November has caught me reading several books at a time, which is always tricky – once I divert my attention it’s hard to say whether it will ever return.
I started An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England: A Novel, by Brock Clark, but only got through about half. The tone charmed me at first, but soon grated. He’s sort of a modern-day Vonnegut, and his novel would benefit from Vonnegut-like brevity.
I’m mid-way through Chang and Eng, by Darin Strauss, which I’m enjoying but seem to have put down for a little while. More about that one in the future.
We the Animals, by Justin Torres, is a first novel and a truly wonderful book, which always bodes well for the future. It’s very short, which lets you gulp it down in a sitting or two; just the way it should be experienced. This story of the youngest of three bear-cub brothers and their very young parents is emotionally charged, to say the least. It’s one of those very visceral novels, with no real dialogue, and a compelling immediacy. Highly recommended. It really deserves a post of its own, but may not get one.
I read two kid’s books this month:
The Liberation of Gabriel King, by K.L. Going, is a good story, well-told, about a fearful boy and his best friend in the just-starting-to-segregate South of the 60′s.
I Am the Ice Worm, by Maryann Easly was so-so; interestingly set in the Arctic, but spotty in terms of plot and character. My book-obsessed 10-year-old liked it.
Now we’re into December, and I’m reading yet another great book. Stay tuned…
This book was recommended to me by my thirteen year old daughter, possibly because she wanted help with the paper she had to write about it. It’s a very charming story that touches on some difficult topics. It’s girl power at its finest, which I always like.
Lanesha is an orphan being raised by the elderly midwife who birthed her moments before her teen aged mother died. Mama Yaya is a seer, and an equally feared and revered caretaker of the entire neighborhood. Lanesha is an outsider, an odd, brainy, watchful girl who has never had a friend. As Hurricane Katrina threatens the Gulf Coast, her life becomes as tumultuous as the approaching storm. This is a story about overcoming your ideas about your place in the world, as well as celebrating your own untapped strength.
I’m not sure whether to tag this kids lit or YA – it seems to rest somewhere in between. Instead of looking it up, I think I’ll just call it written for kids.
My daughter didn’t like the ending, which does rather leave you guessing about the ultimate fate of both Lanesha and her new friends. I kind of liked it, because the aftermath of heroics, like storms, seems a lot less interesting than the acts of bravery themselves. I finished the book with the feeling that Lanesha will manage pretty much anything that comes her way.
Chilling satellite images of Hurricane Katrina.
This is my just-turned-ten-year-old daughter’s favorite book. About a month ago, she was reading it in her bed, tears streaming down her cheeks, saying, “This is the best book EVER! But it’s so sad.” Two weeks later, there I was in bed, reading this book and crying. I won’t say it’s the best book ever, but it’s pretty good.
Eleven-year-old Aubrey has lost her father and sister in a car crash, and now her mother has disappeared, leaving her to fend for herself. Fortunately, her grandmother takes her in, and the book takes place over the course of the next year. As you can imagine, Aubrey’s got a little processing to do. Heavy stuff for a kids’ book, but I think it’s just the right mix of serious and fun; it turns out that life doesn’t end when your family is gone, though it seems like it should.
The author, Suzanne LaFleur, is exactly the kind of adult I wanted to be when I was a child. She’s in her mid-twenties, and so hasn’t been a bona fide grownup for all that long – I hope she can sustain her absolute coolness. You can read about her on her website. If you loved Harriet the Spy and heroines of her ilk, you will love Suzanne LaFleur.
I don’t read that much kids’ lit these days, but when my children particularly love something I will give it a try. I remember reading my favorites over and over again, in a way I just wouldn’t as an adult. This is a great pick for the tweeners, and not a bad grownup read if you’re ready to shed a few tears.