Books Read in September 2020

Picture Books

Baloney and Friends
Greg Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group

Three short tales for young readers about Baloney and friends. Plus three comics, plus instructions of how to draw Baloney and his friends.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Suzanne Slade

A picture book about Gwendolyn Brooks’ early life and her career as a poet. The words and illustrations combine to convey how her neighborhood shaped her poetry. I read this on a tiny screen, and lost some detail, alas.

Up on Bob
Mary Sullivan

Bob, a dachshund has a job. It’s hard work, but he’s happy to do it.

I laughed and laughed, as will anyone with pets who like to arrange their surroundings just so.

Middle Grade

Brave Like That
Lindsay Stoddard
Read for Librarian Book Group

Let’s deal with the not-great first. There was a glaring date typo (In 1789 there were no banks to rob in Northfield Minnesota as the town was founded in 1855) plus everything in town was within walking distance. I’ve lived in a town smaller than Northfield and while things were close by, not everything was that close.

But one of the weirdest thing about this story was the reaction to the woman who joined the fire station. One of the firefighters could not wrap his head around the thought of a woman fire fighter so much so that I wondered if this book was set in the 1970s. It was not. While I understand that there is probably still pushback to women serving as firefighters, in 2020 the idea that there are women firefighters is not a foreign one.

Aside from those things, I really liked this novel. It’s great at depicting the churning emotions on tap when a child doesn’t love the thing a parent loves. There was a ton of nuanced and complicated emotion in this novel.

Fighting Words
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Read for Librarian Book Group

Amazing main character alert! Della is plainspoken and funny and will pull you right into her story of life in the foster care system Which so far is better than life before foster care.

I loved her foster mother who embodied that matter-of-fact caretaking vibe. There were also some really great post-trauma sequences.

Young Adult

Not Your #Lovestory
Sonia Hartel

Great setup. An aspiring YouTuber who deconstructs romantic comedies finds herself unwittingly cast onto a viral social media romance that didn’t happen. Solid stakes and great depiction of life lived on the edge of poverty.

Up to this Pointe
Jennifer Longo

What do ballet and Antarctica have in common? In this case, the two have Harper in common. She’s one of three teenagers picked to spend the winter in Antarctica after her ballet career—the one thing she’s been working towards for years—never gets off the ground.

Alternating timelines tell the tale of now and then.

This is My America
Kim Johnson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Amazing, and a great example of why we need diverse books. The whole time I was reading I wondering how many amazing stories we’d missed all that time because of #publishingsowhite. (It still is, but books like these are finally starting to be published regularly.)

This is a mystery, a chronicle of the family of an innocent man on death row, plus it deals with police brutality and knowing your rights. There’s also a love triangle and a crackerjack plot!

Mike Curato
Read for Librarian Book Group

Flamer is a graphic novel about summer camp that is full of adolescent boy things in a way that drives home how hard it is to be an adolescent boy. The color scheme captures that camp and campfire feel.

It also brought back memories of the racist chorus of Boom Chick a Boom we used to say (sing?) at Girl Scouts in elementary school. I’m glad that that one didn’t resurface. We totally did the Valley Girl one, though. I’m glad to see it’s still around.

The Beauty that Remains
Ashley Woodfolk

This was an ambitious first book. Three main characters, each mourning the death of a friend, sister or ex-boyfriend. All three characters have friends who are tangentially connected, and it was a lot of people to keep track of.

If you are up for the challenge, there’s great stuff about loss and also music.

All Our Worst Ideas
Vickey Skinner

This would have been a serviceable YA romance, except for the lack of attention to a legion of details. As they piled up, my annoyance increased.

A record shop in Kansas City that is open until 11pm on weeknights and does enough business to employ three people all the way until closing? A rear ending that causes the driver to break his arm, but only does a little damage to the bumper? A character who never attended homecoming, even though she had a boyfriend during at least one homecoming? Just how big is this stockroom and why is there so much to do back there that it can fill a full shift? Someone can get a zero on a test and still make valedictorian?

Not to mention that one of the characters is a total asshat whose activities never seem to be fully reckoned with.

This was a shoddy effort that left me feeling angry.

Today Tonight Tomorrow
Rachel Lynn Solomon
Read for Librarian Book Group???

This was the second book in a row where the main character MUST be the valedictorian.

I liked this treasure hunt/adventure story, and enjoyed that it was pro romance novel. It was predictable from the first page and I also found the acrimony of the two leads to be off putting for the first part of the book. That part was a bit of a slog.

But this is a very fun Seattle book and would pair nicely with I am Princess X by Cherie Priest.

(A fun thing! I couldn’t remember the Princess X book title, so I googled “ya book seattle comics mystery missing friend” and the book was the second search result! I love when the search engines work!)

Blood Moon
Lucy Cuthew

2020, the year when books about menstruation really started flowing through the publishing pipeline.

This novel in verse covers a friendship hitting a rocky point plus that thing that half the population experiences, but is not often talked about. There’s also internet harassment!

While the bones of the story were good, the book’s resolution mirrored exactly an episode of Glee and I wonder if the author subconsciously absorbed that plot point, or if it was one of the things that springs forth from the culture.

We Regret to Inform You
Ariel Kaplan

Mischa has worked hard for four years and her mother has sacrificed a lot to send her to a fancy private school. Now it’s time for all of that to pay off as the college acceptances roll in. But they don’t.

When she’s rejected from every school she applied to, including the safety school where the average student’s SAT score is half of hers, Mischa is bereft, which turns to anger, which turns to asking questions.

I love Kaplan’s books. Her characters are so immediate!

Grendel’s Guide to Love
Ariel Kaplan

Tommy lives in a quiet neighborhood full of retired old ladies who pay him to mow their lawns. It’s summer and all is fine until loud parties start up next door.

Among other things I liked about this book was the depiction of an abusive sibling relationship (I can think of only one other YA book that depicts this not-uncommon situation) and the organic way the parents were absent.

This is also somehow related to the Beowulf story, but I haven’t read enough of the classics to have caught that connection.

More Than Just a Pretty Face
Syed M. Masood
Read for Librarian Book Group

What a delightful character! Danyal is fully conscious of who he is (pretty, loves to cook, good guy) and who he isn’t (smart, diligent student). This was a funny book, that also had me thinking differently about arranged marriages.

It’s worth the price of admission just for Danyal’s conversation with the library employee.

How to Save a Life
Sara Zarr

Jill is trying to get through life after her father’s sudden death. Things get harder when her mother invites Mandy, a pregnant teenager, to live with them so she can adopt Mandy’s baby after it is born.

