Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

As usual I love to begin my holidays with a good book and for the start of this Summer break I picked out a book I read quite a long time ago. It is one I often recommend to my senior Primary students.

Heartbeat is a verse novel and as I have mentioned in other review of verse novels this genre always seem to pack a very emotional punch.

Annie and her friend Max love to run. For Annie running is a release, a joy, fun! For Max running is a competition, an obsession, the way to forge a new destiny. Being twelve and thirteen their lives are changing. Annie will soon have a new sibling. Heartbeat is a chronicle of the development of the new baby from just a few cells “little tiny cells multiplying every second” through to delivery. At the other end of life, Annie and her parents share their home with her elderly grandfather. He was also once a runner but his life is slowly drawing to a close and his memory is failing. “He says he is falling to bits little pieces stop working each day and his brain is made of scrambled eggs.” These two aspects of Annie’s life lead her to think very deeply about life and relationships.

Max also reminds me
that when I was ten
I suddenly jumped of a swing
and said
‘Why are we here?’

Am I supposed to do something
It doesn’t seem enough
to merely take up space
on this planet
in this country
in this state
in this town
in this family

I do not yet know
what I should be

The other truly special moments in this book come as Annie works on an art project. We have an art room in our Primary school and I would love to think there might be children who treasure this room the way Annie does : “Twice a week at school we have art class with Miss Freely in a room I’d like to live in.” The art project is to draw apples for 100 days. This simple idea provides a beautiful metaphor for the evolution of life Creech explores though this book.

If you enjoyed Don’t breathe a word by Marianne Musgrove and all the books by Sherryl Clarke and Sally Murphy (Pearl verses the world), Heartbeat is even better. Sharon Creech is a master writer of the verse novel. You might also enjoy an old but very special picture book we have in our library called A Rabbit named Harris by Nan Hunt. Take a look at my reviews of Love that Dog and Hate that Cat. (Sharon Creech made a comment about this review and it is one of my proudest blog moments!).

I often muse about the way a book reaches me. Earlier this year a senior student lost our copy of Heartbeat. After quite a long period we purchased a new copy and then about four weeks ago the old copy was unearthed in a different classroom. This original copy is in fairly poor shape so we have withdrawn it from our collection and thus I bought it home to read. My holidays are off to a fabulous start with the reading of this sensitive and affirming story. You can read some notes here by Sharon Creech and an extensive set of questions for teachers who might like to use this book with a class.

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