Monday, January 16, 2017

TTT: Underrated Gems

The delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly list challenge.  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check them out!

The topic this week is Underrated Gems You've Read Recently.   This should be super interesting, and definitely one of those weeks when we won't all be talking about the same books!

Here's my method:  I sorted my Goodreads "read" shelf by number of ratings, lowest to highest.  Then I scrolled through that, looking for any books I'd read in 2016.  If it had a rating of four or five stars, it made this list.  I kept going until I had ten books.  SCIENCE!  Or is that math?

Facts of Life: Stories by Gary Soto
83 ratings
Gary Soto is no longer the only Mexican American YA/MG author.  Now we also have Matt de la Peña, Meg Medina, and, um, okay we actually still have quite a ways to go.  I don't love every story in this book--Soto does a lot of slice-of-life stuff that can feel frustratingly unresolved--but I think it's right up there with his best work.

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
120 ratings
Sakado and the Thousand Paper Cranes was published in 1977.  That's 40 years ago.  Now there is a Hiroshima story for the 21st century.  I loved that the author, who based her story on her mother's life, took the time to establish the "before" era as well, so you fully understand the magnitude of loss, and so you see the relatable humanity of all involved.

We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart by Walter Dean Myers with art by Christopher Myers
143 ratings
This is a gorgeous picture book that uses free verse poetry and colorful paintings to tell our country's long history of messing things up and striving for our ideals.  Tons of Americans of color are featured in the artwork, both those we all know and those we should.

12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith
156 ratings
While We are America consists of one long poem, this picture book has twelve separate poems that illustrate points in the life of Cassius Clay as he grows up and becomes Muhammad Ali.

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams
177 ratings
Another picture book, this one resonates so strongly with me as an adoptive mom.  The story of two men who adopt a little boy and DON'T DO EVERYTHING PERFECTLY EVEN THOUGH THEY TOTALLY LOVE HIM hits many a nerve.  Plus, you have to love the fact that this book involves two dads but it absolutely not about "Timmy Has Two Daddies"--it's just who they are, not a plot point.

My Seneca Village by Marilyn Nelson
189 ratings
I'm starting to notice that almost all of these books are in untraditional formats.  In this one, poet Marilyn Nelson uses historical records of a place in NYC called Seneca Village to create a multiple points of view story of a time and place that ended when the area was razed to make room for Central Park.  Who knew? Not me.  Novels in verse can get you right into the characters' heads, but can struggle to convey the world they walk through.  Nelson solves this by offering stage directions, as if it's a series of monologues.

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
270 ratings
I keep raving about this series, which satirizes fairy tales with glee.  Anything that combines feminism with a sense of humor AND a gripping story line is a winner.

Play me Backwards by Adam Selzer
272 ratings
Snarky and gleefully inappropriate, this book that I went into without any expectations made me laugh out loud several times.  These slacker stoner kids are not role models (especially the one who might actually be Satan), but they are funny all the same.

We Know it was You by Maggie Thrash
281 ratings
If you've read Thrash's graphic novel/memoir Honor Girl, you will be in no way prepared for this extremely strange, extremely enjoyable YA mystery.  (You'll also be relieved to know the story does have a resolution, or at least as much of one as the first in a planned series can be expected to.)

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton an 
632 ratings
Pokiak-Fenton worked with her daughter-in-law, author Jordan-Fenton to write this memoir of her experience as an Inuit child attending the white boarding school run by nuns.  Young Margaret didn't understand why her parents were so worried about her leaving her home and culture, and had no idea what she was getting herself into.  On the other hand, the nuns had no idea who they were fucking with.

Three picture books, two memoirs of a previous generation, a short story collection, a novel in verse, a graphic novel, and a couple of weird novels.  I guess these hidden gems are all untraditional.  So branch out!  Give one a try!

I can't wait to see what lists you all have put together too.



  1. I haven’t heard of most of these. *Scurries to Goodreads.* Thanks for sharing!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. The LAst Cherry Blossom and We Know It Was You jump out at me, I'd like to know more about both. We Are America too maybe.

  3. I haven't read any of these, but I'm curious about We Know it Was You. I saw Maggie Thrash at a convention I went to not too long ago, and I really liked her.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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