Movie and book reviews are not a primary focus of this blog. But occasionally, I just have to share about a book or movie that I’ve recently enjoyed, and this is one of those times. I actually have two books that I’ve that I want to review this week – and I can strongly recommend them both for teenagers and adults.

In December I wrote a review of the movie Wonder. A few weeks later I finished listening to the Audible version of it. It too was well done. I can heartily recommend the movie or the book for most any age.  I’ve listened to two other, very different books recently, that I can also recommend, though for a more limited audience. I don’t think either of these would be as good for younger students, but I can see adults and older students enjoying them both.

Like Wonder, one of the main characters in each is a pre-teen child. And like Wonder, both books show the importance of family, though in vastly different ways. In Wonder, the family is “fairly typical” – dad, mom, two children, all living together in one place.  The main characters in One-in-a-Million Boy are divorced parents, their 11-year-old son, and Ona Vitkus, a 104-year-old woman he starts helping in order to earn a Boy Scout merit badge. After befriending the old woman he helps once a week, but before he has completed the requisite number of visits, the young boy dies suddenly of a rare, and previously undiagnosed, disease. His father takes over the task of visiting Ona, fully expecting that he will fulfill the unfinished visits, and then be done. Of course, it doesn’t end quite like he had expected.

I’m not generally a fan of stories that are non-linear – where they bounce from one period of time to another and back again – but the author of One-in-a-Million Boy pulls it off. The story goes back and forth from the present to various times in the past (usually different parts of Ona’s extensive past).  

As the story continues, we gain a real love for Ona and her young friend, whose life is different, short, and at the same time, beautiful. And along the way we gain more insight into his parents, the difficulties that led to their separation, and how their son and his relationship with Ona changes both their lives. It is an intense story, and like Wonder, I found myself crying at different times throughout, but it is also a beautiful story.

Just a few days ago I finished another amazing book that I also think should be enjoyed by adults and older students – News of the World by Paulette Jiles. This lovely book tells the story of Johanna, a 10-year-old girl who had been stolen from her family by Kiowa raiders, and the 70-year-old widower who accepts the difficult task of taking her through 400 miles of post-Civil War Texas to an aunt and uncle she doesn’t remember, in a culture she is no longer comfortable in. They are two lonely people who are thrown together in a difficult situation that neither of them caused and neither of them want. It was like going back in time to watch their lives change as they made the hazardous trip.

Neither book had anything truly inappropriate that I recall, but even though a main character in each of them is ten or eleven, I’m not sure I would listen to them with students that age, nor have them read them, though maybe that’s just me. But both are well worth the time for teens and adults alike.

I listened to the Audible versions of both these books and can say that the narrators in both cases did a wonderful job.  I’m sure reading both books would also be great, though I’m glad I had the experience of listening to them.

I would love to know what you think of them if you give either of them a try.

Happy listening and reading!