Friday, May 25, 2018

Fish Girl

Written by: David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli

First line: Welcome to Ocean Wonders, the realm of Neptune, god of seas and storm.

Why you should read this book: Two talented children's authors offer a new spin on an old myth in gorgeous full color: the little mermaid get the Frozen treatment, taking romance out of the equation and replacing it with sisterly love. Fish Girl lives as a sideshow attraction in a failing boardwalk aquarium at the mercy of a man who claims to be Neptune, god of the ocean, her only protector. When she becomes friends with a human girl, her quest to explore the greater world and her own identity takes on a greater urgency.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You'd never give up your tail.

The Werewolf of Paris

Written by: Guy Endore

First line: Where shall I begin this tale.

Why you should read this book: This old novel has everything, if you consider rape, incest, cannibalism, sex work, monsters, obscure history, and mass murder to be everything. Conceived under ill-fated circumstance of an ill-fated line, Bertrand Caillet can do little to control the blood lust and putative transformation that has plagued his nights since childhood, climaxing in the anarchistic moment of the 1871 Commune government of Paris, a civilization in which a werewolf can really feel at home, or, perhaps, like a lesser monster among greater monsters. If you like gothic horror, and have a strong stomach, this is the next novel you should read.

Why you shouldn't read this book: In addition to the rape, incest, cannibalism, sex work, monsters, obscure history, and mass murder, there's a lot of French and some Latin.

Things Fall Apart

Written by: Chinua Achebe

First line: Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and beyond.

Why you should read this book: The life of Okonkwo, a strong man in a Ibo village in Nigeria, has long been a defining work that drew western readers into African literature. Detailed, meaningful, and deeply moving, this book paints a picture of world that has passed: a tribal world uncontaminated by colonial Christian influences, until, despite all of Okonkwo's beliefs and efforts, times change, and things fall apart. Okonkwo does everything according to the best practices of his civilization, even when there are questions as to the validity of the cultural knowledge, but when white men permeate the boundaries of his land, there is less honor for the traditional rules, and less of a place for strong men like Okonkwo.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a missionary who finds other cultures fascinating as long as you can convert them.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Chu Ju's House

Written by: Gloria Whelan

First line: It was the fifth day of the fourth moon, Tomb Sweeping Day, which some call Day of Pure Brightness.

Why you should read this book: I don't think there's a lot of English children's literature set in this time and place: China in the 1960s, as ancient culture and modern values clash on personal and political levels. Chu Ju's family is devastated to learn that her new sibling is female, and decide to give the baby up for adoption so they can try for a boy under the current two-child policy. Chu Ju, in love with the new baby, decides to sacrifice herself, running away to find her own fortune so the new baby can grow up in a loving family.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't do hard work.

Bud, Not Buddy

Written by: Christopher Paul Curtis

First line: Here we go again.

Why you should read this book: Following another terrible, abusive foster placement, young orphan Bud (not Buddy), who still remembers his loving, but late mother, decides to escape the system and take charge of his future by tracking down his biological father. Guided only by some old flyers advertising a jazz band, Bud points himself in the direction of the man he's sure is his father, and learns that he still has a lot to learn about the world. Smart, detailed, and written in an astonishingly honest voice, this is an important book and a great read.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You torment your foster siblings for fun.

Through the Woods

Written by: Emily Carroll

First line: When I was little I used to read before I slept at night.

Why you should read this book: Seven spine-tingling horror comics with a gothic feel and a modern sensibility haunt this charming collection of monsters, ghouls, and little girls in mortal terror. While some of the stories rely more on atmosphere than plot to stir the reader and leave the conclusions somewhat open-ended, there are enough creepy moments to satisfy readers seeking gore. Stunning, evocative, moody, and imaginative illustrations and literary language help elevate this book above its genre.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Can be really legitimately freaky.

The Empress and the Silkworm

Written by: Lily Toy Hong

First line: Nearly five thousand years ago, Huang-Ti, known as the Yellow Emperor, ruled the ancient land of China.

Why you should read this book: A disgusting confluence of a cocoon and a cup of hot tea turns into an epic discovery: silk. The emperor's wife dreams of using this magical new fiber to create a magnificent robe for her husband. This legendary story is based on historical events.

