Over at Heavy Medal, devoted readers have spoken and made their March Suggestions of 2020 Newbery contenders. Click on this link and see the March list. Excited about many of them. And super impressed with New Kid by Jerry Craft. Happy Reading!
Category Archives: Book Notes
My Appreciation for Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang
This is a brief note to say that Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, May 2017) fits the bill of my continuing search for fun stories set in contemporary China that features Asian American children and authentically captures both the modern day life familiar to western readers and the cultural flavor unique to China. Definitely a book that I will introduce to the Chinese American mother and child who came seeking books featuring characters that “look more like her.”
Filed under Book Notes
Candied Plums in New York!
The Chinese bilingual picture books published by Candied Plums are now widely available through various book wholesalers and retailers: including Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online.
The editor and rights manager Lisa Lee attended BEA in New York and met many librarians and booksellers who all marveled at how well made, original, and beautiful these bilingual (and some English only) books are. As a consultant to the company, I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. It has been a joy to work with Candied Plums and especially Lisa and a privilege to provide a service to a much needed corner of the children’s literature field.
Chinese/English Bilingual Books from Candied Plums
It’s FINALLY happening!! So excited to report that the first group of books (20 titles) from Candied Plums, an imprint of Paper Republic, located in Seattle and Beijing, are finally available in the U.S. marketplace.
You can purchase the titles through Amazon or Baker and Taylor (and hopefully more venues in the immediate future.)
I have proudly served as Candied Plums consultant for the last year and a half and am impressed by the diligence and vision of those who venture into this new territory with me. Manager Richard Li (Li Yun), editorial and rights coordinator Lisa Li (Li Xiaocui,) and editor Nancy Zhang (Zhang Tong) have poured their heart and soul into bringing the best contemporary children’s picture books to American readers: both Mandarin Learners and non-Chinese readers. Some titles are available in both English and Bilingual Chinese (with English translation at the back of each book) versions while some are only available in Bilingual Chinese version.
Kirkus has reviewed some of titles and it seems that the reviewers all adore the stories and illustrations but worry about the fact that the English translation of the bilingual version does not appear along side the Chinese text. This is a deliberate choice by the editorial team. We want to present the books as close to their original version as possible while still giving the English readers a completely clear sense of what each page conveys. It is a bold and risky choice — but perhaps it is also a chance for readers of all ages to get excited about something new and groundbreaking. The company’s budding website will include companion audio recordings of each title. I can see a fun library program where the librarian can play the audio version, stopping to translate each page with the provided English text, and give the young audience the pleasure of the storyline, the illustrations, and hearing an unfamiliar but widely used language in the world.
To give a bit of a taste of what the books are like, here are two titles and links to their reviews by Kirkus.
Candied Plums’ Winter 2016/2017 Catalog also offers detailed information, description, and language learning levels.
Please also visit the Candied Plums’ Website. Spread the word and give us feedback so we can continue bringing the best of Chinese children’s books to American young readers, schools, libraries, and families.
Filed under Book Notes
The Book of Dust Trilogy – Philip Pullman. I’m freaking out!
I kind of knew about this upcoming fantasy for a while but didn’t realize that it’s not just ONE book, but a TRILOGY. Woot!
Can’t wait to have new words, new phrases, new characters, new magical experiences and new emotional responses to Pullman’s creation. The world is a richer place because it contains His Dark Materials and the wisdom of Philip Pullman!
Read the Guardian article here:
Philip Pullman unveils epic fantasy trilogy The Book of Dust
Nameless City by Hicks – RWW Review
I’d like to draw attention to this thoughtful review of Erin Hicks’ graphic novel Nameless City over at Reading While White blog, I could not bring myself to reading most of the book, because of my own strong emotional (mostly adverse) reaction the raised concerns explored by Angie Manfredi in her review. I did not speak up about this title because I strongly believe that one cannot critique a book without reading the book in its entirety and closely examining its many components. (I felt the same about Ryan Gaudin’s The Walled City and Richelle Mead’s Soundless, both “inspired” and “loosely based” on an exoticized old China without the authors’ true understanding of the very real, and very much “living” culture or paying tribute to the long established literary tradition in this particular country.)
Filed under Book Notes, Field Reports, Views, WIWWAK
I woke this morning and looked out the window. I saw three flying cars and two tooth fairies. I closed the blinds and SHRIEKED! Suddenly one of the tooth fairies busted through my window and grabbed one of my teeth. She pulled it straight out of my mouth, blood gushing, and then my house turned into a cat.
