Sunday, September 30, 2018

An Evening With V. E. Schwab

 I am lucky enough to live in a city with a big name independent bookstore (Powell's), and lucky enough to live four miles from their second biggest branch. I "discovered" author visits there a couple of years ago. I've been able to see some of my favorites, and even got to bring groups of students out when Margaret Peterson Haddix and April Henry made appearances. Last year though, I didn't see as many names I was excited about, other than Neal Shusterman, of course.

This year though--wow. I checked their event calendar, which I often forget to do, and couldn't believe how many great authors they have coming to my suburban branch alone. The calendar only goes out two months, but when I checked in early September I saw Kwame Alexander, Laini Taylor, Colleen Houck, Sy Montgomery, Dana Simpson, and V. E. Schwab. I immediately started campaigning my principal to let me bring students to see Alexander, let my daughter know I'd take her to see Simpson, and put Taylor and Schwab on my own calendar. 

I kept meaning to re-read Vicious before the event, and on Tuesday, two days before the event,  I finally got an ebook version on Scribd. I had forgotten a lot, so I still got to be shocked several times, and the story had lost none of its power. I wrapped it up Wednesday night and was ready to dive into the new book the next day.

Thursday after school I got a large coffee on my way home from work, swung by the house to eat a quick dinner, then made it to Powell's by 6:10 for Schwab's 7:00 event. I ended up with ticket 78, and there were a lot of people sitting behind me. Luckily, there was no boredom while waiting for her to speak, since I picked up Vengeful on my way in. I made good headway while sitting in a less-than-idea folding chair in a crowd of strangers, many of whom were dressed in the red, black, and white of a Schwab cover.

Schwab herself was diminutive, confident, cheerful and open.  (I suppose I'm just assuming about the last three there, but it's how she appeared to me.) Her work is so fierce and dark that I was almost surprised. Still, one recurring message of her work is to not dismiss the small and cute. An early question in the evening had to do with the increased role of women in this new book, and with the rage they feel and express, and how that might possibly tie into current events (remember, this was the same day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified).  She gave us this quote, and I thrilled when I encountered it in the book the next day:

"'Never underestimate an angry woman.'
'Never underestimate a woman,' amended Rios."

She talked about her OTHER new book, a middle grade novel called CIty of Ghosts (which you better believe I had her sign for my classes) and upcoming comic, a prequel for the Darker Shades of Magic series, and joked that once she had a picture book whole out, she'd be creating Schwab readers from early childhood on. Wait, maybe it wasn't a joke. The middle grade series, she said, would "start out scary and then get scarier."

There were several questions about process. She always has the end planned out, and says if she knows where her characters will end up, and who they will be at the end, she can then back-plan to figure out where they came from and how the developed. She writes by creating quick summaries of scenes, then expanding into slightly longer summaries, and as she goes, if a great line of dialogue or perfect piece of description occurs to her, she jots it down. At the end, she has a bunch of puzzle pieces that may or may not fit into the scene, and then she starts assembling them. It sounds like she has a really interesting and personal blend of careful plotting and wildly spontaneous drafting.

She told us that when she first submitted Vengeful last winter, her agent told her look, this is a good book, and most of your readers will like it, and if you want us to sell it we will. But I think you've grown a lot as a writer since the first book, and I'd love to see you push yourself further with this.  So she rewrote the whole damn thing. Instead of telling us more of Victor's story, she centered the book around the stories of Marcella, June, and Sydney, three women who had been overlooked, infantilized, pushed aside, and who are now claiming their power, each in her own way. It's very satisfying, I must say.

It was a great evening, and I didn't mind waiting over an hour for the signing afterwards because I still had that great book to keep reading. She was very generous about personalizing two books per person and then signing any others as well, and letting everyone take a picture with her. Celebrity culture is always so weird, but I can never resist getting books signed and author photos taken. In the picture I took it looks as if I'm a giant, or possibly as if we're in two slightly different dimensions, which of course is absolutely perfect.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just an Annotated List of Sixty of My Favorite Banned Books

I was inspired by Anne's TTT list of her favorite banned or challenged books, and went through all the links she provided of books banned or challenged most frequently in the past thirty years. Out of all of those, these books are personal favorites. There are plenty of others on those lists that I value (Dav Pilky has done more for literacy in this country than anyone), but today I'm just focusing on books I've loved.

I started out trying to explain why I liked each book, but quickly fell into snarky rebuttal of those who would ban it. I have to be so polite when I talk banned books in class, so I think some of my repressed spite about the topic leaked into this blog post. Sorry/not sorry.

