Books Read in January 2022

Picture Books

The Big Bath House
Kyo Maclear and Gracey Zhang
Read for Librarian Book Group

I, too, would like to go to the big bath house. Great illustrations. Lots of nudity, but not graphic.

Soul Food Sunday
Winston Bingham and C.G. Esperaza
Read for Librarian Book Group

I have some questions. Where are the moms? Why is the boy cooking when the men watch football? Aren’t there any other cousins? Aside from those questions, the language and illustrations are a delight, plus there is a macaroni and cheese recipe with two pounds total of four different kinds of cheese.

¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge!
Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay
Read for Librarian Book Group

Little Lobo takes his new truck to cross the bridge. It is not a quick crossing, but as with all of the ¡Vamos! books, there is much to see.

May Your Life be Deliciosa
Michael Genheart, Loris Lora
Read for Librarian Book Group

Family Christmas Eve tamale making where the grandmother explains how to make and each step is a blessing. Lots of color in the illustrations. Delightful!

A Sky-Blue Bench
Bahram Rahman & Peggy Collins
Read for Librarian Book Group

In Afghanistan, a girl with a helper leg builds a bench so she can sit comfortably in class. Good summation of ramifications of war.

The Me I Choose to Be
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley & Regis Bethencourt
Read for Librarian Book Group

Great rhymes and fun costumes.

A Walk in the Words
Hudson Talbott
Read for Librarian Book Group

A picture book in first person. What a rare thing! Talbot tells his journey of coming to terms with words.

The title is guaranteed to be confused with Bill Bryson’s book.

My City Speaks
Darren Lebeuf and Ashley Barron
Read for Librarian Book Group

Festive cut-paper collage illustrating a girl and her father in the city.

Middle Grade

Born Behind Bars
Padma Venkatraman
Read for Librarian Book Group

A low-stakes middle grade novel. Every obstacle more or less immediately is overcome with little fuss. There are a lot of Mr. Rogers’s helpers to be found in this book.

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
Veera Hiranandani
Read for Librarian Book Group

1960s-set story of a girl who finds writing (the actual producing letters on a paper) hard. At the same time, her older sister is dating a guy on the sly.

A solid historical fiction of family and choices.

Stuntboy: In the Meantime
Jason Reynolds and Raúl the Third
Read for Librarian Book Group

Reynolds’s genus with language sparkles through this not-really-graphic-novel-not quite-novel novel.

Funny word observations and misunderstanding, great illustrations support the story as do differently sized words. I love this book!

A Kind of Spark
Elle McNicoll
Read for Librarian Book Group

Addie is navigating a classroom hostile to her autism and learning about how her Scottish town murdered witches back in the day. Is this a common subject for fourth graders in Scotland?

There’s a great parallel between treatment of witches and treatment today of people who are different, and a very villainous teacher detracting from the narrative.

Young Adult

What Beauty There Is
Cory Anderson
Read for Librarian Book Group

My teenaged self would have probably like this quite a bit. For one thing, it was set in Idaho, the state in which my teenaged self resided. I also was a fan of books about kids who are put into unfair situations.

My adult self found it overwrought. Also, I figured out a plot twist early on.

Ace of Spades
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Read for Librarian Book Group

Starts off a kind of Gossip Girl and morphs into kind of Get Out. This was a good first novel though I think the key plot mechanism falls apart under examination. (This is also a thing I think is true of Get Out, so Àbíké-Íyímídé is in good company.) I’m interested in what she will write next.

Me (Moth)
Amber McBride
Read for Librarian Book Group

A novel in verse about Moth, a teenage girl who was the only survivor of a car accident that killed her family. She’s feeling adrift until she meets Sani. Teenage road trip books are fairly rare, due to a lot of teenagers needing parental permission for things, but this is one of the rare entries.

Humawari House
Harmony Becker

I’m not sure why this is cataloged as a ygn when the main character is 25 and she and all the other people are out of high school.

I enjoyed how the artist would switch up the art style to emphasize different words and feelings in this story of people in early adulthood living in a house in Japan.

The Passing Playbook
Isaac Fitzsimons

Spenser switched schools after receiving a death threat. At his new school he just wants to join the soccer team. There’s a nice little romance tied up in the many factors for Spenser to weigh as he decides if he will come out as trans.

The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks
Mackenzi Lee

This, the third in the series, was a bit harder to get into due to (1) the large gap since I’ve read the other two and (2) Adrian’s anxiety is a hard row to hoe.

But it picks up eventually and provides the same rollicking adventures as the other two books in the series.

Grownup Fiction

The Singer’s Gun
Emily St. John Mandel

This story of Anton’s attempts to live a normal office life was awash in interesting words and description.

Good Talk
Mira Jacob
Read for Everybody Reads

Jacob’s many conversations are illustrated with minimal graphics placed atop photos. This had the effect of pushing the storytelling back to the words, which is what I tend to spend the most time with graphic novels anyway. Very inventive technique.

The conversations run the gamut from funny to sad, and all are well worth your time.

Siri, Who am I?
Sam Tschida

A woman wakes up in the hospital with amnesia and has only her phone to help her remember who she is in this breezy read. (Also: there are footnote! [Sadly, I read this as an e-book, so the footnotes were not as fun as they might have been])

Young Nonfiction

Ambushed! The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield
Gail Jarrow
Read for Librarian Book Group

A big dive into the science of the medical procedures that happened to President Garfield after he was shot and what went very, very wrong. Jarrow is less interested in the mental state of Giteau, his assassin.

This book had a ton of great pictures, letters and dairy entries, newspaper clippings and illustrations. I loved the drawings from nineteenth century magazines, when they had to have artists draw everything because photography wasn’t yet nimble enough to capture scenes.

The one exception was a two-page spread with pictures of eight doctors, but only seven bios. Who was that eighth man? How did such a large error get overlooked? Sadly, this might be the one thing I remember about this book five years from now.

Revolution in our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
Kekla Magoon
Read for Librarian Book Group

Aside from a great layout—I particularly liked the use of blue overlay on black and white photos to make them less old fashioned—this is an engaging history where the author lays out the conditions of Black people in 1960s Oakland and elsewhere. Knowing those conditions, the Black Panthers make a heck of a lot of sense. I’m hoping this will be read far and wide.

Grownup Nonfiction

Unfollow Your Passion
Terri Trespicio

Trespicio provides evidence and writing prompts to help people—probably mostly women—move in a direction that leads to a better life.

Why We Can’t Sleep
Ada Calhoun

As you might guess by the title, I read the bulk of this book in the middle of the night. On the one hand, this is an entire book about Gen X women! Gen X is so often ignored. On the other hand, I didn’t come away with a lot of hope of things getting better.

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