During November and December, I’ve read a batch of children’s literature and adult books covering a range of genres that includes poetry, script, short story, historical fiction, nonfiction. An attempt has been made to organize this list under headings by author, theme or genre.
MIDDLE YEAR NOVELS
The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea
After reading the Mr. Terupt series, I look foward to delving into any new books by author Rob Buyea who really knows the trials and tribulations of middle school students. Presented through the voices of boy and girl characters, this story questions – and explodes – the procedures and values connected to standardized testing.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Was enticed by great reviews to read this book by this first time author. Moore has presented us with a 21st century fictional hero, a boy named Lolly, addicted to leg0-building. His mother (gay) does her best to make ends meet and to love her son unconditionally. Lolly carries the load of the memory of his brother who was shot and the threat of harassment from the local crew. The Harlem setting is an essential ingredient in this novel, as is the language that give authentic voice to the characters. I expect this one to be winning award. It needs to be read. It’s at the top of my list for 2017.
from the New York Times review, Holly Goldberg Sloan, October 16, 2017
The Stars Beneath Our Feet “is the right story at the right story at the right time and its set in the right place. It’s not just a narrative, it’s an experience.”
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
The author personalizes the story of Fidel Castro’s call to arms of volunteer teachers to bring literacy to all of Cuba through the experiences of Lora, a brave 12 year old who chooses to live in the remote regions of the country to help fulfill the revolutionary premier’s mandate. So good to have an another Paterson book to read.
Bad Dad by David Walliams
Every year I look forward to reading a new novel by this fantastic – and funny – British author. Bad Dad is the story of a bad dad, champion race car driver, who gets entangled with a crime boss and his henchman, all for the love of his son. Funny (and yes, poignant).
Listen to the Moon
Morpurgo is a master storyteller and this is a fine example of historical fiction, told through various voices, about a young girl who survives the crash of the Lusitania and ends up on The Isles of Scilly where she is cared for by a loving family – and tormented by a community who thinks she is of German descent. Remarkable!
After being taunted by bullies, Jonah finds comfort in the local chapel where he discovers a lucky button connecting him to Nathaniel a foundling boy from the eighteenth century. An informative read about abandoned children, family – and Mozart.
A retelling of the classic story as told by Pinocchio. I read this book in advance of seeing a not-very-good production of the play at the National Theatre in London. Read this book, skip the play. Emma Chister Clark illustrates.
Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of OZ
Yes – that Toto. Yes, that Wizard of Oz Great retelling of the iconic story. Vibrant illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark add to the delight of this book.
YOUNG ADOLESCENT NOVELS
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Set in the future, the white population has lost the ability to dream and as a result The Indigenous People of North America are being hunted for their bone marrow which holds the key to restoring dreams. A story of survival and battle of cultures. Winner of the Governor General’s Award, 2017.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Russell Picket, a billionaire disappears. Aza and Daisy decide to investigate, not just because of a hundred-thousand dollar reward, but her investigation will bring her closer to Pickett’ son, Davis. Fans of this popular YA novelist will likely continued to be engaged with the storytelling and depiction of teenage friendships.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
This free-verse novel presents the story of 15 year old Will boards an elevator and sets out to avenge his brother’s fatal showing. During the ride, seven ghosts who knew Shawn board the elevator revealing several truths that the troubled teenager needs to know. From the jacket cover: “Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. Jason Reynolds is also tired. Of being around young people who are tired of feeling invisible.”
THREE NOVELS ABOUT GAY TEENAGE BOYS DEALING WITH THEIR PRESENT (and FUTURE) RELATIONSHIPS
Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell (Canadian)
Alan’s brother is cruel and threatens to out his brother at school.
Vanilla by Billy Merrell (American)
Told in free-verse format, alternate voices.
Release by Patrick Ness (British)
Adam’s troubles emerge from his religious family, sexual harassment from his boss, and deep feelings for a former boyfriend, and loyalty to a new boyfriend.
AN IRISHMAN, A JAPANESE, AN AMERICAN and A BRIT: Four International authors (adult)
Smile by Roddy Doyle
I’ve admired books by this Irish author. In this book, a guy walks into a bar, confronts a lonely man who doesn’t want any company and is reluctant to dig into his past. I need to talk to someone about the ending of this story.
Autumn by Ali Smith
Rave reviews for this British title shortlisted for The Man Brooker Prize 2017 which for the most part, describes the relationship and exchanged views between a 101 man and his former neighbour. Described as ‘bold and brilliant’ and ‘transcendtal’ and ‘ever-inventive’, I didn’t get it. (The first book in a series. Next up Winter. I will pass on these).
A Cat, A Woman, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki
When at the check-out counter of Waterstones Book Store, the clerk suggested I buy this featured book by Japanese author Tanizaki. The title is a perfect summary for this story about a cat who plays a vital part in a broken marriage. (123 pages)
Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
A past and present journey through rural Missississippi. I picked this one up because I was intrigued by the voice of the 13 year old main character named Jojo who joins his drug-addicted mother (Black) as she sets out to meet Jojo’s father (White) who is about to be released from prison. Strong writing and a wrenching narrative have helped to put this book on many top ten lists of the year.
SCRIPTS (of three plays I recently saw)
Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams
A banquet of funny, harrowing, gutsy, stories of politics, family, business, sexuality, loyalty and a football game, revealed by black men who work in barber shops. Six barber shops. In six cities. In one day.
Follies book by James Goldman; Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Indecent by Paula Vogel
Vogel’s script is centred on the controversial play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, written in 1907, first performed in Yiddish and German and later setting a scandal for its depiction of an affair between two women when performed in America in 1923.
Sit by Deborah Ellis (ages 11+)
Ten seated children from around the world, each facing a challenge and a difficult choice/ Bravo to master storyteller Deborah Ellis.
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (adult)
A collection of stories set in both Vietnam and America, drawing deep into the experience of leaving the country of birth and/ or settling into an adopted homeland.
The Least You Can Do Is Be Magnificent by Steve Venright (not a children’s book!)
A collection of poetry, prose and artful quips. This author writes so far out of the box that there seems to be no boxed walls to contain his explosive thoughts. Mr. Venright, you are Sir Real. What a mind! Very funny too! (“Time heals all wounds, but if I were you I’d see a doctor just the same.””You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, but you only have to break one to make a baby.”)
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
by Chris Harris, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Standing on the shoulders of Nash, Silverstein and Prelutsky
Chris Harris’s confirms that he’s a poet gone nutsky!
Where does the sidewalk end? It doesn’t. It continues on into the 21st Century in this funny (and thoughtful) collection of poems and funny (and thoughtful) illustrations. For poetry lovers – and non-poetry lovers – young and old and in-between.