Books Read in December 2021

Picture Books

Make Meatballs Sing
Matthew Burgess, Kara Kramer
Read for Librarian Book Group

A large and colorful depiction of Sister Corita Kent’s life and art.

Best pages: I liked the gas tank pages, as I often saw that landmark when I lived in Boston.

A Boy Named Isamu
James Young
Read for Librarian Book Group

The story begins “If you are a boy named Isamu” and I am not, so it was a rough first few pages. I did like the illustrations of early twentieth century Japan.

Boogie Boogie, Y’all
C.G. Esperanza
Read for Librarian Book Group

A vibrant book, the content of which may be received at varying levels of enjoyment depending on the reader’s view of graffiti. There were some fun fold-out pages.

Zonia’s Rain Forest
Juana Martinez-Neal
Read for Librarian Book Group

Zonia hangs out in her part of the rain forest spending time with the animals. Then she feels sad because of logging. It was a bit of a bummer ending, plus, I’m pretty sure a few of those animals would eat her.

Middle Grade

Sisters of the Neversea
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Read for Librarian Book Group

An excellent example of a really great concept that I didn’t find much fun to read due to the total bummer of reality as presented.

Lots of good identity blended family stuff, though.

The Beatryce Prophecy
Kate DiCamillo, Sophie Blackall
Read for Librarian Book Group

A vague Middle Ages setting for this story of a goat, a monk, a girl, and an orphan. I don’t seem to emotionally attach to DiCamillo novels as others do, and this was no exception. I do love when middle grade fiction (and any fiction, really) has illustrations.

Also, I mentally pronounced it “Beet-rice” throughout the book.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose
Eugene Yelchin
Read for Librarian Book Group

Brief middle grade book about one boy’s life in the USSR under Stalin. Plus, Yelchin’s illustrations, which I love.

Tiny Dancer
Siena Cherson Siegel & Mark Siegel

Siena’s life as a ballet dancer in New York City in the 70s and 80s. There were a lot of great illustrations of dancers. The story was fine.

Young Adult

Full Disclosure
Camryn Garrett

An uneven first novel about an HIV positive girl navigating her first relationship.

This was fine; Camryn Garrett’s Off the Record is really great.

Dhonielle Clayton and many others

The joy of opening a book of short stories by some of my favorite YA authors was compounded exponentially when I realized the stories were interwoven. Such fun!

A Snake Falls to Earth
Darcie Little Badger
Read for Librarian Book Group

Two stories, one set in an alternate present where Texas has good public transportation, and one set in the Reflecting World, where animals have false forms that are human. This was a very well-built world. It was also a very long book, though its length was possibly compounded by my not being the greatest lover of fantasy.

Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things
Margie Fuston
Read for Librarian Book Group

The main character was singularly focused in a way that made her one dimensional in this slog of a book.

Huda F Are You?
Huda Fahmy
Read for Librarian Book Group

Fahmy reflects on her high school days of trying to fit in. This was an engaging and interesting graphic novel, and I’d love to hear more about her and her sisters’ lives.

Young Nonfiction

Fallout: Spies, Superbombs and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown
Steve Sheinkin
Read for Librarian Book Group

Sheinkin works his usual nonfiction magic to teach us about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kind of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin
Stephen Costanza
Read for Librarian Book Group

Intricate and interesting illustrations accompany the story of Scott Joplin. And there are suggested Joplin pieces to listen to in the author note.

The author note also says that Joplin’s father had left the family by the time his mother started looking to purchase a piano, but the illustrated page shows both parents searching out the piano.

Saving American Beach: The biography of African American Environmentalist Mavynee Betsch
Heidi Tylene King and Ekua Holmes
Read for Librarian Book Group

Mavynee Betsch worked awfully hard to save American Beach in Florida.

Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
Brandy Colbert
Read for Librarian Book Group

Unlike Tim Madigen and Hilary Beard’s The Burning, Colbert’s book about the Tulsa Race Massacre is a broader examination of policies and factors across the US that allowed white people to murder Black people and destroy their homes and business without being punished. Her coverage of the massacre is not as blow by blow, but still very informative.

The Woman All Spies Fear
Amy Butler Greenfield
Read for Librarian Book Group

Engrossing story of an early 20th century cryptoanalyst and pioneer of cryptology. Aside from engaging prose that had me reading just one more chapter, the book was a good reminder that if you have someone in your life who takes great photos—in this case, Greenfield’s husband enjoyed photography—your future biography will be the better for it.

Grownup Fiction

The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Man, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito: a Graphic Memoir
Shing Yin Khor

Shing Yin Khor takes a road trip, driving Route 66 while she reflects on her life and the life of the Mother Road.

Swan Garden Has Finally Become Extinct

I’ve wondered for years how this restaurant kept going. It never seemed to have customers. At some point in my North Portland tenure, they added on a room for video poker, and that maybe kept them going? Someone at my gym implied that nefarious activity took place there, and that’s what kept it afloat.

But the Swan Garden is no longer occupied. It’s up for sale and will, I’m guessing, soon be replaced by a multi-unit. I wonder if it will include parking. There’s a parking lot behind.

(Nearly) a Year of Neighborhood 5Ks

Matt and I made a plan to do a neighborhood 5K on the fourth Saturday of every month in 2021. It didn’t end up like it started. The walk/run 5K gave way to a walking 5K probably around June. And Matt wasn’t always present. In July, my mom was in the hospital and it was right before the wedding, so I missed that one. But the 11 other months? I did that 5K.

In this case, I put on my hiking shoes, because we had some icy snow.

And that got me to my latest badge! I’m not doing this challenge again in 2022, because I’d like to branch out to other exercise, but this was a good motivator for 2021.

Finished Kiriki Sampler: Knit Sweater

I love Kiriki’s different samplers and especially love this knit sweater one. I bought the kit with my birthday money. And now I have finished it.

It didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it to. That cretan stitch was hard, as was the spider stitch. I learned that I should practice new stitches elsewhere before I stitch them on the main event.

Here’s what it should have looked like:

Christmas Prep

I feel pretty overwhelmed and unmotivated this Christmas season. My family is doing stockings only, and I’m glad my to-do list is minimal. I remembered this chocolate covered popcorn that a family at the Emerson School used to give the office staff each year. It was delicious and one year I asked the child who gave it to me how they made it. Here’s the recipe: Buy a bag or two of popcorn. (This is two bags. You can, of course, pop the popcorn, but see above re: unmotivated. Things I learned: though easy, bagged popcorn is very expensive in comparison to popping your own.) Melt chocolate chips. (This is one bag of milk chocolate chips and one bag of white chocolate chips.) Drizzle. Let set. Divide. Eat bits while you are divvying it up.

I also made these cherry pistachio cookies with dark chocolate. Mostly because I was trying to decide between a few cookies and Matt caught on to what I was doing and enthusiastically championed this cookie. So everyone who liked these can thank Matt.