Why you shouldn't read this book: A worm falls into teacup. That's pretty nasty.

The Bachelor and the Bean

Written by: Shelley Fowles

First line: Once, long ago, there was a grumpy old bachelor who lived in a town in Morocco.

Why you should read this book: A man with a naturally discontent streak and a predilection for complaint gets lucky when his whiny ways are rewarded by an annoyed imp. However, the man's good fortune turns back to complaint as an equally mean woman steals his treasures. Annoyed, the imp helps the man understand what's really going on, and the angry man and the angry woman arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

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

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More

Written by: Karen Beaumont

First line: One day my mama caught me paintin' pictures on the floor and the ceiling and the walls and the curtains and the door, and I heard my mama holler like I never did before, "Ya ain't a-gonna paint no more!"

Why you should read this book: Rollicking rhythm book about an aspiring artist inspired by the canvas at hand. Needless to say, regardless of the title, the mother's admonition, and the narrator's assurance, the painting continues until there is nothing left to paint. Lots of fun.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You live in a white house with white walls, white floors, and white furniture.


Written by: Jane Kurtz

First line: Trouble always found Tekleh

Why you should read this book: A spirited young boy seems to naturally attract trouble, so his father makes him a wooden game board to keep him out of it. The game board, of course, leads Tekleh into a series of strange encounters. Despite his inability to stay out of trouble, he handles himself well and comes out ahead after a day of silliness.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You rely on technology track your child's whereabouts at any given time.


A Dog with Nice Ears

Written by: Lauren Child.

First line: I have this little sister Lola.

Why you should read this book: Charlie and Lola fantasize about getting the perfect dog, even as their parents insist that they're not getting any kind of dog. A rabbit is offered as a substitute, but the children are adamant that a rabbit is not a dog. As it turns out, rabbits and dogs can share many similarities.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You accept no substitutes.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Written by: Cheslea Sedoti

First line: The first thing that happened was Lizzie Lovett disappeared, and everyone was all, "How can someone like Lizzie be missing?" and I was like, "Who cares?"

Why you should read this book: Hawthorn Creely doesn't understand why everyone is so caught up in the disappearance of pretty, perky Lizzie Lovett, who graduated from her high school three years ago and moved to the next town over, even though Hawthorn's own brother used to date her and there's nothing else going on to talk about in their town anyway. Jealous of the relationships she believes Lizzie had, Hawthorn neglects her own relationships as her obsession with the mystery leads her to insert herself into the life of the missing girl and attempt to recreate some of her circumstances. Fast-paced and fun, this story of a teenager taking a final, convoluted step, toward becoming a grown-up walks a surprising path.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The title is pretty misleading, given that Lizzie Lovett is a maguffin who possibly lies once in a flashback but doesn't actually play much of a role in the book, and the vast majority of lies about Lizzie are the conclusions Hawthorn draws in her head. Also, one of these coming-of-age stories where a teenage girl loses her virginity sort of accidentally.

Friday, May 4, 2018

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

Written by: Fredrik Backman

First line: Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero.

Why you should read this book: Elsa, an unreliable child narrator with a love of literature like Harry Potter, Spiderman comics, and Wikipedia knows that she's different, and while she suffers at school, she thrives in the love of her rebellious, unconventional, story-telling best friend, her grandmother. When Granny dies, Elsa finds herself cut off from the fairy tale land of her grandmother's invention, which had always sustained her through difficult times. Meanwhile, her grandmother has charged her with a quest of finding and delivering a series of posthumous apologies to people from her past, and Elsa begins to find magic again in her newfound understanding of who her grandmother was, and who she wants to be.

Why you should read this book: You're an educator who discourages imagination in children.

Witch's Boy

Written by: Kelly Barnhill

First line: Once upon a time there were two brothers, as alike to one another as you are to your own reflection.

Why you should read this book: Primal and archetypal but fresh and innovative, this is the story of two children whose parents' unusual decisions have brought them to unusual places: Ned's mother is a witch entrusted with a powerful source of magic, while Áine's father is a bandit possessed of a much smaller source of magic. Neither child feels like a part of their community or completely integrated into their own family until Ned's mother's compassion draws Áine's father on a collision course with an isolated land. Meanwhile, the true owners of the magic are awakening in a dark and twisted forest.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've never cared for your family.