On the blog:
- A slice about the problem with travel (it’s probably not what you think!)
Stacy McAnulty’s The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is one of my favorite middle-grade novels that I’ve read this year. It’s about Lucy, who acquired math genius when she was struck by lightning as a child. She has homeschooled since then, and even though she’s only 12 now, academically she’s ready for college. But Lucy also suffers from OCD and social anxiety and rarely leaves her apartment. Her grandmother decides that college is out of the question until she develops her social skills and ability to function in the world, so Lucy is sent to school for 7th grade. McAnulty creates such rich and believable characters, and Lucy’s voice is so strong and engaging. We’ve all been scarred by 7th grade, so you can easily imagine Lucy’s struggles. But there is plenty of good here too, especially Lucy’s friendships with Wendy and Levi and their school project at an animal rescue. I listened to the book on audio, and it’s got a great reader.
Paisley Rekdal’s Intimate: An American Family Photo Album is hybrid nonfiction, mixing photos, poetry, family history, memoir, fictionalized biography, and history. There are three strands braided through the book: an examination of Edward S. Curtis’s photographs of Native Americans that includes essay, poetry, and photos; a fictionalized biography of Curtis’s Apsaaloke assistant, Alexander Upshaw; and a memoir of Rekdal’s own family centered in the event of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. It’s an ambitious project and an interesting book about identity, history, representation, perspective that raises far more questions than it answers. There is much that I admired about this book, but overall it was a struggle for me because I was uncomfortable with Rekdal’s choice to speak for and as Alexander Upshaw and wanted the text to grapple even more with that choice and the implications of that choice.
Nikki McClure’s graphic cut-paper art tells the story of The Great Chicken Escape, which is based on a true incident that McClure witnessed where chickens escaped from their enclosure at a monastery on Spruce Island. The bolder chickens eluded recapture, and the nuns decided to give them the day for their adventures, knowing they would return to the coop to roost at night. McClure imagines their different adventures as they encountered the larger natural world for the first time. Beautifully rendered, occasionally comical, mostly wordless.
I was so-so about Triangle, the first book in Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s shape trilogy, but I really loved Square. It’s about a square who busies himself pushing square boulders up from a cave. His friend, Circle, sees the perfectly square boulders and believes that Square has created a perfect self-portrait. She asks him to create a portrait of her too. Square, dutiful friend that he is, tries but fails spectacularly. Or so he believes. What happens when Circle sees the portrait is quite funny. As with all the best Barnett and Klassen books, there’s a lot going on here philosophically and much to think about in terms of work, creativity, perspective, and evaluation.
REQUEST: Upcoming family road trip. Seeking audiobook recommendations. Son loved Jack Gantos’s Dead End in Norvelt, Jazz Jennings’s Being Jazz, and Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot on our last road trip. Middle-grade, memoirs, and not too complex stories probably work best.