May/June Reading

[Images show clipped covers of books listed below]

It’s been a good two months for reading!

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child (Picture Book, library hardcopy)
I read this after reading Native American Children’s Book scholar Debbie Reese’s blog post on it, which includes some lovely shots of the illustrations and talks about the importance of this book. Please read that (see following link) for more insights, if you are interested! https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2018/03/recommended-with-joy-bowwow-powwow.html

JuliƔn Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Picture Book, library hardcopy)
I read this mostly because someone was raving about the art, which is, indeed, delightful. But it’s a sweet and lovely book in terms of story as well, especially if you are looking for a picture book touching on issues of gender identity in a gentle way.

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall (MG Contemporary, library hardcopy)
I’ve loved all the Penderwicks books and was eager to see how the series came to a close. It was slightly bittersweet to be leaving the characters behind, but I was very satisfied.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (MG Contemporary, library hardcopy)
The ghost of a twelve-year-old African-American boy killed by a police officer who mistakes a toy gun for a real weapon watches his family and friends in the aftermath of his death; interspersed with scenes from before the incident. If you have MG readers who are ready to learn more about social justice and institutional racism this seems like a good place to start, though it is a challenging read. Obviously there can’t be a true happy ending, but there is hope here.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (MG/YA Graphic Novel, library hardcopy)
A beautiful book, both in the actual art and the story itself, about a prince who wants to wear dresses and the young dressmaker who secretly helps him. One warning: there is a somewhat traumatic outing scene, so be aware if you want to avoid that. The ultimate message is hopeful and accepting, though.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag (MG/YA Graphic Novel, library hardcopy)
This made a nice complement to The Prince and the Dressmaker, as it’s also a graphic novel exploring gender roles/expectations in a sort of fairy-tale setting. In this case, it’s the story of a boy who wants to be a witch, but his family tradition holds that males must become shapeshifters and only females can be witches.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (YA Fantasy, purchased ebook)
The compelling premise of this book is what first drew me in (along with that amazing cover): the Civil War ended because the dead began to rise as “shamblers” (aka zombies). Now human beings live in fortified settlements and young black folk are trained as warriors to fight the undead. My favorite part was the main character Jane, and her frenemy Kate, who are both strong, amazing, distinctive characters. There’s a second book on the way and I cannot wait.

Windwitch by Susan Dennard (YA Fantasy, library ebook)
Second in an ongoing secondary-world fantasy series. I really admire the complexity of this world, the powerful female friendship at the core, and pretty much every scene with Iseult and/or Aeduan.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (YA Fantasy, library ebook)
Second in a duology. I continue to be so impressed by how every one of the six main characters can be compelling and intriguing and distinctive, and how the world only gets richer and deeper and more interesting.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (YA Fantasy, purchased ebook)
This is quite possibly my favorite read of the year so far! Beautiful, shimmering, glorious prose but ALSO a compelling and well-paced plot that had me reading desperately to find out what would happen. I haven’t clicked with some of Taylor’s other work but this one just snagged me right from the first chapter. First in a duology, but book two is coming this fall, thank goodness!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst (Adult Fantasy , purchased ebook)
I was in the mood for something that felt like my favorite fantasy novels from when I was a teenage reader and this delivered. Adventure, a magic school, fantastic creatures, a bit of romance. Even though some very terrible, devastating things happen in the narrative, it felt like a comfort read because it was exactly what I was looking for at that moment.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Adult SF Novella , purchased ebook)
Second in a series of novellas about Murderbot, a self-aware android trying to understand its own past, and constantly getting mixed up with the messy affairs of humans it cares too much about. If you enjoyed the first, I think it is safe to say you will enjoy this one.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (Adult Nonfiction/Memoir, library audiobook)
The story of a nature writer and her relationship with a series of octopuses (not octopi, according to the book!) as she learns about their biology and dispositions. I enjoyed this most when it was focused on the biology and behavior of the octopuses, less so when the author was waxing poetic about what they meant to her. Mostly reading this just left me wishing for a more scientific book that would focus on all the neat aspects of octopus biology without extra fluff about the humans!


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