There are a lot of feelings in this book, expressed in that great Sara Zarr way. Also, I could not for the life of me figure out how the story was going to end. This made for a singular experience.

Of note. This was in the to-read pile for a few library borrowing cycles. This meant that for many weeks I caught a glimpse of it which queued up The Fray’s song “How to Save a Life.” I’m not opposed to that song, but it was nice when the book returned to the library, thus ending the auto play in my brain.

Grownup Fiction

Ooona Out of Order
Margarita Montimore

I love books that play with time, so this one was a winner. It was fun to jump between years of Oona’s life. It was so enjoyable that at one point I felt sad I wouldn’t be able to read all of Oona’s years.

I also appreciated the realistic depiction of a character’s body changing over time. Most of us do not stay the same weight year after year, decade after decade.

Young Nonfiction

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots
Michael Rex
Read for Librarian Book Group

Solid intro into the concept of facts and opinions, with very engaging robots explaining the difference.

Title-wise I didn’t feel like the “vs.” attached to “Robots” in the title is accurate. The robots were used to show the difference between facts and opinions. They weren’t in opposition to either facts or opinions.

Grownup Nonfiction

Love Money Money Loves You
Sarah McCrum

Incredibly woo woo book about how to talk about and interact with money. It’s one of those books where my attitude is, why not? Can’t hurt.

Books Read in August 2020

Young Adult Fiction

Who’s That Girl
Blair Thornburgh

Nattie has a crush on a boy, but no real relationship with him. Then he writes a song about her and the song becomes a hit. Nattie feels both weird and flattered.

This was a predictable novel, but with an interesting angle on feelings about being an object.

Our Wayward Fate
Gloria Cho

What a great main character! What a great collection of microaggressions! What a great parent-child disconnect! What a great swoony romance! What a great plot conundrum!

Nicole Kronzer
Read for Librarian Book Group

I read this fast because Kronzer did such a good job illustrating sexual harassment and sexual assault (complete with gaslighting!)

This makes this book sound heavy, and it was in places, but it’s also about a girl who loves improv and who is thrilled to attend a famous improv camp. Books where we get to sink into what the main character loves are always wonderful.

I had a few questions about where the adults were, but Kronzer made it work.

I’ve only seen mixed-gender improv groups and this book really opened my eyes to potential bro-y issues with that form of comedy.

Far from Normal
Becky Wallace

High schooler interning in the city for the summer. Great Chicago vibes and fun romance.

My Eyes Are Up Here
Laura Zimmerman
Read for Librarian Book Group

A thorough examination of the perils of having very large breasts as a teenager. It’s also a very funny book.

Public service announcement: A properly fitted bra will change everything! Find your nearest fitting expert and experience the wonder that is a well-fitting bra!

Patrick Ness
Read for Librarian Book Group

There was a distinct Story of Owen vibe in this book (though it lacked the Canadian details) where dragons are hired out to do work like clearing fields.

It’s 1957 and most of the action takes place on a farm in Washington state But Patrick Ness likes to throw a monkey wrench into his plot, so don’t settle in too early.

Not So Pure & Simple
Lamar Giles
Read for Librarian Book Group

Del has a longstanding crush on Kiera and that crush combined with daydreaming during church leads him to take a Purity Pledge. This book is funny while also doing a deep dive into emerging male sexuality.

Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
Little Free Library Insomnia Read

A duel-narrator novel about freshman year from the perspective of two students who went to the same high school. Or whatever the equivalent of high school is called in Britain.

I was confused about some things because I’m not familiar with the British secondary education system. For example, there seemed to be pressure to find a place to live off campus second year, but there also seemed to be second year people living in the dorms?

This book also disabused me of my notion that British undergrads drink less than those the in the US because the drinking age is younger.

Overall, I loved how much this book felt like a true freshman year experience.

You Should See Me in a Crown
Leah Johnson
Read for Librarian Book Group

I didn’t buy the world that was created here, one of a cutthroat world of Prom King and Queen backed by a $10K scholarship for the winners. I also wasn’t really clear on the town. It seemed to be a small town, and a wealthy town, and a town very close to Chicago?

But the world did its job setting up the impossible scenario for our hero as she stepped out of her comfort zone to chase that scholarship.

It was also a good book to show how race and LGBTQIA+ issues affect life, even if they aren’t the forefront of the story.

Grownup Fiction

Searching For Caleb
Anne Tyler
A Little Free Library Insomnia Read.

Read in the wee hours of the night whilst waiting to fall back asleep and provided to me by the magic of the Little Free Libraries.

Justine and her grandfather are on the search for Caleb, her grandfather’s lost brother.

While depictions of the Black servants are representative of the 1970s publication date (read: cringe-y) this is otherwise a book full of Anne Tyler things: interesting families, rich characterization, odd situations, and a kind of sad ending that maybe passes for happy.

I read a lot of Anne Tyler in the 90s and wasn’t sure if I had read this novel. It wasn’t sounding familiar until I got to the part with a character who always whistled the song “St. James Infirmary.” And I had read it! In the 90s I would have had to track down that song at the library or a record store. But now I’m listening to a version on YouTube.

Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan

What a full picture of life in the 1930s and 1940s! I loved the different characters we followed through eight or so years. This was a book that took me a long time to read because I liked to read it in bits and put it down.

Young Nonfiction

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh
Candace Fleming
Read for Librarian Book Group

Fleming uses her usual engaging manner to take us through Lindbergh’s life. While Americans are given the basics about his ocean crossing, sometimes taught about his son’s kidnapping, and might be taught about his America First proclivities, there are so many other things you didn’t know about Charles Lindbergh.

Mostly, those things are disturbing.

Grownup Nonfiction

The 12-week Year
Moran & Lennington

Toss out your annual goals and change over to a twelve-week year to get more focus and get more done. The authors lay out a plan for your success.

Little Free Library: Recommending a Book

As part of my morning walks that have replaced morning swims, I’ve been making the rounds of the Little Free Libraries near me. There are about six that are easy to swing by regularly. I drop off books, see if anything has appeared I want to read, and tidy the shelves.

This book has been in this Little Free Library since March. I’ve read it, it’s the second of a multi-book series about a family living in California that begins with the San Francisco earthquake. I read the series in the 90s and really enjoyed it. The last book is memorable because there was a major typo near the end that had a character dying three weeks before the book killed her off.

Clearly the book’s presentation wasn’t turning any heads, so I wrote up a recommendation, added it to the book, and set the book front and center when I tidied.

