Kiddosphere: Last of the Summer Reads: Recent Reads in August and Late July
I hope you enjoyed some fantastic reads this summer! If you’re looking for a very random list of books for adults and children, today is your lucky day. Here’s what captured my attention in late July and early August.
Books for Adults
I’m working on biography/history/historical fiction ideas for a book club, so that’s a large bulk of my adult reading at the moment. Ali: A Life was published last year to stellar reviews and several spots on “best of 2017” lists, so it’s been on my radar for some time. I knew nothing about wrestling and little about Ali’s life before reading this; I was gobsmacked. I could not WAIT to get back to it at the end of the day. It’s a door-stopper, but I flew through it as fast as you can a 500+ page biography. Eig’s depiction of Ali’s early days as a young superstar (and the Caucasian policeman who changed the course of his life and got him involved in wrestling), the tug-of-war between Elijah Mohammad and Malcolm X for Ali’s devotion (and his eventual falling out with the Nation of Islam), his complicated relationships with women and his children, and his outrageous public bragging (and poems!) are told in fascinating detail (Ali “threw shade” before we called it such a thing).
However, what makes this such an extraordinary read is that, unlike many lengthy biographies, it doesn’t get bogged down near the end. Ali’s final wrestling matches, in which he was physically unable to defend himself, are agonizing and heartbreaking to read (and learning about his many enablers is infuriating). His evolution into a goodwill ambassador and the change in public opinion about him is compelling, and his triumphant appearance at the 1996 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies (which is pretty much what I remembered about him before reading this) is breathtaking to read, and vividly brought back that moment to me. One of the best biographies I’ve read in years.
If you’ve never read a full-length adult biography of Martin Luther King Jr, then I recommend reading one before choosing The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr (which is not a lengthy read). Jason Sokol’s book is not intended to be an all-encompassing biography; rather, it’s a jaw-dropping look at King’s reputation among different groups before his death, the immediate affect of King’s assassination, the gradual change in public opinion in the decades after his death, and the fight to establish a public holiday in his honor. Definitely one to read if you want an insightful look at King’s legacy. (If you want a good overall biography, consider Martin Luther King Jr, part of the excellent Penguin Lives series.
Books for Children
I love the fact that we are seeing a bit more books featuring contemporary Native Americans in both adult (such as There There), young adult (an upcoming Cynthia Leitich Smith title!) and children’s literature, such as Bowwow Powwow: bagosenjige-niimi’idim. This gorgeous and sweet picture book follows a young girl attending a powwow with her uncle: enjoying the delicious food, respecting the veterans as they march in the parade, and admiring the jingle dancers makes for a fun and informative day for this young Ojibwa girl.
People Don’t Bite People wasn’t on the new shelf for very long (an hour or so) before it was swooped up by a parent. “We need this one!” While biting is absolutely a common thing for very young children, it’s unsettling when it happend. This reinforces the message that biting is a “no no” in a fun way that can spur further conversation; it’s a great read aloud in rhyme.
Pie is for Sharing has been very popular all summer long, and for good reason: it depicts a sweet (pun intended!) Independence Day picnic filled with friendship, fun and community bonding. Not only is pie for sharing, but so are balls, trees and time. This is also beautifully and fully multicultural (as opposed to having one token ethnic character).
Princess Hair is an adorable and much needed gem, celebrating the varieties of African-American hair. Long, short, curly, straightened, braided–each little girl’s hair is featured and admired. My Hair is a Garden (also a 2018 release) is a superb read for slightly older children, as it involves an actual story line (and facts/tips on black hair care at the end). There’s also the fabulous Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (and one of the 2018 Caldecott Honor titles) which honors black barbershops and African-American male children and tweens.
Finding books for middle schoolers can be rough; very often, they’re still in between choosing books from both the children’s and YA sections. If you have a middle schooler who wants to read realistic fiction with some slight romantic content, look into the Swirl series. For instance, Pumpkin Spice Secrets follows two girls as they deal with having a crush on the same boy, and the inevitable drama that follows. As you can guess, pumpkin spice latte figures into the story line. Each Swirl novel is independent from each other, so reading order doesn’t matter. Not great literature, but Swirl fulfills a need for fun middle-school books that aren’t too mature.
The Squirrels’ Busy Year is perfect for all those “learning about seasons” units that are popular in the fall. Through the activities of busy squirrels, readers (and listeners) learn about the changes in weather throughout the seasons. Cute, cute, cute.
Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library