Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review: Livvie Owen Lived Here


Moving. Again.

Moving is something Livvie Owen is all too familiar with. Her family has moved many times in her fourteen years. Once it was because her parents lost their jobs when the mill closed down. The other moves, however, were for a reason Livvie did not want to think about—her unexpected and disruptive outbursts that caused neighbors to complain and landlords to lose patience.

Livvie’s story started as a NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writers Month) challenge; writers try to write an entire novel during the month of November. Sarah Dooley’s students challenged her to write a novel during NANOWRIMO, and Dooley responded by writing Livvie Owen Lived Here. It is the story of a young girl in a dying mill town who struggles with the effects of autism, and of her family who loves and tries to protect Livvie from danger.

As Livvie struggles to control her impulses and deal with her remorse after she has once again caused problems for her sisters or her parents. She does not mean to cause trouble, but it seems that small things can become insurmountably large and out of her control so quickly that Livvie is caught by surprise over and over again by the results of her decisions and actions. Even reaching into a cabinet to retrieve a favorite cup has unexpected and dire consequences.

Livvie’s story is compelling and well-written, with a strong sense of place. We walk with Livvie and her family down the streets of Nabor (not Neighbor, the town next door) and see the houses, the shut-down mill and the school where Livvie interacts with students who face the world with challenges that are different, but not necessarily worse, than those of other children. Livvie’s acceptance of the differences of her classmates offers food for thought: shouldn’t all children and all adults, for that matter, have the same easy acceptance of each other? How would the world be then?

Sarah Dooley’s work with special needs students informs every word in her book. Dooley has done us the honor of allowing us to see the world through the eyes of children like Livvie, and to experience one family’s life with a special child whose intelligence, logic and humor brightens every page. It’s an eye-opening view.


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