At least I made 10 bucks!
I used the money to buy another cat. It was green and I named it Bob. Then, with my leftover money, I bought a unicorn. The cars were still coming at one of my cats (my house!) Suddenly, my cat (the house) collapsed and it fell on me!
My unicorn bought ice cream and pizza for us so we can come back to life. (Cause it’s yummy.) When we were revived, we started to pass gas, used the bathroom, and barfed everywhere. Then the ice cream and pizza came to life and said, “What’s your favorite color?” Then we ate the cat and the unicorn.
Next, we had a funeral for the cat and the unicorn. It was a very sad and depressing ceremony.
Can you guess what my name is? (Hint: DJT)
(This is an extremely silly story made up by 4th grade students as part of a “Search Engine” experiment.)
An Average Day
This morning I woke up and looked out the window. It was snowing like crazy! Mayor Miranda decided that it would be a snow day. All the kids who attend schools were excited that it was a snow day. Then all of a sudden, a giant monster ate Mayor Miranda!!! The monster stomped around causing fear and destruction.
Everyone stayed inside all day because of the monster. Some kids could see the monster stomping around the city. The monster burped and destroyed most of the houses. Then, Bob the Builder the Assassin killed the monster with a bomb. Even though he killed the monster, he also destroyed the city with the bomb.
Then, a mutant underwear ate the bomb. But there was another assassin and the two assassins tried to kill the mutant underwear. Bob the Builder called the Pink Fluffy Unicorn to help. But Dumbledore was so mad that he started shouting the elder curse but without saying all the “beeeeeeeeeps.”
A new assassin, the Poop Assassin, came and killed the Pink Fluffy Unicorn and it called for all the mutant fingernails to kill every other underwear and toxic poop. The wizard guy trapped the people into the Underworld and killed all the people and then killed himself.
But then, since the monster that ate Mayor Miranda didn’t chew her but only swallowed her, so when the monster died, Mayor Miranda survived.
That was a Nasty Dream!
(This is a 4th grade class exercise for Search Engine efficiency, strategy, and reliability.)
Jesus and the Passed Gas
This morning, I woke up and looked out the window. It was pouring rain. My neighbor was practically swimming. My eyes wandered around my backyard when they landed on something shiny.
I put my raincoat on and went outside to check it out. It was this weird piece of rock. I picked it up and something strange happened. Jake Paul came by, surfing somehow in the air. Then magically, Madeleine G. flew in the air and dabbed, whipped, and nae-nae’ed. She fell and got run over by a car.
She ran! Something dropped out of her pocket: A POTION! I ran to it and picked it up. It wasn’t marked poison, so I took a sip. Two things happened: first, my eyesight got really good, and then I fell through a trapdoor! I woke up and Jake Paul said to me, “I am Jesus in disguise.” Then he disappeared and a cross took his place.
I passed gas and a bomb fell from the sky to blow me up. At the last second of my life, I thought, “How could this happen to me?”
(A story composed as part of an internet/information literacy unit by my 4th grade students.)
Savage Meme Bird
This morning, I woke up and looked out my window. I saw a bird that flew into my window. There was a big crash and it slipped down the window pane slowly. The bird yelled at me, “You’re NOT MY DAD!” I was shocked that the bird could speak!
Then the bird said to me, “Hey, I’m hungry; can you get me a block of cheese?” I replied, “But you said I’m not your dad so why should I get you a block of cheese?” The bird said, “You’re mean,” and started making an annoying wailing sound that broke the window!
The next thing I saw was that he called a giant gorilla named Harambe.
The next morning, I woke up my mom and I walked into the window and told my mom that I want a block of cheese. But she made me pancakes instead. I walked down to the kitchen but the bird was following me asking for a block of cheese for a second time! The gorilla Harambe was following the bird even though Harambe was 150 times larger than the bird. The bird stole the cheese and said, “Cash me ousside, how ‘bout dat?”
I was confused from what the bird said. My mom was confused THE WHOLE TIME! Both of us almost fainted.
Suddenly I realized that the bird was totally an illuminati and I gave him some fresh-avocado.
(Made up story in a ROUND during Library Class by my 4th grade students.)
