Books Read in December 2020

Picture Books

I am Every Good Thing
Derrick Barnes
Read for Librarian Book Group

Lyrical and beautifully illustrated.

All He Knew
Helen Frost
Read for Librarian Book Group

Novel in verse with very evocative poems about Henry, a deaf boy who was sent to live at a home for feebleminded children.

I spent the first segment of the book hating it, due to how the children were treated by the attendants. If you are feeling the same do persist as the book takes a turn. It also has me curious to read Down in my Heart, William Stafford’s memoir about his time as a conscientious objector during World War II.

Middle Grade

Some Places More Than Others
Renée Watson

Watson is so great at emotion! Plus, often her books are set or partially set in Portland.

Amara gets intergenerational insights to her family’s relationships when she takes a trip to New York City with her father. Includes a list of things to see in Portland and in NYC, as well as prompts for readers to ask family members about their stories.

(I got this from a Little Free Library and am excited to pass it along to another reader.)

Young Adult

The Whitsun Girls
Carrie Mesrobian

The writing! So good! But this is a hard book to get into. There are two plots–one back in the day maybe mid-1800s? and one modern. The first chapter has five members of an extended family, plus another guy, plus an ex-boyfriend, plus a dead mother, plus a mention of a different guy, plus a reference to a different family, plus a dog named Rusty.

By the end of the first chapter, I had a rough sketch of all the people, but it was touch and go there for a bit. At any rate, Mesrobian, besides being a lyrical writer, is so good at portraying emerging female sexuality. I’d say it’s worth wading through.

The Truth Commission
Susan Juby

A family who revolves around the whims of one of their children. In this case, it’s a talented daughter who draws unflattering portrayals of her mother, father and younger sister, publishes them in graphic novel form and has become famous for them. But the same situation applies to families with a child who has a substance abuse problem, or one with a terminally ill child.

Juby is great at observation and also funny. Plus, there are footnotes.

Charming as a Verb
Ben Philippe

Henri has crafted a way to move through the word as a Black kid on scholarship at his New York City high school. He’s got his sights set on Columbia, runs a dog walking business, and nothing much fazes him until a fellow student and upstairs neighbor calls him out for not being what he seems.

Aside from amazing title, this book was fun on so many levels. At this point, I’m ready to pledge to read all of Ben Philippe’s novels. The first two have been so good!

Another Kind of Cowboy
Susan Juby

Alternating narrator novel about a boy who loves horses (specifically dressage) and a wealthy girl who like plastic horses more than the real thing.

Cemetery Boys
Aiden Thomas
Read for Librarian Book Group

There are parts of this book that scream FIRST NOVEL! Sometimes the writing was such that characters in the room seemed to disappear and reappear when needed, rather than staying present for the entire scene. Other times I wasn’t sure what was going on.

However! This story is an interesting insight into brujx culture (I had to google) and also has a trans Latino character. I’m all for representation, so have a look.

Before the Ever After
Jacqueline Woodson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Woodson is the queen of novels in verse and I suspect her mastery of language inspires a lot of other writers to try their hand at the format, with varying results.

This is a portrait of a family affected by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Grownup Fiction

Nella Larson

Interesting story from 1929 (that I came by because of Jan Wilson’s Goodreads feed) about a Black woman who runs into a childhood friend who is passing for white.

I was reading this the same week I watched Bessie and a week before Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom was released on Netflix. These three things together were a great combo.

Also, read the introduction last to avoid spoilers.

The Golden State
Lydia Kiesling

The minutia of raising a toddler rendered in sparkly prose the likes of which made for enchanting reading.

My library copy was annotated by a previous reader who carefully crossed out both instances of “bring” and wrote “take” in a neat script. This amused me greatly as Kiesling’s style eschews series commas and dialog conventions. Apparently the incorrect usage bring/take was a step too far off the literary fiction grammar path.

Girl Gone Viral
Alisha Rai

Katrina is fine with lusting after her bodyguard while living a pleasant, secluded life she’s built. But then an innocent encounter in a café is turned into a viral series of inaccurate tweets and she escapes with the lusty bodyguard to his family peach farm.

I enjoyed these characters and also felt overall this was a book without a lot of obstacles, which made for pleasant reading.

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