Recent Reviews for Lyda Phillips
Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River (Book) - 10/13/2006 9:09:42 AM|
Don't expect this book to have anything to do with hymns, despite the title, which refers to a song the teenagers sing at a girls' camp. The story surrounds a group of counselors who get distracted from their usual repertoire of pot, boys, sex, hazing, and clique rivalry by a new camper who has problems that may be a bit overwhelming for the high-school-age camp leaders. Ms. Phillips has brought together a cadre of timeless characters full of inner angst and childish plots. You will finish the last page, still wondering about the mystery.
Mr. Touchdown (Book) - 10/13/2006 8:43:32 AM
Anyone who enjoyed the movie, Remember the Titans, will like Mr. Touchdown, a fictional account of the first black student's indoctrination into an all-white high school in Memphis in 1965 via the football team. A local minister makes the difficult decision to support the NAACP by volunteering his own kids to integrate Forrest High. Eddie Russell has been an unequivocal star athlete at his high school on the wrong side of town. This is the story of his rise to a similar occasion at his new school, one that is not too excited about his presence, even with its losing football team. Lyda Phillips proves that cheerleaders and Bob Dylan song lyrics complement each other in her debut novel for young adult readers.
Mr. Touchdown (Book) - 5/30/2006 4:00:44 AM
Mr. Touchdown offers the reader a peek into the turmoil facing many students, black and white, during 1965 as they face changes in their lives when the law demanded that the schools be desegregated. Athletes, straight a students none of that matters, everyone knows –they- are dirty, they cheat and they can’t compete with white students. Everyone knows –they- are bigots, hate everyone not white and have no compassion. Facing anger and outright hatred of many of the teaching staff as well as fellow students is something few of us can honestly say we have experienced. Integration forced black and white to look within themselves and find the commonality of humankind…. It was not always an easy struggle. Writer Phillips has well portrayed the struggle for black and white alike as they come to understanding of themselves, social mores of the time and change in society.
Read full review AuthorsDen : mj hollingshead as article Mr Touchdown
Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River (Book) - 4/30/2006 2:42:01 PM
With Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River, Lyda Phillips proves that her recent novel, Mr. Touchdown, was no fluke. As crisp and wise and well-written as Mr. Touchdown, Peace I Ask of Thee also probes disturbing themes, weaving them in and through the comforting rhythms of everyday life.
In fact, the rhythm of life at Camp Nichia is one of the reasons El Campbell had spent all of her childhood summers there. Now that she was finally a counselor, it was her turn to teach new campers about Nichia’s traditions and rituals, contests and classes, how cabins were assigned and friends were made… In other words, it was going to be the perfect end-of-childhood summer.
But it wasn’t. Something happened, and instead of El changing her young charges’ lives, one of them changes hers.
A wealthy, powerful family deposits their troubled daughter, Tiffin, at the camp, and El’s summer of perfection turns into an ongoing confrontation with one very angry, very unhappy young girl. It’s not just that Tiffin won’t cooperate with any of the rituals and traditions – which she won’t – it’s that she’s weird! Really, deeply strange. So sometimes it’s easier to just leave her alone. And that’s exactly what El and the other girls do. Whenever possible.
Eventually, El’s unexamined, adolescent contempt for anybody different gives way to concern for her disturbed young charge. From that point on, she is in a race against time…trying to wake herself up from the soothing comforts of the cozily familiar, and see what is.
Once again, Phillips has given us a strong young voice. Described as a “normal, healthy teenager,” El finds herself dealing with things she doesn’t understand, doesn’t want, and can’t ignore. Hers is the heroine’s journey -- down, down, into the depths of her own soul; to make sense of madness, to find meaning at the heart of chaos.
And best of all, the author takes us on that journey, without giving up one bit of the fun and romance and silliness and boredom, and the wonder of one’s 18th summer. The tastes and sounds and smells of camp… songs and chores… goofy traditions…and the sweetness of a first summer love… Phillips’ obvious love of nature, combined with her exceptional gift for description, let us hike and swim and shoot the rapids right along with El and her friends.
This wonderful story, with its fast-moving plot and engaging characters, will be thought-provoking for readers of any age. It tackles such tough topics as mental illness and the cruelty often displayed by groups against individuals it fears, and it does so in a richly detailed, multi-textured world, as vibrantly alive to the reader as it is to El and her fellow campers.
Mr. Touchdown (Book) - 2/6/2006 8:04:44 PM
Star athlete Eddie, his sister, Lakeesha, and two other “Negro” students, hand-picked to enter an all-white high school, are swept into the very heart of the civil rights movement in Memphis, 1965.
Chosen to integrate Forrest High by the NAACP – and his father -- we follow high school junior, Eddie Russell, as he encounters the viciousness of certain white students – the coldness of others – and grapples with the sheer unfairness of leaving his friends and teammates to come to this hostile and dangerous environment. But we also follow Eddie into his own heart, as he struggles to, in his father’s words: “…look into the soul of your enemies and find in them something to love.”
The richness of this wonderful book, however, doesn’t arise simply from its depiction of Eddie and the other black students as they enter a strange new world; we also experience that world as old and familiar, through our other narrator -- popular, white, Forrest High cheerleader, Nancy Martin.
Nancy is smart and confident and just beginning to notice a few teeny, tiny fractures on the fault lines between her and her best friends. Her dreams are changing – expanding – catapulting her to New York and Paris, while theirs are still centered around getting married and settling down. But when it comes to the dreaded integration, Nancy hates the idea just as much as they do. At first, anyway. Because pretty soon, she can’t ignore the indignities and humiliations meted out to Eddie and the others. And when the attacks become physical… That’s got to be more wrong than integration… Doesn’t it?
It’s in the interplay of these two characters – solitary, stoical Eddie and impulsive, inquisitive Nancy, that the book becomes bigger and deeper and compellingly human.
Mr. Touchdown is a terrific read. Using vibrantly descriptive language, Lyda Phillips creates a living world of shop class and gym teachers, pep rallies and pompoms, and pulls us right into it. Middle-school students and even their older brothers and sisters will enjoy the breezy dialogue, fast-moving plot, and genuinely shocking twists and turns. Rooting her story of radical social change in the familiar routines of high school, the author gives us a book that never abandons its characters, and it succeeds as both social commentary and adolescent rite-of-passage.
It’s also a warm and big-hearted book that honors each of its central characters, without robbing them of their flaws and rough spots. It celebrates the unimaginable courage of Eddie and, by extension, all the boys and girls who made history as they dragged an entire nation into becoming better than it was. And it also acknowledges the decency and grit of the Nancy Martins who witnessed that history, first-hand. And played their own small role in it. And grew up to write it down for the rest of us.