A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck . Such heartbreak.
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein  Silverstein's poems are always fun.
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving Just read this in summer 2017--terrific book!
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle Dated, but I loved it so much as a kid.
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez I've taught some gang kids, and this book was so educational for me.
And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole . This book is adorable and lovely and people who try to ban it are really revealing their inner soullessness. 
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison So funny, and far less scandalous than that title sounds.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume Classic. Judy tells it like it is.
Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher This isn't his strongest book, but it's still great.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison Yeah, dummies, it's bleak and awful because f*cking slavery was bleak and awful! (I don't mean YOU are the dummies; I mean people who'd ban this.)
Blubber, by Judy Blume This book disturbed the hell out of me as a kid because a) it made me feel guilty for relational bullying I did and b) it didn't tie everything up with a happy ending. And both of those are GOOD things for kids.
Deenie, by Judy Blume This might be TMI, but I learned that female masturbation was a thing from this book, and, well, yay. 
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier This book is adorable, and people want to ban it because it doesn't pretend gay people don't exist. Idiots. 
Earth’s Children (series), by Jean M. Auel These books were 80% of my sex ed in middle school, plus I loved the story of plucky cave girl Ayla inventing fire and braids and domesticated animals.
Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell My love for this paean to mid 80s teen misfits in love knows no bounds. 
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury Wouldn't it be funny if a book about the evils of banning books got banned?  Actually no. It's not funny. Stop it.
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going This has that hilarious/heartbreaking thing going for it. 
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes Maybe I hate this book. It sure is emotional.
George written by Alex Gino News flash: transgender people exist. Please don't ban this completely non-sexual, inoffensive book just because the protagonist is transgender. We don't need more trans kids killing themselves because society tretas them like garbage. 
Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen Who doesn't love a good "peeing on the electric fence" story? Book banners, I guess.
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling Oh, come ON! 
His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman I do see why Catholics were kind of offended. But again, it's a fantasy. Don't take it personal.
I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas See what I said about George, and add to that the fact that Jazz is an actual person. 
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou Yes, this book is harrowing. It is also about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. I feel like that's a good message. 
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak Cartoon toddler in bedtime story doesn't wear underpants. Um, have you met any toddlers? They are naked a lot. It's ok.
It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris. I think every kid should have access to kid friendly books about puberty. No awkward conversations, no unfortunate Google results, no playground misconceptions.
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl Nobody has every claimed that Dahl is normal. That's why we love him.
Looking for Alaska written by John Green Green's debut is exquisitely Green-ish. 
Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich She gets minimum wage jobs and writes about trying to survive on them. Spoiler: It's f*cking hard to do so. I guess if you ban this book, nobody will ever realize that?
Ordinary People, by Judith Guest How I longed to see the Donald Sutherland/Mary Tyler Moore movie of this. Probably dated, but an honest look at tragedy, depression, and suicide.
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi How dare she write of her own experience growing up in Iran during the fall of the Shah? Why, she might make us think of Iranians as actual people with inner lives, family ties, and general humanity!
Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett I gotta be honest; this book is kinda rapey, and it's not ever going in my middle school classroom. But it's also amazing. 
Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples Also never going into my classroom, because it's a full color graphic novel with sex scenes. Otherwise, this (yep) saga of an interspecies space family would be a great fit. It is SO COOL. 
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut My Vonnegut phase was about 25 years ago, so I don't remember this one well, but it's funny and anti-war and kind of wacky.
Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson I view this a bit differently today--it's very much centered around the white experience--but still love this very NW story that highlights anti-Japanese racism during and after WWII. 
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison I really, really, really need to re-read this. Toni Morrison is incredible, and I loved this book.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson #MeToo, Laurie. Groundbreaking 20 years ago, and unfortunately still relevant.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher Besides being one of the best titles ever, this is as great as all his work is. 
That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton Oh, this book made me so SAD in 8th grade. 
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie Alexie, it turns out, has some major issues. This book, however, will always be one of the most tragic and humorous books around. 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain It's a classic for a reason, which is ironic since Twain made fun of classics.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain He attends his own funeral. He has zany adventures with Becky Thatcher and Huck. He is a rapscallion and self absorbed and manipulative and loving. He's a boy. 
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison I read this in college and was blown away.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker I've voted for about 20 different books in the Great American Read thing PBS is doing, but honestly? This one should win. 
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon It was ground breaking in having an autistic narrator, and while it might feel a bit dated in its rep now, it was still a fun and fascinating read.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler Given how funny the title is, this is a surprisingly deep little book.
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney Such a great premise. She sees herself on a missing persons notice on the milk carton. But she's not missing...or is she?
The Giver, by Lois Lowry A modern classic. I taught it to five classes one year, and ended up liking it better than before I started. THAT is a sign of a good book.
The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls A perfect example of how saying a book is inappropriate is such a slap in the face to people whose lives are portrayed in them.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood Hipster Wendy loved this book decades before any of y'all had heard of the show. 
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Let's deny racism and police brutality, because that will definitely solve the problem. I guess that's the thinking behind banning this?
The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende What? Why? This list is starting to really get to me. I can only take so much magical realism, but this book is the gold standard.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins Why yes, it IS violent and disturbing. It's about violence, exploitation, commercialization, and repression. That's kind of the point.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold Once again we have the "if we just don't read books about it, it will stop existing" school of thought. 
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton Stay gold, Ponyboy. Don't let people take away your right to be a greaser with an inner life and loving connections to others just because it messes with their elitist classist bullsh*t. 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky  Nineties YA is not my strong point, since I was between teendom and teacherdom, but even I know and love this one.
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien Yes, soldiers swear. And cry. And shoot people. War sucks, okay? 
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume Romantic and honest.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee This book could be retired as The Book About Race for sure (maybe let some POC authors take the forefront?), but I love it for itself. 
Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher My favorite "vintage" Crutcher. He does such a good job with found families. 
What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones Novel in verse! Latina author! A teenager whose first crush doesn't end up being the Love Of Her Life! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ban This Blog

