Books Read in March 2020

Picture Books

The Grizzly Mother
Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) & Natasha Donovan
Read for Librarian Book Group

A grizzly mother and her two cubs show us their life cycle. I found the abrupt jumps in time disorienting, but the subject matter interesting.

The Book Hog
Greg Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group

Officially a story about a hog who loves books. I wonder if there is a hidden (or obvious) commentary about American practices of acquiring excessive amounts of things when we can’t take full enjoyment from them.

Flubby is Not a Good Pet!
J.E. Morris
Read for Librarian Book Group

Our narrator compares a cat to other pets and finds he comes up short. Right up to the realization of what, exactly, makes Flubby a good pet.

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Sonia Sotomayor, Rafael López
Read for Librarian Book Group

Sonia and her friends plant a garden and talk about the things they need to do to live and thrive, or things that help them live and thrive.

There were a lot of words for a picture book. Perhaps too many? It was fun to pick out the different children on different pages of the book.

Bilal Cooks Daal
Aisha Saeed & Anoosha Syed
Read for Librarian Book Group

Bilal and his friends learn about daal. There is a recipe at the end of the book, thankfully.

It seems like Bilal livers in a lovely neighborhood chock full of friends and things to do.

Chick and Brain: Smell My Feet
CeCe Bell
Read for Librarian Book Group

Chick is insufferable, trying to get Brain to say please, thank you, and other niceties.

I found this book tedious for that reason and for Brain/Brian confusion.

However, I am not six. Were I, I probably would have found this funny.

Birdsong
Julie Flett
Read for Librarian Book Group

A year in the life of a girl and her elderly neighbor. Soft illustrations

Do Fish Sleep
Jens Raschke & Jens Rassmus
Read for Librarian Book Group

A brief book about the death of a younger brother translated from the German.

Raven Makes the Aleutians
Sealaksa Heritige/Janine Gibbons
Read for Librarian Book Group

Rarely does a picture book feel like I am sitting in a room with a storyteller. This one did. The illustrations are beautiful and I’m curious from the introductory note about the raven stories that are inappropriate for children.

Middle Grade

This Promise of Change
Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Read for Librarian Book Group

Most novels in verse I tolerate the verse to get to the story. This novel in verse I enjoyed the verse! Plus, it illuminated a mostly forgotten integration effort. I really enjoyed the back matter and the author’s note.

I’m Ok
Patti Kim
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ok’s father has died and things aren’t great. But Ok has a plan to help his mom and make more money.

I loved Ok and I love this story. One of my favorite characters this year.

Prairie Lotus
Linda Sue Park
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For everyone who loved the Little House books and yet now find them problematic for a number of reasons.

Hanna arrives with her father in Dakota Territory, but faces ostracism for her half-Chinese, half-white background. She’s got some plans though: graduate high school, and turn her father’s dress goods store into a dressmaking shop.

All the flavor of the Dakota Territory, but with bonus content about fitting in and finding your place when so many don’t want you to have a place.

I’d love a sequel.

Snapdragon
Kat Leyh
Read for Librarian Book Group

This started as a so-so graphic novel, but the story morphed more than once to directions I didn’t see coming that also felt organic.

I love when kids find their niche, especially when it’s an odd niche.

Young Adult

Hearts Unbroken
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Read for Librarian Book Group

Lou Wolfe breaks up with her boyfriend when he disrespects Native people. With time on her hands, she joins the school paper. There, she pitches stories and becomes part of a story when color-blind casting is applied to the school musicals and her brother is cast as the Tin Man.

Stuff happened in this book, but I felt so removed emotionally, it was hard to care. I would have liked to feel closer to the character, but it seemed she was keeping me at arms length.

Apple in the Middle
Dawn Quigley
Read for Librarian Book Group

Reasons this book needs a copyeditor:

  • Grandfather served in WWII
  • Grandfather is in his 60s
  • The book is set in approximately 2002
  • This makes Grandpa about two years old when serving in WWII
  • Mom graduated high school in 1988
  • Mom had Lief Garrett posters in her room
  • Leif Garret was not popular in the 70s, not the 80s
  • Mom was born in 1968
  • This makes mom 20 when she graduated high school even though she was “very smart”
  • House depicted as being on a long, gravel road
  • House has alley behind it with another house on the other side of the alley. This doesn’t fit any framework I’ve experienced when getting to a house on a long, graveled road.

In matters of style, the voice of this character felt like a 10–12-year-old, not someone in high school.

