can’t defend himself against some fairly awful accusations. Her beautiful home, Reward Plantation in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off her dad’s supposed debts. And Abbey had to move in with her horrible Uncle Charlie and his wife, Ruth.

But it’s not all bad…

Abbey soon meets the daughter of Reward Plantation’s new owner. Bee Force (no relation) is Abbey’s age, and their families have a connection that goes back to before the Civil War. It appears that Abbey’s ancestors kept Bee’s ancestors as slaves, and Bee’s family took on Force as their last name after the war was over. Even though their family stories could have driven a wedge between these two girls, instead it brings them closer together, and they soon become as close as sisters…and they’ll need that closeness to weather the storm that’s headed their way.

Abbey is determined to prove to everyone that her father is innocent, and Bee wants to help her new friend. It quickly becomes clear that the two girls are on to something, but what? Why are there “No trespassing” signs and big holes around Felony Bay? Why was this parcel of land sold separately from Reward Plantation? Why is Uncle Charlie so smug all of a sudden, and what does the Deputy Sheriff have to do with his new attitude? What’s the connection with Abbey’s dad and the accusations made against him? Can two twelve-year-old girls really prove that something sinister is going on?

Abbey and Bee are working to solve this mystery, and their investigation takes them all over Charleston and Reward Plantation. Danger abounds, and the girls eventually uncover a plot that dates back over a century. Can they reveal the truth before it’s too late? Or will all of their sleuthing make them the next target of whoever is trying to frame Abbey’s dad?

Join Abbey and Bee Force in their quest for the truth when you read The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson!

_______________

I’m sure the South Carolina connection had a little to do with why I enjoyed this book so much. More than that, though, was the excellent, compelling story. I was eager to turn each page and find out what Abbey and Bee were going to get into next. I can only hope my students feel the same way (especially since this book is also one of our Battle of the Books titles this year). Rest assured, I will talk The Girl from Felony Bay up at every opportunity.

In addition to being a great example of a mystery, The Girl from Felony Bay could also serve as a mentor text for studies on figurative language. J.E. Thompson, like many other Southern writers, doesn’t just tell the reader what something looks or feels like. He paints a picture, and he uses vivid, descriptive language to do it. The similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and other literary tools in this book are great examples that students may want to employ in their own writing.

I wish I had more time to extoll all of the virtues of this book, but I’m late for supper at my mom’s house, so I’ll wrap it up. Read this book. Share this book with your students. I recommend it to all readers in upper elementary and middle grades, but I think it’s a mystery that readers of all ages can and will enjoy.

And that’s not all, folks!

If you want more of Abbey and Bee, there’s another Felony Bay book out there. Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff follows these two girls into another mystery. I’ll be ordering this book for my school library as soon as I return to work tomorrow.

For even more information on The Girl from Felony Bay, Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff, and author J.E. Thompson, I invite you to visit the author’s website. Happy reading!

Advertisements

Would You

If you’re looking for a tearjerker of a book , I highly recommend Marthe Jocelyn’s Would You.  It’s a very short book and an easy read, but it packs an emotional punch.  I had to clean my glasses of tear residue when I finished reading this one.

Would You begins with a question:  “Would you rather know what’s going to happen?  Or not know?”  Natalie and her friends play this “would you” game with different scenarios. “Would you rather have your father sing at the supermarket or your mother fart in the principal’s office?”  “Would you rather lose all your hair or all your teeth?” “Would you rather die or have everyone else die?”  It’s all a game and a way to get conversations going until something happens that changes everything.

Natalie’s group of friends is looking forward to the summer before their senior year in high school.  Natalie wants to spend some time with her older sister Claire before she leaves for college.  Claire and Natalie share everything with each other, and Natalie is having a difficult time coming to terms with the reality of Claire leaving.  Little does she know that reality is about to become even more difficult.

On a warm Saturday evening, Claire is hit by a car.  She is in a coma, and no one knows if she’ll ever come out of it.  Natalie knew she would have to deal with her sister leaving, but she didn’t think it would be this way.  What can she do?  Is there any hope?  Would you rather have a sister who dies or one in a vegetative state?  Natalie has to answer these questions and figure out how to live without the most important person in her world.

If you’ve got siblings, Would You might force you to think about your own reactions in the situations presented in the book.  I don’t think I could handle much of anything if something were to happen to my sister.  Just thinking about it is enough to bring on the waterworks and give me a tight feeling in my chest.  Like I said, Would You is a tearjerker.  If you decide to read it, make sure you have plenty of tissues nearby.

If I Stay

When I heard that Gayle Forman’s book, If I Stay, was being marketed as the next Twilight, of course I had to read it.  I enjoyed the book, but I have to say that I don’t think it has the power to generate the fan frenzy that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga has.  (I’m a Twilighter myself, so I may be a bit biased on this one.)  I think most of the hype for If I Stay has come from the fact that Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke will be directing the novel’s movie adaptation.  Anyhoo, on to a quick look at If I Stay

It’s an atypical February morning in Mia’s life.  A bare dusting of snow has closed schools in her town in Oregon.  The whole family is together.  They decide to go for a drive, and tragedy strikes.   A car accident.  Mia is the only survivor.  She is airlifted to a hospital where the doctors do all they can for her.  Ultimately, though, it is Mia’s choice to stay or go.  She reflects back on her seventeen years, with her crazy, punk-rock family, her obsession with the cello and classical music, her best friend Kim, and her loving boyfriend Adam.  She looks at all of these things and makes her decision.  Will she choose to die and join her family?  Or will she stay?  What would you do?

I went into this book thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to Twilight.  Well, it did, and it didn’t.  If I Stay was a moving book with a lot of emotional angst, but I can’t say that I was invested in the characters as much as I was with Bella and the Cullen clan.  Was this book well written?  Yes.  Will I recommend it to my students?  Absolutely.  Do I think it’s the next Twilight?  Not so much.  But that’s just my opinion.  I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves.