Saturday, July 26, 2014

Julia and the Art of Practical Travel by Lesley M. M. Blume

Julia and the Art of Practical Travel

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

When her grandmother dies and the once-majestic family estate is sold, eleven-year-old Julia Lancaster and her aunt Constance must take to the road to find Julia’s long-lost mother. They bring with them only the most practical travel things—silver candlestick holders, a few Oriental carpets, some steamer trunks, and Julia’s beloved Brownie camera, which she will use to document their journey across 1960s America.

On the road, Julia and her aunt meet a cast of peculiar characters, including guitar-strumming hippies in Greenwich Village, a legendary voodoo queen in New Orleans, the honorable proprietor of the World’s End Cattle Ranch in Texas, and the colorful sheriff of Gold Point, Nevada (population: 1), who also happens to be the town’s mayor, fire chief, and reverend. But will they find Julia’s mother and a place to call home?

Poignant, engaging, and funny, Lesley M. M. Blume’s new novel is a meditation on the thin line between being an insider and being an outsider, and the deep-rooted need we all have to find a place where we can feel at home.

My thoughts:
I really enjoyed reading this ARC.  Blume is a new author for me, but I am going to look into finding copies of some of her other books as well.  I loved how this book was set in 1968.  It is grounded in an historic period that children don't always learn about in school, especially in the age range the book is recommended for.  Even a an adult, I think I get a much better understanding of past time periods when I see them through the words of novel with people living in them.  I could see Greenwich Village and the hippies Julia's aunt talks to looking for Julia's mother.  In conversation characters work in references to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy's, giving context to the events and people they might otherwise just encounter in history books.

Julia is recounting the story of traveling the country with her aunt looking for her mother, who left when she was eight years old.  Their car is loaded down with trunks carrying all of their remaining belongings after having to sell the family home and furnishings due to falling on hard times.  The people they meet and stay with along the way are all colorful, perhaps even made more so by seeing them through an 11-year-old's eyes.  The newly rich woman who bought their home and belongings but knows nothing about society ways, the boarding house that lacks indoor plumbing and electricity, the high society woman who is friends with a voodoo queen, the mayor of a gold ghost town, the owner of a ranch and hippies on both coasts.

Since this was an ARC not all of Julia's brownie camera pictures were in the book, some spots were labeled for the pictures to come, but I loved seeing what she chose to document.  I was a bit thrown by the lack of quotation marks at the beginning, but I got used to it as I went along.  I don't know if those will be added later or if it was stylistic to show that a child was telling the story.  Either way, I enjoyed the colorful journey across the country and back.  Sometimes what we are looking for is right there in front of us, it just takes a bit to see it.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385752824
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/10/2015
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Lesley M. M. Blume is an author and journalist. She lives in New York City, but is a nomad at heart. When she travels the world, she always takes with her a trunk filled with glistening practical-travel things. She has written five previous novels for Knopf, including Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, The Rising Star of Rusty Nail, and Tennyson, which the Chicago Tribune praised for its “brilliant, unusual writing.”

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