I do not know if these hands will become
Malcolm’s–raised and fisted
or Martin’s–open and asking
or James’s–curled around a pen.
With a beginning that is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ DAVID COPPERFIELD, acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson guides readers through her early life using lyrical prose poems that evocatively describe the people and places that influenced her illustrious writing career. As her family moves from Ohio to South Carolina and eventually Brooklyn, New York, young Jackie never loses sight of the one thing she wants more than anything else: to become a writer. Every heads-up penny found/and daydream and night dream/and even when people say it’s a pipe dream…!/I want to be a writer. Even when reading doesn’t come as easily to her as it does to big sister Dell, Jackie doesn’t give up and is encouraged by the picture books by John Steptoe she takes out from the library. I’d never have believed/that someone who looked like me/could be in the pages of a book/that someone who looked like me/had a story. When she can’t make the words work, (Words from the books curl around each other/make little sense/until/I read them again, the story/settling into memory.) Jackie memorizes stories and quickly moves on to creating her own. Her first book is a stapled collection of butterfly poems, but we already know it will not be her last. Even though Brown Girl Dreaming covers Woodson’s childhood, I don’t know if I buy that this book is only a children’s title. Her clean, lyrical poems have a classic feel that can easily be enjoyed by readers of all ages. And anyone who’s ever yearned to be a writer will especially appreciate the longing that comes through on every page. This achingly wistful, heartfelt tome is a both a personal story and a universal one. It is the origin story of one writer and all writers. And it pairs beautifully with Marilyn Nelson’s How I Discovered Poetry.
I keep writing, knowing now/that I was a long time coming.
Isla has been crushing HARD on cartoon-artist hottie Josh since freshman year at their French boarding school in Paris. So when he finally asks her out senior year after they meet cute over the summer in a cafe in New York, she can’t believe her luck. Is it possible to have a happily ever after with the boy she’s been dreaming about for four years? At first, YES! They explore Paris like they’re seeing it for the first time and make out like mad in every dark nook and cranny they can find. But then they get caught while sneaking away to Barcelona for the weekend, and are pulled apart by angry school administrators and their pissed-off parents. Isla has to stay in France while Josh’s parents whisk him back to the States. What’s worse is that Josh is the son of a US senator who is running for re-election. His face is popping up everywhere on the news, and Isla can’t help but notice that the way the press portrays the senator’s son seems a lot different from the quiet artist she fell in love with. Who is Josh Wasserstein, really? And who is Isla without him? The longer they’re apart, the more insecure Isla feels. Can their true love go the distance? Or will time and multiple misunderstandings break their magical bond? Master of the Swoon Stephanie Perkins gets better with each book, and while I have never been a huge fan of the romance genre, I happily admit to adoring all of her novels–although this one just might be my favorite. She nails the obsessive, all-encompassing nature of adolescent passion with fresh dialogue and deliciously sexy descriptions that will bring a little blush to your cheeks. Anyone who’s ever been in love will recognize Isla and Josh’s merry-go-round of emotions and root for them every rocky step of the way. How does it end? Well, what do you think? (Cue title) Whimsical, witty, seductive and definitely worth the wait!
It is 1899 in New York City, a thriving metropolis teeming with the hopes and dreams of thousands of newly arrived immigrants. Among them is Chava, a chaste Jewish widow who keeps to herself and works tirelessly in a lower East Side bakery, and Ahmad, an aloof Syrian tinsmith who wears an iron band on his wrist and makes beautiful figurines out of precious metal. Each of them is hiding a terrible secret that if discovered, could lead to their destruction. Chava can plunge pins into her own skin and not feel pain while Ahmad can raise them temperature of an entire room by just entering it. Because beneath their ordinary exteriors, Chava is a golem formed from clay, while Ahmad is a jinni made of fire. Neither of them requires sleep, so they each roam the young city’s streets alone at night, Chava yearning to fit in with her human peers, Ahmad longing to escape from them. When they finally meet, they recognize the strangeness in each other and form a mystical bond that is tested when a mysterious figure from Ahmad’s ancient past appears with a plan to enslave them both forever. This impeccably researched, lushly written novel of identity, faith, free will and unlikely friendship will appeal to readers of all ages and any card-carrying member of the history or folklore fandom. It’s also a stunningly good New York story. I spent a very happy week immersed in the smoky, sooty atmosphere of the turn of the century Bowery and Lower East Side learning how to braid challah bread in a Jewish bakery and mend kettles in a Syrian tin shop. If you are seeking a book that will transport you far from the stinky bunks of your summer camp or overly-air conditioned office of your summer job, LOOK NO FURTHER. Summer reading satisfaction guaranteed!
