It has been a long and difficult week for many people. My news feed for the past week has been full of difficult topics–stuff that we don’t often want to talk about. Mental illness, suicide, race relations, violence. A lot of people seem to be feeling raw and angry over these things. I don’t blame them. Parts of me are raw and angry too.
This week I read The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer. It is a middle grade novel about a girl who is in her own difficult spot. After years of living a here-and-there life with her mother, Grace is grieving her mother’s loss and trying to figure out where she belongs now. It is a lovely story about grief and identity that made me tear up several times. Mostly I felt like the novel was about hope.
Whenever Grace had to start at a new school after yet another move, her mother would tell her, “You can do this. You are brave, and you are loved.” I want to repeat those words to so many people right now.
You are brave.
You are loved.
I can’t change the world with those words, but perhaps if we keep talking and keep changing our own small worlds, things will get better.
Call me an introvert if you must–you wouldn’t be wrong–but I have to admit that there are few things better than a weekend to myself. It’s been a busy couple of months (as evidenced by the lack of blog posts), and I was more than happy to spend a couple of days re-charging from all the goings on of late while my husband and daughter traveled for the weekend.
I decided to avoid planning too much, to just do whatever I felt like doing at the moment. It felt like the height of luxury. I highly recommend the experience if you have the opportunity.
My weekend consisted of books, art, and writing. Here are some highlights:
- Live-tweeting my reading of Dangerous by Shannon Hale with the hashtag #dwoh (or Dangerous with one hand). It is the only novel I recall reading with a main character with a congenital limb deficiency, and I couldn’t help but be excited about it. Shannon Hale has some interesting things to say about why she chose to write a character who is differently abled, among other things, in this essay.
- Exploring the meditative quality of writing with Karen Hering, author of Writing to Wake the Soul, at a Sacred Salon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Sacred exhibit and the Salon were wonderfully inspiring, and I recommend both experiences to anyone interested in meditation or Buddhist ideas. I’ve mentioned my interested in meditation here and here.
- Turning up the volume on my latest musical obsession: Catbath. What says spring more than opening the windows and playing the music a little bit louder?
How would you spend a weekend to yourself with no obligations?
Back in June, I posted a list of my favorite books of the year at that point. Here are the books that made the list for the second half of the year.
- Wild by Emily Hughes – You can’t tame everything. You might remember this book from this post. (Ages 4-8)
- Journey by Aaron Becker – Beautiful wordless book. The trailer gives a peek into the magic. (Ages 4-8)
- Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden – A poem turned into a picture book that looks at changes with a gentle touch. (Ages 4-8)
- The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – Fun and different. (Ages 4-8)
- Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo – Great mix of humor and heart. This was my Book Pick in September. (Ages 8-12)
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan – I love pretty much anything David Levithan does in books, and this one was particularly good. I had more to say about it in this post. (Teen)
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – If I could only choose one book by this author, I’d choose Eleanor & Park for sure, but Fangirl is a close second. (Teen/Adult)
A look inside What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman.
What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings by Joyce Sidman – The subtitle of this book of poems threw me off a bit, but once I gave it a chance, I found a lovely tribute to the power of words. (Teen/Adult)
- Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart – I’m still dreaming of writing, and this book fueled the dream. (Adult)
The best book I read in 2013 was an old favorite that I reread in anticipation of the movie version, which I still haven’t seen. The Book Thief was just as good as I remembered it, and I highly recommend it if you have yet to read it.
What were your favorite reads of 2013?
I’m sticking with the theme from my last post and my new zine, Whereverland, for today’s Thursday Three post. I have three books in which moving and/or exploring one’s roots plays a role.
- The Language Inside by Holly Thompson – Emma spent most of her life as an American living in Japan–that’s home. Now she’s back in the States re-orienting to the place her parents have always thought of as “home.” Really beautiful teen novel in verse that explores connecting with people, places, and poetry. Teacher/Librarian note: There’s a discussion guide here. (Teen Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
- Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer – Ramsey Beyer captures her first year at art school in this graphic memoir. She’s a blogger, zinester, and an artist, so I was obviously a little biased toward liking this book even before I started reading. It’s a more innocent look at college–no parties or hangovers here–than you might find in other books, and Beyer’s sincerity and sweetness make this a cute coming of age book that zinesters and other creative sorts will enjoy. (Teen/Adult Memoir – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
- Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – This is an oldie, but it is not to be missed. When Naomi’s mom returns and wants custody of Naomi (and not her brother who has a birth defect), Naomi explores her father’s side with a trip to Mexico. That one sentence description hardly does the book justice. It is a thoughtful look at identity and family. A long-time favorite of mine. (Children’s Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
Have you read anything that fits this theme? What would you add?
I don’t have the time to write something about each and every book I read. I try to keep track in Goodreads, but I can never quite keep up. In any case, here are a few sentences for some books I’ve read recently.
- Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol – I will freely admit that I have a particular weakness for winter-related picture books. Like a good Minnesotan, I love to romanticize wintry weather for all the magic it offers. This picture book turns the idea of winter into a lullaby. The illustrations are striking and beautiful. Well worth checking out. Find it at your library or buy it at an independent bookstore.
- Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan – Technically, I suppose I still have a chapter left to read on this book. I’m reading it aloud to my daughter, and we are quite enjoying it. There are lots of fun words to say (dinglederrydoo and hoopalala) and plenty of alliteration, wordplay, and general silliness to make a good read-aloud. Check out the author’s web site for instructions on drawing a bunny. Find it at your library or buy it at an independent bookstore.