(Not really.)

I kicked off Banned Books Week by reading Alan Gratz's Ban This Book. I've mentioned earlier on Falconer's Library how having Eleanor and Park yanked from our classroom libraries sent me in pursuit of more information about how to resist book challenges and got me all fired up about Banned Books in general. Since I am in awe of Gratz's Refugee, when I caught sight of this title at my local library, I couldn't resist.

Ban This Book is, ironically, squeaky clean. It's not even a middle grade novel, but is firmly in the children's book category, with a painfully shy fourth grade narrator who has dilemmas such as "My sisters are annoying!" and "The librarian makes me wait a week between renewals on my favorite book so other kids get a chance to read it too!" Still, you gotta love a protagonist whose response to a concentrated effort to "clean up" the elementary school library is to start circulating banned books out of her locker.

The main book banner, a bossy PTA mom in a pink tracksuit, seemed cartoonish in her prudery and self officiousness. The books that are challenged seemed for the most part to be older books that would no longer raise many eyebrows. And yet...there is something very frightening about the idea of someone coming in and enforcing their personal opinions on a public school library. One of my favorite moments is when Amy Anne's dad buys her a copy of her favorite book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, thinking that he's solved the problem. AA thinks about how she discovered this beloved book on the library shelf, and that while she's glad to have her own copy, now no other kid will be able to find it and make it their favorite.

The day after reading this book, I pulled a bunch of banned and challenged books off the shelves of my classroom library and talked about them with each class. I knew they'd be shocked when I held up Captain Underpants, confused when I held up Harry Potter, and giggle when I held up It's Perfectly Normal and Forever.

Last year my big message was that if you say a book is inappropriate because a character in it is transgender/has an alcoholic parent/uses profane language, what kind of message does that send to a child who is transgender, has an alcoholic parent, and is constantly inundated by swearing? This year my big themes were that while any parent can make choices for their own child, no parent should make choices for the community as a whole, and that if a book is offensive, or frightening, or goes against your values, than you have the choice of not reading it.

I also talked about that whole E&P incident, how parents cherrypicked the vulgar language in the book to "prove" to our principal why it didn't belong in a middle school. And how now that I've educated myself more about that, what I wish I could have articulated then--that the hateful language in the book is used by characters who are either abusive, or who are unaware of the whole story and heedless of the impact their words have. That the book shows that we don't always know what other people are going through, so we should give them grace and kindness, not ugliness and mockery. That if those words offend you, then they are doing their job. They were used cruelly in the book, not as something to emulate. I also talked about the need to read a book before clamoring for its removal. Anyone who's actually read Eleanor and Park knows what I just said. Anyone who's read Harry Potter knows it's about love and sacrifice and friendship, not devil worship.

