Books Read in June 2021

Picture Books

We Wait for the Sun
Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Katie McCabe, Raissa Figueroa
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A moment from Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s childhood beautifully illustrated by Raissa Figueroa

The One Thing You’d Save
Linda Sue Park & Rober Sae-Heng
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A collection of poems written in Sijo—a Korean style—about a class assignment of the one thing students would save from a fire.

I often struggled to follow who was speaking.

Mornings with Monet
Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré
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Learn how Monet painted a series of paintings of the Seine in this very interesting picture book that also gives the flavor of a Monet painting.

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!
Lorna Scobie
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An only-child rabbit gets a bevy of new siblings an must adjust. It took a turn at the end that I wasn’t expecting.

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued
Peter Sis
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Yet another story of the Holocaust. It’s interesting, but gets swallowed up by odd page layouts.

The Lost Package
Richard Ho & Jessica Lanan
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The kind of picture book I adore. Spare words, and tons of details to go back and find. The author’s note tells of his personal appreciation of USPS.

Hello, Rain
Maclear, Chris Turnham
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A lot of great description of rain paired with whimsical illustrations.

We Become Jaguars
Eggars, White
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A boy and his grandmother become jaguars and explore the land around them. Packed with visual delights. Also this sentence: “She laughed like great thunder and I laughed like lesser thunder and we jaguared on.”

Jump at the Sun
Alicia D. Williams and Jacqueline Alcántara
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Picture book biography of Zora Neale Hurston. Great leaping illustrations complement the text.

Middle Grade

The Sea in Winter
Christine Day
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The stakes were low, but middle grade readers who are separated from the thing they love due to injury might feel differently about this story of a girl nursing a knee injury that is keeping her from dancing. It’s also a good chronicle of taking things out on your family.

This book was at the bottom of the to-read pile for a long time because the cover was conveying that this story was set in perhaps Norway, and there would be fairies and ogres and many magical things. Imagine my surprise when I started to read and found out it was a contemporary middle grade set in Seattle and Olympic National Park.

Reem Faruqi
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In this novel in verse, a Pakistani girl comes to the US with her family and finds her new life is improved by swimming.

Pity Party
Kathleen Lane
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This book is chock full-o-fun! Quizzes, short (some very short) stories, ads. All very tongue-in-cheek and aimed at middle school kids feeling awkward.

Young Adult

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
Malinda Lo
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The core of the book, Lily’s story of finding the Telegraph Club and falling in love, is strong and rich with period details.

There’s some backstory that felt like it bogged down the narrative, which is too bad because this is otherwise a solid historical fiction.

That Summer
Sarah Dessen

This is a little clunky, pacing-wise, but does a great job at really drilling into those teenage feelings that happen when everything goes wrong and you are the cause of a large portion of it.

Some things are grounded in the 90s, when this book was written, and best left there. I winced at a description of a minor character: he was as whipped as any man can be.

The Seventh Raven
David Elliott
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Here’s the deal. For about 80% of novels in verse, I think the story would be better served if the author undid their free verse, made them into sentences, added additional sentences to make paragraphs, and then had themselves a novel.

But a small portion of novels in verse I can appreciate, like this one. Elliott uses poetic forms which gave me something to chew on as I read this story of a family of boys transformed into ravens to save their newborn sister.

What We Left Behind
Robin Talley

The fate of happy high school couples as they head off to college is well-known. Usually it’s not a happy ending for the couple. But this sad outcome does provide a lot of plot.

This happy couple also has complicating factors due to genderqueer processing. The book does a great job of exploring the many wedges that are driven between a couple as they head off to college, plus it might be handy to read for older people who are curious about these young people and their discussions of pronouns and gender exploration. It’s also from 2016, so some things might be out of date.

Note that this has a lot of one-star reviews on Goodreads written by people who have problems with how the genderqueer identity was explored.

Lies We Tell Ourselves
Robin Talley

Alternating perspectives of two girls. One is integrating a high school and one is the daughter of the publisher of the town paper who is anti-integration. I had some interesting feelings re: whose story this was to tell. It also got me thinking about some assumptions I have about people who did integrate all-white high schools.

We Are Inevitable
Gayle Forman

I like that Forman has built a YA career with a bunch of books that tell the stories of young people who have graduated high school.

And so it goes with this story of a guy who is going down with the particular sinking ship of a local bookstore run by his family.

The Lady Rogue
Jenn Bennett

Jen Bennett’s excellent skilz of romance-telling take a back seat for a story set in Romania in the 1930s and a particular cursed ring.

It was very fun to see Bennet flex her historical fiction muscles. I haven’t seen them in play since she switched over to YA. Also, I’ve visited the region, so I enjoyed the travel.

Someone Like You
Sarah Dessen

I read this after reading Dessen’s That Summer because the two books were adapted into a movie. Because of that, when I started reading this book, I was supremely confused because nothing about the two books overlapped. Once I let go of my expectations, I found a story that summed up the emotional highs and lows of one of my own high school relationships. Well done!

The movie, by the way, picks parts from each book and combines them. By doing so, a lot of the feelings are lost and we’re left with a middling teen movie.

Grownup Fiction

The Ex Talk
Rachel Lynn Soloman

Well this is fun! Why are there not more romances set at public radio stations?

Shay (to be honest, not my favorite name) is stuck in a stuck-in-life-phase and new reporter Dominic rubs her the wrong way. But when she has a chance to host a local call-in show, she grabs it, even if it means partnering up with Dominic.

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