What I've been reading!!

Hey! Hi! Howdy! Happy New Year!

I don't really have time to blog, but then when did I ever? But I can't resist. I've gotta tell ya what I've been reading.


Firstly, Cybils shortlists just got announced. This year I've been the Graphic Novels chair, but not on the Graphic Novels panel. So I've been listening in on all their discussions about the best books and now I'm reading like crazy to catch up on all these great graphic novels!

So far I've read the following that are on the shortlists:

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation - this one was SO GOOD. I read the Diary of Anne Frank back in 9th grade and thought it was amazing, of course, but had no particular interest in rereading it. So I thought I'd give this a shot and just abandon it if it was meh. Oh. I could not put it down. Perfect marriage of text and illustration. Amazing job condensing the diary and disclosing what was condensed. I highly recommend it for adults and young adults.

On a Sunbeam - I just finished this one moments ago! It's about a girl, Mia. The setting is the far future. It's a coming-of-age/adventure/romance. One of the panelists described it as a whole trilogy in one book, and I could totally see that. It's quite thick, and I found it compelling to read until the natural breaking point in the narrative, then compelling again. Another panelist said it had a Firefly vibe -- yep. Super well done, and lotsa spaceship adventures. Many of the characters are LGBTQ+, including the main romance and all the relationships of supporting characters. Lots of swearing, which I suppose probably made the dialog more believable, but I like living in my bubble where swears are few and far between. If it were a movie, it'd be PG-13 but with more F-words. Still, I recommend this one for appropriate audiences, because of its excellent plotting, pacing, character- and world-building. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be buying it for my home library.

The Cardboard Kingdom - My kids loved this book. I checked it out of the library and they read it first of the whole stack. I got a little ways into it, and it got heavy for me. The story of the whole neighborhood -- the kingdom -- is told in short stories. Some of them have themes like fitting in, being creative, working things out with a friend, but others have heavier themes like same-gender attraction, parents splitting up, and bullying. Soo, I guess I needed a little more time to digest it than my kids did. Which exactly mirrors the kids and adults in the book. Haha. Anyway, it came due at the library before I finished it, so I returned it, but checked it out again a couple of weeks later. I did want to finish it. Once again my boys snatched it up and both of them reread it. Safe to say it's got kid appeal! And it is well done.

Anne of Green Gables - This one I read a while back -- I had heard good things about this adaptation, including from trusty Amy at Sunlit Pages. So I picked it up. It was really good. I read the whole series of books when I was a kid, and watched part one of the mini-series a couple of years ago, but I had definitely forgotten a lot of the plot. The art is beautiful in it's own right and I don't feel like I can really compare the graphic novel to the actual novel since it has been so long since I've read the original. But I loved the graphic novel and I hope they make a sequel and do the rest of the series in graphic format too.

Tea Dragon Society - This one is a large format, so it's bigger than a big picture book. It's gorgeous. I liked it but didn't love it. It's been a while since I read it, actually, and I'm having a hard time remembering all the details, except that I found it a little bit preachy, like it had something to prove. Since I can't remember more I'll leave it at that. It is available as a webcomic, but I hear that holding the paper version makes it even better. I've only read it on paper, and it was indeed beautiful.

Be Prepared - This is a memoir of Vera Brogsol's time at Russian Orthodox summer camp. It was really good! I could relate, having been to some religious summer camps, and I bet kids who haven't been to religious summer camps could relate, too. It's on the Elementary and Middle Grade list, but I'm guessing it will appeal most to middle schoolers and high schoolers. It has a "looking back" vibe at the end that wouldn't really be applicable to elementary schoolers, I don't think.

As the Crow Flies - Read this one quite recently and wow! It's a good book with some interesting things going on. Would make for a good book club discussion. Gorgeous art. The main character in it is a half-black christian lesbian. The scene is a christian young women's hiking trip, led by a woman with a big feminist chip on her shoulder. So themes of faith, race, weight, gender, sexual identity, and more are explored. And I think what I liked about it is that they were explored and not preached. The book doesn't guide you to a lot of conclusions... in fact even the plot itself ends quite suddenly. But, I liked it. It felt very realistic. 

The Prince and the Dressmaker - I read this one a while back and wanted to loved it, but it employed some "movie moments" -- some of those plot devices that seemed a little too unbelievable. I mean, I just can't imagine being surprised by a kiss and having it go over that well. And the fashion show? Ehhh. But I'll tell you what I loved. I loved absolutely true-to-life way that friendship and deception played together. I loved how things couldn't work out right until people were being honest.

That's all the ones on the shortlists that I've read so far! Will keep you posted as I read the rest. And I'll be reading all of the Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter books, but becuase I'm a round 2 judge I won't be allowed to tell you my thoughts on those until after Feb 14.

Not on the Cybils shortlist, but still a really good graphic novel that I recently read:

All Summer Long by Hope Larson. This one also explored themes of friendship, through the eyes of 13-year-old Bina. I liked how Bina's family was a big part of her experience, because families so often are (unless you're away at summer camp, ha!) I liked her personality and how she was figuring out boundaries and relationships, learning to babysit and becoming an aunt and getting good at her hobbies. I recommend this book and would totally love to own it.

And I also read the entire Book of Mormon in 3 months! I participated in a challenge extended by the worldwide president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M Nelson. So glad I did this. It was a completely different experience to attempt to read the book at this pace. It's sort of like I was accostomed to walking in a flower garden, and all of a sudden I started running on the race course that happened to be in it. At first I was like "I'm tired and this is so hard and I can't see the flowers!" but then it was like "oh, this is exhilarating and I can see connections I never saw before and I'm stronger than I thought I was!" So, it was great! The Book of Mormon is available free online, and hard copies are also available for free. If you order one, a missionary might deliver it to you! My little brother Abe is on a mission right now. He's serving in Argentina.

Before Christmas I read a couple of great non-fiction books from the children's section of my local library. Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Young Readers Edition) and Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

Proud (Young Readers Edition): Living My American Dream is the memoir of the first Olympic Athlete to compete for the USA in hijab (the Muslim modesty practice uder which women cover all but the face). It was fascinating! I read a lot of it aloud to the kids and they loved it and took off with it, so I had to finish it on my own. I wonder how the Young Readers Edition (which I read) compares to the regular. There was one part where there were a bunch of generalizations and I was like "hmmm, I wonder if there is an interesting story at this point..." Ibtihaj is Afican American, Muslim, and a woman, and talked at various points in the book about the discrimination she faced because of each of these (and, sometimes, the intersection of them). Part of me wants to read the regular version, another part of me is fine. Anyway, I highly recommend it.

Terrible Typhoid Mary is about the discovery of what are now known as healthy carriers -- people who appear to be well, but are spreading infectious germs. Mary Mallon was the first healthy carrier discovered in the US, but her discovery and treatment was unethical. The pace of this book didn't clip along as quickly as Proud, so I found it a little tougher to love, but I'd still recommend it. Absolutely fascinating story, but I guess I felt like it could have been condensed into a good long article? Or really expanded into a meatier book? The book as it is is good, and I'm sure it will hit a sweet spot for some. My 10 year old read it and we talked about it a little bit.

What've you been reading lately?

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