A Commitment to Social Justices and Compassion
“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!” This is the time when all of us working with children, children’s books, and education must toughen up and keep on going!
It is heartening to see that hundreds of signatures by children’s book creators have been collected at The Brown Book Shelf for A Declaration in Support of Children, and that a live version of this document that allows for more signatures and support can be found on their Facebook page.
Today, I publicly echo my support for all the sentiments expressed in this document, adding here my continuing commitment as an educator, a school librarian, and a children’s literature advocate that:
I will read widely works created by a diverse group of writers and illustrators that both reflect authentic lived experiences of today’s children and offer genuine opportunities to understand and empathize with experiences unfamiliar to their own.
I will constantly highlight and promote these titles directly to my students and their families and also on social media in an effort to strengthen the innate capability of hope, courage, and compassion to bring about true social justices via the power of literature.
I will create curricula and take advantage of teachable moments both in the classroom, during casual interactions, and on social media to combat the ever-growing threat of Untruth-Telling in the digital and mass media sphere.
I will model my commitment to social justices and compassion by addressing injustices intentionally, openly, and truthfully in the classroom, during casual interactions, and on social media.
Fellow librarians, educators, and children’s literature champions, join me in our work together for a better and brighter future!
Filed under Book Notes
A Tribe of Kind Souls: a closer look at a double spread in Lane Smith’s There Is a TRIBE of KIDS
There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (capitalization as part of the title/design), written and illustrated by Lane Smith (Stinky Cheeseman, The Happy Hocky Family, It’s a Book, etc.), was published in May, 2016 (two months ago.)
This book has received four starred reviews from major review sources and positive reviews from others. However, the use of the word TRIBE and some of the images on a particular double-page spread toward the end of the book have sparked heated debate (in which I took part) in several online places. A short description and link to each of these reviews (with comments) can be found at the end of this post.
I read and re-read this book many times and have considered all the reviews cited below and many additional comments sprinkled throughout the internet. Finally, I feel that I am ready to share my own take on this book. I must stress that this is but ONE of many potential interpretations of the book which features very few words and delivers most of its “messages” with pictures that can be differently interpreted.
By no means do I want to discount Debbie’s and others’ pain when they face certain images (that they see on the second to last double spread) which definitely trigger strong emotional reactions from past and personal experiences. (My own triggers are seeing erroneously attributed so-called Chinese cultures or imageries and boy do those get me seeing red!)
So here it is,
Fairrosa’s Interpretation of the Double Spread in There Is a TRIBE of KIDS:
I must confess that my initial reaction to the word TRIBE in the title was a skeptical one: how would it be used in the book? to indicate some relations to Native American cultures? to indicate something primitive? When I finally read through the book (many times over,) I realized that, as Debbie Reese and many reviewers pointed out, it is a play on word. Tribe is a collective noun for a group of “young goats” (kids) and Tribe is also a collective noun for many human groups that share the same cultural, geographical, or historical experiences. The word is still used widely. It is used by American Indians as their official group names. It is used by the Jewish people. It is also used by groups who need to bond over their unique identities and experiences, such as the deaf community (as found in Tribes, a play by Nina Raine from 2015.)
In the case of this book, Lane Smith used it to indicate a very specific “kind” of human beings: children. The child protagonist, after mimicking all kinds of animals, finally found his own “tribe.” The text is all in past tense — until the very last spread which is in present tense, proclaiming the currency and the universality of childhood.
Here is my interpretation of the second to last spread accompanying the text, There was a TRIBE of KIDS (note the past tense!)
(reproduced with permission from Roaring Brooks Press)
Since our child protagonist is not in this picture, so unlike the previous encounters, we don’t see him mimic or play act. We see this child (looking a bit like Burt in Mary Poppins, doesn’t he?) welcoming the new child (our protagonist, off page, unseen) into a TRIBE.
We, readers, along with the child protagonist, observe the scene with keen interest:
A TRIBE of kids from around the world and from both yesteryears and now, dressed much like our protagonist (in leaves, branches, and flowers,) being themselves and playing like all children might:
We watch, as they
swing, eat and play with their food,
collect seashells and flowers,
play balls, crawl, balance, dance,
take care of a younger sibling,
dress up like an adult (a princess, a king, a judge?)
give a hug,
model, run (like an olympian with a torch,)
hide, and seek.