A lot of the writing is very conversational—many parenthetical asides and talking to the reader. This makes the book feel very unsophisticated and increased my dislike which is too bad, because I’m interested in the story’s framework of a girl who had not been exposed to her Native American heritage.

Also, her grandparents dialog was great, but got lost by Apple’s chatter.

I’m glad the North Dakota State University Press is recognizing contemporary indigenous voices. It would also be good if they employed some basic publishing standards such as a thorough copyedit, and possibly a better developmental and line edit.

I Can Make this Promise
Christine Day
Read for Librarian Book Group

Edie is half Native American, but it’s not something that is a part of her life. Things happen over the summer to change things up.

After the big reveal, I had a hard time believing that Edie’s mother would have distanced herself for all those years.

Red Hood
Elana K. Arnold

Things I never see in books:

  • Discussions of menstruation
  • Women fending off attackers

Bisou has a solitary and quiet life. Then one night she is attacked in the woods by a wolf.

Everything changes.

Elana K. Arnold excels at writing about women in contemporary society, even when she’s writing about other things.

Every Other Weekend
Abigail Johnson

An alternating perspective novel about two kids whose friendship grows over the course of the weekends they spend with their divorced and separated parents.

Nicely done!

When the Stars Lead to You
Ronni Davis

This is a relationship book that doesn’t follow the usual trajectory. I could have done without the filthy rich protagonist, but enjoyed the complexity of the romance.

The Voting Booth
Brandy Colbert

This continues Brandy Colbert’s streak of darn good YA novels. In this book we spend a single day with two teenagers trying to vote in their first election. It’s not an easy thing to do.

In Oregon, where we vote by mail, this would have been a few sentences, not a novel. I guess we can thank the country’s inefficient voting process for the inspiration. But I’d rather just have people be able to vote with little muss and fuss.

Grownup Fiction

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital
Lorrie Moore

This was one of those slim volumes of prose where I puzzled if it became a national bestseller without people reading it. The writing was good, but I was reminded how navel-gazing fiction for adults comes across. (Not well.)

Young Nonfiction

All in a Drop
Lori Alexander Vivien Mildenberger
Read for Librarian Book Group

A run-of-the-mill man develops a microscope. I especially loved seeing the microscopes.

Call to Action Via Sign

I enjoy a good homemade sign and the Kenton neighborhood is not immune to the occasional entry.

Here’s one outside an apartment complex.

I wonder if a country-wide medical emergency will be the thing that finally divorces access to healthcare from job status.

My guess is that it won’t due to the fact that political donations are what run our political system. But it should.

Coronavirus solved via postcard

Look what arrived in my mailbox today!

Things I enjoy about this postcard:

  • That it’s not just the US Government’s response, but one person’s response
  • Lack of national response (listen to your state and local authorities)
  • Telling people to stay home from work, without giving guidance about how to pay expenses accrued when not working.
  • The expense to mail a postcard to every household in the country

Last Days for Sentinel’s Lump (aka the “ewww, gross! post)

Sentinel has had a growing lump on the side of his neck since last fall. I had it biopsied a few months ago when it wasn’t nearly this size and it came back as not cancerous, so I left it, hoping it would stay small.

But it got a lot bigger. It also, much to the vet’s interest, was a two parter, with one dark black part and another lighter part.

I’ve got one more paycheck coming from my soon-to-be-over job and a big chunk of it is going toward taking this sucker off of the cat. I think it will be money well spent.

I had to get a special dispensation because of the quarantine. The vet’s office was only doing essential surgeries.

Update from the future. The lump was removed, biopsied to find again it was not cancerous, and has not (seven months later) made a reappearance. It was money well spent.

My Workstation Through the End of the Month

Though my job will end, there is still work to do. My computer is a laptop, but in order to be efficient with my work I use two additional monitors, plus a full-sized keyboard and a wired mouse. I hauled all those things home, plus my office chair.

Then, to get my keyboard to the correct height I propped up the dining room table on some bed lifter things I got from Ikea years ago.

When I’m done with work for the day Matt and I lift up the table and kick aside the supports, then gently set the whole operation down.

Hauling Home the Things

Yesterday, we were told that due to the pandemic, the entire office would be laid off at the end of the month. In the meantime, we would be working from home. I’d already brought things home, but I went back to grab all those personal items that live at work. Here’s my thermos I put my tea in each morning (so I can get more tea out of one tea bag) my water bottle, my shrug, and a picture of Portland that Sara sent me.

I’ve also got my work laptop in that bag. I think it was because I went in to write checks, so I had to haul it there and then back home again.