Reporting from the future, I can tell you that even with my recommendation this book sat around for a few more months before it disappeared.

If you are interested in reading the series, the first book is called The Immigrants. I’ve just looked at the original cover of that book, and it has a similar style of cover, but with a half-naked woman among the mix. Apparently (and perhaps because of that?) The Immigrants was adapted into a miniseries in 1978.

Books Read in July 2020

Picture Books

An Ordinary Day
Elena K. Arnold
Read for Librarian Book Group

One street, two kids playing, two houses, two visitors, and Magnificent the Crow continuing her declarations about everything. This is how picture books are done!

My Best Friend
Julie Fogliano & Jillian Tamaki
Read for Librarian Book Group

There are poeple who don’t mind all lowercase text, but I am not one of them. Especially in picture books.

Outweighing my the lack of punctuation are the great illustrations. I loved the panel of turning leaves into skeleton hands.

The Paper Kingdom
Elena Ku Rhee & Pascal Campion
Read for Librarian Book Group

Daniel’s parents are night janitors. One night he must accompany them to work. Gorgeous illustrations and a story about people who often don’t get to tell their stories.

Snail Crossing
Cory R. Tabor
Read for Librarian Book Group

Snail is cabbage bound and nothing will get in his way. Or so he thinks.

This book is funny.

Chapter Books

Planet Omar, Accidental Trouble Magnet
Zanib Mian & Nasaya Maffaridik
Read for Librarian Book Group

The style of big illustrated words among normal text took some getting used to, but I enjoyed this hybrid graphic novel format. Maybe we can call it text with extra pop?

The experiences with the neighbor felt spot on. The book was called “The Muslims” in Britain. I hope books like this will help the US move through the stage of giving suspicious glances to our Muslim neighbors.

Young Adult

Girl Unframed
Deb Caletti
Read for Librarian Book Group

There have been a smattering of books in the past few years touching on the point when a girl’s body starts attracting the attention of the general public—that changeover from being a girl to being an object.

This book is about that, and is more complicated than most because Sydney’s mother is a fading actress known for her body. Thanks to Caletti’s talent this book is full of uncomfortable (yet so familiar) situations, some fine art analysis, and a good love story.

Go with the Flow
Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Read for Librarian Book Group

Four friends work to change their high school’s practice of not stocking the feminine hygiene dispensers as well as to talk more about periods. The graphic novel’s color palette is marvelous and there are good observations about differing needs among friends.

Six Feet Over It
Jennifer Longo

While we can all agree that abusive parents are terrible, I also find parents who check out of their parental duties to be harmful to the health of children and adolescents. Two such parents populate this novel.

I’m always interested in the stories of teenagers who take on adult responsibilities too early as Leigh has. She’s been put to work selling grave sites at the cemetery her father has purchased on a whim. The Pre-Need people are okay. The At-Need Customers are a lot for a fifteen-year-old to take on. She’s also mourning the loss of her town, her friend, and keeping all of this all under wraps because of her older sister’s illness.

Calling My Name
Liara Tamani

Sometimes books aren’t anchored around a plot, but move through a period of a character’s life. This is the story of Taja from about age eleven to eighteen. It’s about faith and changed beliefs and love and finding what’s good for you, rather than what you should do.

Story of a Girl
Sara Zarr

Zarr is great at capturing dysfunctional family life as with Deanna, who was caught by her father at age 13 having sex with her older brother’s friend. She’s had the label of school slut ever since, and her father still can’t look at her, three years later.

What was interesting was the day-to-day of living with that label. Deanna has plans for escape, but they depend on her job and her older brother.

This was a good read that ended abruptly.

Sara Zarr

Oh man, the food feelings! No book has ever captured them as well as this one.

Also, if food feelings aren’t your thing (or you have no idea what I’m talking about) there’s a great friendship that starts in elementary school but is cut off abruptly.

As always with Zarr, the parents just aren’t quite plugged in.

What We Lost
Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr’s examination of imperfect parents continues with Samara’s dad, a pastor who has no time for his wife and child. Plus, her mom’s in rehab.

When an acquaintance goes missing and is believed to be lost, Sam feels lost. There are a lot of good levels of uncomfortable in this book.

The Best Laid Plans
Cameron Lund

I love a punny title and this one is a winner! I also love books about virginity and its loss. I didn’t love that I predicted every plot turn of this novel.

Being Toffee
Sarah Crosson

In this novel in verse, Allison runs away and ends up living with Marla, a woman living with dementia, who thinks Allison is Toffee, a woman from her growing-up years.

It was unsatisfying to not find out more about Marla’s life and who Toffee was, but this was probably realistic.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Cynthia Hand

Oh suicide. How your effects ripple through the world.

Lex is finishing her senior year and still grieving her brother’s death. Cynthia Hand hits all the feelings.

Between this and the How and the Why, I’m completely on board with anything Cynthia Hand writes. (I was already on board for her collaboration that has resulted in the Janey books.)

Since You Asked
Maureen Goo

Spend a year with Holly Kim, copyeditor of her school’s newspaper. The September-to-June format threw off my three-act pacing feel, and I found it had some miscues at some points.

But for hanging out with a sophomore girl find her way, it’s a solid book.

Grownup Fiction

Standard Deviation
Katherine Heining

We take the temperature of a marriage that’s perhaps in its middle age. Graham is pondering his role as father to Matthew, husband to Audra and ex-husband to Elspeth.

This was one of the most amusing books I’ve read in a long time, thanks to Graham’s observations of his wife’s verbal vomit and his musings about life.

I came by this novel because I emailed the library asking for reading suggestions. I told them 10 grownup fiction books I’d liked over the last few years and within a day I got a list of books that were on the shelves at my library and suited to my tastes. If you haven’t taken advantage of your local library’s wealth of knowledge, please do not hesitate to contact them.

Young People’s Nonfiction

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera
Candice Fleming & Eric Rohman

We travel with Apis as she is born and carries out her honeybee duties.

Gorgeous illustrations and an engaging narrative. Note that the back matter encourages people to “..write your congressman and senators…” I was surprised this gender-specific and inaccurate description of someone serving in the US Congress made it through the various rounds of editing. Currently, there are 101 women and 4 territorial representatives serving.

Grownup Nonfiction

The Middle Finger Project
Ash Ambrige

Ash wants you to find your thing and she will tell you how she did it, and made tons of money.

This was inspiring and GREAT unemployment/pandemic reading.

If you are starting your creative business and you want more Ash, she has a 25-day email series that is top-notch and free.

