Books Read in May 2021

Picture Book

Unspeakable
Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper
Read for Librarian Book Group

A picture book that shows the before and after of Greenwood, Oklahoma, a prosperous town burnt to rubble by white mobs. Descriptions are appropriate for the age the book is aimed at.

Time for Kenny
Brian Pinkney
Read for Librarian Book Group

A picture book with multiple short stories about Kenny and his life. I found that each story began and ended abruptly. The loose style of the artwork was great a capturing movement, but not so great with faces.

Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It)
Carrie Finison and Daniel Wiseman
Read for Librarian Book Group

As we start to come out of quarantine, it’s good to remind yourself that some people aren’t huggers. Like Doug. Alternative are presented.

I am Not a Penguin: A Pangolin’s Lament
Liz Wong
Read for Librarian Book Group

Poor pangolin! He only wants to explain about himself, but all the other animals only want to learn about penguins. But in all the confusion, readers will learn a lot about pangolins.

Milo Imagines the World
Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Milo and his sister are headed somewhere on the subway. While on the train, Milo imagines the lives of those around him.

Mel Fell
Corey R. Taylor
Read for Librarian Book Group

Mel’s decided today’s the day to get out of the tree in this uniquely oriented book.

Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge
Ray Anthony Shepard & Keith Mallett
Read for Librarian Book Group

You know what’s in the historical record? That Ona Judge self-emancipated from George Washington’s household.

Short sentences give a lot of information about Judge’s daily life with the Washingtons.

Middle Grade

Just Like That
Gary D. Schmidt
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An old-fashioned telling of a girl and a boy who are both dealing with loss. Set in the 1960s at a girls boarding school in New England, this book has all the feelings.

Red White and Whole
Jajani Larocca
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Meets all the novel-in-verse standards and feature an Indian American girl balancing her own wishes and her parents’ expectations.

Starfish
Lisa Fipps
Read for Librarian Book Group

A novel in verse about a middle schooler whose large body causes her a lot of trouble, especially from her mother. While body fat is omnipresent, I felt this book leaned too far in the “too much” realm.

Young Adult

The Wide Starlight
Nicole Lesperance
Read for Librarian Book Group

Nordic fairy tales twine with present-day Eli as she searches for her missing mother. This was an interesting premise that felt a bit sloggy.

We Are the Ashes We are the Fire
Joy McCullough
Read for Librarian Book Group

Part story of a young woman mourning the injustice dealt by the justice system after her sister was raped, part long-form poem about a medieval woman.

I confess, I skimmed the poem.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
Crystal Maldonado
Read for Librarian Book Group

Charlie Vega is fat. And also many other things. Maldonado illustrates day-to-day life lived in a large body (it is so hard to shave behind your knees!) and gives us a story of friendship, romance, navigating unsupportive parents, and dealing with grief.

Amber & Clay
Laura Amy Schlitz
Read for Librarian Book Group

While I groaned at the thought of another novel in verse, Schlitz pulled me in by bringing Ancient Greece to life. Telling the story through artifacts was super interesting, and I loved the details about daily life.

The Initial Insult
Mindy McGuinnis

Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is a very short story. I know, because I reread it after reading this novel. I find that Poe’s story lacks detail.

This book updates the bones of the story to present day and adds many layers of detail. It was unsatisfying in different ways, though. I found some of the details (like the secret one character kept) to not be realistic, and it escalated in a way that was overly dramatic. Normally McGinnis’s drama is so very good, but not so for me this time. Plus, the panther spoke in verse. There was much too much verse in the reading lineup this month. (Which isn’t this book’s fault, but didn’t help.)

The Love Curse of Melody McIntire
Robin Talley

Despite my love of live theater and interest in things the stage crew is responsible for (sewing, building things, being persnickety about small details) I never got involved with the drama kids. They were just so obvious about their drama, and I say this as a fairly dramatic person.

So the kids in this were a bit much for me—the superstition just felt silly, and thus the credence given to it felt silly. But I was impressed that Talley balanced a huge (Les Miz size) cast of characters and the many theater details she included were interesting. Though there were multiple mentions of the sitzprobe and I never saw whatever that was happen. (I’ve looked it up, it’s apparently a rehearsal where the singers and the orchestra focus on blending together.)

I also enjoyed how the story was advanced using different devices like that middle section that was all dialog, but totally worked. Given the amount of detail in this story, I assumed the author was a drama kid from birth, but it turns out the details came from a lot of research.

Kate in Waiting
Becky Albertalli

Book two of two set during a musical production put on by a high school. (The first was The Love Curse of Melody McIntire) In this book, it’s a fall musical, which seems to be a thing that exists for plot purposes, as every high school I’ve ever encountered has spring musicals.

Anyhoo, Kate hasn’t yet made it out of the chorus, but she’s hoping that she and her friend Anderson will get some juicy roles in the production of Once Upon a Mattress.

From a plot standpoint, I was amazed at how Albertalli set this up and then sent us off through a delight of things hitting just when they should. It’s also a great friendship book, and has a sweet romance.

Love is a Revolution
Renée Watson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Nala lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin/sister/friend in Harlem. She meets Tye and stretches the truth about herself. From there, we have a great story of a relationship, friendships, and family dynamics that does a great job of exploring the boxes we put ourselves in. And the boxes that others put us in.

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