Thursday, February 26, 2009

Autobiography of a Face

Author: Lucy Grealy

First line: My friend Stephan and I used to do pony parties together.

Why you should read this book: At the age of nine, Lucy Grealy began five years of treatment for a cancerous growth on her jaw, after which she spent twenty years undergoing reconstructive operations to restore her "real" face. This is the considered, intimate, and honest reflection of her journey to acceptance as she examines the notions of beauty, ugliness, love, and loss with the eye of a studied observer and the ear of a poet. A very powerful memoir of a powerful life, written without facade or apology, only truth and hope.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've never felt ugly, and you've never looked at anyone else and thought they were ugly either.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Author: Donna Jo Napoli

First line: Late afternoon heat strokes the young man's belly.

Why you should read this book: Love! Betrayal! Insanity! Textiles! An affair gone wrong transforms an optimistic tailor into the twisted, obsessive Rumpelstiltskin, condemned to watch from afar the daughter only he knows is his. When the girl grows up to be a talented spinster and is exploited by the drunken miller and then the king, Rumpelstiltskin lurches into action, intent on claiming the love he lost long ago.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You feel that people who have premarital sex deserve to die in childbirth or turn into angry, outcast dwarfs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indonesian Fables of Feats and Fortunes

Author: Kuniko Sugiura

First line: In Indonesia, there is an animal about half the size of a small deer.

Why you should read this book: Here are three stories where small animals triumph over greater might and intelligence always carries the day, and ignorance and greed fail. These animal heroes may be tricksters or helpmates to hapless humans put upon by tyrants, but they always come out ahead, creating messages of justice. With lovely colorful illustrations, a great read-aloud story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want anyone to think that cock fighting is ever acceptable.

Indonesian Tales of Treasures and Brides

Author: Kuniko Sugiura

First line: Long, long ago there was a lake whose surface was as calm and smooth as the glass of a mirror.

Why you should read these books: Three Indonesian fairy tales with themes familiar to Western readers are compiled here, along with adorable line drawings in ink and watercolor. Each story stresses the importance of devotion, honor, and honesty, and while the endings aren't always happy, the messages are clear. Keep your promises, give freely and without pride, and always be kind to strangers.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You would never let your daughter marry a poor man.

Danny the Champion of the World

Author: Roald Dahl

First line: When I was four months old, my mother died suddenly and my father was left to look after me all by himself.

Why you should read this book: At the age of nine, Danny is about to learn that his father, the most marvelous and exciting father in the world, harbors some wicked secrets; in fact, he is about to learn that pretty much every adult in town enjoys poaching, or stealing pheasant from the forest stocked by the wealthy and unpleasant Mr. Hazell. When Mr. Hazell goes too far, even Danny wants to teach him a lesson, and with the help of the people he trusts most, Danny concocts the greatest poaching scheme the world has ever known. Fast-paced, intelligent, and magically realistic, this is a delightful novel sure to enchant readers of all ages.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want kids to get the idea that robbing from the rich and giving to the poor can be fun.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lucky Breaks

Author: Susan Patron

First line: Eleven, Lucky thought from her seat at the back of the school bus, eleven, eleven, eleven, and the idea of it, the sound of it, threw off sparks in her head.

Why you should read this book: Now that she's almost, almost eleven and has an officially adopted new mom, Lucky has big, grown-up things to worry about, like her best friend Lincoln disappearing to England on the basis of his superb knot-tying skills, and the coffin-like package delivered to Short Sammy's water tank, and a tragically romantic lost artifact at the bottom of an abandoned mine, and the gland inside her that occasionally makes her do something mean and shameful, and the self-conscious question of how her life appears to people from outside Hard Pan. When a group of big-city geologists show up at her mom's new cafe, Lucky finds something a growing girl needs: a best girl friend who can make her laugh until it hurts and doesn't mind a little adventure now and then. This sequel to the Newbery winner The Higher Power of Lucky is another smart, introspective voyage through the mind of an intelligent child forging her way across a rich and rocky landscape of youthful desire and wonder.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Fear of the rampaging wild donkey, devastator of innocent desert tomato plants.

(Note: Susan Patron kindly sent me an advanced reader's copy of this book, which will be commercially available March 10. Orders placed through Amazon before that date will be shipped next month when the book is released.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Emergence: Labeled Autistic

Authors: Temple Grandin and Margaret M Scariano

First line: I remember the day I almost killed my mother and younger sister, Jean.

Why you should read this book: The renowned animal behaviorist's memoirs recount her arduous journey through autism to empathy, opening a window into the perceptual difficulties of an autistic child who craves affection she is unable to accept. Told with grace and good humor, the narrative is tied together by Grandin's quest for a device capable of inducing the sensations of safety and comfort, the controversial Squeeze Machine that became her life's work, her contribution to the world, and her salvation. An excellent resource for those seeking to understand the phenomenon of autism as well as those interested in the autobiography of a remarkable person triumphing over astonishing odds.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a militant vegan.