Books Read in June 2020

Middle Grade

Kaela Noel
Read for Librarian Book Group

A baby is abandoned in a rail yard and a flock of pigeons lift the baby to an abandoned dovecote on the top of the building. It is here where the baby grows into a little girl.

I’m unclear how the baby got through the milk-only stage of development, as pigeons can’t supply that. I also never understood how old the girl was.

Aside from these things, this was an engrossing middle grade novel with a bit of danger, a bit of wonder, a bit of outrage, and a bit of fantastical things.

When You Trap a Tiger
Tae Keller
Read for Librarian Book Group

Two girls and their mother move abruptly to Washington state from California to spend time with their grandmother. On their way there, the younger sister Lily sees a tiger near her grandmother’s house.

Good Korean folktales and good stuff around loss and sister issues.

Tornado Brain
Cat Patrick
Read for Librarian Book Group

Frankie is getting through middle school as best she can. She doesn’t have a best friend anymore and sometimes it’s hard to communicate. But when her former best friend turns up missing, Frankie focuses her attention on figuring out where her friend might have gone.

Efrén Divided
Ernesto Cisneros
Read for Librarian Book Group

Efrén lives with his mother, father, and twin brother and sister in a tiny studio apartment. When his mother is deported to Mexico he steps up to take care of his siblings while trying to keep his life (school, friends) in balance.

Rob Harrell
Read for Librarian Book Group

Man! Middle school is hard enough without Ross getting cancer and radiation treatment that causes his eye to drop. Plus he has to wear a cowboy hat all the time.

This book is packed with interesting characters and dilemmas. It’s well-paced and engaging and I’m impressed.

Young Adult

We Didn’t Ask for This
Adi Alsaid

It’s Lock-in Night at an international school and the kids are excited. But when Marisa and her friends chain themselves to the doors of the school to protest the degradation of coral reefs they REALLY lock people in and plans change.

Alsaid effectively manages point of view of six characters plus a few more. Nicely done.

Mindy McGinnis

Mickey knows where she belongs: playing softball.

When here right hip is torn from her body in a car accident, she does what she needs to do in order to start conditioning with the team. It’s not the best choice for Mickey, but it sure is in terms of plot.

Another eminently readable novel from Mindy McGinnis!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Cynthia Hand

Christmas in June! I loved this modern-day take on the Scrooge story, but with a teenage girl as a failed Scrooge. A great blend of the fantastic with the normal. Another great novel by Cynthia Hand!

When You Were Everything
Ashley Woodfolk
Read for Librarian Book Group

My senior year of high school, my oldest friend ghosted me, though we didn’t have a term for it then. It hurt. A lot.

Friendship breakups are inevitable, but I don’t see a lot of them in fiction. But this book has the friendship breakup front and center.

Cleo is dealing with the loss of her best and only friend. As we bounce back and forth between now and then, we see bad acting on both sides, a lot of hurt, and forging a new path. There’s also new friends and a dreamy guy.

In the author’s note Woodfolk says this was a hard book to write. Partially because it was her second published book (which are known to be difficult beasts) and partially because she had to relive all those dead friendships. I’m glad she struggled through, because this was a great read.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Samira Ahmad
Read for Librarian Book Group

Oh my god, an Art History Mystery that also is grounded in the female experience! This book hit all my pleasure points, including a nice romance.

Heartstopper Vol 1
Alice Oseman
Read for Librarian Book Group

A graphic novel about two boys who *might* like each other. Maybe. There’s a ton of emotion on each page. I wasn’t clear until the end (where you get handy stats for each character) how old everyone was. They were younger than I thought.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Maureen Goo

High-achieving girl turns to Korean dramas to teach her how to get a boyfriend, specifically hot new art guy. This was an amusing book, with mostly predictable results.

The State of Us
Shaun David Hutchinson

Presidential election year! In this book, the two presidential candidates each have a son who is a high school senior. They meet during a lock down at a debate and though they are initially wary, they get to talking.

I don’t love alternating perspectives, but this was a good example of the technique done well. The different ways the two boys texted was amusing. Also Shaun David Hutchinson seemed to get all his feelings about the current administration out through via the villainous third party candidate.

Just Breathe
Cammie McGovern

A boy with cystic fibrosis and a girl coming back from a major depression meet at a hospital.

McGovern writes really good internal feelings.

Alice Oseman

Oseman wrote this when she was seventeen years old. An impressive feat! The book was published in 2015 and has multiple examples of teenagers blogging and using Facebook—both of which I feel like teenagers had moved on from by that time. I blame a lag time in publishing.

Aside from that, our main character was depressed in a very authentic way that is hard for me to read. I also felt the central mystery wasn’t very well paced.

But was it better than any book I would have written at seventeen? Most certainly yes!

Save the Date
Morgan Matson

I love me a novel with a big family. Plus, the family has comic strip counterparts because their mother has featured them in her syndicated strip since they were still small children.

This is the story of a wedding where everything goes wrong and highlights things we find when things don’t go according to plan.

Grownup Fiction

No Judgments
Meg Cabot

In the past week I’ve read a book about a high school athlete who develops an opioid addition, a neurotypical middle schooler whose friend goes missing, a middle schooler who’s mother was deported, and a seventh grader with eye cancer.

I needed a break, and so grabbed this breezy romance.

Unfortunately, the traditional gender norms bugged the heck out of me and it wasn’t the respite I was looking for.

Snow Falling on Ceders
David Guterson
Little Free Library Late-Night Insomnia Read

I grabbed this from a Little Free Library to use as my time passer for those nights when I’m awake for an hour or two.

This was my first read since the 90s (when we weren’t too concerned about who was telling the story of the Japanese Internment). My recollections are that I liked it, and that it was the first time I’d really read about the event.

It retained the careful and colorful descriptions of people, places, and events. Guterson is not worried about retaining readers with short attention spans. It’s interesting how restrained the writing is that describe action or big emotional moments. Perhaps it’s that contrast that drew me in.

Normal People
Sally Rooney

A good work of fiction in that I couldn’t decide whether the main characters were better or worse off together. Also excellent in bringing up uncomfortable feelings in me.

Which made for a unpleasant reading experience.

Young Nonfiction

Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You
Jason Reynolds
Read for Librarian Book Group

Jason Reynolds remixes Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning into a not-history book that examines how racism has affected every facet of American life.

They explore a variety of movements and historical figures in therm of segregationists, assimilationists and anti-racists.

Jane Against the World
Karen Blumenthal
Read for Librarian Book Group

A history of abortion in the United States that keeps reminding us that controlling fertility is always harder for poor women, even today.

I found this to be an interesting and readable book! Did you know that a Rubella outbreak in the 60s loosened controls on abortion in some states? This is just one of the many facts I learned!

Grownup Nonfiction

Because Internet
Gretchen McCulloch
Read for Northwest Editors Guild Book Group

A linguist analyzes how language changes specifically through the growth and dominance of communication via the internet.

I loved her divisions of internet people, which have more to do with when you really started using the internet, than with the year you were born. According to her categories, though I could have easily been an old internet person (one from the days of early chat rooms and coding and the like) I’m actually a semi internet person because my first regular exposure to the internet was through my work environments as an adult. Whereas one of my former co-workers born 8/8/88 fit exactly into the description of the full internet person.

There’s a thorough discussion of memes (which are something that, as a semi internet person, I’ve always been on the fringes of). McCulloch also explores how language travels.

My favorite takeaway: girls learn language from their friends and boys learn it from their mothers. Apparently, this is so common that linguists barely remark on it. Teenage girls advance the language!

On Hold Since March

Back in March, I made a special Friday trip to grab my holds. My weekend had cleared and I wanted to have books and movies to tide me over. There was one book that had arrived, but it wasn’t with the other books on the shelf.

“Oh well,” I said to myself. “I’ll grab it on Monday.” Monday was my usual hold pickup day.

I did not grab it on Monday.

The libraries shut down along with everything else and it was about three months before I could bring this book home.

To do that I had to make a phone call, sit on hold, and arrange a day and time for pickup.

Pandemic fun!

I enjoyed the book, by the way.

Books Read in May 2020

Middle Grade

The List of Things That Will Not Change
Rebecca Stead
Read for Librarian Book Group

Good gravy, can Rebecca Steed write! She is excellent at capturing character and the nuances of daily life. The setup of this book (brothers hearing corn grow) didn’t pay off for me at the end, but the writing was so good and the main character so memorable that I overlooked it.

The Only Black Girls in Town
Brandy Colbert
Read for Librarian Book Group

Amelia is the only Black girl in her grade until Edie’s mom buys the B&B across the street. There’s good friendship transitions and bonus diary entries from “long ago” (the 1950s.)

Young Adult

I Kissed Alice
Anna Birch

Alabama boarding school setting! But also duel perspectives, my least favorite way to tell a story. Rhodes and Iliana hate each other, but they are linked through their friendships with Sara and also in a way they both don’t know.

This was a book where I struggled to find someone to like and also struggled to find a reason to keep reading.

The How and the Why
Cynthia Hand

Boise! Letters!

The letters are written by a pregnant teenager living at Booth Memorial Home. She writes them to her daughter because there used to be a program in Idaho where mothers giving up their child for adoption could do that. (!)

The other part of the story is that baby who was given up for adoption and is now turning 18. Though her life is a bit topsy-turvy, she’s curious about her biological mother.

Aside from including many southern Idaho landmarks, this book was hilarious in places, and also very sad.

This Light Between Us
Andrew Fukuda

In the mid-1930s Alex, a Japanese-American strawberry farmer’s son from Bainbridge Island, Washington and the daughter of a wealthy Parisian merchant became pen pals.

Change is on the horizon for both of them and the story follows Alex as his world turns upside down. It’s a book of letters (yay!) but also of the complications and choices made when everything you once were is taken from you.

Goodbye From Nowhere
Sara Zarr

An examination of how parents’ choices affect their kids, and one kid in particular.

It’s also a tale of the things that come with loss.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of and I had to make a family tree. You might also benefit from this process.

Not Another Love Song
Olivia Wildenstein

The cover does not match the book! This is highly irritating.

Angie lives in Nashville and her only focus is to be just like her favorite singer Mona Stone.

But when a new guy moves into town, things are a jumble.

I give this book points for the main character ebiking everywhere.

Be Not Far From Me
Mindy McGinnis

Man vs. Nature! But with a teenage girl!

The Friend Scheme
Cale Deitrich

A promising start: Romeo & Juliet-style story but set in Miami and with two guys.

Unfortunately, that strong start is sunk by too many single-sentence paragraphs and a lack of dialog tags.

On the one hand, it’s a YA M/M romance, on the other, I think we can do better than this.

The Blackbird Girls
Anne Blankman
Read for Librarian Book Group

Chernobyl with a sprinkling of WWII.

It was interesting to see the nuclear meltdown from the standpoint of people living in Ukraine. I also enjoyed the recovery arc (there was abuse) and the friendship. The grandmother! So good! Too good?

Most Likely
Sarah Watson

A great hook: It’s 2049 and a woman is about to be sworn in as president. We learn that she and her husband met in high school.

We then travel back to present day and follow four friends as they navigate through their senior year. Which of them is the future president? Sara Watson makes it hard to tell (because we only know the future First Husband’s last name), but it’s fun to speculate.

Tigers Not Daughters
Samantha Mabry
Read for Librarian Book Group

This was a very atmospheric novel about four sisters. It was told in alternating sister perspectives plus an outside observer. For me, the narrative sunk under its collective misery and didn’t deliver enough of a payout at the end.

Grownup Fiction

The Secrets She Keeps
Deb Caletti

Alternating perspectives between a young woman in 1951 living on a divorce ranch in Nevada and her modern-day niece who flees to the ranch when her marriage hits a snag.

Good characterization and the twists happened in ways I wasn’t expecting.

He’s Gone
Deb Caletti

What if you woke up one morning and your husband wasn’t there? That’s what happens to Dani, a graphic designer who lives in a houseboat in Seattle. As we try to figure out what’s become of her husband, we learn more about the complexities of her life.

I enjoyed piecing the story together as it unfolded.

Young Nonfiction

The (Other) F Word
Edited by Angie Manfredi

A series of essays written to fat teenagers from fat adults who were once fact teenagers. The book has a great design and a list of places to find clothing. Portland’s Fat Fancy gets a mention!

Grownup Nonfiction

The Big Leap
Gay Hendricks

Maybe you are lucky enough to escape self-sabotage, but if not, this book is for you. Hendricks is a terrible name dropper, but if you can look past that (I did) this book is a primer on getting past your ULP (upper limit problem) and getting you living in your Zone of Genius.

It’s a little woo-woo, but if you’re fine with that, it’s worth checking out.

Books Read in April 2020

Middle Grade

P.S. I Miss You
Jen Petro-Roy

Letters! I’m always in. These are letters from a 7th grade girl to her older sister who has gone to live with their great aunt for the duration of her pregnancy.