My experience with E&P also led me to information about the correct way a book challenge is supposed to be handled. Amy Anne's school librarian, resplendent in polka dots throughout the story, attempts to remind her boss about the district policy, only to lose her job. This part was highly improbable--while a principal might want to move quickly to placate an angry parent, being told that they are violating board policy would slow them right down. And you can't just fire a librarian--she seemed to be a licensed media specialist, which means she'd have the support of the teachers' union. At any rate, I've since researched my own district's policy and am much better equipped to push back if there's a next time.

My students, as ever, grabbed the challenged and banned books as quickly as they could. Both copies of Forever and both copies of Eleanor and Park were checked out. Someone checked out This One Summer and someone borrowed George. One boy asked, red faced and smirking, if he could actually check out It's Perfectly Normal. He was still reading it during silent reading time today, giggling and showing bits to his friends at times, but also focused and serious at times.  (Side note: I loved books about puberty when I was that age. You don't want to have to ask adults, you don't even know what you don't know, you don't want to reveal ignorance to peers, and well, online sex ed quickly gets overwhelming and non-factual. A no-nonsense book is so helpful.)

Touting banned books makes me feel like a rebel, I must admit.  Banning a book is no proof of literary quality, but hey, neither is NOT banning a book. If there is merit in a book, if it can serve as a window or mirror, as a safe way to learn about hard things, if it can answer questions a reader is afraid to ask, if it can help a young person to find value in reading, then that book has a place in my classroom library. As I told one class yesterday, there is no place for 50 Shades of Grey, because it does none of those things. (Not that I would prevent any adults from reading it, or even prohibit young people from reading it on their own--just that it's not defendable in a classroom.)

I started my day with two "I read banned books" buttons on my lanyard, but handed them to students, one reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and one reading Speak. We read banned books.

image from here; buttons provided in many Oregon libraries

My Banned Books Week posts over the years:
Talking Banned Books with Middle Schoolers 2015
I Read Banned Books; Can I Let My Students Do the Same? 2015
Banned Books Week 2016
Flotsam and Jetsam 2017

Today's post was inspired by Anne of My Head is Full Of Books writing her TTT this week about challenged and banned books. She has a great list!

Monday, September 24, 2018

TTT: Unread Books by Favorite Authors

With the delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish moving on to other things, TTT is now hosted by just one of their contingent, That Artsy Reader Girl .  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 it out!

The topic this week is: books by my favorite authors that I still haven't read.

Jane Unlimited by Kristen Cashore. I LOVED the Graceling series. I have been excited to read this book since before it came out. But a) fear of being let down and b) really disliking the cover have held me back.

The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah. I read a lot of YA, but my first love is adult mystery. Hannah writes beautiful British mysteries with deeply troubled characters.

Still Life with Tornado by the blessedly weird A. S. King. When she's good, she's great. When she's making my brain hurt, she's still fascinating.

So, so much Jason Reynolds. Sunny. Patina. The Boy in the Black Suit. As Brave As You. Miles Morales. For Every One. In my defense, I started reading him just under two years ago, and have managed to read four of his books so far. 

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman. This is a pretty deep dive, being published 12 years ago, but I happened to read the sequel already and found it surprisingly (for Shusterman) funny as well as unsurprisingly good. 

We'll Always Have Paris: Stories by Ray Bradbury. I owe Neil Gaiman a thank you for reminding me in his wonderful short story "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury," how much I loved Ray Bradbury in middle and high school. Finding out that this collection existed made me very happy. Now I just need to read it. 

No Time to Spare by Ursula Le Guin. Her last book. *Sob* I've read snippets of it, standing in the aisle of the bookstore, and it's wonderful.  

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison.  Man, this list is getting serious. I know I love these authors, but I'm beginning to suspect I avoid these books in favor of lighter fare. But I KNOW I love their work! So I need to buckle down and read!

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.  I feel like it's trite for a white woman my age to claim Kingsolver as a favorite author, but by golly, she is. From essays to novels to memoir, I've loved her work.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. I don't know if anyone gets to write more than one book as good as Holes, but I'm always down to try something new from the wild mind of Mr. Sachar. 

I've read multiple books by all of these authors, and find them consistently great. I hope I get to all of these titles, and that they don't let me down!

Monday, September 17, 2018

TTT: 2018 Fall TBR

With the delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish moving on to other things, TTT is now hosted by just one of their contingent, That Artsy Reader Girl .  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 it out!

The topic this week is: Books on your fall TBR.

