Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November Recommendations

Have you read anything fun lately? Here are some of my recent favorites:


WOLF HOLLOW, by Lauren Wolk, is one of my very favorite books of 2016. Twelve-year-old Annabelle lives a quiet life in rural Pennsylvania, until Betty Glengarry shows up with all of her cruel, bullying ways. Annabelle must protect her two small brothers, and also the shell-shocked WWl veteran, Toby, even when town sentiment tries to dictate otherwise. Annabelle’s courage and compassion will touch readers, as she learns to stand up for what she knows is right, in this pitch-perfect coming of age story. (MG)

Delia Sherman (Changeling) has written another amusing, offbeat magical fantasy in THE EVIL WIZARD SMALLBONE. When Nick runs away from his horrible uncle in the middle of a blizzard, he takes refuge at a magical shop called Evil Wizard Books. The resident wizard makes Nick his apprentice, but refuses to teach him any magic. Luckily the bookstore does so instead. Nearby residents include a town of eerily similar people (supposedly under the protection of Nick’s master, the Evil Wizard Smallbone) as well as the Evil Wizard Fidelou with his pack of evil shape-shifting bikers. A fun story examining whether an evil wizard can also be good, the qualities necessary for success, and the importance of writing one’s own story. (MG)

With intriguing, flawed characters and a gripping storyline, WRECKED, by Maria Padian, explores a college rape case in which alcohol is involved, evidence is scarce, and social-media insults are flying. Alternating chapters reflect the perspectives of Haley, roommate of the accuser, and Richard, housemate of the accused, who are also—very inconveniently—developing a sweet, stormy, and wholly believable romance. Powerful, suspenseful, and timely—don't miss this one! (YA)

Picture Books

ONE DAY, THE END: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler, takes a fascinating look at what happens when a picture book text is pared down to its barest essentials, allowing the illustrations to provide all of the—fun-- details. It’s worth studying just for that, but it’s also a completely entertaining homage to the art of storytelling itself.

THEY ALL SAW A CAT, by Brendan Wenzel, is a beautifully illustrated musing on perspective, specifically the many different ways a roaming kitty appears to the many different animals—and one human—who encounter it.

In A CHILD OF BOOKS, artists Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons  Quit) and Sam Winston use typography, watercolor, pencil, and digital collage to create a magical story celebrating the power of imagination. It's a stunning collaboration by for the older picture book crowd to enjoy.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

November's Book of the Month--Unbecoming

November’s Book of the Month is UNBECOMING, by Jenny Downham, a story about three generations of red-headed women dealing with life, love, and dementia.

Katie’s grandmother, Mary, suddenly turns up, and she's having trouble with her memory. She doesn’t recognize Katie, Katie's brother Chris, or even her own daughter, Katie’s mother Caroline. To make matters worse, Caroline and Mary have had an extremely difficult relationship, and Caroline bitterly resents having to take Mary in. It’s a mess, but Katie feels drawn to the mysterious grandmother she never knew she had.

While Mary’s dementia is a challenge, Katie also struggles with her own issues. Like being seventeen and getting tormented for kissing her best friend Esme, dealing with intense pressure from her mom to be perfect, and figuring out how to take charge of her own, soon-to-be-adult life. Mary’s presence brings plenty of unanswered questions, and the family begins to peel back the layers to expose a whole slew of secrets and misunderstandings. UNBECOMING describes the importance of being true to one’s own self vs. the stifling power of conforming to expectations, while also creating a multi-faceted take on family, past, present, and future.

The author creates compelling strands for all three women. But, first and foremost, it's Katie’s story, as she grows and begins to come into her own, allowing the stories of the others to feed into who she is and who she is struggling to become. Heartfelt and wise, UNBECOMING is also accomplished on a much more intimate level, with Downham (also the author of Before I Die) crafting beautiful words into beautiful sentences, into paragraphs and chapters that are a joy to read.