Last week we had the joyous experience of bringing all of the newest picture books to the school courtyard and inviting library classes to visit us there. The weather was perfect and the kids were wonderful. Quite a few older classes set up a common time to meet a younger class and read aloud to them. We’re looking forward to continuing the tradition next year.
Lara Prior-Palmer’s memoir of riding in the Mongolian Derby was an escape into another world for me. The endurance required for this huge race over 1000 kilometers of Mongolian steppe on a series of 25 horses is astounding and it’s no wonder that each year more than half of the riders don’t finish. Lara’s youth and naivete certaining must have played a part in her success as she raced forward finding previously untapped reserves of power and resolve. Here’s a passage from the middle when she has been thrown from a horse in the middle of a stage of the race with no one anywhere nearby to help.
“When I step towards him, he hops away like the kitchen mouse who used to ignite our late nights in London. There’s a strangeness, for a horse, to losing a rider – the centaur vanishes, his partner becomes a predator at his side. He can feel unsettlingly light and flighty. The strap around [his] leg looks as though it’s about to break, which will let him bolt over the boglands while I hum my way after him. I prowl shyly, my eyes on the ground. I don’t want him thinking he’s my target. Each second feels the size of the steppe.”
Also wonderful was Boris Fishman’s memoir of leaving Belarus as a youth with his family, the memorable journey of their emigration through Austria and Italy and finally to New York. Food is the unifying theme and many recipes are included.
“Everyone was too shaken to go back to sleep. The illicit hour, the close call, the candy – I was filled with a sense of adventure. My grandmother boiled water for tea. The five of us, two adults per berth and me on my grandmother’s knees, drank it from West German tea cups, cobalt with gold trim, that she and my mother had babied into our luggage. They were among the things that we were told might sell well in Vienna and Rome, our transit points in route to America, but until then they were ours, and we sucked at their hot rims through the caramels on our tongues.”
To Night Owl from Dogfish is pitch perfect middle grade fiction at its best! Bett and Avery did not end up at the same summer camp by choice and, despite the best plans of their respective single dads who want to start a family together, the girls do not intend to become friends. But just as Bett and Avery’s relationship becomes more supportive, their dads’ relationship hits the rocks. This book is full of wonderful characters and packed with surprises and fun. A terrific read for our kids transitioning from Elementary to Middle School. Holly Goldberg Sloan has written other excellent books for this age range as well including, Short and Counting by 7s.
The Pulitzer Prize in Fiction was announced last week on April 16th and the winner was The Overstory: a novel by Richard Powers. If you are looking for a deep and rich story about humanity’s connection to nature then this books is an absolute gem. Powers novel is divided into 3 broad sections: “Roots” creates origin stories for each of the unique individuals in the book, “Trunk” ties their stories together, and “Branches” allows the characters’ stories to move to toward their independent conclusions. It’s a wonderful piece of literature and such a timely choice so close to Earth Day.
The runner-ups The Great Believers and There There are both excellent choices to borrow from our literature section as well. The Great Believers explorers the early days of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago. It sounds unbearably heavy but I found a lot of humor in the pages and really loved the main characters. There There delves into the lives and stories of Native American people, not through stereotypical representations of displaced people on reservations but as urban dwellers, seeking to connect with cultural roots while also living very modern lives.
It was a strong year for fiction and our Literature section is filled with so many titles to enjoy.
This book was incredible.
I picked it up because I was looking for some literature inspired by or related to Islamic culture, and this book delivered. As I was travelling in southern Spain, with the tiles and beautiful of old Moorish architecture, I was reading about the struggle of women straddling lines of culture between Palestine and New York City.
One character is married young and sent to live with her in-laws in New York, with a husband that never allows her outside. One character is struggling to avoid the marriage that is barreling down at her. One character is dealing with ghosts in her past.
This book was wonderful, gorgeously written, and I couldn’t put it down.
Find it in the Popular section up on our floor.
Look at these beautiful drawings of the forest near the school!
We were so fortunate to have our visiting artist last week, Ms. Le Uyen Pham.
She spoke with students from Pre-K to middle school about art, practice of drawing, being in the moment, and working hard to fulfill your goals. Some things she mentioned:
Procreate, an ipad app that she uses to draw.
Publishing your own work, which you can do here.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Mo Williams, big inspirations for her work and her reading.
Vietnamese Cinderella, as a culture shock.
See some photos of her visit here.
This week, as we do every week before break, we hosted a Breakfast and Browse.
It’s our chance to welcome the teachers in to get their books for their holiday, to showcase our newest titles and features, and to celebrate reading with snacks.
This B&B, we also had a Wellness Table, with all sorts of books for people looking to get into spring and out of the winter. With exams around the corner, stress seems to be a part of many people’s lives, and this is our way of presenting some of our resources to help. We’ve been updating our mental health collection and making purchases to enhance those resources.
Speaking of mental health, K just read Shout, the newest book from Laurie Halse Anderson.
We are bringing Laurie Halse Anderson in December, and this new book is her memoir in poetry. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and honest, and worth a read for any person.
Any more would ruin it, but you can find it in the novels and verse section.
Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul is a novelization adapted from a Broadway musical.
In case you missed the buzz, it was nominated for nine Tony awards, ultimately winning six including the 2017 Tony award for Best Musical. Not to mention winning a 2018 Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album.
Dear Evan Hansen is all about fitting in. It is centered on Evan Hansen, a high school senior, who feels like an outsider in his own life. After a tragedy, Evan is involved in a misunderstanding which quickly snowballs from one lie into a web of deception. Along the way, Evan realizes lots of people, including many of his classmates, just want to be seen.
I approached this book with skepticism. Doubting that the author could translate the message and feeling of the performance, in which music is so integral, to the written page. Boy, was I wrong. This book grabbed me. It is messy and heavy and angsty, all aspects familiar to young adults.
For those of you who have seen the musical and are worried the story might be stale, the book includes additional material that was cut from the show which expands on the storyline.
If you are looking for a book about high school with depth and all the feels, I highly recommend taking a heady dive into Dear Evan Hansen. Find it in the Teen section of the HS/Adult fiction.
If you do not have the chance to see the musical, be sure to visit YouTube to check out some performance clips.
Elle is an American teen who is down on her luck. This isn’t the bad grade, missed curfew, wrecked a car kind of luck. It is the non-present dad, mom in jail, living in foster care, life is tough – kind of a break. But like a fairy tale, Elle is given the opportunity to move to Tokyo to live with her wealthy hotel tycoon father.
Elle navigates culture shock and tries to discover what her place is in an unfamiliar country, as a student in her elite international school, and as a member of a new family. While encountering different expectations, cultural practices, and traditions, Elle struggles to reconcile her past with her present. Given the opportunity to reinvent herself, Elle finds a place among the popular group where she has to choose whether she will stay true to herself.
I found the characters entertaining and at the end of the book I wanted to know more about their stories. Currently, though this is just a standalone novel.
My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is relevant not only to the members of an international student body but to anyone who has moved to a new place and had to figure out how to fit in. Find it in the Teen section of the HS/Adult fiction.