On the blog:
- A slice about fallow writing periods and getting back into the daily habit of writing
A Gentleman in Moscow is already a very fat novel, but I would have been happy had it been twice as long. The plot didn’t sound altogether compelling to me: a Russian aristocrat is condemned to house arrest for life in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Surely there must be more? But that was quite enough of a canvas for Towles to explore the human condition. This was a novel that I sank into almost immediately and enjoyed reading slowly, to prolong the experience and put off the end and the inevitable book hangover. When I was adding it to my GoodReads list this morning, I read the loveliest and most apt description of it: “leaves you feeling expansive and engaged in life.” Exactly so. A novel to admire for its erudition and craft as well as a novel to fall in love with for its characters, warmth, and good humor. One of my Top 10 reads of the years for sure.
Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X is a tremendous YA debut, a verse novel about a girl finding her way and saving herself through poetry. I loved Xiomara’s fierce voice, and Acevedo is a strong poet. I always love verse novels (look at all that white space!), but this one is filled with really good poems too. I have a feeling this is a book that is going to disappear from my lending library because it’s going to be loved too much by someone to let it go–and that’s always a good thing.
If you have a PhD (especially in literature) and the whole experience made you just a little bit cynical, Notes on a Thesis is the book for you. It’s a graphic novel about Jeanne, a teacher in France who decides to quit her job and complete a PhD with a thesis on Kafka. She doesn’t have funding, but she’s certain she can get it done in three years and cobble together enough part-time work to support herself. You all know where that’s heading. So much in this book made me laugh in recognition, but there is also something rather sad and exploitative about the whole experience of academia.
A powerful story by David Robinson of a conversation between granddaughter and grandmother that explores a particularly shameful piece of American history: the treatment of indigenous children at residential boarding schools. Not an easy topic for a picture book, yet Robinson manages to make the story accessible and comprehensible to young readers. It is also a story about strength, empowerment, and love. Julie Flett’s artwork is wonderful.
The Rabbit Listened has an important message for how we can best help those who are struggling: be present and listen. I don’t always love picture books that are so clearly meant to be didactic, but this one worked for me.
Do we need another humorous picture book about the trauma of no longer being an only child? Maybe not, but Marigold & Daisy is a delight. I laughed out loud several times.
The Fish and the Cat is a wordless picture book about a curious cat pursuing a fish who is determined not to be caught. You have a take a few leaps of faith here: I confess that I was mildly bothered by the fact that the fish is flying around without any water. But it’s charming and lovely (though what’s up with the cat’s nose??)
How I love Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola picture books. A Dog with Nice Ears is everything I’ve come to expect from the series–it’s clever, creative, laugh-out-loud funny in parts, and has such a satisfying ending.
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