How's your springtime reading going so far? I'm constantly overwhelmed by the number of amazing books we have in our collection. Instead of whittling down my To-Be-Read list, I find it growing all the time!
What's the hottest show on Broadway right now? It just happens to be a (mostly) hip-hop musical about Founding Father and the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Tickets are sold out until infinity, and the cast (along with creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda) have been hosted at the White House, featured on 60 Minutes, and stole the show at the Grammy Awards. It all started when Miranda happened upon Ron Chernow's biography at an airport bookstore, and identified strongly with Hamilton's immigrant background and ascendancy to the top through hard work and luck (Chernow served as advisor during the creation and rehearsal periods). Alexander Hamilton is a hefty read, though immensely readable, addictive, inspiring, and tragic. I wasn't quite in the mood for a 730 paged biography (the remaining pages are research notes), but when I found that Chernow was also the author of the fabulous Washington: A Life (one of my top 10 president biographies), I was immediately enthused (he's currently working on a biography of Ulysses S. Grant!). If you've been swept up in Hamilton mania, make sure you hop on the holds list for Hamilton: The Revolution, which chronicles the creation of this unique show (and read Chernow's biography if you haven't).
If I had read Crenshaw last year, it would have been on my Newbery list. Katherine Applegate is the author of one of my favorite Newbery books of all time, The One and Only Ivan. For some reason, I never got around to reading Crenshaw until this year. As with The One and Only Ivan, Applegate captures hard truths (unemployment/underemployment, constant moving, etc) sensitively, acutely, and accurately without resorting to melodrama and pathos. Jackson's family dynamics are realistic, but strong and dynamic; the appearance and disappearance of his imaginary friend (Crenshaw, a cat) works perfectly.
Emma and Julia Love Ballet is a joy and a much-welcomed addition to our ballet picture books. Emma and Julia both love ballet and work hard at their ballet lessons that they take at the same ballet academy. Emma is very excited to attend a performance of the school's professional ballerinas, and to meet Julia backstage. The fact that Emma is Caucasian and Julia is African-American is not remarked upon; this is a perfect book for all budding ballerinas.
Although Mai is a tween who can't imagine living anywhere except California, the legacy of the Vietnam War continues to haunt her family. She is definitely not looking forward to accompanying her grandmother back to Vietnam in order to finally discover her grandfather's fate. Mai barely speaks Vietnamese and feels awkward and out of place with her relatives in Vietnam. Although it's a major struggle, Mai eventually learns to appreciate her Vietnamese heritage. Listen, Slowly straddles the divide between children's fiction and YA fiction (there's some talk about boys and underwear, but it's quite mild), and would appeal to readers who feel caught between two different cultures as well as readers who enjoy reading about cultures and countries. As most children's fiction set in Vietnam takes place during the war, this is a much needed addition to Asian and Asian-American books for children.
A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy is one of the saddest books I have ever read; Sue Klebold's agony and grief drips with every word. Her son, Dylan, was one of the two students at Columbine High School who murdered 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide. Klebold painfully recreates the confusion, horror, shame, and grief that have followed since that dreadful day, as well as her attempts to work through her trauma and her advocacy for familial survivors of suicide and mental health reform (all proceeds from this book will be donated to mental health research and charities dedicated to mental health). Klebold is brutally honest about what she would have done differently, her complicated grief, and the breakdown of her marriage to Dylan's father. This is a painfully difficult read that will linger with you long after you finish it (for further reading, I recommend Dave Cullen's Columbine, which clears up the rumors and half-truths that emerged about the tragedy, as well as Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, And the Search for Identity, in which Klebold is interviewed; Solomon also wrote the introduction to Klebold's book).
Need more reading ideas? Check out Wowbrary, a weekly newsletter that provides information on the latest and greatest books (print and electronic), DVDs, and more ordered/added to our collection.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian