Friday, February 16, 2018

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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This collection of poems covers themes like love, heartache, abuse, forgiveness, and the feminine experience from Rupi Kaur's perspective. Milk and Honey is not a long book, but it packs a lot of emotion and expression into four brief chapters of free-form poetry.

There isn't a lot in this book that I can directly identify with, but I can still appreciate it. Not every poem is a stand-alone work, at least not in my opinion. Some of them are just a few lines on a page that make a comment on a previous or upcoming poem, or serve as connective tissue between otherwise unconnected poems.

If you like reading Rupi Kaur's poems, you should also take a look at The Sun and Her Flowers. If you're looking for free-form poetry on serious topics for a young adult audience, look for books by Ellen Hopkins (like Impulse and Identical).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

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Several years ago, my friend told me about these two webseries called "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and "The Guild." I watched both of them, loved them both, and wanted to know what else I could see Felicia Day in, because she was wonderful. (Perhaps surprisingly, I don't watch Supernatural, but I've heard she's great in it.) I actually got to meet her at a convention in DC last year, and she's friendly and funny and overall just delightful. So of course I wanted to read her memoir, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

Coincidentally, I picked this book up around the same time I started watching a lot of shows on Geek & Sundry, which is a multimedia production company she co-founded. The first half of the book is about her childhood and how integral the internet was to turning her into the person she is today, and the second half is mostly about her experiences getting her webseries "The Guild" made and the development of Geek & Sundry after that.

If you enjoy reading about Felicia Day and her work, you might want to check some of it out! "The Guild" was turned into graphic novels, available on Hoopla. You might also be interested in the biography of Joss Whedon, friend and foreword-writer of Felicia Day, also on Hoopla.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Soppy by Philippa Rice

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In honor of Valentine's Day, I am sharing not a collection of flowery sonnets, not purple prose about moonlight reflecting in anyone's eyes, and not a whirlwind romance novel... this is a graphic novel about the everyday normal life of a couple in love.

Soppy is a graphic novel that is less of a single narrative and more of a collection of scenes. It has little dialogue, mostly single lines or brief back-and-forth conversations, and a minimalist art style. While reading it, it felt to me like Philippa Rice had written it as a piecemeal love letter to her boyfriend and someone saw it and wanted to publish it to share how cute it is with everyone else.

If you would like to read some autobiographical graphic novels with wider scope and more depth, try Persepolis or Stitches.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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Early this year, I put out a call to friends and family for their book recommendations, as a way of expanding my reading horizons. A Gentleman in Moscow was one of the first to be recommended, and I'm so glad that it was (thanks, Elaine!) because I really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I ever would have thought to pick it up on my own.

The Soviets declare poet Alexander Rostov a Former Person and "exile" him to the confines of the Metropol Hotel for the rest of his life. He befriends an interesting cast of characters (all staff or visitors to the hotel) and has amusing "adventures" within the hotel's walls. It is very charming and endearing and has tidbits of history and literature scattered throughout.

If you enjoy Amor Towles' writing, you might also want to try Rules of Civility. You can also find books about Russian history by browsing in the 947 section!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi tells the story of two branches of a family, starting with a single pair of sisters in Africa and following eight generations to the current day, showing how different the members of each generation turn out to be (but also the similarities between them, despite the distance across both place and time).

It is a unique book, in my experience, because of the point of view. Every chapter follows a different person: pairs of chapters are from the same generation, one from each branch of the family, stemming from a single pair of sisters. To explain more clearly: chapter one is about the first sister, chapter two is about the second sister, chapter three is about the first sister's child, chapter four is about the second sister's child, etc. By doing this, the story manages to have both a "big picture" view of a broad scope of things going on for decades and decades, and a fine-detail attention for the minutiae of the life of an individual within the story. It also allows for multiple perspectives on each individual, when a previous chapter was from their parent's viewpoint and a subsequent chapter is from that of their child, and later, their grandchild, and great-grandchild.

You can find this book in the VBPL collection in print, downloadable audiobook, and e-book from Overdrive.

Friday, February 09, 2018

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

As I said on Tuesday, the Youth Media Awards are being announced later than usual this year. Back in 2011, the honors piled up for One Crazy Summer: National Book Award finalist, Coretta Scott King Award, Newbery Honor, and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.  It feels a bit odd when events I remember are labeled historical, but the setting is Oakland, California, in the summer of 1968.  That was the summer that Langston Hughes seemed to foresee in his poem Harlem, better known by its first line, "What happens to a dream deferred?" 

Delphine, aged eleven, tells us about the trip she and her sisters Vonetta, nine, and Fern, seven, took to visit their mother Cecile who left them six years earlier.  Delphine's perceptions have been shaped by her grandmother from segregated Alabama, who judges by white standards and expects Delphine as the oldest to make sure the sisters are a credit to their race. 

Wrapped up in creating poetry, Cecile sends the girls down the street to the People’s Center where there is a day camp operated by the Black Panthers. There Delphine discovers new ways to think about herself and her race. She also learns more than is comfortable about the hard life her mother has endured. For her, as for the nation, that summer of 1968 is a watershed with startling parallels to current events. 

Like many award winning books for children, One Crazy Summer has plenty of depth to reward an adult reader. Family love and obligations, the drive for self expression, and an inside view of being black in America, are framed by the often funny, everyday life of children. One Crazy Summer has two sequels: P. S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama

For another look at our recent past through the eyes of a young black girl, try After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson. And if you are wondering, the 2018 Coretta Scott King Awards and Newbery Award and Honor books will be announced beginning at 10am on Monday, February 12th.

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner

On a beach much like ours, a dodgy tourist attraction, 
Ocean Wonders, claims to have a mermaid. The proprietor, King Neptune himself, shows off the other sea life from shark to turtle, but the Fish Girl is always disappearing around a corner or behind the octopus. One day a curious visitor manages to meet Fish Girl in secret and to awaken her curiosity as well.

Take the timeless tale of Rapunzel and toss in P. T. Barnum. Fill it with mysteries and subtle magic, and photograph it with the camera from David Wiesner’s Flotsam. Give the story depth as the fish girl learns her life doesn’t have to be constrained by the rules she’s been told by "Neptune." Give her a friend who is determined to see her free. You will have a spellbinding graphic novel that is stunningly relevant to today’s headlines, but will not fade with them.

Fish Girl will speak to every child who is on the threshold of growing up and taking charge of her life. Donna Jo Napoli created a more direct fairy tale retelling in The Prince of the Pond: Otherwise Known as De Fawg Pin.  Katherine Applegate's 
The One and Only Ivan offers another view of exotic animals held captive for show. Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman is another mermaid who finds friendship with human girls.

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL