It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/6/19

I feel like I should have far more to show for myself as a reader given that I’ve barely posted reading updates over the last two months and I have been reading, though not at my usual pace. But somehow, I don’t.

Keep Going is Austin Kleon’s best book yet, a thoughtful and helpful exploration of how to, well, keep going creatively when things are going well and especially when creativity is a struggle. There is so much wisdom here about not just creativity but also well-being and living a good life. Expect the usual blend of art, quotations, advice, and reflections.

I loved Book Uncle and Me, Uma Krishnaswami’s very short middle-grade novel about Yasmin, a passionate reader who visits Book Uncle, an older man who operates a free lending library on her street, every day to get a new book. She has a goal to read one book every single day, and Book Uncle is happy to oblige with book recommendations. But then someone in her town writes a letter of complaint to the city, and Book Uncle receives notice that he can’t set up his free library on the sidewalk unless he pays for a very expensive permit that he can’t afford. Yasmin organizes a community outreach effort to restore the free library. It’s a very quick read and really delightful, especially for those avid readers who love books.

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley is about an unusual girl, the smartest in her class, at least until the new kid, James, arrives. Frances, or Figgrotten as she calls herself, prefers solitude and the company of crows. Her best friend is her elderly bus driver. She thinks big thoughts and has so many wonderings about the universe. One source of conflict is her strained relationship with her older sister, Christinia, who is all stereotypical teenager–oversleeping and slamming doors and rolling her eyes and caught up in drama at school and loving nothing more than a trip to the mall. Her mother keeps assuring Figgrotten that she too will turn into a stereotypical teenager someday soon, but Figgrotten–and this reader–didn’t believe it. This is a really strong title about friendship and family and grief right up until the end, when Figgrotten’s mother turns out to be right and we see the glimmerings of some stereotypical teenaged behavior in Figgrotten’s future. She discovers a pink hair clip, and before you know it, she’s excited about getting a makeover. After the depth and thoughtfulness of the rest of the book, the discovery that the mall isn’t so bad after all felt like a letdown.

I can’t ever get enough of the Penderwick series, or the Family Fletcher series, or, my favorite, Hilary McKay’s Casson Family series. And Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeeker family belongs to that world of quirky families whose small adventures somehow resonate big. The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden was just what I was hoping it would be. This time, the Vanderbeekers beloved upstairs neighbors, Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet, are struggling after Mr. Jeet gets sick and ends up in the hospital. The children decide to surprise the elderly couple with a beautiful garden, but of course it doesn’t work out in the way they plan.

LJ Alonge’s Blacktop is a series of four very short YA novels set around the basketball courts and culture of Oakland. My son and I have now read the first two books, Justin and Janae, for our readalouds, and while there are some issues with the plotting in both books, they’re really enjoyable fast reads, with plenty of voice, humor, and heart. They’re especially good choices for reluctant readers who love sports, and I don’t even have words for how happy I am over the choice to tell two stories from the perspective of boy characters and two stories from the perspective of girl characters. Alonge manages to pack a lot into each book, but the stories never feel rushed. There simply aren’t enough basketball books in the world to satisfy my son’s appetite for them, and these definitely fill a need.

11 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/6/19

  1. Sounds like i needed the first book fir spring semester and I’ll be getting the last book for my classroom library! Thank you!

  2. I’ve got Keep Going waiting for me at the library. I need to ride down there today and pick it up.

    I love the sound of Book Uncle. I see more and more that politics needs to stay local for it to be effective. Big politics doesn’t seem to work.

    • I was surprised to find a story about elections and politics in a middle-grade novel! But it really worked. (And the book love was a wonderful bonus!) I hope you will enjoy Keep Going–definitely one I’ll be rereading at some point.

  3. I enjoyed Book Uncle and Me, too, Elisabeth, and noted all your titles. The final, Blacktop, book in the series sounds good, especially that girls are highlighted too. Thanks!

  4. Vanderbeekers looks good. I haven’t read any of the titles in the series yet. But I’m glad to read your endorsement of it. Basketball novels sound like something that would have been enjoyed by my husband if they existed when he was younger. 🙂

  5. Book Uncle and Me looks so cute! I’m adding that one to my list to get from one of my e-library. I’m just not sure I can handle the ending to The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley. The way society paints the stereotypical teenager as selfish, dramatic, and angry is troubling to me. Am I being overly optimistic to believe that, with mutual respect, it doesn’t have to always be this way? lol I’m so glad you enjoyed The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. I remember liking book #2 even better than book #1. Very touching! I’ve missed your reviews and am glad to see you again, Elisabeth!

    • I forgot to point out how much I enjoyed the illustrations in Book Uncle too. Very charming. I agree with you about teens. I had a really hard time buying that the interesting character at the center of Heart & mind of Frances Pauley would suddenly start staring at herself for hours in the mirror and asking her sister for a makeover. Disappointing! I am very much looking forward to Vanderbeekers #3 which is out in the fall, I believe. (Also, do you subscribe to Karina Yan Glaser’s children’s lit newsletter from Book Riot? It’s really good! She also has a podcast now.)

      • I’m on her snail mail children’s lit newsletter now, and I read she has a new podcast that I’ll have to check out soon. I’ve done a terrible job utilizing podcasts, lately. Boo!

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