Reviews

Birds, Art, Life: a Year of Observation

If you love the natural world, this little book about birding will entice you.  It’s also about much more: how to be in the world, parenting, partnering, creativity, and friendship. She also explores the first books people fell in love with, celebrity eyebrows, art, and especially how to make peace with the roaring, anxious self inside you.

Maclear, a Canadian author of children’s books, decides after a heavy stint caring for her aged father after suffering two strokes that she needed to take up a hobby for herself. She is also a mom raising two young boys, the younger of which, has the weird propensity for falling, resulting in emergency room visits.

First, she plans to take up drawing again. But the renowned teacher she interviews about lessons seemed too structured for her. As you can see in the beautiful line drawings, she also spent a year with pen and ink.

One night her husband suggests that she look at some bird photographs taken by the musician who scored his latest film.  These bird pictures wowed Kyo. So much so, that within a few days, she’d contacted the musician and asked if he would be her guide to the world of birding for an entire year. What she liked about her guru, who she simply calls “The Musician” throughout the book was that he was “fervent about birds without being reverential.”

Another Brooklyn

The helplessness and friendships of childhood are topics that many writers have tackled. Fewer have written about African-American girlhood, as Woodson does here. The book centers on August, the intelligent young girl who leaves the lush south for the vibrant and dangerous streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet.” This sentence opens the novel, which doesn’t proceed chronologically, but follows an inner lyric pulse. Throughout, the whereabouts of August’s missing mother haunt the story.

August’s family lived in Tennessee on a farm called SweetGrove land.  It was inherited from her grandparents. After their uncle, Clyde, a Vietnam soldier dies, her mother begins to unravel. Soon, her father rushes north with August and her little brother to Brooklyn, his home town.

It’s summer--so for safety, August’s father locks her and her little brother, who is only five, inside their third-story apartment. They spend long summer days watching children play on the street: double-Dutch, stick ball games and splashing under open fire hydrants.  A colorful parade of adults wearing dashikis and other colorful outfits weave past.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Winner of the 2017 Newberry Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a must read for any fans of fairy tales and fantasy. Barnhill weaves together pieces of many genres, creating a story reminiscent of classic fairy tales, yet at the same time all its own. The many elements this story explores are difficult to adequately explain, but let it suffice to say that at its heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story about the power of love and family (both born and chosen) and illustrates the very best that fairy tale and fantasy storytelling has to offer.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Death has been defeated and world peace achieved. With the guidance of Artificial Intelligence, humanity has ushered in a utopia…. mostly. In Scythe, Neal Shusterman posits that AI has evolved into an omniscient (and omnibenevolent) force called the Thunderhead, through which the world has achieved a true and lasting peace. The Thunderhead controls everything, but unlike many dystopian works, this is a miraculous and profoundly beneficial event. The only power that the Thunderhead does not possess is the ability to take life. That responsibility is assigned to Scythes, who roam the world utilizing quotas to randomly glean (aka kill) in order to keep earth’s population in check.

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

This morning (1.23.17) the American Library Association announced the winners of the Youth Media Awards for 2017! Check out the full list here. One of the honor books chosen for the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults was The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry.

The Passion of Dolssa is historical fiction set in 13th century Provence, following the Albigensian Crusade. There is an uneasy peace and the church has now turned it's eye to rooting out the last remaining vestiges of heresy in the region. Dolssa de Stigata is a young woman with deep religious convictions and a very close, personal relationship with Jesus. For this she is considered a heretic and sentenced to death by burning.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Sherlock has finally returned to television, so what better time to read a new interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic sleuth? A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro, posits that Holmes and Watson each had families and children who followed in their famous ancestors footsteps all the way to modern times. Cavallaro creates a history for the families of Holmes and Watson, transforming them into semi-dynastic clans that often pursue the ideals set forth by the family founder. Against this backdrop, the reader is introduced to James Watson, the great-great-great grandson of the famous chronicler John Watson, as he moves, unhappily, from England to Connecticut to start his semester on a rugby scholarship at an expensive and elite private school near his estranged father. There he meets the great-great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte, who takes after her famous ancestor to a troubling degree, including his substance abuse issues.

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