Monday, October 14, 2019
Hail! Does That Mean Summer Is Over
Another week full of books and reading, just the way I like it. Another bunch of book clubs, of course. I run an elementary book club at the local school, and this year it is split in two so I show up on Tuesday and Thursday once a month. Tuesday was well attended, but Thursday was sparse. I may have to up my cookie game.
Tuesday night is always a book club/game night, and then Friday was my usual and longest-running book club, the one with friends. We went out to eat and talked about A Natural History of Dragons, including what makes a good audio book.
Tuesday is also my usual movie day, but after I made an early trip to the library to pick up another load of Cybils nonfiction books I came out to find that ICE was falling from the sky! When this happens in Texas it's bad news for cars, but these were small pellets but still a shock for October, especially since summer had seemed to be lingering. Then lightning filled the sky and thunder rumbled, and I decided not to drag my older friend Linda out. And to skip the Pokemon hunting I had also planned, since I've recently downloaded that Pokemon Go game. Luckily the weather avoided the times I had to enter and leave buildings, and we rescheduled our Ad Astra viewing for another day.
My reading pile is still dominated by the Cybils High School / Junior High nonfiction I'm working through, but so far it's really enjoyable. I'm enjoying the emphasis on true stuff.
Only a few days left -- so everyone should go nominate their favorite new books!
My currently reading shelf has stuck at 20. This includes six I only touch in between other books, one from my shelves, a serial audio from Baen, an audio CD for the car, and audio book from the library that I like better, a KINDLE app book, a Cybils longlist pick (this takes precedence over all else), a previous year's Cybils book, and two book club picks, an old pick and another I'm reading on time. Also five books I'm only pretending to read.
The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called It's Monday! What Are You Reading so I'll sign up there. There's also a version that is kidlit focussed at either Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers and I'm certainly eligible this week!
Becoming Naomi Leon, Pam Munoz Ryan. For my Tuesday elementary school book club.
Inkheart, Cornelia Funke. For my Tuesday night book club.
Scared Stiff, Willo Davis Roberts. For my Thursday elementary school book club.
Standing Up Against Hate, Mary Cronk Farrell. A Cybils nonfiction long list nominee.
A Queer History of the United States for Young People, Michael Bronski. A Cybils nonfiction long list nominee.
We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai. A Cybils nonfiction long list nominee.
Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of 'The Children's Ship,' Deborah Heiligman. A Cybils nonfiction long list nominee.
Becoming Naomi Leon, Pam Munoz Ryan. A good turn out, with a large percentage having read the book. I asked the kids about the complexity of having the mom as the "bad guy" and the kids discussed how it makes it impossible to win -- the kids shouldn't go with their mom, but if they don't, they lose her. They also talked about whether or not putting tape on your shirt makes you weird.
Fake News: Separating Fact from Fiction, Michael Miller. 2019 Cybils nonfiction longlist. I liked the topical discussion of fake news, and the two definitions of it -- news that is fake, either deliberately or because people are foolish, or news that is disliked and therefore denied. Miller discusses the history of various forms of news fraud or denial, and then looks at the way social media worked to drastically increase its spread and reach. This might be hard reading for some Republicans, as most of the false news stories circulating are of a conservative slant, many of them created by foreign and domestic entrepreneurs seeking the clicks of the gullible. The final chapter discusses how to spot fake news, and the example given is ludicrous if employed for every news item one sees but a good way to identify reliable news sources.
Unpresidented, Martha Brockenbrough. 2019 Cybils nonfiction longlist. Brockenbrough makes a heroic effort to be impartial, even reminding herself that her first impression of Trump was favorable back when she enjoyed the first season of his reality TV show. But after she carefully documents his life from his records of bullying as a child through the frequent brushes with the mob and clashes with equal opportunity divisions of the government as well as repeated bail-outs from his dad she is clearly not happy to see him as president. By this point, she mechanically reports on his continuous lies and exaggerations and ascribes malice to decisions that may have been based in carelessness or ignorance, or even perhaps failed policy (okay, by this point I was losing it as well). I don't know how Republicans would react -- if they deny the facts or just deny their significance for the biographical information before the presidency.
Scared Stiff, Willo Davis Roberts. Far fewer kids showed up, and they hadn't read the book. So we discussed books in general, what makes something scary, and what books to read next. And what kind of cookies are the best for book club.
Standing Up Against Hate, Mary Cronk Farrell. A Cybils nonfiction long list nominee. I struggled to match the tone of this book with the events it chronicled. There's a feel to WWII fiction for kids that this book shared -- proudly telling the story of a country that stands up to the Nazis and manages to defeat them at great personal cost. But in this case, the story of African American women in the army is mostly a story of petty American racism mixed with petty American sexism. The women are lied to during recruitment and precious few of the promises the army made were ever acknowledged, let alone redeemed. Americans consistently put the desires and feelings of racists above loyalty to their soldiers, and reacted with draconian punishments to any woman who protested either the racism or sexism. There's a few chapters on the 6888th which managed to travel to Great Britain and later to France and greatly speed up the delivery of mail to service men, but it's too little and too late. A very depressing and grim story of America's past.
A Queer History of the United States for Young People, Michael Bronski. I could feel the strain as the book was pushed into the constraints of a young people's edition; at times the explanations would feel simplified and complexities ignored. But in general it was a moving history of the United States told mainly through chapter biographies of people whom today would be regarded as queer -- the book works hard to explain how people's definitions of themselves and their actions changed through the years so that words used today might not apply. But issues of sexual desire and acts are addressed, as well as the definition of gender and how that is applied. I was squeamish at some of the carefully neutral language -- in one biography an eleven year old is described as exploring his sexuality through sex acts with three different adults, which I would describe very differently. I mean, obviously people don't awaken into sexual life at age eighteen or whatever our current marker of adulthood is, but there is a difference between a sixteen year old exploring their desire and an eleven year old exploited by the adults looked to for support. But in general I liked the tone and how Bronski carefully shows what is known and what is guessed, and what was happening in the society around the portraits that shaped their actions and legacies. I do think that ending at "the present" in this kind of book is a bad idea -- it would be better to explicitly label the date to make this book still relevant in five or more years time.
We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai. Yousafzai grounds this book in her own story of being chased out of Pakistan by gunshots from the Taliban, and then turns it over to a series of young women telling the stories of their own travels. Girls flee from invasions, from civil war, from terrorism, and from family trauma. Most of them are intent on education, partly because those are the ones drawn to Malala and so available for inclusion. They clearly articulate the pain of leaving their homeland, even as that land becomes unsafe for them. We also hear from two adults, one an American sponsor and one foundation worker who was herself a refugee decades ago.
Bookmarks Moved In:
Son of the Black Sword, Larry Correia. 63/? Baen's podcast serial. Lately we've only been getting ten minutes or so of this story.
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan. 3/10 discs. He has jumped across the barrier!
Book Lust, Nancy Pearl. Still in the B's. This is my emergency bag book, but I haven't had many reading emergencies.
One Good Dragon Deserves Another, Rachel Aaron. Dragon killers are a problem.
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang. Last month's Sword and Laser pick. More war.
Shakespeare's Landlord, Charlaine Harris. Audio. I am now looking for excuses to drive more so I can advance.
Chasing King's Killer, James L. Swanson. Cybils nonfiction finalist. Working on it when I can.
Norman's Gift, Michelle Olson. The story is pretty standard -- two toys are friends, and they worry about a present exchange. But the pictures are delightful -- these are careful photographs showing each stage of the toy's journey, and it's just how I imagined my toys behaving when I wasn't looking. This would be a fun shared read with youngsters, and I can imagine reading it and then encouraging kids to have their toys act out their own dramas. I would be there in a purely supervisory way, of course, not having the time of my life. (I received an ecopy of this book from the author for review.)
The Happiest Book Ever, Bob Shea. The humor matched my funny bone, and I liked looking at the small stories told by the illustrations, especially as the book loses its cool at the non-conforming frog. Who is perfect in every way. The ending didn't quite stick but this would have been popular at my house.
A Cage Went In Search of a Bird, Cary Fagan. It works as a kid book -- a little cage finds a matching bird. But as an adult I am baffled by the story -- won't the bird starve to death since the cage is now far away from a house? Is this a fable about taking care of pets? About how some creatures are meant for captivity/domestication? It seems very dark!
Copycat Bear, Ellie Sandall. From the shelf for the youngest kids, this cosy book shows a friendship tried and then proven. The bear is very cute as it lumbers about driving the bird crazy, but the bird decides the aggravation is worth it. So a good lesson, but it's mostly about the pictures of the bear trying to do bird things.
Let's Talk About Race, Julius Lester. Somehow I thought this was an older book, but I came across it while shelving in the local elementary school. I loved the artwork which brought home the message that we are all alike under the skin, even as we bring different experiences and personalities and cultures to the world.
These books I'm barely reading; I use them as palate cleansers between books I'm actually reading.
A Traitor to Memory, Elizabeth George.
The Educated Child, William Bennett. He seems not to be up on the latest research on spelling tests (they don't improve spelling) or homework (no benefits seen in young grades).
Cookie, Jacqueline Wilson.
Give All to Love, Patricia Veryan. Time for a ball!
Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt.
Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. Sample entries in reading journals.