- A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown – This graphic novel memoir of faith and fatherhood is a quick read full of real moments of life with a preschooler along with memories from Brown’s childhood. He was raised in a religious family, but he has since moved away from his childhood faith, which makes for some awkwardness with various family members. Brown won the Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication for his previous book Darth Vader and Son. Find it at your library or buy it at an independent bookstore.
You can like this blog on Facebook for regular #Fridayreads posts. As usual, it’s all over the map. Some Fridays, it’s a picture book. Other Fridays, it’s a teen novel. Occasionally I even read books for adults. :)
We’re six months into 2013, and my running favorites list has already gotten long enough to share. Here are the seven books I’ve loved so far this year:
- How To by Julie Morstad – This picture book is simple and nostalgic. It is for anyone who wants to remember what being a kid was like. I don’t know if it will have tons of kid appeal, but the Mindy appeal is through the roof. (All ages)
- The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers – Anyone who has a sibling and a heart will probably at least “aww” a little at this book. It’s an easy-to-read graphic novel, and it’ll be available in English and in Spanish in September. (Ages 5-8)
- The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz – The Sleepwalkers will save you from your nightmares. They are the superheroes of your dreams, but they are training in new heroes in this graphic novel. So we get to watch the new Sleepwalkers take on scary-weird dream stuff of the night. It’s all about empowering kids to face their fears, and I love it. (Ages 7-10)
- Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler – You remember this one from last week’s post, right? (Teen)
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – This is the book that everyone in the library world has been talking about. It took me a while to get it from the library because there was already a long list by the time I added my name to it. I guess I kind of thought that it wouldn’t live up to the hype since I’d heard and read so many of my colleagues gushing about it. I was wrong. All the hype is deserved. I adored this book. (Teen)
- Relish by Lucy Knisley – I must recommend this book to all of my foodie friends, if not for the delightful coming-of-age food-related memoir stuff, then for the visual recipes throughout. Very cool. (Teen/Adult)
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler – This is kind of an unusual novel. It took me a bit to get into it, but once it grabbed my attention, it kept it. A couple of reviews have advised readers to avoid spoilers on this one, so if you are the sort who likes to be surprised, don’t research too much. Just give it a chance. I think you’ll be surprised. (Teen/Adult)
What 2013 releases have you read and loved? What are you looking forward to?
I picked up The House at the End of Hope Street with the wish to read something out of my ordinary. In this novel, Alba is a studious young woman who is at a difficult spot in her life. That’s when she finds a magical house at 11 Hope Street. It’s a charming novel that will appeal to readers who don’t mind a bit of fantasy mixed with their contemporary issues, especially if you’ve got a soft spot for libraries.
“Also, she hasn’t been to the library in nearly a month and she’s starting to get withdrawal symptoms. It’s not just books Alba craves, it’s standing inside a place that houses millions of them. Libraries are Alba’s churches, and the university library, containing one edition of every book ever published in England, is her cathedral.”
If libraries are your churches, you might like this book. :)
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There was a time when I lived and breathed poetry, but somewhere along the way I seem to have lost track of it. Here is my attempt to re-connect with a lost love: discovering new poets.
- Space, In Chains by Laura Kasischke – This poet landed in my inbox via the Poem-a-Day email from the Academy of American Poets, and I was intrigued enough by what I read to seek out more of her work.
- Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability – I’ve perused much of this collection, and the poet that stands out to me is Ona Gritz (also a picture book author and columnist). She doesn’t just write about disability. Her work is about parenting, stories, and relationships as well as her experiences as a person with cerebral palsy.
- Real Karaoke People by Ed Bok Lee – I believe I became aware of Lee through MPR, perhaps it was this story from Euan Kerr, and I’ve been meaning to read more of his work for some time.
Are you doing anything for National Poetry Month? I particularly like Poem in Your Pocket Day, especially for kids. Hennepin County Library has poetry related events all month long for local readers.
Of course, it is also Autism Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so it’s a good month to challenge your preconceptions.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit this blog. Thanks for your support!
For Women’s History Month, I dug into my own history. Several years ago, I started a zine about the books that shaped my ideas of feminism and femininity, but I set it aside. I revisited the idea back in 2011 when Bitch Magazine published their list of books for the young adult feminist reader, and the resulting controversy over the titles left me too intimidated to share my own such list. It took a while, but I got over my intimidation.
Here is the final version of Being a Girl: A Recommended Reading List:
If you peek inside, you can see it is a mix of the old (typed) and the new (handwritten). My original book picks and comments are unedited, but I couldn’t resist adding my current thoughts.
You can order it online here.
Also, if you are interested in books and feminism, you might check out a new series from First the Egg in which feminist readers share childhood favorites and current children’s book picks. Watch for my contribution, and share your thoughts in the comments! :)
When an ARC of Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel found its way to my desk at work, I almost passed it on without reading it. When you work in children’s books, you get really picky about the general adult books you read because your reading time is a precious work-related commodity. For most people, the name Elizabeth Strout (and the fact that it is attached to the words “Pulitzer Prize winner”) is probably enough to make the book a priority, but I am not most readers.
The extra push that put The Burgess Boys in my “to read” pile? As usual for my reading choices it involved a local connection. Like Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys is set in small-town Maine. Maine and Minnesota both have a large population of Somali refugees, and that sometimes results in some cultural misunderstandings–like the recent incident at Washburn High School in Minneapolis.
The incident that begins The Burgess Boys is only part of the story in the book. It is a family story about relationships and motivations. It was occasionally heavy handed in the don’t-assume-too-much-about-people theme, but not so much that it detracted from the intimate story of people trying to make sense of the world in which they live.
As a side note for those who know or work with teens, Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian addresses some of the same issues (Maine, Somali immigrants, tolerance) for a young adult audience. Also recommended.
Check out last month’s book pick: Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit this blog. Thanks for your support!