Margaret Peterson Haddix books
Layla’s review of books by:
Margaret Peterson Haddix, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting contemporary American authors, who is unfortunately categorized as a writer for young adults and sometimes children, but whose effective manner of writing with respect for her readers’ intelligence and whose fascinating and critically vital themes should, in fact, reach people of all ages – anywhere between 0 and 300 years or more. Just Ella is a realistic book narrated effectively in first person by Ella who is more commonly known around the world as Cinderella and who tells us what had “really” happened when she almost married a prince.
She presents a highly convincing explanation of how her story ended up being interpreted as a tale of magical pumpkins, fairy godmothers, and glass slippers and how she finally learnt from her mistakes. Haddix presents a lively narrative, humorous and thoughtful. An excellent book that raises questions of social injustice and outrageous abuse in a reflective, dignifying and powerful language that never once falls into the trap of pity or resignation.
Say What? This is a humorous account of kids younger than the early teens in Haddix’ other books.
Unlike the Don’t You Dare diary where the siblings side together and support each other, this is a story about a screaming family, in which everyone yells – children and parents and all. Everyone is busy with their own lives and have little time or desire to spend with each other. Yet, we understand that somewhere, somehow they care for and love one another as when the author portrays moments when someone is hurt or scared, and the kids show compassion. There is also age hierarchy, Brian (9) the oldest is the only one allowed to summon a kids meeting. Sukie, the youngest of the three and the only girl (6) is the only one concerned about what is happening when parents begin to not make any sense. Before they didn’t make sense, but at least they acted in familiar and predictable patterns. Now they say totally unpredictable and nonsensical things. Sukie and her siblings set out to find out why and cold war between children and adults begins or probably rather, as the plot tells us, it has always been there, only now has taken on a new face – or rather sound. This is a humorous statement on the futility of the various child psychology and pedagogical experiments. The answer is: listen to each other and MAKE SENSE!
Double Identity. The setting of this story is simpler and with fewer surprises than some of Haddix’ other novels.
However, despite the fact that I could guess from the beginning where the plot was taking me, as usual, the author succeeded in offering a deep novel that dove fearlessly in questions of identity: such as what makes us human, what causes our suffering even if on the surface things may seem as if they’re being done with love and best intentions. The novel leads in the direction of answering these questions in analysing the experience of what makes us feel safe and loved as children in a world full of unpredictable changes, where one day parents or our closest people whom we trust suddenly become inexplicable enigmas and the havoc and fear that come with the change. This is a detective story that is about self, love, trust, mourning, and hope as the early teen girl sets out to find why her parents act weird, hide secrets and end up going into hiding themselves, leaving her with a mysterious aunt of whom she had never heard before.
Because of Anya. In this book, Haddix, once again, displays her rare talent for empathy.
I recommend this book for the point of view of the relationship between marginality (in this case of an ill child) and the mainstream (a normal school-girl) that offers, even if idealised, reconciliation. Personally, I doubt that this momentary reconciliation can affect changes globally on a deeper economic infrastructure level, yet, the book is so convincing in its attempt to embrace the miserable and the ill, that to my cynical/pessimistic heart, worn out by human cruelty and pain, it reads like a poem of hope.
Dexter the Tough. The book shows the importance of teachers taking seriously children’s need to write about violence and injustice that they perceive, even if it is imaginary.
In the book much of the violence is perceived and is not in fact willed or designed. The whole situation of the school and being a new kid among unfamiliar grown-ups is violent and Dexter responds to this experience with violence. The episode which he describes in his “creative writing” lesson becomes a theme that obsesses him and his teacher throughout the building of their relationship, both real and creative, written and negotiated. The teacher’s first impulse is to shut Dexter up. However, she revises her position and urges him to work on the “story” of “beating up a crying boy”. The development of the script takes Dexter to re-examine his feelings and relationships at home and at school.
Escape from Memory. This book is at once far-fetched yet credible in Haddix’ ability to portray human nature as striving for goodness and its constant encounter with greed and power.
