Kiddosphere: Ridiculously Good Reads
How’s 2015 working out for you? Have you read any fantastically awesome books so far? As a youth services librarian, I need to read books outside my personal interests. (If I didn’t, I’d read nothing but realistic fiction, historical fiction, and biographies). I also need to remind myself to not focus on the bright and shiny new reads, but to go deeper into the collection and find titles that I missed. Happily, this often turns up some welcome surprises!
For 2015, I’m going to start a “Ridiculously Good Reads” feature. This will be similar to Reading Roundup, but it will only focus on books that I thought were outstanding. Not just in a literary sense, but books that, for whatever reason, weren’t forgotten the second I returned them. Here are my Ridiculously Good Reads for January and February:I recommend Annie Between the States whenever possible for middle or high school historical fiction assignments; not only it is a fantastic Civil War era read, but much of the action takes place in Fauquier County (Upperville and Warrenton) and the surrounding areas. Across a War-Tossed Sea has joined my top recommended reads for historical fiction, as it’s a moving, gripping, occasionally funny, and occasionally heartbreaking tale of British brothers living in the Tidewater region during World War II. Not only do the brothers struggle with homesickness and guilt over leaving friends and family behind in Britain, but they have to deal with cultural differences, especially segregation laws and customs. A subplot involving a nearby German POW camp is tremendously affecting and startling; Elliott’s research notes on German POW camps and the importance of the Tidewater region during World War II are informative and fascinating.
I’ve become more and more impatient with epic 400+ children’s/YA novels and endless series. Ugh! Enough! You better have a really good reason for having such a huge book and for extending the story into a trilogy (or more). Thankfully, there are still authors and publishers out there who haven’t forgetten about reluctant readers, or readers who just want a quick read every now and then. Bridge is part of the Alternative series, which is set at Rondo Alternative High School. This is Jose’s last chance to graduate; family issues such as his dad’s unemployment (due to medical issues) and difficulty concentrating in class due to his work schedule make school a challenge. At 92 pages and written with reluctant readers in mind, this is a realistic and empathetic look at situations that befall many high school students. Patrick Jones worked with teens at juvenile detention centers and alternative education centers, so he’s very familiar with the issues and situations that these young people face. I’m definitely planning to add more books in the Alternative series.
I’m a huge fan of Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoirs; Displacement, in my opinion, is her finest so far (and I thought it would be hard to top Relish). As always, family relationships play a huge part in her latest graphic memoir (food is also a Knisley trademark, but less so in this one). As her grandparents are dealing with the physical and mental realities of aging (as Knisley includes her musings on twenty-something issues, this is a remarkable juxtaposition), this cruise is probably their last big trip. Her sorrow over their decline, her befuddlement over typical cruise activities, and the differences in her relationships with each grandparent are sensitively, humorously, and achingly depicted in both art and prose. Excerpts from her grandfather’s World War II memoir are included throughout the memoir, which adds a poignant and admirable touch. This is graphic memoir writing and drawing at its finest.
I’ll bet you’re anxious to find spring. (Pitchers and catchers report this week, so it’s on its way!) Finding Spring is a charming beauty of a picture book. This little bear cub is dismayed to learn that he has to hibernate during winter before spring arrives; when he sets off to find the mysterious spring, he finds something quite marvelous, indeed. This sweet book has constantly been checked out since we received it early this year; it’s a superbly created book that’s perfect for late winter.
Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution is one of our staff’s early favorites for 2015. 2015’s summer reading program is “Every Hero Has a Story,” and this unique story ties in perfectly! Christopher Ludwick’s story shows that everyone has talents and qualities to contribute, even in unexpected ways. Finding picture books about historical eras that are excellent read alouds is rare; there are plenty of fine historical fiction picture books, but not many that are suitable for reading aloud. This is a terrific read aloud for elementary school students studying the American Revolution.
I was extremely hesitant to read Noggin. I wanted to read all finalists for the National Book Award (Young People’s Literature division), but I had a hard time getting past the premise of the story. Once I decided to read it, I was completely engrossed. It’s a mature, unsettling, unforgettable, and provocative science fiction novel that raises tough questions about scientific advancements and mortality.
Supertruck is another early 2015 title that has been constantly checked out since we received it (and very appropriate for winter reading!). A blizzard has overpowered the city; luckily, an unlikely hero in the form of a garbage truck saves the day. So adorable and clever!
At 990 pages of text, Truman is an enormous biography (took me nearly seven weeks to get through it), but it’s one of the best presidential biographies I’ve ever read (I’ve been reading a biography of each president–off and on– since October 2012). Truman’s late-in-life political career, the chaos of the 1944 Democratic convention (where it was an unspoken understanding that Roosevelt would likely die in office, thus making the VP nominee more critical than it had ever been), the decision to launch the atomic bomb, the firing of General MacArthur and the Korean War crisis, the rise of Senator Joe McCarthy, the enormous loss of popularity and calls for impeachment, and much, much more are brilliantly brought to life. Moreover, his undying love for his wife, Bess, and daughter, Margaret, is touchingly depicted. Truman was a complicated character (his views on civil rights did not mean that he was incapable of making unsettling statements) at an extraordinary time. An outstanding biography. The Roosevelt-Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy biographies era is very reminiscent of the Washington-Adams-Jefferson-Madison biographies era; their political careers intertwine with each other on a greater scale than other eras in American history (Roosevelt to a lesser extent, since he was an established icon by the time Truman began his political career) but definitely true for Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy). Very intriguing to observe!
For book lists, reviews and staff suggestions for children published prior to January 2015, visit Kiddosphere, our blog about children/young adult fiction and non-fiction. Looking for some brand-new reads! Check out our latest and back issues of Wowbrary.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library