Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

This is a "memoir" of 7th grade English teacher Beatrice Hempel, who often doubted herself as she is new to teaching. However, from the performances and expressions of her students and colleagues, we see that Ms. Hempel is well-liked and clearly cares about her students. I admire her not dwelling on the fact that she has recently lost her father and broke up with her fiance.
Bynum's depiction of Ms. Hempel's experience with the students and her descriptive nuances of everyday life is so genuine that I wonder how much of the story is drawn from her life. Her imagery is astonishing, the part about the "monkeys in the peach" is layers upon layers of surprises, and the boy being buried in the sand on a class outing kept me on my toes! The story is full of gentle humor. What becomes of Ms. Hempel? Did she finally exit her profession? You'll have to read to find out. Reading this book makes me look back fondly on school days! It is a book that I wished never ended.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White

Doc Ford is accepting assignments again and this one takes him to Washington, DC, far from his beloved Florida. A botched attempt to kidnap a senator results in a 14 year old boy being held hostage by ruthless Cuban thugs. Doc has to race against time to save the boy from a horrible death.

There's plenty of action in this book, and the characters are complex and interesting. I'm a huge fan of Randy Wayne White, and I love the Doc Ford novels. I have to say I liked Doc better when he was retired, and I think the novels set in Florida are superior to the ones that aren't.