The plot revolves around an imaginary village called Crythe. Crythians find themselves torn between two great warring powers: the US and USSR. Both powers don’t give a damn about individual lives and human suffering. The Russians are portrayed as brutal and the Americans as greedy. This stereotypical depiction is justified through the narrative because it finally all depends on the specific choices that a people make with regards to their social organization. In this book, we find the main character, an all-American girl from a small town in Ohio, after a game of hypnosis going through a turbulent adventure unveiling dark secrets of human relations, her own relationship with her mother, her encounter with Aunt Memory and discovery of a cruel reality outside her home town. The book ties in the themes of memory, history, community, and war. What is people’s meaning in this world? Is it to preserve memory? What is memory? The Crythians respond with the implementation of a tradition that would ensure the transmission of specific memory. Sounds familiar? Aunt Memory is usually this adult who transmits to her “niece” the meaning of the clan and is an important link between the past and the future. The main point of the book seems to be: So, why don’t we write hopeful, beautiful narratives rather than keep repeating useless mythical facts that harbour fear, hatred, and breed violent havoc. Apart from being a story on human choices, love and relationships, this book is also about the relations of children and parents and where the link in memory continues, breaks, should continue or should break.
Margaret Peterson Haddix Don’t You Dare Read this Mrs. Dunphry!
Here Haddix once again succeeds in presenting a powerful first-person narrative through a collage of journal entries written by school-girl for an English class assignment and not supposed to be read by anyone – not even her teacher. In a teen-age voice that is intelligent and aware, the diary conveys the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of a struggling working class twelve year old juggling between taking care of her little brother, school, jobs bordering on slavery in the fast food lane, and protecting a mother abused by poverty and unjust gender relations in a world made to betray the poor. Once more, the author connects the importance of writing to life. This book, Haddix says, was inspired by a project on child abuse issues. It is a realistic and powerful story of a courageous, loyal, and passionate young girl that rings lots of bells.
Running out of Time.
Some reviews state that it is an anti-utopian book. I believe that the book is much more than that. The book presents idealist parents who, in an attempt to escape the cruelty of the contemporary megalomaniac and criminal world, attempt to build a utopia in a Clifton Village. The problem or the crux of their failure lies in that capitalists possess all rights for all land. Science and capital are so organised that if someone refuses the unjust standards, even in an attempt to escape, they are forced to rely on the capitalist that destroys those attempts. And so, utopia fails. The most important point of the book is that there seems to be no escape. Realising this, the ending is painful, because, even in the attempt to re-integrate in the contemporary nightmare and the seeming reconciliation between the Clifton children and mainstream “society”, the death of a dream is as tragic as the death of children: without his dream, the father will never be the same and Jessie and her mother know this. This is an important and fascinating read, full of movement and thought that raises questions of touristic voyeurism, nature, culture and life.
The Girl with 500 Middle Names is a long short story about an intelligent girl who moves to a new school and in spite of the social expectations for her to fail (the teacher, for example) she finds creative ways to assert herself. This is a beautiful story about family relations and love. Being a knitter myself, that knitting touch in the book, is a personal favourite.
The House on the Gulf. This book tells the story of a 12-year-old girl and the insecurity of family secrets that test those bonds.
Something I often see in Haddix, is children protecting their parents from pain. Brittany’s older brother Bran (Brandon) (16) gets an offer to house sit for a family in Florida. He acts weird the whole time and claims that it is necessary not to ask questions in order to protect mom so she can get the dream of her life: finish med school. Brittany is not used to have her older brother keep secrets and begins to look for answers. Discovering truth can lead to lies. Instead, the book leads to conclude, knowing of intentions rather than details is what fosters trust and solid relationships.
Turnabout. This is a highly original book about aging and unaging and questions of life and death. Haddix’s main point is that the most basic and vital aspect of human life is experience and memory of experience. Its other side is the future: descendants. The reason why 50 (out of 54) people in the rejuvenation experiment perished, was because their memory was erased and they had no motivation to live. The two main characters (and we don’t know what happened to the other two, Haddix is wise to leave that part a mystery full of possibilities) find motivation through love and the re-building of memories.
Shadow Children series raises important social, philosophical, and political questions in complex plots that never cease to surprise!Among the Hidden.
Among the Imposters.
Among the Betrayed.
Among the Barons.
Among the Brave.
Among the Enemy.
Among the Free.back to my Reading list