Although I have been super busy, drawing up a million polar bears, finishing sketches for THE GREAT POLAR ESCAPE, I have also been reading a ton. It’s my way to unwind at the end of the day after being in my own head so much working on characters and what not. And lately I have been reading so many fabulous things. I love when that happens! Especially since I am one of those readers who once I decide to begin a book I will make myself read all of it even if I don’t like it, because you just never know. Sometimes endings change everything. I have had a few stingers like that in the past.
I also keep a book of books, meaning I write down every book I’ve read, the author, date I read it, and whether or not it’s a children’s or adult book in a composition book. I started doing this in the summer of 2008 for two reason, one, when I was working at bookstores it was a great way to keep track of all the galleys I had read, and two, I had a lot of friends ask me how many books I actually read each year. So I got curious. And started keeping count. Currently I have read 379 since July 2008. The owner of the book shop I worked at in Boston has been doing this since she was 12!
So because of all the fabulous books I have had the pleasure of reading lately, I thought I would share a few. Some new, some old…but all wonderful!
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
As if I really need to say how amazing this book is, I mean not only did it win a Newbery Honor this year but it won the National Book Award. This story is told entirely in verse in the voice of a hilarious and stubborn little girl named Ha who lives in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The book begins with Ha and her family celebrating the new year, which turns out to be life changing. The war becomes so close that Ha’s family must flee the country and head for America, praying a sponsor will choose them, eventually ending up in Alabama. The juxtaposition of Ha’s life in Vietnam verses Alabama is eye opening. I generally love any book that presents the untold perspective. In other words, most books I come across about the Vietnam War are about people in the states dealing with family members fighting abroad, but this was a truly unique book, simply for the fact that it was told from the perspective of a child who is ripped from her homeland (a wondrous and magical place filled with papayas, which Ha constantly misses) to a completely foreign place, where she is taunted at school for her dark arm hair, accent, and other various characteristics that make her stand out. I loved Ha the moment I met her and her story is one that everyone should read. Readers will find the story more powerful upon finding out that most of it is based off the author’s experiences as a child.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Oh John Green, how you break my heart every time. I really should know better at this point. I mean I have read all his other books, and he always makes me cry. But this one was on another level. This story will make you sob, A LOT. When purchasing this book I recommend buying a box of tissues simultaneously. In fact bookstores should just offer the two as a package deal. When I read the jacket I knew the main character, Hazel, had almost died from cancer and when the book begins, is in remission. Like I said, I should have known better. But I bought it and waited for the right time to read it, because John Green books are like a good wine, you have to be ready for them, or they will kick your ass, and even then you might not be prepared. I immediately loved the main characters, I mean who doesn’t love the names Hazel and Augustus. The entire book I was reading about this girl who has been sick most of her teenage life and all I’m thinking is “great, I’m becoming attached to a character that is going to die.” AND THEN BAMM! John Green throws my preconceived notions out the door leaving me devastated. Now I know that all I have done is tell you how much this book will make you cry, but if you don’t read it you are missing out. It is so wonderfully written and lovely. I literally hugged it after I finished it, which is my barometer for a good book. This is an absolute must read.
Real Live Boyfriends, a Ruby Oliver Book by E. Lockhart
I absolutely love E. Lockhart and all that she writes, the woman can do no wrong in my book. Not only did she write The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, one of my favorite books of all time, but she is the author of the Ruby Oliver books. Ruby Oliver is on my list of all time favorite book characters. I just love how neurotic, fragile, hilarious, and sweet she is. This is the fourth book in the Ruby Oliver series and it is just as funny as the rest. Although you should read the other three books first, if only to be familiar with the characters and Ruby’s past high school drama, book four is a must read. We meet up with Ruby for her senior year at Tate Academy, mostly friendless, in love, possibly out of a job, and working on controlling her panic attacks. Once again readers are humored with Ruby’s insane inner monologues throughout various situations and her continual list making. For a fun read, pick up this book.
Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy
It’s funny how things happen sometimes. Serendipitous really. This book has been recommended to me a handful of times since it was published, by friends who know some of my favorite middle grade books. “You have to read this book, you will absolutely love the main character, she is so funny and endearing.” “You loved Each Little Bird That Sings, you would totally love Me and the Pumpkin Queen.” It has been on my “To Read” list for a while, I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. And then about two weeks ago I went to an SCBWI event and happen to be sitting right across from Marlane Kennedy herself. What are the odds? Well other than that we both live in Ohio, but still, it was pretty crazy. And let me tell you Marlane is absolutely wonderful. I had such a great time chatting with her about kidlit and publishing. At the end of the event she signed a copy of her book for me to take home and read. I went home and read it immediately. And it was wonderful, everything friends had told me. The characters were so alive and vivid in my head. And Mildred, the main character, has become one of my favorites. We meet Mildred who her father affectionately calls “the girl”, growing up in Circleville, Ohio, which has a huge pumpkin festival every year. And this year, Mildred is going to grow a pumpkin of her own. As someone who has no green thumb whatsoever I found my self rooting for Mildred the whole way, hoping her pumpkin would be big enough to win. I loved loved this book, so please go out and support Marlane and her wonderful book.
And in the coming weeks I hope to be reading…
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (thank you Dial for my galley!)
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt