Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

Yes, 6 hours to midnight on New Year's Eve is an ideal time to publish my 10th (TENTH!) annual year in review at Dragon's Library. Apparently I just missed my 100-book quota (barely) I'm a bit disappointed in my own habits. I reviewed a lot of picture books (and I read even more, but I don't write new reviews when I reread books) but apparently I devoted far more time to reading junk on the internet than reading novels and adult non-fiction. I'm halfway through a book by Desmond Tutu right now but it will have to get counted among the first books of 2017.

Technically, I am now a contributer at Book Riot, but I'm afraid if I can't be a real reader in the coming year, they might toss me out. I haven't read enough to participate in the discussion lately.

For what it's worth, here it is:

Dragon's Year in Review, 2016

Picture books: 57
Middle grade/YA novels:10
Nonfiction: 3
Adult fiction: 7
Graphic novels: 19
Short story collections: 1
Memoir: 1
Poetry: 1

Total: 99

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Written by: Bruce Timm, JM DeMatteis, and Thony Silas

First line: The dream. How many nights did my brother wake up...confused and disoriented..feeling death all around him.

Why you should read this book: It's a prequel to an alternate-universe direct-to-DVD DC movie I didn't see, but it's still a surprisingly good read. In this world, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Women exist, but not as the characters we know: Superman, raised by Mexican harvesters, develops a sense of anger toward and disdain for humanity; Batman is not wealthy, but he is a vampire who usually kills his underworld victims, and Wonder Woman hails from the tackiest place in the DC Universe, New Genesis, and gets caught up with a bunch of dirty hippies. They all get caught up in a crazy scheme perpetrated by a crazy dude intent on turning the ultra-rich into meta-humans, and even when they narrowly avoid becoming completely evil, they're still ripe for some schooling from the real Justice League.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Lots of moral issues for a one-off comic book.


The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by: Curtis Manley and Kate Berube

First line: Nick had two cats, Verne and Stevenson.

Why you should read this book: Despite what you probably think, Nick really does teach the cats to read. Irritated that his pets don't enjoy books, Nick sets out to achieve the impossible, easily teaching one cat to read, and then gradually working out the reasons for the second cat's antipathy and crafting a strategy to bring the joy of reading to even the most reluctant cat. The story ends with Nick's decision that he should teach his cats to talk.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think dogs are smarter.


Andrew Henry's Meadow

Written by: Doris Burn

First line: Until that spring, Andrew Henry Thatcher lived with his family in the town of Stubbsville.

Why you should read this book: From an era in which most children's books were still terribly boring and offered little in the way of inspiration for the child mind comes this reprinted tale of a boy who liked to build things, much to the dismay of his unappreciative family. So Andrew Henry runs away and builds his own house, and then, as words spreads, eight more houses for other children whose parents don't appreciate their passions and gifts. Since it was written in 1965 and not 2015, the adventure ends after four days, sufficient time for the parents and families to realize how much they actually appreciate their children and their talent and interests.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You expect your pre-adolescent child get a lot farther than the meadow using their technology and skill set.


My Friend Maya Loves to Dance

Written by: Cheryl Willis Hudson and Eric Velasquez

First line: My friend Maya loves to dance.

Why you should read this book: This book highlights some various types of dancing enjoyed by little girls, and shows their delight in the music and the movement. However, it seems to have a more urgent mission: first to showcase a company of black ballerinas, and second to show that the narrator, Maya's non-dancing friend, can enjoy her friend's freedom of movement despite being, herself, confined to a wheelchair. A sweet little read, particularly for young dancers.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You desperately wish you could walk.




A Child of Books

Written by: Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

First line: I am a child of books.

Why you should read this book: In a short, experimental children's book, a little girl reminds her new friend, and her readers, that books offer transport, through the imagination, to anywhere in this world, or any other. Many of the images--mountain, oceans, monsters--are created from words, and not just any words, but the text of favorite books like Alice in Wonderland  and Grimm's Fairy Tales. A fun read for thoughtful kids.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't trust a bridge of words to hold your weight.


Pirates and Princesses

Written by: Jill Kargman, Sadie Kargman, and Christine Davenier

First line: Ivy and Fletch had known each other their entire lives.

Why you should read this book: A fine offering in the genre of not putting up with other people's gender stereotypes when those stereotypes dictate how to act and who to talk to. Ivy and Fletch, friends since utero, have also been close, and always played well together, until kindergarten socialization forces them to declare alliances: boys are pirates and girls are princesses. Of course, Ivy is unhappy, and Fletch recognizes that a lifelong friendship trumps artificial gender divisions, and together, the two friends reunite kindergarten in a non-gender-specific play space.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You freak out when your kids don't use the swing set "correctly."


Smile If You're Human

Written by: Neal Layton

First line: Here we are landing at a place I've wanted to visit my whole life.

Why you should read this book: A little alien, armed with a camera and a grin, lands on earth, determined to photograph its favorite earth creature: the elusive human. Apparent to the reader, but not the narrator, is the fact that the aliens have landed at a zoo, one that is mysterious free of human contamination. However, the alien delights in meeting the natives and goes home satisfied.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't smile.


Death Comes for the Archbishop

Written by: Willa Cather

First line: One summer evening in the year 1848, three Cardinals and a missionary Bishop from America  were dining together in the gardens of a villa in the Sabine hills, overlooking Rome.

Why you should read this book: Gorgeously written, evocative of time and place, a fictionalized version of the true story of an extraordinary life: Jean Marie Latour, appointed the first bishop of New Mexico, finds himself navigating a intransigent, unhelpful, and often deadly world. In a landscape unforgiving and uncivilized, where the people often hostile, Latour focuses on his mission: to bring the teachings of the Catholic church to the new world, and by and large, his determination and vision carries him through. As it does for all men, death eventually comes for the archbishop, but what he builds in his life and leaves behind him still stands.

Why you shouldn't read this book: A fierce antipathy to organized religion.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Legend of the Golden Snail

Written by: Graeme Base

First line: The Legend of the Golden Snail was Wilbur's favorite story.

Why you should read this book: From the inspired brush of perennial favorite Base comes a book that begins in a stunningly meta fashion: with a smaller inset book telling the eponymous legend and  containing and ever smaller book, written in what appears to be Latin and Hieroglyphics. Wilbur goes on a magical, fairy tale journey to achieve immortality as the captain of the Golden Snail. Along the way, he has to choose between faster pursuit of his goal, and the acts of kindness that slow heroes down but pay off in the long run.

Why you shouldn't read this book: All things will bow when you are the Grand Enchanter.