At least this list is only half a month last. Maybe the next one will even be posted on time.
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter: I absolutely love Ally Carter. Her dialogue is amazing, and her plots are so freakin' entertaining. And then there's the characters--smart, funny and sexy. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko: I loved Choldenko’s use of historical facts intermixed with artistic license. While she kept the book grounded in facts, she didn’t let the details get in the way of telling the story. I liked that Choldenko didn’t feel the need to give the detail of every movement of a character, nor did she feel the need to justify a break in a chapter or a large time span.
The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak: I don't know why I insist on reading animal books when I don't really care for them. But if you like animal books and poetry, you'll probably like this one.
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen: Ah, yet another children's book by Klassen that was written for adults. It's cute and amusing, but I still don't understand why it won the Caldecott.
Viva Jacquelina!: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren: While I love these books and find them highly entertaining, it’s also an example of when an author superimposes modern views on history. Meyer jokes about Jacky’s virtue in a tong-and-cheek game with the male characters, but in reality, she would have been viewed as the worst kind of whore and tramp. While it’s humorous when viewed with modern eyes, there would have been nothing funny about Jack’s situation if she had truly lived during the Napoleonic Wars. On the positive side, I found the author’s lack of dialogue tags a very interesting choice, and there’s a really interesting flow of time with the narrator often reflecting on the immediate past but the majority of the story being told in first-person present.
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver: I think I need to step away from poetry craft books for now because they're all starting to sound the same. I'm sure I would have liked this one a lot better if I hadn't read three others in the past three months.
Poetry Speaks to Children edited by Elise Paschen: This anthology is AMAZING. Reading it along with listing to the authors read their poems brought the experience to a whole new level. Robert Frost, Billy Collins, Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg, Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, Langston Hughes, X.J. Kennedy, Rita Dove—and that's just my favorites who read their own poems. But if I had to choose one favorite, it would be Sonia Sanchez's reading of “to P.J.” There were also a lot of poems only included in writing and not on the CD. Plus, the illustrations were just delightful. Yeah, I'm a fan.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya L. Stone, narrated by Susan Erickson: What an empowering book for young women who want to do great things. I'm kind of ashamed to say that I've never heard a lot of stories before, especially since I've spent a fairly significant time reading books about the history of space exploration. I was totally impressed with how Stone attempted to put the gender roles in a historical context rather than viewing it with modern eyes. Unfortunately, that only made the treatment of these women seem that much more barbaric and unfortunate. I also loved the poems at the end (which I found in print online) about the “Mercury 13.”
Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey: This is one of those books that you stare at the last page and can't believe you just finished something so amazing. Yes, it's moving and beautiful, but the history it reflects upon made me deeply uncomfortable—in a good, growing-pains sort of why. It will made me question what I thought I knew about the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, and walked away wondering what kind of self-view we’re leaving with the next generation. As for the poetry itself, I thought I understood poetic repetition until I read this collection. Trethewey ties in the historical poems with the biographical poems with the use of a single word: phalanx. In the title poem, she moves you forward through time and place by repeating a line from the last stanza of one battle in the first stanza of the next battle. And she uses a “reverso poem” in “MYTH” as a visual reminder of internal reflection—a literal usage of this form that I have never seen before. The simplistic language is almost necessary to let the imagery that drives then narrative shine as it does in “AGAIN, THE FIELDS.” I loved the use of color and the transition in narrative from distant third to first-person as in “MISCEGENATION.” She gives new meaning to found poetry with her use of historical documents and classic literature as with “Scenes From A Documentary History of Mississippi.” I could gush about this collection all day.
By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams: I haven’t read this book since I was about 12 years old, and before that, my mom must have read it to me half a dozen times. For years I insisted as dressing up as Laura for Halloween. As an adult, there are some passages that made me a little uncomfortable—the almost hateful references to Indians and how Laura is afraid everything will kill her, including a train and a pony. It’s also fascinating to see how writing styles have changed so drastically in the past 75 years. The opening of the book starts after the major drama—when half the family lies on their deathbed and Mary goes blind—and instead focuses on Laura dealing with the death of her dog. And any agent or editor today would have called Wilder out on her use of passive voice. Without a doubt, this would have been written in first person if it was being published today. Despite all that, I still love this book, and I hope that little girls will continue to enjoy it for generations to come.
Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff: A book about a girl's softball game? You'd think I'd be all over that. But I'm not a fan of multi-perspective point of view first person narration (of which there is an abundance in this book), and I have a hard time reading dialect (again, an abundance in this novel). Otherwise, it is a good book about the unifying power of baseball.