Books Read in August 2021

Picture Books

The Old Boat
Jarrett and Jerome Pumphery
Read for Librarian Book Group

An old boat shows us relationships with people and the ocean. Very fun generational through line.

The Museum of Everything
Lynne Rae Perkins
Read for Librarian Book Group

I had a lot of uncanny valley-type feelings—is that an illustration or does it actually exist? This left me uncomfortable, but also intrigued. But mostly uncomfortable.

The concept was so very good, a five-star concept, especially the Museum of Hiding Things page and the Museum of Shadows. But the uncanny valley feelings outweighed the concept. I might page through it again and see if my feelings have changed.

Itty Bitty Kitty Corn
Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham
Read for Librarian Book Group

Despite the Statler and Waldorfing by Parakeet and Gecko, Kitty thinks she might be a unicorn in this sparkly pink and purple book.

Best pages: the endpapers give us a few more Kitty, Gecko, and Parakeet stories.

Watercress
Andrea Wang, Jason Chin
Read for Librarian Book Group

Chin’s perfect illustrations highlight a childhood memory of when one event lead to a bigger story.

Best page: From the depths of the trunk, they unearth a brown paper bag, rusty scissors, and a longing for China.

Keeping the City Going
Brian Floca
Read for Librarian Book Group

A great time capsule of the quarantine, this also has an illustration style that complements the subject.

Best page: the spread of delivery trucks. So much detail!

Middle Grade

The Girl From the Sea
Molly Knox Ostertag
Read for Librarian Book Group

Graphic novel about falling in love and coming out set on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Fans of the Secret of Roan Inish will like this. (And vice versa! Don’t miss out on the Secret of Roan Inish!)

Young Adult

Slingshot
Mercedes Helnwein

A debut novel that I bet has been being written for more than a decade, give its length. It does a thing I hate, which is to have a modern teenager listen only to the music of someone born in 1979 (as the author was.) Very few teenagers listen exclusively to the music of a previous generation, but you wouldn’t know that from some YA novels.

However! The book makes up for this by really diving in on the teenage feelings of anger and obstinance and oh-my-god-I-love-him!

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone
Rachel Lynn Soloman

Twin sisters undergo genetic testing when they turn eighteen to see if they have the gene that will lead them down the same path their mother is living: Huntington’s disease.

Lots of complex sibling feelings!

A Sitting in St. James
Rita Williams-Garcia
Read for Librarian Book Group.

My ire for publishers that shelve novels in the YA section just because their authors have written middle grade and YA in the past continues. The character that this story revolves around is an octogenarian! This is adult fiction through and thorough and should be read by a wide swath of the population. By designating it YA, a bunch of people will never find it.

I thought a lot about Gone with the Wind when reading this. Like most white people living in the twentieth century, I went right along with the depictions of the enslaved people in that book. Williams-Garcia moves the focus of her plantation novel to include the many people who keep the plantation going, though white characters are included.

Raping enslaved girls and women (and some boys and men) is a basic fact of this book. While it’s mentioned in passing, the resulting children make for very complicated emotion and politics in this novel. (Another thing Gone With the Wind tra-la-la’d right past.)

And all that is to say, this is a long, gripping, incredibly rewarding book that gives a full picture of plantation life in Louisiana right before the Civil War. Nearing the end, I hoped for a sequel. How would everyone’s life change with the coming war? But alas, it looks like this is a one-off. Williams-Garcia includes an epilogue summing up the characters’ lives.

Concrete Rose
Angie Thomas

Readers of The Hate U Give will know Maverick as Star’s father. But back in the 90s, he was a teenager figuring things out. Aside from getting to spend time with Big Mav, there is a lot of wondering what it means to be a man. Good stuff!

Curses
Lish McBride

A large cast—thankfully McBride includes a cast of characters in the front—tell a new version of Beauty and the Beast. Solid fairy tale setting with interesting magical things.

Young Nonfiction

Secrets of the Sea
Griffith & Stone
Read for Librarian Book Group

Learn about a nineteenth century pioneering marine biologist. I found some details were confusing. Though she looked much younger, the back matter made it clear that Jeanne Power was in her late thirties at the time most of the illustrations depict.

Delicious!
Julie Larios & Julie Paschkis (sp)
Read for Librarian Book Group

Very short poems about different kinds of street food from around the world. The illustrations were as fun as the poems. I would have liked the back matter to be consistent when explaining the foods.

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry
Paula Yoo
Read for Librarian Book Group

A deep dive into Vincent Chin’s 1982 murder. Yoo’s description of the murder is gripping and she does a great job showing how the crime unified the Asian-American communities. I wish the captions to the pictures did not spoil what was coming in the chapter.

In the Shadow of the Moon
Amy Cherrix
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book begins with a letter from the author arguing that readers should read this book because the subject is still important. It kind of comes off as begging, though I’m sure to children born after the year 2000, the early space program is a very old bit of history.

Cherrix provides us with great details and shows us the differences between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.’s space programs. The book illustrates how having a focused goal and money to back it up leads to success.

Violet & Daisy
Sarah Miller
Read for Librarian Book Group

Miller provides a ton of details about Violet & Daisy, the famous (in the early 20th century) conjoined twins. We follow them from birth to death. Pictures were abundant and details were mostly fully explained (there was a very quick mention of one of the twins having a child that was given up for adoption.)

Grownup Fiction

The Other Miss Bridgerton
Julia Quinn

How to make a kidnapping okay and the kidnapper (a privateer) worth falling for? This book answers that question.

(p.s. Kidnapping is never okay.)

Arcadia
Lauren Goff

I thought I hadn’t read this, though reading the first paragraph reminded me I had. However, I enjoyed it enough the first time, I kept reading and was rewarded with Goff’s excellent descriptions of life on a hippie commune.

The last part is the weakest, but it does, in 2012, center part of that section in the future where it is 2018 and a severe flu is causing problems. It’s quite fun to compare and contrast. Also to realize what was being described in 2012 sounded pretty bad. We had no idea what we were in for.

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