Books Read in February 2023

Picture Books

From the Tops of Trees
Kao Kalia Yang and Rachel Wada
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A young girl wonders what life outside of her refugee camp in Thailand looks like. Her father climbs a tree with her to show her.

Really great under-cover picture!

Me and the Boss
Michelle Edwards and April Harrison
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Great word choices backed with dreamy and clear illustrations. Casts a bossy older sister in a different light.

Big Dreams, Small Fish
Paula Cohen
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1930’s story of a girl who saw a way to improve her family’s sales methods for gefilte fish.

The Coquíes Still Sing: A Story of Home, Hope, and Rebuilding
Karina Nicole Gonzalez, Krystal Quiles
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Before and aftermath of a hurricane on one girl’s house in Puerto Rico. There were a few confusing pages in the middle.

Daniel Sousa, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson
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Hawaiian story of four healers who transferred their powers to sacred stones and what happened to those stones after that. Also includes mahu—third-gender identity.

The Talk
Alicia D. Williams, Briana Mukodiri Uchendu
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A boy shows readers where he lives and plays as we watch him grow up. His family feels sad as he passes his growth markers because all too soon he will be old enough for the talk. (And he’s not very old when the talk happens.)

Phenomenal AOC
Anika Aldamuy Denise and Loris Lora
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Brief picture book biography of Sandy Ocasio-Cortez. Very bright vibrant illustrations match AOC’s style

Still Dreaming/Seguimos Soñando
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, Magdalena Mora, and Luis Humberto Crosthwaite
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A family packs up and leaves the only place they mother and daughter have known in this tale of repatriation in the 1930s.

Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land
Mirelle Ortega
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A visit to the author’s hometown of Vera Cruz and the magic that is there.

A Land of Books: Dreams of Young Mexihcah Word Painters
Duncan Tonatiuh
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A young girl explains to her brother how her parents make the books that track her culture. Plus an intro into the history of codices.

Where Wonder Grows
Xelena González and Adriana M. Garcia
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I like the idea of a secret garden being used to explore rock collections. The illustrations are grand.

João by a Thread
Roger Mello and Daniel Hahn
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Very pretty two-color illustrations. Kind of existential, like most Batchelder awards.

Nana, Nenek, and Nina
Liza Ferneyhough
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Nina has two grandmas, and we get to see how they are similar and different. I loved both the concept and the illustrations of this book a lot . Unfortunately, the text layout was super confusing for me, a seasoned reader, and I think not ideal for beginning readers.

Early Readers

Fish and Wave
Sergio Ruzzier
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A fish makes friends with a wave in this I Can Read! comic.

Middle Grade

Claribel A. Ortega and Rose Bousamra
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Marlene’s family and classmates have clear ideas of what her hair should look like, and it’s not what her hair looks like without a lot of intervention. I really felt Marlene’s pain and was glad we got to go on a journey so she didn’t stay stuck in that hair realm she was in.

The Real Riley Mayes
Rachel Elliott

Riley isn’t a fan of fifth grade and I can relate. So many things are not going well and Riley is super exuberant and fairly distractible, so that doesn’t help. Hang out with her and see if she can turn her fifth grade year around.

John Cho and Sarah Suk
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Jordan’s mother and father own a liquor store in Koreatown in Los Angeles, and it’s April 28, 1992. When his dad goes to board up the store because of the riots, Jordan tries to make up for a bad thing he did by bringing a gun to his father.

Honestly Elliott
Gillian McDunn
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Elliott loves cooking (NOT baking!) and idolizes a bombastic TV chef. His father and stepmom are having a baby and big changes are afoot. Plus, there’s a big sixth grade project that is made more challenging because of ADHD.

This comes with a recipe for pie, and I’m here to say the gluten-free crust burnt to a crisp. After that, I made the pie with a regular crust. It was odd but good. I would have bought some from Elliott. Though probably more for the kid factor than the taste.

Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War
Mónica Montañés, Eva Sánchez Gómez, and translated by Lawrence Schimel
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A brother and sister report on their time during the Spanish Civil War. I found the language somewhat stilted, possibly because this is a translation.

Celia C. Perez
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This had one plot too many and was much longer than it needed to be. But I enjoyed the explanation of missing bio dads, the New Mexico setting and the fun look at wrestling.

Young Adult

Eight Nights of Flirting
Hannah Reynolds
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It’s a Nantucket-set, big family, winter break romance with a side of “tell me more about that box.” Shara likes Isaac, but feels like she needs flirting lessons from the boy next door, Tyler. And how did that wooden box come to be hidden under the floorboards in the attic?

Scout’s Honor
Lily Anderson
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In Prudence’s world, the Ladybirds are helpful scouts who do service for their communities. They also slay (though banish is the preferred term) interdimensional monsters who feed on sadness, anger, and anxiety.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and this makes for a somewhat heavy lift at the beginning. But Prudence’s story of the summer she went back to the Ladybirds to train new scouts and was able to banish her own personal demons is unique and interesting.

Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling
Elise Bryant

Despite what CW teen dramas would have you think, a goodly number of teenagers aren’t immediately stripping off their clothing to have sex because many of them are still navigating the many uncomfortable feelings that come with being a teenager.

Here is a book where Reggie and Delilah spend a lot of time not getting together because of self-doubt, worries about how they present themselves to others, and how they build a sense self in the world. This was a quite satisfying journey and didn’t sag in the middle as many books that span a year do.

Breathe and County Back from Ten
Natalia Sylvester
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A book about that mermaid attraction in Florida I’ve been interested in for years. But not that mermaid attraction, exactly. Verónica has hip dysplasia and it has scarred her in all ways. Swimming is the place where she feels most herself.

Grownup Fiction

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama
Alison Bechdel

(Goodreads has just reminded me that I read this book in 2012. I didn’t like it so much then. I like it better now.)

Bechdel examines her relationship with her mother and loops in psychoanalyst Winnicott plus her own relationships with her therapists. Nicely done!

Fun Home
Alison Bechdel

It was good to revisit Bechdel’s memoir. She captures the many factions of a person.

Young Nonfiction

Kearney and Rooswood
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Rod’s being a strong man. But is he bringing his full self?

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion
Shannon Stocker and Devon Holzwarth
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After going deaf as a young girl, an audiologist told Evelyn she would never play an instrument. But she did! Words help us understand how Evelyn listens. I would have like to have a picture of Evelyn.

Grownup Nonfiction

Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do
Eve Rodsky

Rodsky proposes a thorough system to shift couples from one person being the captain of all obligations, tasks, and duties leaving the other person to “help.” Is it a complex system? Yes. Is that what’s needed to keep—let’s just say it: women—from wilting under the strain? Probably. Rodsky carefully walks readers through all aspects of the Fair Play game and provides scripts for discussing division of duties with a spouse. The book focuses mainly on couples with children, but the system can be adapted to couples without children.

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