Books read in December 2019

Picture Books

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
William Steig

Picture books in the late 1960s had so many words!

Sylvester learns to be careful what you wish for.

Freedom Soup
Tami Charles & Jacqueline Alcántara
Read for Librarian Book Group

Belle Learns how to make Freedom Soup, and I have a new New Year’s Day activity to try. Great illustrations.

What Color is Night?
Grant Snider
Read for Librarian Book Group

Grant Snider is an orthodontist by day, but during the early morning hours he wrote an illustrated this look at colors on display when the sun isn’t up. As a person who is up long before the sun for many months of the year, this resonated with me.

I enjoyed both the word usage and the illustrations.

Young Adult

Akweke Emez
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s the future and everything is okay! No one lives in fear because all the monsters (drug abuse, child abuse, violence, etc.) have been vanquished.

But one day a creature appears saying there is still a monster to hunt.

The fable-like quality was distancing and one character’s large family was introduced in a jumble that was hard to follow. Still, the book has an interesting premise, was packed with all sorts of characters outside of the straight/white arena, and was very short, so I kept reading.

Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
Read for Librarian Book Group

A witch & werewolf love story and mystery. Excellent blushing throughout.

The Downstairs Girl
Stacy Lee
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’ve missed a book since Under a Painted Sky, but I’ll have to loop back because Stacy Lee has got the historical fiction thing going on!

Atlanta, late 1800s and Jo Kuan has just lost her job at a millinery shop. I loved the historical details and reading historical fiction from a Chinese-American perspective. I figured out a few things before they happened, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this novel.

“The knowledge that the person to whom I am writing is also writing just one floor above me makes my shadow sit up straighter, and if shadows had smiles, I might see one reflected there.”

13 Doorways, Wolves Behind them All
Laura Ruby
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’m all about books set in orphanages, so that was a win. This book has two main characters, Frankie, the orphan and then also the ghost who checked in on Frankie and others.

Ultimately, while both of the characters’ stories were interesting, weaving them together diluted them and left me less interested in the book as a whole.

The stories didn’t seem to be building to anything even as they both were.

There were great period details and I liked all the characters, so it wasn’t for naught.

Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks
Read for Librarian Book Group

Despite many good experiences with graphic novels, I still approach them with a sigh. I have to look at pictures to find out what’s going on? I can’t just look at text?

However, this was a delightful graphic novel, from the map of the best pumpkin patch in the end papers to the zany last-day-of-work quest that happens within in the pages.

I’ve made a mental note to visit the Omaha area during pumpkin patch season. And I need to make some Frito Pie!

Ordinary Hazards
Nikki Grimes
Read for Librarian Book Group

A memoir in verse about Grimes’ harrowing childhood. I’m glad she made it through and we get the gift of her poems.

It’s also a good reminder to not write off abused and neglected children.

Fun fact: she gave herself the name Nikki.

American Girls
Alison Umminger

A re-read because I was in the mood for a subplot about hanging out on set with twin TV stars and because I love Alison Umminger’s writing so much!

I actually went looking to read her next book, but found she hasn’t yet published one. Hopefully something good is coming soon.

The Fountains of Silence
Ruta Sepetys
Read for Librarian Book Group

This time, Ruta Sepetys takes us to 1950s Spain, where Franco is the dictator. We get the story of David, who is from a wealthy Texas oil family, visiting Madrid with his family, and Ana, who works at the Madrid hotel where David is staying.

As always, Sepetys’s fiction is engrossing and all encompassing, and I felt like I was living in the steamy Madrid summer every time I picked up the book.

Like many people, I only have the barest hint of understanding of what Spain was like under Franco, so this book filled in a lot of gaps. Learning and a good story. That’s what makes Ruta Sepetys so great!

Young Nonfiction

The Women Who Caught the Babies
Eloise Greenfield & Daniel Minter
Read for Librarian Book Group

Some information about African American midwives kicks off the book followed by short poems with gorgeous illustrations.

The photos from the informative first part are from a publicly available documentary that looks interesting.

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace
Ashley Bryan
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ashley Bryan served in World War II with the 502nd Port Battalion which was a part of a Company C, comprised of all Blacks. He still has his letters home, and the sketches and drawings he made during the war.

Together, his memories of the war, the drawings and the sketches, and photographs tell his story of war, which included storming the beach on D-Day.

This is a great first-person account of World War II and should not be missed.

Grownup Nonfiction

Being Mortal
Atul Gawande

Most of us will experience declines in our health and well being before we die. Dr. Gawande thinks we should start talking about this. I agree.

This is a book that is engaging, both in subject matter and in writing style. Let’s start talking about end of life stuff more often. Start today.

Make Time
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

I’m a focused, productive person who likes to see how much more I can focus and be productive. I can see this method would work well for scattered people who would like to become more focused.

The section called Energy was a great addition. It’s always good to be reminded that we’re not just bodies to carry around our brains.

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