This is always a mildly hilarious type of post for me to write. Not just because the idea of only having ten books on my TBR is so adorably off by a factor of ten or more, but because the idea of me following my own reading plan is just not believable. I've tried. I suck.

That being said, here's what I'd really like to get to soon. It's a mix of upcoming titles, recent titles, and backlist titles. Mostly YA with a tiny bit of MG and adult reads in there too. In other words, pretty  reflective of my reading habits overall. If I don't read THESE exact 10 books this fall, I'll read books like them.

1. Breakout by Kate Messner. I've been wanting to read this since she was blogging about pieces of her process with it. I love her writing, and I love the work she does to connect teachers and authors, so I really want to support her books. It's in my classroom library. I talked a friend into getting it, and she really enjoyed it. But I haven't read it yet.

2. Vicious. Victoria Schwab has been tweeting reminders that if we started a re-read of Vicious right now, we'd be done just in time for the second book in the set. I am fully planning on going to see her on tour in less than two weeks, and I will buy and have her sign the book then. So it would indeed be terrific if I were to re-read the book in time for that.

3. Give Me Some Truth. I loved his If We Ever Get Out of Here. I finally started reading this more recent book, which I got at ALAN in November, last month. It has been showing up on my email signature as "currently reading" for WEEKS now. But I haven't actually picked it up since that first time. Not because I didn't like it--I DID really like it. But I got distracted.

4. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. I am really hoping I can get the most out of this without re-reading Strange the Dreamer, because it's a big ass book, and I have small ass time.

5. What if It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Because it's by Becky Albertalli AND Adam Silvera.

6. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. It sounds good. It has a rather cute dauschund on the cover. It would qualify for my (very neglected) Pop Sugar Reading Challenge as a book with an animal in the title. And I've had it checked out from the library for nine weeks. I just renewed it for the fourth and final time, so now I have three weeks to actually read the damn thing.

7. She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. Um. This one already went through all four renewals. I had it on my shelf for 12 weeks. I did not turn it in when I brought back all my due and overdue library books because dammit, I'm going to read it.

8. Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I liked The False Prince. I loved A Night Divided. I'm so excited she's written another middle grade modern historical fiction!

9. Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed. This is THE book teachers are talking about right now.

10. Dry by Neal and Jarod Shusterman. I think Shusterman just keeps getting better and better, and I got to hear him talk about the idea for this book when I went to an author event last winter, so I'm super excited to read this father-son effort.

Here's to some happy reading this fall!

Monday, September 10, 2018

TTT: Hidden Gems

With the delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish moving on to other things, TTT is now hosted by just one of their contingent, That Artsy Reader Girl .  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 it out!

The topic this week is: Hidden Gems

So I did what any other completely normal, not at all obsessive reader would do. I went to my  Goodreads "Favorites" shelf of 156 books, reverse sorted them by number of reviews, and picked the first ten that aren't entirely idiosyncratic (Oregon For All Seasons, an out of print travel book from the mid 1970s that my dad did the photography for) or reflect a dated sense of my taste (A Vein of Riches, a midcentury unionization novel that anchors around the love of a father and son for the same woman, which in retrospect is pretty icky, but seemed SO ROMANTIC to me when I was 14). 

And here they are.

Loser's Bracket, which I've already reviewed here on Falconer's Library. Chris Crutcher is so amazing, but because he's been writing so long, I feel like people think he's just some 80s author. Nope. He's pushing 80, but he still gets it SO RIGHT when writing about strong kids from tough backgrounds.

The Digger series is unexpectedly adorably for a gritty fantasy. Or it's unexpectedly gritty for an adorable fantasy. Either way, I would love to know more people who've read this black and white graphic novel about a wombat who ends up in the wrong place.

Speaking of graphic novel/comics series that everyone should be talking about, but nobody is, Princeless is the most swashbuckling, joyful, feminist celebration and parody of princess stories that ever could be.  Do yourself a favor and start at the first volume, then keep going!

Ball Don't Lie was the second book by Matt de la Peña I ever read, and it holds a special place in my heart. Between my professional and my personal life, I have a strong tendency to root for the kid with a shitty family background, the kid without roots or support. And I'm not a sports person myself, but it's obvious that the characters Sticky plays ball with are people de la Peña knows well, and I'm also a sucker for strong secondary characters.

