Books Read in December 2014

The transition of this post from the old blog to the new has been rocky.  So I’m not going to divide this into the usual sections.  I will give top recommends,though.

Picture book: Winter Bees and other Poems from the Cold.
Early Chapter Book: Betsy Tacy (also Betsy, Tacy, Tib)
Middle Readers: Gracefully Grayson, Kind of Like Brothers
YA: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Nonfiction: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
Grownup Fiction: Lean on Pete

If you are only going to read two I recommend Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

Me & Dog
Read for Librarian Book Group

When I read this book, it seemed a so-so effort about a boy and his dog.  However, I totally missed the atheist message the author intended. So this is a children’s book about atheism, but not an obvious children’s book about atheism.

Betsy Tacy
Maude Hart Lovelace

A re-read because I am visiting Minneapolis soon.  Although these actually take place outside of Minneapolis, I’m calling it close enough for a re-read.  I haven’t read this since I was child, and was happy to find a lot of it was quite familiar.  I still long for Tacy’s ringlets.

I’m not a fan of the new covers.  Thank goodness Lois Lenski’s illustrations are still inside.

Lean on Pete
Willy Vlautin
Read for Kenton Library Book Group

I loved this book because it is set in my neighborhood and has a character who wanders all over North Portland for part of the book.  I loved this book because of the depth of feeling and the goodhearted Charley, the fifteen year old boy who just wants school to start so he can play football.  I hated this book because Charlie’s already difficult life got worse and the friendship he had with a racehorse named Lean On Pete was touching, but life was hard for Pete too.  Vlautin locked me in to caring about Charley and Pete and then threw a lot of trouble their way.  The story starts to turn around page 125, but keeps on being hard until the very end.  It’s a good read, but not a happy one.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
Maya Van Wagenen
Read for Librarian Book Group

True story of an eighth grade girl who decides to use a 1951 book written for teenagers as an instruction manual for becoming popular.  This book has so many entry points for discussion, I can’t even begin to sum them up.  The contrast between the 1950s and the 2010s is fascinating, as are the author’s conclusions.  Highly recommended.

The Doubt Factory
Paulo Bacigalupi
Read for Mock Printz

I was pleased to find this book set in present day as I expected another Bacigalupi dystopia.  But no!  This book instead has a taut plot that circles around information and what companies do with it.  I found it to be a good examination of media, truth and what can be done to influence them.   Also, there’s an interesting love story and a family-of-choice thing going on that made this book much more pleasurable than I thought it was going to be.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz
A.S. King

I found myself underwhelmed by Ask the Passengers, the first book I read written by A.S. King.  However, Glory O’Brien was incredible, so I looked up King’s other books.  And this one is also a keeper.  Vera Dietz is simultaneously mourning the overdose death of her best friend Charlie while keeping a hot pot of angry simmering at that same best friend, because he killed their friendship months before he died.  Vera Dietz must manage a full time job as a pizza delivery girl, her senior year of high school and regular visitations by Charlie.  Point of view rockets between Vera, Charlie, her dad, and even the novelty building the Pagoda weighs in now and again.

I was all in anyway, because there were such good pizza restaurant details, but there was just so much to care about here.  It resolves nicely, but also sadly because no matter what happens, her best friend is still dead.  So prepare yourself for that.

A Map of the Known World

Rather unfortunate that I should chose to read this novel right after Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which also features a death of a loved one and the aftermath.  This provoked too much comparison/contrast between the two novels and left this one a bit wanting.  I do enjoy when the arts have the power to heal.  The romance was well developed, though I was a bit iffy about their age difference.  Also, there were points in the book when I wondered why her parents didn’t just call the main character on her cell phone.  So it was clunky in places, but overall a good read.

Everybody See the Ants
A.S. King

More feelings-accessed-through-wacky-things by A.S. King.  In this case, our hero has recurring dreams of rescuing his grandfather, who is a Vietnam POW. And also ants talk to him.  In a very A.S. King way it’s not as wacky as it sounds.  I found the lack of consequences imposed on the bully in this story unbelievable, but other than that, it was a good read.

Gracefully Grayson
Anni Polonsky

Hey!  It’s only the second book with a trans character I’ve ever read! (The first was Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian.)  Greyson is a sixth grade boy who is constantly preoccupied with dreams of dressing in girls’ clothing.  He lives with his aunt, uncle, and two cousins because his parents died when he was in preschool.  Things happens when he tries out for the school play.  There was a great plot twist I didn’t see coming, and all the gender identity stuff is gold.  It’s a middle reader I didn’t have to slog through too!  Aside from the fact that the teacher spent inordinate amounts of time rearranging desks in the classroom (so much attention was repeatedly paid to desk arranging throughout the book I kept wondering why have them all move their desks around when the class next period would need to switch everything all over again) this was a perfect book.  Recommended.

Betsy Tacy Tib
Maud Heart Lovelace

The trio is eight!  I enjoy how Lovelace differentiates between Betsy-Tacy (who seem to be halves of a whole) and Tib, who has her own way of doing things, but Betsy and Tacy love her still.

Raina Telgemier

First crushes and a “tech”-ing a middle school play in this graphic novel.  By the end, I marveled at the play’s production budget.  The students seemed rather advanced for middle school kids, but who am I to judge?  Quick and enjoyable.

Kinda Like Brothers
Coe Booth
Read for Librarian Book Group

You know what I love? When books take me somewhere I don’t usually hang out.  You know what else I love?  Really complex characters, and lots of them.  Other things I love?  Plots that aren’t overly contrived, but full of conundrums.  And also?  Kids in books acting exactly their age.  You know what I don’t usually like? Middle readers.  But this middle reader was great!   I marvel how Booth crammed so much plot into so few pages.

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold
Joyce Sidman
Read for Librarian Book Group

The left-hand page has the poems, the middle is the illustration, the right-hand page has the factual information about the topic. It appealed to both halves of my brain and I actually enjoyed the poems.  Well done.

Three Bears in a Boat
David Soman
Read for Librarian Book Group

The title says it all. And two weeks on, I remember nothing about this picture book.  There was adventure.  And learning.

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling
Lucy Frank
Read for Librarian Book Group

This was not the book in verse to convince me that books written in verse are a good idea.  (The one book that did was Brown Girl Dreaming and thus far, it stands alone.)  I enjoyed the relationship between the two girls staring at the ceiling.  I would have liked to read about it with more words, i.e. prose.  If these books-in-verse were producing excellent verse, I could get on board, or if they were doing something really exciting like a whole story told in sonnets or other poetic forms, I would probably like that better.  But pretty much every book in verse I’ve encountered has been an interesting story ineptly told through so-so free verse.  I wish I could say it was different for this one, but alas, no.

2 thoughts on “Books Read in December 2014”

  1. Adding Popular to my list! Looks like it was a busy reading month for you. I can see why you want to scale back a bit!

  2. Sara Here: I am guessing that the double name business is unnecessary, but I plan for it until we are sure about the naming functions of comments.

    So much reading!!! I got Winter Bees for Christmas. Quite lovely.

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