What I do not observe is the child protagonist attempting to mimic any of these KIDS, as if these are roaming animals. I also don’t see the “wildness” linked to a colonial sense of the word TRIBE (as stated by Minh C. Le and as troubling to others). I see children engaging in regular childlike and childhood activities. And if I were to read this book with a young child, that’s how I would posit it — “Look, do you play hide and seek, just like these kids? Do you pretend to be a king or a princess sometimes? Do you play with your food? Do you love going down the slides or sit on a swing? This makes you part of the TRIBE of all children in the world. You belong with each other and you accept and embrace one another.”
As I pointed out in the beginning of this post, my interpretation is different from some others’ views, including those of Minh C. Le’s, Sam Bloom’s, and Debbie Reese’s. All three wrote thought provoking reviews of this title — and I urge all to read them and take their concerns or potential hurt and mis-use of this book seriously.
Il Sung Na’s ‘The Opposite Zoo,’ and More by Minh C. Le (New York Times)
Le feels that the “juxtaposition of the word ‘tribe’ with the woodland utopia conjured uncomfortable associations,” and a particular image is problematic “in its echoes of the longstanding trope in children’s literature that uses Native imagery or ‘playing Indian’ to signify wildness.”
Reviewing While White: There Is a Tribe of Kids by Sam Bloom (Reading While White)Bloom finds himself in agreement with Le’s take on the book and ponders why all the reviewers for the major publications have given this book such favorable feedback when he sees even more images that are problematic. He posits that perhaps it is due to Lane Smith’s long-time fame and status as a celebrated children’s book creator. He also links to a page delineating the negative associations that the word TRIBE contains from the Teaching Tolerance site. Bloom concludes his essay by strongly indicating that he does not recommend this book. He writes, “If it wasn’t Lane Smith’s name on the front cover, could we more easily see the problems inherent in There Is a Tribe of Kids? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that this is a book that I personally won’t be sharing with (human) kids.”
Lane Smith’s new picture book: There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (plus a response to Rosanne Parry) by Debbie Reese (American Indians in Children’s Literature)
Reese details the picture book and focuses first on the word play and the repeated pattern of a child going through the natural world, mimicking behaviors of groups of animals, while garbed in leaves. Reese then moves on to discuss the double spread that features a TRIBE of KIDS (children) and the specific images she finds objectionable. She also delineates many counter-points to Rosanne Parry’s review of the book. Reese uses words like “rolling your eyes” and “grinding your teeth” to express how irate she is with Parry’s proposed interpretation of the book’s images.
Rosanne Parry also wrote a blog post in response to Sam’s post: A Tribe of Book Reviewers (Writing in the Rain Blog). Parry writes to share her interpretation of this book and her disagreement with Sam’s take on the book as a reinforced negative portrayal of children “playing Indian.” Parry’s take on this book is in accordance with reviewers who see that there are multiple cultures represented in the book and that the book’s focus is on the importance of a sense of belonging and the warmth of acceptance in every child’s life, regardless of their origins or skin tones. The final “snapshot” seems to encapsulate this sentiment — the kids of pale and dark skin tones locked in a friendly embrace to show their kinship and solidarity:
For those interested, here are links to all four starred reviews:
Filed under Book Notes, Views, WIWWAK
Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, 2016
The winners and honor titles are now public!!! Watch the video announcement here!
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo
One Day, The End.: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Having read a host of titles this year, I can vouch for the excellence and brilliance of each and every one of our final selected titles. I couldn’t have been prouder or more grateful to having served on this committee. Hope more readers will discover/rediscover these books!
Below are many other titles that I would also highly recommend to readers, by categories:
Bardugo, Leigh: Six of Crows
Brown, Peter: The Wild Robot
DeStefano, Lauren: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Fogliano, Julie: When Green Becomes Tomatoes
Lu, Marie: Rose Society
Nelson, Marilyn: My Seneca Village
Oppel, Kenneth: The Nest
Reynolds, Jason & Brendan Kiely: All American Boys
Riordan, Rick: Sword of Summer
Rundell, Katherine: Wolf Wilder
Savit, Gavriel: Anna and the Swallow Man
Selznick, Brian: Marvels
Sepetys, Ruta: Salt to the Sea
Atinuke: Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!