The troubling visions started when Ellie mixed the ashes of a long dead bat with some beer and convinced Glory to drink it. Suddenly both girls are seeing into the pasts and futures of every stranger they pass on the street, but it is only Glory who is getting terrifying glimpses of a second Civil War where women’s rights disappear completely and the entire United States is thrown into poverty and chaos. It doesn’t help that the visions start coming right on the heels of Glory’s high school graduation, serving as a further reminder that she has no freaking idea what to do with her life. Her best friend Ellie, a modern day hippie who lives on the commune next door, is too busy chasing boys and dealing with the unwelcome surprise of an STD to have an opinion, while Glory’s father, a virtual shut-in since Glory’s mother Darla committed suicide years ago, can’t move forward in his own life, let alone help Glory with hers. So Glory retreats to her dead mother’s photo developing darkroom, where she finds a hidden portfolio of pictures and starts to piece together the puzzle of her family’s past in order to make some sense of the dead bat visions and her own uncertain future. This is not a read-all-in-one-sitting story with a page-turning plot, but rather a novel of ideas that deserves patience and contemplation as readers ponder their own personal and intellectual journeys as they travel along with Glory on hers. In other words, it’s a novel that could only be conceived and written by the whip-smart A.S. King. Coming to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you October 2014. While you wait, check out the rest of King’s semi-surreal backlist, along with the one of the most bonkers, bizarre road trip books ever, Going Bovine by Libba Bray.
It’s summer and I’ve been cleaning out bookshelves and I came across this marvelous collection of short stories that had somehow drifted to the back. I’m shocked that I didn’t post about this title before, as it contains narratives by some of my absolute favorite authors, like Libba Bray and Patricia McCormick. I decided to rectify that immediately, since it’s also the perfect season for stories about being up all night. July and August are the months when schedules become fluid and the freedom of the warm weather lures us into all kinds of situations that we’d never even consider during the cold busy school months. In Libba Bray’s “Not Just for Breakfast Anymore,” Maggie and her friends try to forget all their troubles at a Cheap Trick concert, but discover that no amount of booze, drugs and rock and roll will erase the truth of their messy lives. In “Orange Alert” by Patty McCormick, a teen girl sneaks out of her house and practices driving at night in order to escape her lecherous stepdad, finding the strength to defy him on the road. David Levithan imagines a warm Manhattan night where a chorus of teens finally confess how they really feel underneath their carefully constructed public faces, while Sarah Weeks focuses in on an intimate interaction between two brothers over the death of the little brother’s pet mouse in “Superman is Dead.” Rounding out this stellar assortment is a paranormal family drama by Peter Abrahams and a short comic by rockstar graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang. Be sure to check out this awesome anthology as you begin to plan your own summer night excursions!
When Deshi Li’s irresponsible older brother Wei is killed in a tragic accident, his parents charge Deshi with finding him a corpse bride, a dead female body to accompany him into the afterlife. Stricken with grief and guilt, Deshi complies, hiring a black market body dealer named Song to help him secure a girl who’s not too long gone in her grave. But when the two men are startled at the graveyard and become separated, Deshi runs into Lily, a rural girl desperate to escape an arranged marriage who’s looking for a free ride to Beijing. The two team up on the road, and Deshi finds his thoughts going to dark places. Should he just murder Lily and take her body home to his parents? But how can he, when each day he delays killing her in sleep he falls deeper in love with her? Meanwhile, Lily’s father and crooked Song are hot on their trail, each hoping to exact their own special brand of revenge. This beautifully illustrated modern fable of love and death hooked me from the very first sentence with an original plot grown from the rich soil of Chinese folklore. Author illustrator Danica Novgorodoff (Refresh, Refresh) tells Deshi and Lily’s story through sparkling, darkly humorous dialogue and lavish watercolor panels that take your breath away with each turn of the page. You’ll want to hightail it to a library or bookstore near you ASAP in order to experience this fantastic journey for yourself.