The mechanics of this book worked well, though the story seemed to be trying to lead me away from the conclusion I’d drawn. My conclusion turned out to be correct, which caused some annoyance at the leading-astray shenanigans.

Young Adult

By the Book
Amanda Sellet

Things I don’t usually see in debut novels: Big families; Gaggles of friends.

Those tend to fall in the “too much to deal with” category and people trim things back. Not here!

Aside from a fun hook (girl steeped in 19th century literature enters public high school; uses her skills to navigate 21st century high school) this also has a protagonist with four sibings and two parents. In her new school, she makes friends with three girls and the four of them try to figure out love.

There’s a good romance subplot too, but this book is worth reading for its lit references, family and friendships.

Now That I’ve Found You
Kristina Forest

On the plus side: Famous!

Well, the main character, Evie, isn’t famous yet, but she wants to be and her grandmother is a reclusive famous actress.

On the minus side: I found Evie to be too self-centered for my full sympathy, but I enjoyed watching her navigate through this sticking point in her nascent career.

Almost American Girl
Robin Ha
Read for Librarian Book Group

In this graphic novel memoir (read via Kindle via the library—a mostly smooth reading experience) Robin Ha illustrates her life from the point where she moves from Korea to Huntsville, Alabama at age fourteen. Gripping setting, great illustrations!

This is All Your Fault
Aminah Mae Safi

A beloved independent Chicago bookstore is the setting of this novel, which was so very good, I checked to see if I’d read the author’s other books. (I had not! Lucky me!)

The prologue is from the perspective of Eli, who is the first to discover the bookstore’s secret. Eli makes a bad decision, which sets off the rest of the book, which is written in alternating perspectives. Daniella, an angry secret poet; Imogen, who just broke up with her girlfriend, and Rinn, a high-school-aged Instagram influencer.

Aminah Mae Safi reveals the hidden faces of the girls, ratchets up a tense situation, and writes many memorable scenes. I loved this book!

Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Amirah Mae Safi

I read this and immediately reread it because I wanted to see if the things that seemed wobbly had to do with me reading in an ebook format. Re-reading told me that the format was the problem. I skim (even more than I usually do) with ebooks.

This book is doing a lot, especially for a first novel. Friendship with three different friends, difficulties with being half Arab, boys. I loved that Lulu spent her time trying to take back a smidgen of what boys have (the ability to make out without consequences, the ability to be the subject and not the object. )

But mostly, I love that Safi examines fully the attraction to someone who is bad for you.

There’s a lot of great writing in this. Amirah Mae Safi is really great at capturing agency and how things can go wrong.

99 Days
Katie Cotugo

The one-chapter-per-day format means you always know how far along in this story you are—a plus when reading via ebook, where there are no pages for me to tap my measuring finger.

I’m all in on love triangles, and the setup for this had a delicious component of a mother’s betrayal. Still, there was that point where I didn’t really buy a turn of plot and the story was annoyingly opaque about consummation, which, given the setup, doesn’t really seem fair.

Last Chance Summer
Shanon Klare

This book’s setup is good. Pressed into work as a summer counselor at a camp for troubled youth, Alex is attracted too and repelled by Grant, her co-counselor. What it lacked was a rich back story.

  • Who was Marcus and what was their relationship like?
  • What about flashbacks with her friend?
  • Why did her aunt think she could handle being a counselor?

Without a window into Alex’s past, we’re adrift and left with Grant saying too many times, “You’re not qualified!” (Which she totally wasn’t!)

Virtually Yours
Sarvenaz Tash

A virtual dating experience is the setup for this romance which is a fun twist on the genre. The author did a great job keeping me guessing as to what would happen.

What I Carry
Jennifer Longo

Murial was dropped off at a hospital as an infant and never adopted. She’s eleven months from aging out of foster care. She knows how to navigate the foster system and knows how not to get attached.

Then she gets a placement with Francine on Bainbridge Island and plans get upended.

Tell Me How You Really Feel
Aminah Mae Safi

Dual perspective of two driven girls at an elite private high school. They haven’t been friends for the four years they have attended the school, but the last month before a May first deadline will throw them together.

Grownup Fiction

Call Me By Your Name
André Aciman

This book completely immersed me in Elio’s head which was a big change from the movie. A lot of the prose seemed like a swirling mass of thoughts. As evidenced by the star rating, I found this enjoyable.

Young People’s Nonfiction

The Fire Never Goes Out
Noelle Stevenson

A graphic memoir (with very tiny print in places) of the years of Noelle Stevenson’s life where a lot of things happened. You know, she went to college, developed a big fan following, started her career before she finished school, and became the showrunner for She-ra Princesses of Power

It was hard not to feel jealous, but Stevenson kept us appraised of her rough spots. And the visual part makes for a fun read.

Grownup Nonfiction

Manuscript Makeover
Elizabeth Lyon

A section-by-section guide to improving your manuscript. The edition I read had out-of-date information (courier as a font to use when submitting) but the revisions techniques seemed tried and true.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel
Jessica Brody

This takes the beat sheet idea of the original screenplay book and applies it to novels.

I especially liked the refashioning of genres to cross all types of novels.

Books Read in March 2020

Picture Books

The Grizzly Mother
Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) & Natasha Donovan
Read for Librarian Book Group

A grizzly mother and her two cubs show us their life cycle. I found the abrupt jumps in time disorienting, but the subject matter interesting.

The Book Hog
Greg Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group

Officially a story about a hog who loves books. I wonder if there is a hidden (or obvious) commentary about American practices of acquiring excessive amounts of things when we can’t take full enjoyment from them.

Flubby is Not a Good Pet!
J.E. Morris
Read for Librarian Book Group

Our narrator compares a cat to other pets and finds he comes up short. Right up to the realization of what, exactly, makes Flubby a good pet.

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Sonia Sotomayor, Rafael López
Read for Librarian Book Group

Sonia and her friends plant a garden and talk about the things they need to do to live and thrive, or things that help them live and thrive.

There were a lot of words for a picture book. Perhaps too many? It was fun to pick out the different children on different pages of the book.

Bilal Cooks Daal
Aisha Saeed & Anoosha Syed
Read for Librarian Book Group

Bilal and his friends learn about daal. There is a recipe at the end of the book, thankfully.

It seems like Bilal livers in a lovely neighborhood chock full of friends and things to do.

Chick and Brain: Smell My Feet
CeCe Bell
Read for Librarian Book Group

Chick is insufferable, trying to get Brain to say please, thank you, and other niceties.