Barnett, Mac: Leo: A Ghost Story
Buitrago, Jairo: Two White Rabbits
Daywalt, Drew: The Day the Crayons Came Home
Fan, Terry & Eric Fan: The Night Gardener
Goodrich, Carter: We Forgot Brock
Henkes, Kevin: Waiting
Hurley, Jorey: Hop
Jenkins, Emily: Toys Meet Snow
Joyce, William: Billy’s Booger
Light, Steve: Swap
Miyakoshi, Akiko: The Tea Party in the Woods
Miyares, Daniel: Float
Nelson, Vaunda: The Book Itch
Park, Linda Su: Yaks Yak
Smith, Lane: There Is a Tribe of Kids
Stead, Philip C: Ideas Are All Around
Tate, Don: Poet
Weatherford, Carole Boston: Freedom in Congo Square
Yoon, Salina: Be A Friend
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell: Terrible Typhoid Mary
Brown, Don: Drowned City
Engle, Margarita: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Freedman, Russell: We Will Not Be Silent
Hendrix, John: The Miracle Man
Murphy, Jim: Breakthrough
Pinkney, Andrea Davis: Rhythm Ride
Samanci, Ozge: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey
Silverberg, Cory: Sex is a Funny Word
Tonatiuh, Duncan: Funny Bones
Turner, Pamela S.: Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
Filed under Book Notes, Field Reports
Last Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
It is the last day of the 2016 APA Heritage Month — but it will not be the last time I write about media representation of Asian Americans or about the importance of respect, integrity, diligence, compassion, empathy, knowledge, open-mindedness, inclusion, and collaboration in regards to improving accurate and nuanced representations.
Today, I want play an upbeat note and share my adoration to the wonderful Avatar: The Last Airbender series penned by Gene Luen Yang. Currently there are four completed stories, each told in three paperback volumes and also collected in a library binding oversize single volume. They are: The Promise, The Search, The Rift, and Smoke and Shadow. Of course, for fans of the Nickelodeon TV show like me, these stories are like lush oases in the parched void left by the ending of the original series. We get to see Aang and his gang grow up a bit, deal with more complex issues, and find out answers to some questions left unresolved by the show!
However, I have also observed many young readers encounter these as stand alone series and thoroughly enjoy the adventures, character relationships, humor, and the conflicts. This is a series that could easily err on the side of “appropriation” because it definitely mimicked the Japanese anime style and the several nations’ customs and philosophies or even “national traits” are loosely and (one might argue) stereotypically based on certain Asian cultures — another potentially incendiary aspect of the show.
Instead, it is accepted and even embraced as appreciation and celebration by viewers from all racial backgrounds, including many Asian Americans — one of the super fans is Gene Luen Yang.
Many factors contributed to why the show worked in building and not destroying positive representations: characters are deftly portrayed as individuals, whether they’re from a specific culture or not, the show creators are always careful when cultural details are represented — all Chinese characters and sentences are correctly written out and composed, and the relationships between characters and nations are complex and nuanced. Not to mention the artistic rendering of the images and the exciting plot progression through the 61 episodes!
The book series written (not illustrated) by Gene Yang, published by Dark Horse, are equally, if not more, complex, thrilling, and satisfying! Please read them, share them with people in your life, young or not so young, and celebrate everything that works well in these volumes!
For those interested, there are some great questions and answers about the creation of the TV show and the outcry against the casting of the 2009 life action movie based on the show at racebending.com.
Filed under Book Notes, WIWWAK
Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli
Listening to this book was a bit like watching a John Hughes movie… actually, it was a lot like watching a John Hughes movie. It is kind of sweet, there might be some heart-breaking moments, some misunderstandings, some bullying, but definitely a lot of friendship, quite a bit of sweet-loving, and totally easy to get hooked on and want to know more and want everything to work out at the end — and boy did EVERYTHING get worked out! Mostly believably so but definitely veering toward the hyper-optimistic end of possibilities: which, we all need from time to time!
I was a little sad that once Simon & “Blue” met up in real life, the author pretty much stopped giving us their exchanges of ideas: no more interesting emails to read of their views on the world around them or the quirky questions and answers. In the last part of the book, the readers are left with just observing their physical (sweet) contacts and first explorations: as if all those emails were just a precursor to what REALLY matters: kissing and other physical relationships… It would have been more fulfilling an emotional journey for me as a reader if both physical and intellectual aspects of their relationship had been more equally represented during the last part of the story.
