I read the first 2 books in Jason Reynolds’ Track series a few weeks ago and loved them. I was planning on posting about them all when I finished the series, but I’ve hit a slump so I’m leaving book 3 and will come back to them later, so here’s a quick review on Ghost and Patina so I don’t forget them in my #2020readingchallenge tally.
I’ve probably read more sportsing books this year than I have in my whole life – I’m making an effort to expand my reading horizons and explore genres and themes I’d usually skip over. This series is a fab middle grade read, 4 books about 4 different members of the same track team, who all deal with their own family and personal issues. Ghost, the eponymous character from the first book in the series, lives with his mother whilst his father is in prison for attempting to shoot them both. He is dealing with bullying at school, and is struggling to find his place, and to be seen for who he is. The metaphor of running in this book sets up a beautiful through line for the stories that are to come. Patina, in book 2, attends an elite private school and lives with her aunt, as her mum is unable to care for her because of her complex medical conditions. They both joined the track team at the same time, but are running their own races, literally and figuratively.
These are both great books, and I love the way Jason writes. He’s definitely one of my favourite author finds of the year.
Another “one session” read for me. I spent a couple of hours last night waiting for my daughter at her ballet class in the city, and smashed through this book in about 90 minutes. Black Brother, Black Brother is a wonderful middle grade novel by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which tells the story of Donte and Trey, mixed race brothers who experience very different treatment at their exclusive private school. Donte wants to disappear, wishing that he could just get through the day without being targeted or compared to his lighter skinned brother. A sensitive and powerful examination of the impacts of unconscious and systemic racism, with references to the impact of the school to prison pipeline effect, and an important message about finding your own strength. A really wonderful read.
In order to expand my reading horizons this year, I’ve been consciously choosing books that wouldn’t normally be ones I’d gravitate towards. Sports books fit firmly in that category, and in an effort to decolonize my bookshelf, I’m reading books by BIPOC authors as much as possible this month.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is EXCELLENT. I love that, in fiction in general and verse novels like this in particular, you get such incredible opportunities to care about and empathise with characters who are so innately different from you. This book definitely provided me this experience, as we get to see the struggles of the main character, a basketball star, and his twin brother, who start to drift apart as they go through the junior high school year. Their father is a former basketball star himself, with health issues and a dislike of doctors that causes friction amongst the family. It’s beautiful, compelling poetry, with such incredible heart and soul. Highly recommended, and well worth all the awards it received upon its release.
This arrived in the mail today, and I just devoured it in one sitting. This verse novel by Sally provides the parallel narratives of three teens all dealing with their own issues. A footballer who breaks his arm in the first game of the season, and is frustrated at not being able to play. A hockey player whose mother wants her to be a Hockeyroo but who’d rather be doing almost anything else. And a refugee who is still struggling with the stupid language and the strangeness of his new home.
I really loved this book. It’s a deceptively easy read, but extremely powerful despite that simplicity, and with a series of sparsely scattered illustrations that serve as a sucker punch for the emotions filtering through the poetry. One particular poem had me sobbing so unexpectedly hard as I thought about the refugee kids I used to teach and show through the library – it took me a solid 5 minutes to recover enough to keep reading. Thank you for this, Sally. It’s a wonderful piece of work.
What a delight this book was! I started reading the proof copy, and then the released version arrived, so both of these copies have many dog-eared pages to highlight passages that I wanted to remember.
When Flick stumbles across The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, it’s not what she was expecting. After discovering she has a secret gift, she also discovers something else that’s quite magical – the suitcases filling the travel agency are actually portals to other worlds!
This book has a whimsy and joy that I’ve not come across in a while. I also loved that there’s not really a hideous villain – whilst there are certainly antagonists who our main characters have to go up against, they aren’t pure evil, and their actions aren’t totally heinous. That’s not the point of the novel – heroes defeat bad guys, world is saved, yadda yadda. It’s far more subtle than that. It’s two people stumbling their way through adventures as they figure out who they are and what’s important to them. It’s about the joy of travel and exploration, but also the treasures that you take with you on those journeys. At least, that’s what it was for me. Also, NEVER leave your suitcase behind.
This is LD Lapinski’s first novel. I genuinely hope we see much more from them. I wished I’d taken the time to pull out the rest of my suitcase collection for a suitable luggage photo of this one, but I have another book to start!
