A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff – Review by Katherine Sokolowski
Sometimes it’s hard to trace back my love of an author. With some authors, one book stands out and I know that’s where we “met.” With other authors, I feel as if I’ve always known them through their books. In the case of Lisa Graff, that seems true. How is it that Absolutely Almost has only been in existence for two years? When did I read Thing About Georgie for the first time? Was there a time when I didn’t know it? And then she goes and writes books that are sequels, but not. They are more like companion books. I read Lost in the Sun and fell in love with the characters, only to have a friend mention it was a follow up to Umbrella Summer, which I had somehow missed. What I love about this is that I could read them in the “wrong” order, but still enjoy them just as much. Oh, Lisa Graff, how I adore your writing.
A week ago I was thrilled to see that she had a new book out, A Clatter of Jars. Knowing nothing about it, I settled in a comfy spot on my couch to devour it on a rainy summer day. The book begins with a prologue. We see three characters with some interesting family dynamics, but then the book flashes forward five years. We’ve arrived at Camp Atropos, a summer camp for kids that have a singular “talent.” The children that will be bunking this summer in Cabin Eight are a fascinating bunch. There are two brothers, Renny and Miles, one of which is fair (no talent) and the other can read minds. There are identical twin sisters, Chuck and Ellie, who have a talent they share for identifying frogs. There is a sister, Lily, who should be there with her brother, but something has happened to him.
From the first pages, I was pulled in to the world of Camp Atropos. The world Graff has created is one that you can vividly imagine. You can picture campfires, warm cabins filled with kids, and long summer days. She’s created a multi-dimensional “villain” in the camp director, Jo. While you know from the beginning that the walls of Jo’s office are lined with “talents”, and you know she has somehow taken those talents from others, you also sense a sadness about her and aren’t sure whether she is completely evil or not.
A Clatter of Jars is a companion book to Lisa Graff’s Tangle of Knots. Much like Lost in the Sun and Umbrella Summer, each book can completely stand on their own. I had read Tangle of Knots years ago and didn’t even catch the connection until midway through the book. Once I did, it was a palm to the forehead moment along with a giant smile of recognition.
Through the eyes of alternating characters, we learn about family relationships, special talents, and deepest desires. A Clatter of Jars is a story of friendship, a story of standing up for yourself, and a story of figuring out who you are and where you belong. It is a story of becoming.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for twenty years and currently teaches seventh grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.