(And a potential quibble: I am still baffled why the characters refer to Tumblr as “the Tumblr” — was it that the author does not understand the teen-lingo these days or that it is THAT specific Tumblr page reserved for the kids in that particular town/high school — thus the article?)
A Picture Book for Newbery! Last Stop on Market Street
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
I jumped up and down when this book was announced at the Youth Media Awards press conference — after the initial “WHAT? Really? A picture book text?” Then, it was, “YAY! Finally. A real picture book has won the Newbery!” Great job. Committee!
However, it was not until today, when I finally re-read the text, blocking out all the illustrations, just paying attention to the rhythm, the word choices, the imagery, the heart and soul of this seemingly simple text for the very young that I realized how marvelous a choice this book is for the award.
By recognizing the text, which allows for so much imagination and chances of deep discussions, especially literary ones, the Newbery Committee has affirmed the significant value of finely crafted text for young children. I can still recite many passages from Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book because I read that book to my daughter when she was still in her crib. Every night, for months, and no matter how many times I read it aloud, I found myself admiring the genius writing page after page. I am quite certain that the reason my daughter appreciates poetry and what she calls “good writing” in the adult books she reads now that she’s 16 is her wide exposure to excellent texts like The Important Book, So Said the Little Monkeys, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Madeline, and many others.
I am ordering copies of Last Stop on Market Street for my Middle School Library and will encourage middle grade teachers to use the book to inspire students to interpret the text as they envision in their mind. CJ could be anyone. Nana could be anyone’s grandma. The boys on the bus with something CJ envies do not have to share ear-buds on their iPod and the imagery of the large tree “drinking through a straw” was never depicted literally in the illustration anyway. The students in a language arts class will simply bask in the glory of the text like “The outside air smelled like freedom,” and “rain, which freckled CJ’s shirt” and have a rigorous mental workout to understand the implied interactions and emotions.
And ample discussion opportunities for the ending, when Nana does not give her usual deep laugh… now what is that all about?
De La Peña sure wrote a distinguished book!
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
It was an intriguing and entertaining read — although using the word “entertaining” to describe my reading experience with a book dealing with mental illnesses, abuse, and traumatic events in teens feels a little crass. Nonetheless, I felt that King, as a writer, really revels in designing and playing “games” with her readers. Mind games, for sure!
Do we really know what actually happened to each of the four main characters? What’s with the man behind the bush? What’s with the invisible (or real?) helicopter? Nothing was really certain — not during and not after reading the book. And I’m quite alright with that much ambiguity — I only wish that I had liked and/or could have felt more empathetic toward any of the characters. Because of the stylistic choice and the hyper-reality setting, the main characters all seem to be more guinea pigs in a giant game of maze on stage, masterminded and controlled by the author for the amusement and perhaps even edification of the audience. Even the cover design with the standardized test answering sheet reminds me of some sort of “whack a mole” holes in an arcade…
Anyway — to sum up — I admired the workmanship and enjoyed the weirdness but never quite got caught up enough to care about any of the characters or how “the story” was going to end.
Here by Richard McGuire
Here by Richard McGuire
I really love the premise: taking one fixed spot on earth, examining the many years of lives (from prehistoric to contemporary) and living by visually presenting the slices in time: one might see a Native American couple making love and a modern American, white family squabbling on the same or adjacent or consecutive pages, all “cut up” and scrambled, seemingly not following rhyme or reason. But, of course, there are certain patterns and events clustered by the nature of the happening (holiday celebrations, fighting, loss, new births, etc.) However, aside from admiring the beautiful and pristine, almost too clinical, artwork and having some moments of revelation (finding out on what ground the current house was built, for example,) I was left not all that impressed or emotionally affected which I definitely was hoping for!
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
If any book should be called Unsettling and Disturbing, this one is a prime candidate. The last third of the tale got not only extremely dark and dangerous, it is also filled with vividly described, horror film worthy scenes and imageries. Expertly done. I probably would have truly loved the entire book if I wasn’t taken out of the narrative flow a number of times when Steve uses highly literary words and phrases that I thought uncharacteristically older than the character’s age and not quite in keeping with the rest of the tone of the very straightforward and effective telling. I was hoping and fearing a truly dark ending and was slightly disappointed (because of the very twisted-minded adult reader in me) and very relieved and pleased that there’s some hope and a lot of growth for both the hero and the reader. And what a complex and admirable hero we have in Steve!