Books read in October 2019

Picture Books

Tallulah the Tooth Fairy
Dr. Tamara Pizzoli & Federico Fabini
Read for Librarian Book Group

Tallulah is a different kind of tooth fairy and we find out about her life in this iconic picture book that I think has much too many big words. Kids will go for the pictures. Adults will go for the concept.

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown
Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacobs
Read for Librarian Book Group

Of note: at the point of reading, the name Margaret Wise Brown meant nothing to me. If I had to guess, it was going to be someone who fought for civil rights in the 1950s. That guess was wrong. I also didn’t know that Margaret Wise Brown wrote The Important Book which would have added to a good base understanding of the structure of this book.

An odd little picture book about the author of Goodnight Moon and other stories. The books establishes Margaret Wise Brown’s uniqueness and also made me quite curious about Anne Carroll Moore, the librarian at the New York Public Library who served as a gatekeeper of children’s books.

Soft illustrations conjure a bygone era. I would have liked more back matter, especially cause of death.

Middle Grade

A Place to Belong
Cynthia Kadohata
Read for Librarian Book Group

Hanako—an American citizen—moves with her family to Japan after spending several years in a concentration camp (the US called them “relocation centers” or “internment camps”) during World War II.

In Japan, she find grandparents who adore her and her brother and she tries to make her way in this new land. Filled with a lot of visual detail and intermittently illustrated with black and white drawings by Julia Kuo, this is a great novel of starting over when that seems like the best of a bunch of bad choices.

Best Friends
Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham
Read for Librarian Book Group

A graphic novel that examines the anxiety and pitfalls of sixth-grade friendships and also the role of girls in the world. It includes good mid-80s details and some good scenes of Lagoon, the amusement park outside of Salt Lake City. It’s also got a pretty awesome fantasy story as written by a very young author, but expertly illustrated.

Very well done!

Young Adult

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph
Brandy Colbert

Brandy Colbert again writes a wonderful novel. In this one, Birdie, a good girl, stretches her wings as she comes of age.

As always, Colbert manages to balance friendships, love interests, parental expectations and her main character’s own interests and wonderings during a summer in Chicago.

How she does this in a brief 325 pager and so regularly is beyond me. If you haven’t checked out her stuff, now’s the time.

Butterfly Yellow
Thanhhà Lai
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s 1981, and Hằ ng has recently arrived in the US. She’s looking for her brother who was lost in one of the last airlifts out of Vietnam at the end of the war.

She sets out on her first day in the country and finds Lee Roy, a recent high school graduate and son of college professors, who wants more than anything to be a real rodeo-riding Cowboy. Together the unlikely pair spend a summer figuring out the world as it is presented to them.

Hằ ng’s English words rendered in Viennese words made for hard reading. Though I liked the idea, in practice I mostly skipped over them and hoped that Lee Roy was going to do some summing up.

Also, this book has a scene with flirting via diagramming sentences, which I LOVED.

Patron Saints of Nothing
Randy Ribay
Read for Librarian Book Group

How many books have I read with Filipino main characters? I suspect it’s close to zero, which is the number that Jay, the main character in this book, has read.

This is a great chronicle of travel to a homeland you’ve never really known. There are current events (President Duterte ) that affect the plot. There’s a lot of loss and sadness, which is always good to explore when boys are main characters.

Neighborhood Girls
Jessie Ann Foley

This book is about female friendship when friends are used as armor, rather than people you deeply care about. There’s also really great Catholic girls’ school stuff and some good commentary about tattoos.

Jessie Ann Foley writes books I want to keep reading, even after they are done.

Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplin

Looking for a zany road trip book? Cool. You might like this. Second question. How do you feel about abortion?

Aside from the complex policies, opinions, and feelings about the big A, this book touches on how we present ourselves to the world, friendships, and actual relationships vs. how people see them.

This was an enjoyable, breezy read. For those of you who like to have the book read before the movie appears, act now. They’ve already cast it.

Grownup Fiction

Dear Emma
Katie Heaney

A detailed chronicle of Harriet, the anonymous writer of Dear Emma, her college newspaper’s advice column, and how she reacts to being ghosted. Depicts a college life of procrastination, not much studying, and is a great portrait of friendships new and old. Also a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.

State of the Union: A Marriage in 10 Parts
Nick Hornby

Ten very brief vignettes of a couple as they meet up in a bar before heading to couple’s therapy.

I continually ran into the problem of not understanding who was talking. Other than that, it was interesting to see the evolution of the marriage.

The Last Thing You Surrender
Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Another great entry into the (extremely large) WWII canon, this one follows several characters from Mobile, Alabama as they do their part to help the war effort.

This novel fully examines the effects Jim Crow had on characters both white and black with many memorable scenes ranging from horrifying to small moments.

I had no idea that one of my favorite newspaper columnist also writes novels and I will look out for his other books.

Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng

Ng’s portrait of two families living in her hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio was exactly the kind of novel I like.

Without using too many words, Ng builds her story on the friendship between Moody—a life-long resident whose family has lived in Shaker Heights for generations—and Pearl, a newcomer. From this friendship we see all that is good about the suburb and how that goodness can have drawbacks.

The 12 Tribes of Hattie
Ayana Mathis

I think my lack of connection to this book comes from the stories being disconnected from each other. I never could see how the family was all together. Even a family tree at the beginning would have helped.

This is one of those books that I only finished because I had nothing else to read.

Young Nonfiction

The Brave Cyclist
Amalia Hoffman, Chiara Fedele
Read for Librarian Book Group

A picture book story of Gino Bartali, a Tour de France winner who used his bicycling skills during WWII to smuggle papers to help Jewish people establish new identities. I appreciate Fedele’s dedication to capturing Bartali’s prominent nose.

2 thoughts on “Books read in October 2019”

  1. No crossover of reads this month. Though Tallulah the Tooth Fairy has been on my TBR for a bit. Oh wait I have also read the MWB biography, too.

    1. Have you read Brandy Colbert? I think you and she would get along nicely. You’d also probably like Dear Emma, if you were in a grownup fiction mood.

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