Annith is tired of waiting. It seems like her whole life has been an exercise in patience as she has watched the head Abbess of the Convent of St. Mortain, god of Death, send out her sisters on dangerous assignments while she tends the home fires and trains endlessly. Her fellow assassin nuns Ismae and Sybella have already been sent out on dangerous missions and Annith is dying to join them. But then the Abbess informs her that she is destined to take over the role of convent Seeress, a role that demands she remain confined forever in a tiny room where she will use tools of prophecy to foretell the exciting lives of others while never experiencing any of it for herself. Furious, Annith rejects the Abbess’s command and sets out to find her sisters and avenge the death of a young novice who the Abbess sent out too soon. Along the way she becomes entangled with the terrifying Hellequins, “tasked with collecting the souls of the wicked” and delivering them to the underworld; befriends the Arduinnites, a group of warrior women sworn to protect the young and the weak; and finally even meets and attends the young duchess of Brittany herself, who is readying for a war with the French that looks utterly un-winnable. But now that Annith has tasted freedom, she is determined to do whatever she can to serve her sisters, her country and her god–except a troubling love affair with an unexpected suitor has her questioning her every move. Can Annith set aside her confusing feelings in order to join her sister nuns and their allies in one last desperate plot to save Brittany? While this third volume of His Fair Assassins trilogy follows a pattern that has become familiar to fans of the series, it is still an immensely satisfying read that concludes in a deeply gratifying manner. Though the publication date isn’t until November 2014, this is one title that will make you thankful winter is coming!
As the 1970’s are coming to a close, Margaret is in a post-college slump, trying to figure out where she fits in as a female pop culture cartoonist between the aging hippies and the new punkers. Then she stumbles into the Imperial Café, a diner full of sardonic waitresses, surly cooks and outsider customers that suddenly feels like home. “…I can tell there is something about this place. It feels like I am in a movie, a very interesting and exciting movie, an independent feature in which I play a smack but key role. I have to stay to find out how it’s going to end.” After telling a dirty joke that impresses the manager, Margaret scores a dishwashing job, new name (“Madge”) and a front row seat to the diner’s never ending drama. Customers and employees break up and make up, take drugs, get sober and then start all over again. Throughout the pale, aqua blue watercolor washed pages, Madge figures out the rules of adulthood, first by watching, and then by taking part in the noisy, vital, flamboyant life of the Imperial Café. I love slice of life stories that investigate a cross section of society in great detail, and this graphic memoir about the crazy, sexy petri dish of a busy diner is a great example. If you like OVER EASY, try these other great foodie fictions that are about way more than chopping and sauteeing: Last Night at the Lobster and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe And for more on Mimi Pond, head over to this great interview at School Library Journal.
When Piddy Sanchez hears that “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass,” she’s stunned. What could she have possibly done at her new high school to anger a girl she’s never even met? Piddy doesn’t really need this aggravation on top of keeping up her high grade point, working weekends at Salon Corazon and navigating a sexy but strange new relationship with her old neighbor and ex-nemesis Joey Halper. What is Yaqui’s problem with her anyway? Piddy is never sure, but her mother’s best friend Lila has a theory: “You’re going to be better than that, and that’s what kills her, Piddy. That’s what makes her burn with hate. She can already see you’re winning. You’re going to get an education and use your brain…Ay, Piddy, one day you’ll be so far away from Parsons Boulevard, you’ll think you dreamed this hellhole.” But as the situation escalates from a thrown milk carton in the cafeteria to an actual showdown on the street, Piddy realizes she’s going to have to do something drastic. But what? Does she dare narc on the meanest girl in school? And what will happen if she does? Friends, I have a new book crush and it’s Piddy Sanchez. Piddy’s heartbreakingly real struggles to extricate herself from Yaqui’s senseless bullying will ring true to anyone who’s ever been a target, and inspire anyone who’s ever witnessed bullying to stand up and speak out. The infusion of Latino/a culture and the setting of Queens, New York were especially interesting to this New York reader as I never see enough books featuring characters of color in urban settings where their background isn’t the main focus of the story. Get your a** in gear and check this one out of your local public or school library ASAP!