I listened to the New York Public Library’s read-along of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline last week, and it was so wonderful. The morning of the first session was supposed to be the day that my daughter Kelsey flew out to the US for her first solo adventure, which would mostly have seen her spending a bunch of time in New York, so it seemed appropriate for us to have a breakfast of bacon and waffles while we listened to Neil Gaiman read the first couple of chapters.
I love this book – it’s probably one of the ones I’ve read the most in between reading the physical copy, listening to the audiobook and this readalong, and teaching it multiple times. I love what it says about facing scary things but doing them anyway because they’re important. It’s always wonderful to hear people who appreciate the power of words read good quality literature, and this series was such a treat, with the reading being shared between Neil, LeVar Burton, Rosario Dawson and Dakota Fanning. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d listen to Gaiman read his shopping list, but it’s been so long since I’ve listened to LeVar Burton read that I’d forgot just how brilliant a narrator he is. It was a good reminder to cue up some more of his podcast, which is a fab collection of stories from a range of genres, all read by LeVar in his inimitable style. The relish and delight he feels for words and stories is palpable, and I need more of that in my life. The sessions for this are still available on the NYPL website – I’d highly recommend it if you’ve not listened to it already.
Title: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, and Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Fantasy. Greek mythology. Action/ adventure.
I’ve not read Percy Jackson before, but Kelsey always speaks highly of it, so when I found the box set recently I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I finished book 3 today, and I’ve enjoyed them. Are they the best things I’ve ever read? Well, no. I know a bit about Greek mythology, so a lot of it was fairly predictable for me, but I definitely don’t mean that as a criticism. This mid-40’s woman is definitely not Rick Riordan’s target audience. Whilst not groundbreaking, I’ve found them engaging, and a whole lot of fun. I really love the “ADHD as a side-effect of hero status” element of the books. I’d totally wear a Camp Halfblood tshirt. I find the choice vs destiny theme really fascinating. Without wanting to be too spoilery, the ending of book 3, Titan’s Curse, made me genuinely emotional. I’m very much looking forward to reading the next 2 books, and would recommend them for your middle grade or high school readers who are after a great series with some fantasy, mythology and cracking action.
Title: Lumberjanes Vol1: Beware the Kitten Holy
Author: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Faith Hicks, Brooke A. Allen (Illustrator), Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carolyn Nowak (Illustrator), Carey Pietsch (Illustrator)
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Comic books. Fantasy. Mystery.
I’ve been wanting to get back into reading comics again for a while now. I remember loving them when I was a kid, but I grew up in a town with no comic store so was limited to whatever Archie and Casper comics the newsagents would occasionally get in. I’ve seen so many great comics released in recent years, and whilst I want to read them, it’s quite overwhelming to figure out just where to start! So, in my “supporting independent stores” focus for #iso2020 I hit up some comic nerds for advice, signed up for a Kings Comics gold card, and ordered me some comics!
Lumberjanes is one that I’ve been hearing about for a while, so it was the first that I delved into when my parcel of comicky goodness arrived. Volume 1, Beware the kitten holy, is a collection of editions 1 to 4 of the Lumberjanes comics, and I adored it. The blurb reads:
“At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.”
It’s quirky, funny, a great balance of mystery and action, with some fab positive representations of female characters of all kinds. I’ll definitely be going back for more of this female-created comic about the creepy happenings at the summer camp for “hard-core lady types”. An utter delight, and a great place to start back into my comic reading adventures!
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel, middle grade, science, history, space.
I’ve always been interested in space, and I’m sure my childhood fantasies of being an astronaut led to my strong sci-fi leanings as a teen and adult. This book is a fab graphic novel which looks at the history of women’s involvement in the space program. It tells the compelling narrative story of Mary Cleave, one of the first women to complete NASA space training and then go on to complete 2 space missions and eventually lead the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Her personal story serves as a frame for the political and feminist history of women in space, and we see the story of the Russian space program and how it got there first. I particularly love how they employ a different font on the panels which depict the experiences of the Soviet space program. It’s a great visual cue to help differentiate these opposite yet parallel narratives.
The illustrations are charming, the science is fascinating, and the message is powerful – women can do anything, despite the men who try to tell them no. There’s some serious historical research that went into this book, and the librarian in me loves the source list at the end. The insight into the committee hearings which almost saw the Women in Space Program sidelined permanently was fascinating too – “of course we’ll need women eventually if we are planning on colonising another planet!” I loved this book, and will be on the lookout for their other graphic novel, Primates, to read soon!