105 Ways to Give a Book

Seeing the First Light

I am beginning to realize that I have a unique view among bloggers on the subject of authors. See, when I read a book that I love, I don’t feel so much of a fan-type awe of the author as I feel like we are new best friends. I like their book, therefore I’ll probably like them and — here’s the leap of faith — they will like me back. With my mindset, I have no trouble approaching the author, though it has led to disappointment when an author doesn’t answer my email, invite me to lunch, or retract the restraining order.

But now I find myself in the position of reviewing a book by an author that I met and liked before I read her book. I met Rebecca Stead at the KidLit Drink Night in NYC, and had a great time talking with her. She also came to DC, and again we had a real connection. I know I’m probably not the best judge of these things, given the first paragraph of this post, but I honestly believe that if we lived in the same area and all that jazz, we’d hang out.

Which brings me to my new theory on this whole blogger/author/reviewer/friend relationship. If I read a book that I love and feel like I’m new best friends with the author because I’ve felt a connection through the subject and writing of the book, then it stands to reason that if I like the author as a person, I will most likely enjoy the book he/she has written because we probably share the style, interests, and humor that will be reflected in the author’s book. (I should note that I can’t proclaim that I would like the writing of every friend, because they may not have a talent for writing. The “published author” part is what gives me something to go by.)

First LightWhich brings me to First Light, by Rebecca Stead.

I was captured by the first sentence: “Most boys his age had never touched paper.” I was hooked by the last two sentences of that prologue, describing a photograph: “And there was something else — a glowing blur behind them. The sun.” I was only on page two and I couldn’t wait to see where this was going.

The story starts with Peter, a twelve-year-old boy living with his mother and father in the city. His mother is a biologist who gets odd headaches that incapacitate her for days. His father studies glaciers, and divides his time between professorial research and adventures on the ice. Or as Peter explains, “It was a little like living with Clark Kent but never once getting to meet Superman.” But one day, his father comes home with an exciting proposal: He has to go to Greenland for fieldwork, and wants to take the family with him. Peter is headed for the adventure of a lifetime, but it turns out to be even more than he could have expected.

In chapters that alternate with those of Peter’s story, the reader is introduced to another world, cold and secluded and distinctly foreign from Peter’s, but the intersection of the two stories is imminent. How and when and why is the mystery for the reader, not if. The two storylines build in tension and expectation, with descriptive writing of both worlds and characters. It was a hard book to put down.

What I liked best about First Light is the focus on the story. Lately everything I’ve been reading has been about the character, about internal conflict, about Issues with the capital letter I. While there are themes of everything from global warming to alienation to matriarchal society contained in the book, the intent seems to be to tell an interesting and well-developed story.

Personally, I think it would be a great classroom read-aloud for fifth/sixth grade, or a great kids’ book club selection. The boy and girl characters — but no lovey stuff — make this a great book for both genders. The story is strong and not issue-driven, but there are various areas that could be interesting discussions. The book is educational in the details offered about arctic exploration, but not boring. And, of interest to classrooms, no s*e*x.

Today I can say, with no qualms, congratulations to Rebecca on the book birthday of First Light, an awesome book! Oh, and, if you don’t mind, get to work on discussion questions before Al Roker calls.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the review!

Rebecca Stead said...

Thank you so much, Motherreader!!!
What a wonderful surprise.

--Rebecca Stead (just waiting by the phone for Al to call . . .).

Gina Ruiz said...


I'm right smack dab in the middle of First Light and you're so right - it's wonderful! I'm loving every sentence of it and will be posting my review of it on AmoxCalli at some point soon.

You have excellent taste in books.


Anonymous said...

This is a really good review , I read this book for a book report that I had to do , and it was really good . I had to do a summary and stuff like that for it . So reading this really helped me , only because I wanted to make sure that what I was saying made sense so I was reading other summaries . :)