Friday, May 31, 2013

Recent Reads Wrap Up

It's the end of the month--time for a reading wrap up!  This was an excellent month for new reads:

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

Temple Grandin's latest is a must read for anyone fascinated by neuroscience (I love that stuff, so it's right up my alley).  Although Dr. Grandin obviously discusses autism quite a bit in this excellent read, there's a lot about the effect of brain injuries, the way artists, musicians, authors, and scientists use their brain, sensory issues, and much more.  She also shares her concern over the revised (and controversial) DSM 5 (diagnostic manual by the American Psychiatric Association) and her thoughts on treatment and care of people with autism spectrum disorders. Definitely going on my list for top reads of 2013.

Daughter of the Mountains

Every so often, I come across a Newbery Medal/Honor book that completely takes me by surprise.  I lost a lot of enthusiasm for my never ending Newbery reading project in the last few months; I just had no interest in picking up any of my remaining 1940s titles.  I was not entirely looking forward to reading this 1949 Honor novel about a young Tibetan girl searching for her missing dog; I was just discouraged in general by recent reads in this project, for a variety of reasons.  I was amazed by this book; not only is it respectful of Momo's traditions and cultures (she is a Tibetan Buddhist), but it is a remarkable look at the interactions between Tibetans, Chinese, Indians, and British subjects living in Calcutta at the time.  It's also a fine adventure story (Momo travels from her remote Tibetan home to Calcutta in search of her kidnapped dog) and "man's best friend" story.

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty

I always look forward to a new Tonya Bolden book; I sat next to her at a Jefferson Cup banquet several years ago (Leonard Marcus was at the same table--that was a great event!), and was delighted to find that in addition to being a gifted writer, she was also very friendly and chatty.  Her latest has received an impressive amount of starred reviews, so I started this with a great deal of anticipation.  Bolden tells the creation and impact of the Emancipation Proclamation in an intimate voice (often using "we" to tell the story), which effortlessly draws the reader into the narrative. It's also beautifully designed; lots of primary source documents are expertly arranged to complement the text.

Galaxy Zack: Hello Nebulon!

I'm always on the lookout for unique easy chapter books, and this series opener about a young boy who moves to another planet seemed like a fun series for beginning chapter book readers.  It's a cute, funny, and appealing choice for all young readers.  Anyone who has had to move, start a new school, and make new friends will identify with Zach, even if their move wasn't nearly as dramatic as his!


Patricia Reilly Giff is one of my favorites, so I was eager to read her latest historical fiction children's novel set in New York during World War II.  It's a somewhat fantastical, dreamy, heartbreaking, and heartwarming story about a young orphaned girl missing her deployed brother and searching for her long-lost grandmother; it's also on this year's Elementary Battle of the Books, so I'm anxious to hear students' reactions.

The Hidden Treasure of Glaston

If you're into King Arthur stories and/or medieval stories, you might like The Hidden Treasure of Glaston.  I'm not, so I had a disadvantage going into the story. The friendship depicted in the story is believable and sweet.   This is a 1947 Newbery Honor book.

How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers

I got such a kick out of this hilarious picture book; it's a crazy, fun, and imaginative look at a plan to bicycle to the moon (to plant sunflowers), in just 24 steps!  Pay special attention to the illustrations for an ever richer reading experience.

Instant Mom

Your average memoir about children/dogs/travel just doesn't interest me unless there's a unique take on it.  Nia Vardalos's memoir of adopting her daughter immediately interested me, because adopting an older child (in Vardalos's case, a toddler) presents special challenges and situations.  After years of unsuccessful and agonizing fertility treatments, Vardalos and her husband decided to adopt a two year old girl who had significant speech delays, probably due to repeat interruptions in her home life.  At times both hilarious and heartbreaking, this is an honest and heartfelt look at the joys and difficulties faced by the family.  Vardalos is a funny and personable author, as should be expected by the writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Backyard

I'm thrilled that this funny and adorable children's guide to bird watching is a success with our patrons; it's definitely one of my top reads for the year.  I'm no bird watcher, but even I've been inspired to look at birds more closely when I'm out and about.  Annette LeBlanc Cate emphasizes that bird watching can be done anywhere, and can be insightful and rewarding even if you're "only" able to observe the birds in your neighborhood.  Not only are we introduced to a wide variety of species, but we also learn *how* to observe differences among birds--their flight patterns, their coloring, their habitats, etc.  The birds' conversations are quite snarky, which adds to the fun.

Mira's Diary: Home Sweet Rome

Although this is the second entry in the Mira's Diary series, it's not necessary to read them in order, for Mira's special talent (her ability to time travel) is retold in the opening pages of Home Sweet Rome.  Mira's mother, also a time traveler, is lost and in trouble, so Mira must time travel back and forth from present day Rome to 16th century Rome, where she is disguised as a servant boy and interacts with prominent Romans of the day, including Caravaggio and Giordano Bruno.  Mira is a smart and fearless character that many readers will root for; details of Roman life and society are seamlessly incorporated into the story.  Looking forward to reading the first Mira's Diary and future stories in this series.

Minn of the Mississippi

Although this is one of the shortest Newbery Honor books (1952), don't be fooled into thinking that this is a quick read, for there are many detailed illustrations scattered throughout the story.  This is a contemplative tale of a turtle that winds its way down the Mississippi River, beginning in Minnesota and ending in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Twenty One Balloons

This was a rather....interesting tale (1948 Newbery Medal) about a balloonist who discovers a restaurant-oriented society on an island thought to be uninhabited.  Although I'm not gung-ho about obviously quirky stories, I was really getting into the story until it just...ends.  The story is told through the balloonist's talk at an explorer's club.  What an odd little story.  Oh well--I'm done with the 1940s Newbery books! Hooray!

I'm currently reading The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, which I will tell more about in an upcoming post.

Summer Reading Program registration begins tomorrow!  Can't believe it's summer already.  We have an awesome summer planned for our patrons and visitors--check out the details here.


Ms. Yingling said...

I remember LOVING 21 Balloons. Always thought the coincidence of Fitzgerald's The Diamond as Big As the Ritz was funny, too!

Jennifer Schultz said...

Ms Yingling, I was quite enjoying it until the sudden ending. Oh, well. I need to read the Fitzgerald story--the note at the beginning threw me off a bit!