I found this book tedious for that reason and for Brain/Brian confusion.

However, I am not six. Were I, I probably would have found this funny.

Julie Flett
Read for Librarian Book Group

A year in the life of a girl and her elderly neighbor. Soft illustrations

Do Fish Sleep
Jens Raschke & Jens Rassmus
Read for Librarian Book Group

A brief book about the death of a younger brother translated from the German.

Raven Makes the Aleutians
Sealaksa Heritige/Janine Gibbons
Read for Librarian Book Group

Rarely does a picture book feel like I am sitting in a room with a storyteller. This one did. The illustrations are beautiful and I’m curious from the introductory note about the raven stories that are inappropriate for children.

Middle Grade

This Promise of Change
Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Read for Librarian Book Group

Most novels in verse I tolerate the verse to get to the story. This novel in verse I enjoyed the verse! Plus, it illuminated a mostly forgotten integration effort. I really enjoyed the back matter and the author’s note.

I’m Ok
Patti Kim
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ok’s father has died and things aren’t great. But Ok has a plan to help his mom and make more money.

I loved Ok and I love this story. One of my favorite characters this year.

Prairie Lotus
Linda Sue Park
Read for Librarian Book Group

For everyone who loved the Little House books and yet now find them problematic for a number of reasons.

Hanna arrives with her father in Dakota Territory, but faces ostracism for her half-Chinese, half-white background. She’s got some plans though: graduate high school, and turn her father’s dress goods store into a dressmaking shop.

All the flavor of the Dakota Territory, but with bonus content about fitting in and finding your place when so many don’t want you to have a place.

I’d love a sequel.

Kat Leyh
Read for Librarian Book Group

This started as a so-so graphic novel, but the story morphed more than once to directions I didn’t see coming that also felt organic.

I love when kids find their niche, especially when it’s an odd niche.

Young Adult

Hearts Unbroken
Cynthia Leitich Smith
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Lou Wolfe breaks up with her boyfriend when he disrespects Native people. With time on her hands, she joins the school paper. There, she pitches stories and becomes part of a story when color-blind casting is applied to the school musicals and her brother is cast as the Tin Man.

Stuff happened in this book, but I felt so removed emotionally, it was hard to care. I would have liked to feel closer to the character, but it seemed she was keeping me at arms length.

Apple in the Middle
Dawn Quigley
Read for Librarian Book Group

Reasons this book needs a copyeditor:

  • Grandfather served in WWII
  • Grandfather is in his 60s
  • The book is set in approximately 2002
  • This makes Grandpa about two years old when serving in WWII
  • Mom graduated high school in 1988
  • Mom had Lief Garrett posters in her room
  • Leif Garret was not popular in the 70s, not the 80s
  • Mom was born in 1968
  • This makes mom 20 when she graduated high school even though she was “very smart”
  • House depicted as being on a long, gravel road
  • House has alley behind it with another house on the other side of the alley. This doesn’t fit any framework I’ve experienced when getting to a house on a long, graveled road.

In matters of style, the voice of this character felt like a 10–12-year-old, not someone in high school.

A lot of the writing is very conversational—many parenthetical asides and talking to the reader. This makes the book feel very unsophisticated and increased my dislike which is too bad, because I’m interested in the story’s framework of a girl who had not been exposed to her Native American heritage.

Also, her grandparents dialog was great, but got lost by Apple’s chatter.

I’m glad the North Dakota State University Press is recognizing contemporary indigenous voices. It would also be good if they employed some basic publishing standards such as a thorough copyedit, and possibly a better developmental and line edit.

I Can Make this Promise
Christine Day
Read for Librarian Book Group

Edie is half Native American, but it’s not something that is a part of her life. Things happen over the summer to change things up.

After the big reveal, I had a hard time believing that Edie’s mother would have distanced herself for all those years.

Red Hood
Elana K. Arnold

Things I never see in books:

  • Discussions of menstruation
  • Women fending off attackers

Bisou has a solitary and quiet life. Then one night she is attacked in the woods by a wolf.

Everything changes.

Elana K. Arnold excels at writing about women in contemporary society, even when she’s writing about other things.

Every Other Weekend
Abigail Johnson

An alternating perspective novel about two kids whose friendship grows over the course of the weekends they spend with their divorced and separated parents.

Nicely done!

When the Stars Lead to You
Ronni Davis

This is a relationship book that doesn’t follow the usual trajectory. I could have done without the filthy rich protagonist, but enjoyed the complexity of the romance.

The Voting Booth
Brandy Colbert

This continues Brandy Colbert’s streak of darn good YA novels. In this book we spend a single day with two teenagers trying to vote in their first election. It’s not an easy thing to do.

In Oregon, where we vote by mail, this would have been a few sentences, not a novel. I guess we can thank the country’s inefficient voting process for the inspiration. But I’d rather just have people be able to vote with little muss and fuss.

Grownup Fiction

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital
Lorrie Moore

This was one of those slim volumes of prose where I puzzled if it became a national bestseller without people reading it. The writing was good, but I was reminded how navel-gazing fiction for adults comes across. (Not well.)

Young Nonfiction

All in a Drop
Lori Alexander Vivien Mildenberger
Read for Librarian Book Group

A run-of-the-mill man develops a microscope. I especially loved seeing the microscopes.

Books Read in February 2020

Picture Books

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played Piano for President Lincoln
Margarita Engle Rafael Lopez
Read for Librarian Book Group

Lovely illustrations capture the 1860s. This picture book has a lot of words in it which felt like a lot when I read it aloud to the cats, who were indifferent and gave me no feedback if it was too long. I would have liked a picture in the back matter.

The Bell Rang
James E. Ransome
Read for Librarian Book Group

A week in the life of a enslave family where each day starts with the bell ringing. As depictions of enslaved families are rare, this is a pretty cool book.

What is Given From the Heart
Patricia McKissack & April Harrison
Read for Librarian Book Group

Calm and quiet pictures illustrate a story of giving when one has very little.

Lupita Nyong’o
Read for Librarian Book Group

Sulwe’s skin is darker than her family and she is troubled by this. I’m glad to see more of this topic lately (I also enjoyed the middle grade novel Genesis Begins Again) and I loved the illustrations.

Double Bass Blues
Andrea J. Loney & Rudy Guiterrez
Read for Librarian Book Group

A lot of really great sounds paired with illustrations that are both abstract and representational. Really great faces!

Hey Water
Antoinette Portis
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s the water cycle, but with each form having its own page. Both the illustrations and text draw the eye from page to page.

