Books read in March 2015

Some good stuff this month.  It’s the rare month when I have more picture book favorites than any other categories.

Favorites:
Picture: Nana in the City, When Otis Courted Mama, Lucky
Middle Readers: nothing blew me away.
YA: Heaven to Betsy, My Most Excellent Year
Grownup Fiction: Bellwether Rhapsody
Young People’s Nonfiction: Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom
 

Picture Books

Nana in the City
Lauren Castillo
Read for librarian book group

Child visits his Nana who has moved to the city and is scared by all the very “city” things about the city.  Luckily, his Nana has a way to help him feel better.  Quite delightful and recommended.

When Otis Courted Mama
Appelt/McElmuny
Read for librarian book group

I felt a great surge of affection for this picture book because it’s just so darn cute.  Who knew that coyotes had to deal with blended families too?

Raindrops Roll
April Pulley Sayer
Read for librarian book group

Very nicely done story of a rainstorm in the garden.

A Fine Dessert
Jenkins/Blackall
Read for librarian book group

See blackberry fool being made over four hundred years.  Great for compare/contrasts purposes.  Also, this book let me know that the “fool” in question is an adaptation from a French word meaning “to squeeze” or “to press.” 

Lucky
David Macintosh
Read for librarian book group

Nicely illustrates the inflation of good news that so many of us experience.

Middle Readers

Mikis and the Donkey
Read for Librarian Book Group
Charming story of a boy on a Greek island and his love for the donkey his grandfather purchases.

YA

Heaven to Betsy
Maud Hart Lovelace

They’ve made it to high school!  And this is when the liking of Betsy-Tacy turns to adoration.  I was telling Matt how these books made the pre-teen me look forward to being a teenager.  I would have a Crowd!  We would ice skate and make fudge and sing along around the piano just like Betsy!  He laughed at this, and okay, so my teenage years weren’t exactly like a fictional heroine from 1907, but I did have a gang of friends and we did ramble from house to house and sure, there wasn’t singing along around a piano, but we sang a lot with the radio and even just a capella.
 

On this re-reading I loved how flawed Betsy was, how she spent most of the year boy-crazy over the tall, dark and handsome fella who only had eyes for her friend. I loved her sadness over leaving her childhood home behind for a brand new, bigger house and I liked how she foolishly squandered a writing opportunity.  She also does some classic adolescent forging of her own path by choosing to leave her family’s Baptist faith and become an Episcopalian.  I found a lot of this book to be very relatable, at least to my own adolescent experience of 20+ years ago.  And the illustrations are wonderful.  So Gibson Girl fantastic!

Betsy in Spite of Herself
Maud Hart Lovelace

The structure of this book isn’t the best.  A great chunk of it is taken up with Betsy’s visit to Milwaukee to visit her friend Tib over Christmas.  If you are interested in German American Milwaukee Wisconsin Christmas Traditions circa 1900 depicted in fiction, this is your book. However, when Betsy comes back, vowing to be dark and mysterious she sets her cap for the rich, auto-driving Phil Brandish and things pick up, lessons are learned, things happen.

My two favorite parts in this book: Betsy asks Julia, her worldly older sister, what Julia does when she wants guys to like her.  Julia’s off-hand response caused a bark of laughter.  There’s also a great passage about what to do if a guy gets too “spoony”.

Bone Gap
Laura Ruby
Read for librarian book group

Come with us to Bone Gap, Illinois, home of two brothers, a bee keeper and her daughter, the Rude brothers. It’s also the former home of Roza, who has disappeared mysteriously.  What has become of Roza?  This and other things kept me turning the page.

Cinder
Marissa Meyer

I like this book, despite wondering on page 44 if “X” happened to be the big plot twist.  And several hundred pages later IT WAS!  Given I rarely figure things out about books, I see that as a sign of weak plotting. Or possibly an editor’s encouragement to make the details more telling.  It’s my new favorite thing to blame editors, though I promise to stop when I finally get one.

The other interesting thing I noted is for how much of the book I refused to believe it was set in futuristic Asia, despite the fact that the city was called New-Beijing. I think my USA-white self just really wants all books to be set in the USA, despite all evidence to the contrary. 

I’m interested in where the next book will take me.

The Bunker Diary
Kevin Brooks
Read for librarian book group

Very visual book of a boy’s time being held captive in a bunker.  Gripping.  A true-to-the-tale (yet ultimately frustrating) ending.

My Most Excellent Year
Steve Kluger

The subtitle is: a novel of love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park.  I would add a secondary subtitle of: (and musical theater!)  This was a fantastic read packed full of three different love stories. It’s about the families you are born to and families you create for yourself.  Every single moment was enjoyable. 

Near the end I started to question just how old these ninth graders were because they talked in very adult voice, and I question why the framing device of seniors in high school writing about their ninth grade year, but  those are small questions.  Overall this is highly recommended.

Graphic Novels for Grownups

We Can Fix It
Jess Fink

Main character uses time travel to attempt to fix her past mistakes.

Grownup Nonfiction

A Short Guide to a Long Life
David Agus

Inspired by Michael Pollen’s Food Rules, this is a book of rules, with each rule followed by three or so pages of why you should follow the rules.  My favorite was “embrace your OCD.”  Meaning, it’s a good thing to be fastidious about hand washing and keeping things clean.

 

Grownup Fiction

Bellweather Rhapsody

Kate Racculia

I’m not sure why this book appeared on my holds list.  I think maybe someone at book group recommended it because it was an Alex Award winner.  Those are the books written for grownups with teenage protagonists.  The teenage protagonists in question are twins who are attending an all-state music festival, the brother Rabbit playing bassoon in the orchestra and the sister Alice for chorus. We also follow the stories of their chaperone, the conductor of the orchestra, and the concierge of the very decrepit hotel.  Also a woman who witnessed a tragic event ten years before. It’s an excellent weaving of stories, very good writing (three passages made it into my Goodreads quotes pages) and it all comes together in an explosion of “Man, I didn’t see that coming at all!” If you were a high school musician, don’t miss out on this book.

Young People’s Nonfiction

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom
Lynda Blackman Lowery
Read for librarian book group

You’ve seen the movie Selma (or perhaps not) now read the story of the youngest person on the march.  Lowery tells her story to the two authors and the book is also illustrated.  It’s a quick read, but yet another reminder of choice people made to fight for rights they should have had all along.

5 thoughts on “Books read in March 2015”

  1. Nice! You rocked it in March. I am excited to read Nana and Fine Dessert! We have them in my library and I just haven’t grabbed them yet.

  2. Nice! You rocked it in March. I am excited to read Nana and Fine Dessert! We have them in my library and I just haven’t grabbed them yet.

  3. You rocked it in March! I am trying commenting from the lap top. Let’s see…

    Nope. Tried it in Chrome. Nope.

    Here’s my comment and in google…
    Nice! You rocked it in March. I am excited to read Nana and Fine Dessert! We have them in my library and I just haven’t grabbed them yet.

  4. I read Kate Racculia’s other book, This Must Be the Place, which, while a different story, seems to have a similar interwoven structure, i.e. it was written from the point of view of both teenagers and adults. I thought her writing was weak for the adults, but really solid for the teenagers.

    My Most Excellent Year sounds delightful!

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