Some Kind of Happiness


Some Kind of Happiness
Claire Legrand
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
May 2016

When Finley’s parents need some time alone to work things out – i.e., decide if they are getting a divorce – they send her to Hart House, meticulously kept and ruled over by her paternal grandparents and host to aunts, uncles, and cousins constantly dropping in. The catch is Finley has never met her dad’s side of the family, from whom he has been estranged since he was young for reasons unknown to Finley. Finley hides a secret of her own; she suffers from some sort of mental illness, most likely anxiety and depression though it is never diagnosed in the course of the book. The only thing that keeps her afloat is a notebook in which she writes lists and stories about the Everwood, an imaginary place that becomes much more real when Finley steps into the woods behind Hart House. She and some of her cousins start to assume roles – queen, knight, squires – from Finley’s stories, but there’s another family in those woods. The Bailey boys become the Harts’ playmates, the pirates to their royalty, but they are soon forbidden by the Hart grandparents from seeing each other due to some mysterious family feud. Finley’s mental condition worsens – the family sends her to a therapist – as she rebels against her grandparents while also growing quite close to them. Secrets continue to swirl around an arson, an illness, a divorce, a midnight party, and it all comes to a head on a rainy night in the woods. Can the Hart family and their reputation survive a summer in the Everwood?

I liked the book and it was particularly remarkable for its treatment of Finley’s mental illness. This isn’t a problem novel. Her mental illness is not the plot. It’s a complication to her relationship with her family and herself. Her depression and anxiety is not cured or even truly managed in the end, but in the final chapter she acknowledges it to her therapist and family, mercifully avoiding preachiness or an overly dramatic or didactic ending.

Claire Legrand wrote one of my favorite children’s horror books, and this was nothing like it, which is great! While I would love for her to recreate the creeps from her first novel, it’s nice to read a favorite author who stretches their talent to a variety of genres.

Family drama read-alikes

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
As Brave As You
 by Jason Reynolds


Inaugural library displays

One of the part-timers at the library where I’m a children’s librarian moved on to a full-time job in another town, which means I’m no longer at the bottom of the totem pole. Now that I have moved up one rung, I’m getting more responsibility than sitting at the desk, answering reference questions when people decide they need help. Now I get to make the book displays! My first ones, from left to right in the picture below, are:

Firefighters (October is National Fire Prevention Month. Check your smoke alarms!)
Fearless Explorers (Columbus Day was mid-month)
Halloween, of course

I have to admit I felt a little guilty committing an entire display to explorers. I’m old and cynical enough to loathe that we have a holiday for Christopher Columbus who neither discovered North America nor did anything positive for the people he found there. Quite the opposite, just like many of the European explorers who came after him. I threw in some Lewis and Clark and John Wesley Powell books to make myself feel better. And really, why expose the children to my jaded, adult point of view? I’ll let their history teachers take care of that one.