Bear Came Along
Richard T. Morris & LeUyen Pham
Read for Librarian Book Group

A book that builds on itself and has a lot of dramatic tension.

I was unclear about why the river didn’t know it was a river. Are rivers having some sort of identity crisis I don’t know about?

A Friend for Henry
Jenn Bailey, Mika Song
Read for Librarian Book Group

Henry likes very specific things. He also doesn’t like very specific things. It’s hard for him to make a friend.

Between the words of the text and the excellent illustrations, I felt for Henry. Especially with the carpet squares.

Across the Bay
Carlos Aponte
Read for Librarian Book Group

Carlos lives with his mother and grandmother, but misses his father who, his mother tells him, lives across the bay. One day Carlos travels across the bay by ferry to look for his father.

The illustrations were sunny and tropical, a nice break from gray winter skies.

Bowwow Powwow
Brenda Child, Jonathan Thunder
Read for Librarian Book Group

Windy Girl and her dog Itchy Boy remember about the powwows in the summer.

Stop Bot!
James Young
Read for Librarian Book Group

A vertical story of a bot that floats up the face of a tall building. As it floats, people try to stop it. There are many details to follow from page to page.

Gittel’s Journey
Lesléa Newman & Amy June Bates (sp)
Read for Librarian Book Group

Gittel is sad to leave her home to sail to America with her mother. She is even sadder when her mother has to send her on alone. The illustrations feel period-appropriate.

Middle Grade

Each Tiny Spark
Pablo Cartaya
Read for Librarian Book Group

Emilia Torres is making strides becoming her own person, learning to manage her style of learning and is navigating changing friendships and her dad’s return from a tour of duty. There were many good character acts.

Lety Out Loud
Angela Cervantes
Read for Librarian Book Group

Letty is learning English (her second language) and her time at a camp at the animal shelter—the kind of camp we used to call a day camp, rather than a sleepaway camp—has her writing and making plans. This book has well-rounded characters and a suitable middle-grade level of tension/subject matter.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree
Paola Peretti
Read for Librarian Book Group

A slim book about a girl losing her sight written by a woman who was a girl losing her sight. It was a slow, repetitive build, but I was completely emotionally invested by the end.

The Other Half of Happy
Rebecca Balcáreal
Read for Librarian Book Group

Quijana struggles with not knowing more Spanish, especially when her cousins move to her Texas town. She also has a big crush on Jayden and doesn’t want to visit Guatemala with her family.

This book hit all the middle-grade notes, and I appreciated the full-on exploration of feelings around her crush. It was also one of those books that took me forever to get through. That’s usually a sign that something hasn’t quite clicked for me.

Young Adult

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
Junauda Petrus
Read for Librarian Book Group

The story of Audre, a girl banished from Trinidad for loving another girl. She lands in Minneapolis where she reconnects with Mabel, a childhood acquaintance.

This book includes tons of good friendship and love stuff. I loved how individual Audre and Mabel’s voices were. There was a bunch of dream stuff that I felt like meandered and I’m too linear of a person for the ending, but otherwise this was an enjoyable read.

Where the World Ends
Gearldine McCaughren
Read for Librarian Book Group

This was a book that I read to find out what happened to strand twelve people on a crag of rock more so than for a love of the story itself. There’s also a lot of bird killing in this book, which could be off-putting for some.

I didn’t love this novel, but I enjoyed how McCaughren could find a lot of plot in a tiny space where each day was the same, plus her descriptions were excellent. I also was really looking forward to the author’s note at the end and it did not disappoint. What a tale has been woven from just a few sentences in the historical record!

The Hand on the Wall
Maureen Johnson

This was a very satisfying conclusion to the Truly Devious trilogy. Aside from wrapping things up, it was good at evoking New England during a blizzard.

Karol Ruth Silverstein
Read for Librarian Book Group

An overly long book about a fourteen-year-old girl dealing with the sudden onset of a chronic and painful disease written by a woman with the same disease. It includes a prickly male teacher I could root for. I’m always up for a teacher who is a stickler and also loves their students. Also includes a principal and a doctor who might as well have been twirling their villainous mustaches.

There were weird gaps in the plot. Sure, she lives with her dad, but why does she never see her mom?

This book wasn’t the most polished I’ve read, but a lot of people deal with chronic illness and I don’t come across depictions of the day-to-day struggles. I welcomed this portrayal.

Someday We Will Fly
Rachel DeWaskin
Read for Librarian Book Group

Did you know that Shanghai was a place for Jewish people to flee to during World War II? Me neither! This book imagines the life of a teenager from Poland living in Shanghai with her father and much younger sister. It was full of interesting details about a segment of WWII history I knew nothing about.

It’s also a WWII book set outside of Europe, something I regularly comment that we need more of. It was a World War, not a European War.

Sick Kids in Love
Hannah Moskowitz
Read for Librarian Book Group

“They don’t die in this one.” That’s what the text on the front cover says. It took me a bit to notice it because the library’s bar code was partially blocking the words, but it cracked me up when I did finally see it.

There are all kinds of illnesses, many of them not fatal, and this is the second rheumatoid arthritis book I’ve read this month.

Aside from being a great love story, it also does a deep dive into life as a sick person and how things work differently. It’s also a good “finding your family” book.

This is one of those books that was pleasurable from start to finish. It’s not changing the world, or upending literature as we know it, but it’s a good story that I put off reading the newspaper for. Nicely done, Hannah Moskowitz.

Surviving the City
Tasha Soillett & Natasha Donvan
Read for Librarian Book Group

Much of this book was unclear to me. Partially because I’m not familiar with the traditions of the culture and also because it took me a bit to catch on to the ghost things.

Young Nonfiction

The Great Nijinsky: God of Dance
Lynn Curlee
Read for Librarian Book Group

A brief history of the famous that dancer that includes just the right amount of detail and which also normalizes same-sex relationships in a way I find to be very good.

Growing up, in the 80s and 90s, we didn’t talk about gay people, except the ample use of the word “faggot.” I remember seeing a poster in the late 80s titled something like, “Famous gay people throughout history” and my first reaction was “No, all of those people can’t be gay!”

I didn’t hate gay people, I just didn’t ever see them, except as flamboyant caricatures in a very few movies, or as sick and dying men on TV. I was not overly told that being gay was a “wrong” thing, but I had absorbed the message that something was wrong with it.

I’m all better now, so no worries there, but I know there are kids who are still raised the way I was. They have more messages countering the stealthy and overt “gay is bad.” The more varieties of media that can say matter-of-factly, “these two men were lovers” the better off we all are.