Books read in March 2013

Whew!  A lot of books fiction and non-, and all reading levels this month, thanks to Spring Break.  If you want to check out just my favorites look for Beyond Magenta (nonfiction about transgender youth) Handbook for Dragon Slayers (middle reader that’s full of fun) Rules for Becoming a Legend (novel about a small-town high school basketball sensation and his troubles) and the Warmth of Other Suns (fascinating nonfiction about the great migration of African Americans out of the South to points north and west.)

Young Adult
Insurgent
Veronica Roth
Ah the second book, where the trilogy either comes together or falls completely apart.  It was the latter in this case.  “Really?” I found myself asking multiple times.  I could give you specific examples that would contain spoilers, but I just don’t care that much.

The Port Chicago 50
Steve Sheinkin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Compelling tale of 50 African American Navy men during World War II.  Examines segregation, racism and workplace safety factors.  Well written.  And frustrating.

Charm and Strange
Stephanie Kuehn
Read for Librarian Book Group
I was lukewarm about this winner, especially because it beat out Sex & Violence which was one of my favorite books this/last year.  I found the writing to be claustrophobic, which made me want to keep reading, but I found the back-and-forth between present and past to be confusing and characters weren’t fully developed.  Also, plot points wandered off in places.

Beyond Magenta
Susan Kuklin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Highly recommended!  Interviews with transgender teenagers of all stripes.  Great for educating yourself about how these teenagers navigate adolescence and early adult life, as well as introducing transgender issues.

Middle Reader
Searching for Sarah Rector
Tonya Bolden
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book was confusing, mostly because it tried to tell Sarah Rector’s story, which was interesting. I think the framing device was not right as (this is not really a spoiler) it seems Sarah Rector was never actually missing.  I found it good for details about striking it rich off of oil in Oklahoma, the former slaves of Indians and also the many swindlers who wanted to take the money, but the whole book never gelled.

The Handbook for Dragon Slayers
Merrie Haskell
Read for Librarian Book Group
Great middle reader of a girl (who happens to be a princess) finding her way in the world despite her limitations.  Good setting of somewhat medieval Europe (but with dragons.)  I’ve already recommended to a smart fifth grader who keeps reading YA books I think she would appreciate more in three or four years.  It would also make a nice companion to Amy Timberlake’s One Came Home

Zane and the Hurricane
Rodman Philbrick
Read for Librarian Book Group
Boy from New Hampshire visits his grandmother and gets to battle through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I found this to be gripping and full of rich, vivid detail.  It’s also short, which makes it good for kids who aren’t into the whole book thing.

Grownup
King Lear
Wm. Shakespeare
Ah Shakespeare, how your words don’t move me and instead drive me to a live performance. I wasn’t a fan of Lear, big old meanie, so you can guess how much I liked this.

It occurs to me if someone strung together all my Shakespeare Reviews they would be a prime target for making fun of.  Fear not! I actually enjoy the performances!

Rules for Becoming a Legend
Timothy S. Lane
Our boy Timothy S. Lane has written a firecracker of a book about basketball and small town living and how the two intersect. So maybe you aren’t a fan of basketball?  This book is still for you.  You’ve got three generations of well-written characters to spend time with. You’ve got layers of small-town gossip, rumor and action.  You’ve got a compelling story, not just of basketball, but also relationships and heartbreak and legend.  You’ve also got a great sense of place in “Columbia City” the town standing in for Astoria, Oregon.  Just as Friday Night Lights isn’t just about high school football, and Rudy isn’t just about Notre Dame football and Hoop Dreams isn’t about inner city basketball and The Art of Fielding isn’t just about college baseball, this is about a lot of things besides basketball.  And even if it was just about basketball, it’s so well written, you wouldn’t be too sad if it was.

Hyperbole and a Half
Allie Brosh
The kind of funny that shouldn’t be read on the train because it’s hard to contain your laughter.  I love the internet, because without it, I very much doubt this would have been published in a book.

The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson
Read for Kenton Library Book Group
Much like the book the Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, I groaned at seeing how very large this book was.  And much like the Mitfords, I loved every minute of it.  Wilkerson tracks the great diaspora of African Americans living in the South to all points north.  Demographically, this happened between 1910 and the 1970s.  Wilkerson interviewed over 1200 people who migrated  and her book combines the personal narratives of three people while she sets the stage with historical data and bits and pieces of other people’s stories.  It’s compelling, engrossing, frustrating and heartbreaking. It patiently makes the point, over and over again how we are not a country that gives every citizen a chance to succeed. And it made me wonder how much more successful we would be if we did give everyone the same chance. This book was life changing and I highly recommended it.

Picture Books
Thomas Jefferson: Life Liberty & the Pursuit of Everything
Maira Kalman
Read for Librarian Book Group
She makes pretty pictures.  And she talks about Sally Hemmings in an age appropriate way.

Little Poems for Tiny Ears
Lin Oliver & Tommie dePaola
Read for Librarian Book Group
I loathed these poems.  And the illustrations weren’t my type either.  Way too cutesy.

Baby Bear
Kadir Nelson
Read for Librarian Book Group
Pretty illustrations.  Text was not fabulous.

Hi, Koo
Jon J. Muth (sp)
Read for Librarian Book Group
Eh.  It bugged me his Haiku were not 5-7-5.  I liked the illustrations.  Cute little “find the alphabet game” incorporated in text.

Dream Dog
Lou Berger & David Catrow
Read for Librarian Book Group
The illustrations were very Seussian (though I found the father to be leaning toward a slightly offensive stereotype) and I liked the dream dog.  I was not at all happy with the ending.

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