Books Read in February 2020

Young Adult

This is My Brain in Love
I.W. Gregorio
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book gets all up in the emotions of its two protagonists. It’s also a solid love story with realistic complications. Win!

Just Patty
Jean Webster

Given that for my first 21 years, I was called Patty, I grabbed this Little Free Library find for the title. I found a delightful collection of stories about three friends attending St. Ursula’s, a progressive girls boarding school.

The book was published in 1911, and my copy was from 1911, so I got to delight in typography that has gone out of fashion (so many spaces!) and also thick paper and illustrations. I wonder if Maud Hart Lovelace was inspired by this book when she wrote her Betsy-Tacy series?

Given its age, there are surprisingly few moments to wince at. A chapter about the Irish-American family next door with oodles of children and a father that drinks too much was firmly ensconced in stereotype. And there’s another chapter where the girls dress as “gypsies” and are very mysterious. But other than that, it was teenagers being teenagers, back before they called them teenagers.

I’ll see if I can track down the other book Jean Webster wrote featuring Patty.

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come
Mildred D. Taylor
Read for Librarian Book Group

Just as long as its title suggests, this meander of a story is not a young adult book. The main character is finished with college, for gosh sakes, and the book covers her 20s and 30s.

This is a (kinda) character-driven novel, but mostly it takes many asides so the author can explain who a historical figure is or give us details about a historical event. There was no reason for it to end when it did or to go on for as long as it did.

I gather that this continues the story of a character or characters in books I haven’t read. Perhaps it would have been a more satisfying read from that standpoint. As it was, this was a long slog.

Everything Sad is Untrue
Daniel Nayeri
Read for Librarian Book Group

A YA book* destined to be shelved in the wrong area and never found by the readers who need it the most, Nayeri’s tale of life in America and Iran dazzles with matter-of-fact recounting.

*Just because the narrator is twelve doesn’t mean it belongs in the middle grade section! The themes are too mature for middle grade readers! This means that most kids who do find this book won’t be old enough for it, and older teenagers will pass it by.

They Went Left
Monica Hesse
Read for Librarian Book Group

We know many stories of the people imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II, but what happened after?

Zophia’s quest to find her brother sheds light on one story.

If These Wings Could Fly
Kyrie McCauley
Read for Librarian Book Group

As a resident of a town where crows have flocked, I loved how McCauley wove the birds’ appearance with the escalating abusive situation in this novel. I found the magical realism to be less successful.

It was nice to see toxic masculinity defeated by something other than toxic masculinity.

Never Look Back
Lilliam Rivera
Read for Librarian Book Group

Duel narrator retelling of a myth I’m not overly familiar with Great magical realism elements.

Tracy Deonn
Read for Librarian Book Group

When a fantasy novel can capture this reluctant fantasy reader, you know it was written by a gifted author. Bree’s discovery of odd things afoot at her Early College program is just the beginning of a wild ride. I’m looking forward to a big long series about her journey.

There’s a small Twilight callout that had me chuckling.

Young Nonfiction

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom.
Carole Boston Weatherford & Michele Wood
Read for Librarian Book Group

Poetry and pictures bio of the enslaved man who mailed himself to freedom.

How We Got to the Moon
John Rocco
Read for Librarian Book Group

Having lived in the long, long shadow of the baby boomers for more than four decades, I felt I had absorbed more than enough about the moon landing. But then: this book.

John Rocco looks at the cornucopia of problems the US needed to solve to get to the moon and he lays out a solution for each problem. His big picture viewpoint highlights many people behind the scenes including the seamstresses who made the parachutes that deployed after the astronauts reentered earth’s atmosphere.

Rocco uses illustrations rather than photographs, and I thought this was a brilliant decision. The illustrations convey the many small details about the bits and bobs of the infrastructure that was part of the US Space Program. Highly recommended.

The Cat I Never Named
Anna Sabic-el-Rayes with Laura L. Sullivan
Read for Librarian Book Group

Like most of the rest of the world, I didn’t pay much attention to the war happening in what we used to call the former Yugoslavia. Even though I knew two people from the area. So it is a gift to have Anna’s story of her time in the Bosnian town of Bihać during the war.

The horrors of the war are not glossed over, but they aren’t so explicit that a reader will check out. The humanity of everyone involved is shown again and again.

Catherine’s War
Julia Billet & Claire Fowel
Read for Librarian Book Group

A graphic novel about one of the many Jewish children hidden in plain sight in Vichy France.

Itzak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin
Tracy Newman & Abigail Halpin
Read for Librarian Book Group

Picture book that caused me to wonder if this is the only picture book I’ve seen depicting a child with polio.

I liked the colors.

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