I strongly suspect that were I to read The Singing Tree for the first time today, I'd roll my eyes at the role of women, at the patronizing tone taken towards Jews, and the rampant pro-Hungary themes. But I read this when I was eight. And nine. And ten. And so on. And what I loved, and will always love, is the strength of Kate's character and will, the believable and unshakeable family love portrayed, the age appropriate analysis of how war warps people, whether they are shell shocked survivors or those on the homefront being taught that The Enemy is trash. And then there's the novel's strongest theme, that of love and grace enduring despite all of that. If I had to choose just one book from my childhood, this one might be it. 

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is delightful, charming, creative, and given her recent death, incredibly poignant.  

Symphony for the City of the Dead hits a bunch of my weaknesses: Russia--specifically the siege of Leningrad--classical music, and narrative nonfiction. I was nervous about tackling such a big book (456 pages), but it was fascinating and never dragged. M. T. Anderson's brain must be such a cool place to live. He never writes the same kind of book twice, and he never messes them up.

Rebound is the prequel to the Newbery award winning novel in verse The Crossover. I wasn't convinced we needed a prequel. I was wrong. It's just as good as the first book.

Lily & Dunkin are two middle school kids dealing with a lot. Lily is transgender, no matter how hostile her dad is to the idea, and she wants to start hormone therapy before she goes through puberty. Dunkin is new in town, in denial about a family tragedy and about his own mental health. Despite that description, this is a positive, joyful book. 

A woman and a cyborg fall in love, and it's not trite. He She and It is a book I always associate with The Handmaid's Tale. I read them close together, when they were both "the latest" book by steadfastly intellectual feminist authors. Both books delved into science fiction in a way that made the storylines more compelling than I'd found the authors' previous work, without taking away from their ferocity of mind.  I also love Piercy's City of Darkness, City of Light, set during the French Revolution. No cyborgs. 

Other books I adore that have fewer than 10,000 reviews:
The River Why, Small Wonder, Boy 21, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, The Wrong Mother, Ramona Blue, The 57 Bus, Winterdance, How It Went Down, WitnessNightjohn, Death Comes for the Fat Man, Passage to Freedom, Bird, Home at Last, Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake, The Dunderheads


August in Review

My Reading

# of books read:
Seven. Can this be right? Quite the drastic change from July's 24.

Best(s):(In which I tell you all my five star reads and make up categories so they each win something)
Best Debut by Amazing Blogger: A Thousand Perfect Notes
Best Short Story Collection: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
Best Graphic Novel: Saga Vol. 8

Challenges progress:
Library Love: +6, so 99/60.
Beat the Backlist: +4, so 102/100--Woo hoo!
Goodreads: 124/52
Popsugar: +1, so 28/52
Discussion Challenge: +0, so still 6/10 In addition to my weak reading month, I hardly read any blogs, and that makes me sad. I still want to plow through a bunch of people's discussion posts!

Bookish Events and Happenings

None. Well, except that a friend and colleague also applied to be the recommender of the month at our library, so I feel like an influencer for sure. And I took a look at the upcoming author events at Powell's and WOW. V. E. Schwab, Ellen Hopkins, Laini Taylor, Kwame Alexander, Walter Mosley are all coming in the next six weeks. I want to go to Schwab's and Taylor's, and I hope to get a group together from school to go see Alexander. And I applied again to be a CYBILS judge, but won't find out for another 2 weeks. So there's a lot on the horizon, but not much happened in August.

On the Blog

Very little. I finally got around to my Mid Year Freakout Tag entry, and I participated in my first ever Picture Book 10 x 10, which is more of a teacher thing than a book blogger thing? I think? 


This is clearly where my time went this month. At the beginning of the month my daughter and I spent a few days at the beach with a friend of mine. The next week, the family went on a short road trip to the southern end of our state, where we breathed smoke from the forest fires, walked in the redwoods, introduced our stuffed reindeer to the animals at Wildlife Safari, played in the dunes, and were mind-boggled at the Oregon Vortex. I got very little reading done, because I can't read in the car, and my husband can't handle noise so audiobooks were out too. My husband's birthday is in August, and we went on a mini-hike nearby, then used the beer tasting gift card I got him for Christmas. There was a family dinner with the in-laws, moving my sister into her own place, and lots and lots of time spent prepping for the new school year. Inservice was the third week in August, and school started the last week in August. All of that means hardly any reading, and even less writing.

As much as I wish I'd done more reading and writing, it was a really good month.

My monthly summaries are always linked to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up on Feed Your Fiction Addiction, along with many other terrific blogs' monthly reflections.  Nicole usually puts together a fun scavenger hunt giveaway too, so go check it out!