We made it through THREE audiobooks on our drive home from Oregon. And since I was reading with my ears, I hardly minded the gazillion hours in the car. Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen is an informative and engaging memoir of the life so far of fifteen-year-old transgender activist, Jazz Jennings. I really admire Jazz and her message of love and acceptance for everyone. It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone could read this book and not grow in compassion, understanding, and acceptance for all people. My son loved this book too. We’ve never watched the reality show about Jazz’s life but might check it out now.
Carl Hiaasen’s Flush was another reread for me. There’s a strong message about environmental activism as well as Hiaasen’s usual tight writing. This is not my favorite of his books, but it’s still quite good.
How in the world have I missed out on Jack Gantos’s Dead End in Norvelt until now?? I’ve picked it up a few times, read a few pages, and abandoned. I must have been having a brain freeze, because the audiobook, wonderfully narrated by Gantos himself, had me hooked from about the second paragraph, and my interest never waned. What a novel! A new favorite Newbery for me.
Ethel reminds me very much of my former cat, Wilhemina, who is now my mom’s cat and very, very pleased with the change of domicile. Her every whim is now catered to; she only has to tilt her head in a certain way for Grandma to rush about trying to figure out what she needs. Food? Petting? The door open to the porch? Brushing? Her favorite toy? All of those things at once? It’s really a cat’s life over there. In any case, Ethel, like Wilhemina, is also old, fat, black, and white, and rather persnickety. Ethel, however, is allowed to explore the great outdoors and one day comes home with her white colored blue after she rolls in a sidewalk chalk drawing. This is the extent of the story here: Ethel likes being a colorful cat and regularly rolls in chalk. But somehow, it all works splendidly. Reinhardt’s writing is quirky and paced for maximum impact, and the illustrations are wonderful.
The cover gives away the entire story of Simon’s New Bed: Simon has a new bed that he’s never able to use because the tiny cat, Adora Belle, has commandeered it. Simon tries everything to get his bed back, but to no avail. Eventually he comes up with a novel solution: sharing. Nothing new about this story, but it’s entertaining and sweet.
Jabari Jumps offers a novel way to conquer our fear of scary things: reframe it so the scary is just a fun surprise. Jabari is terrified of jumping off the high diving board until his father suggests reframing: sure, it’s scary, but it will also be surprising, and Jabari likes surprises. A story that everyone can relate to with a helpful way of thinking about doing new things.
Chris Van Dusen’s illustrations in Hattie & Hudson are so wonderful, as always, but I really didn’t care for the story. It’s very, very long, for one, and while the writing is good at the sentence level, the story itself isn’t special enough to require so very much text (like entire pages full of text). On nearly every page, I wanted to cut at least half the words and sometimes more. It’s also predictable and lacks subtlety (perhaps from using too many words and spelling out the lessons too explicitly). Worth a look for the pictures, though.
I loved Jenni Desmond’s The Polar Bear. It’s nonfiction with a clever fictional frame: a little girl opens a picture book called The Polar Bear and romps through the pages in her imagination as she learns about polar bears. I loved how the frame captures that feeling of immersion in another world: a good nonfiction book puts us right there on the ice floe with the polar bear. Desmond’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and the blend of styles–highly realistic though spare for the nonfiction world and more cartoony for the fictional world–is creative and thoughtful.
The Year of Living Danishly could well end up on my list of favorite nonfiction of 2017. It’s a smart and very funny travel memoir of the year Russell spends living in Denmark. She leaves her job as a magazine writer and reporter in London to accompany her husband, who has been offered a job at the Lego corporation. Russell had long been intrigued by those famous happiness surveys that always show Denmark (or another Scandinavian country) topping the list for happiest people, and her book investigates and explores the rituals, routines, beliefs, and values that lead the Danes to self-identify as the happiest people on earth.