Thursday, June 27, 2013

June Recent Reads

Another great reading month!  This was a fun mixture of children's, YA, and adult reads. 

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

Historical fiction featuring Latino characters is uncommon, so The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is quite welcome.  Evelyn is a typical fourteen year old living in 1969's Spanish Harlem. Her parents are stubbornly traditional, and she's tired of living in her run-down neighborhood with its funky smell.  Evelyn doesn't think much of her Puerto Rican heritage until her grandmother, a revolutionary back in Puerto Rico,arrives for an extended stay.  The Young Lords want to start a free breakfast and community classes at Evelyn's church, which divides the congregation.  This is a remarkable look at a volatile time in Spanish Harlem, featuring a believable and authentic teen girl character.

97 Orchard

97 Orchard is a fantastic read for anyone interested in food history, American immigration history, or New York.  Tracing the history of the inhabitants of 97 Orchard, a tenement building in New York, Jane Ziegelman covers the history and development of ethnic foods of Italian immigrants, Irish immigrants, German immigrants, and Jewish immigrants from Russia and Romania.  I definitely got hungry while reading this, whether Ziegelman was describing the knishes sold by Jewish delis or pizzarellis sold by Italian peddlers.  Reactions from American-born citizens to the strange and aromatic foods available in the Lower East Side of Manhattan are quite amusing!

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

I'm a biography freak, so I've had my eye on this 2012 biography of environmentalist writer and advocate Rachel Carson for some time.  I've never actually read Silent Spring, but I was aware of its enormous impact in its day.  This is a memorable biography of Carson's professional and personal life; her difficulties with publishing and the writing process were enriching to read.

A Big Guy Took My Ball!

If Dr. Seuss/Theodore Geisel has a contemporary peer, it would undoubtedly be Mo Willems.  Willems doesn't engage in wacky word play like Seuss did, but the irresistible laugh out loud humor that runs through story lines that engage and entertain emerging readers makes him akin to the best of Seuss's works.  No wonder Willems is a multiple winner of the Geisel award for beginning readers.  Although I'm a huge fan of the Pigeon, I must say that Willems's Elephant and Piggie reign supreme in my heart. They are just deliciously funny, silly, and heartwarming.  In their latest episode, Elephant and Piggie deal with a very large animal that has taken control of a ball.

Bullying themes are not unusual in YA literature, but Meg Medina has written one of the most honest and realistic looks at teen bullying.  Piddy Sanchez is a new student at her new school, but she already has an enemy; Yaqui Delgado doesn't like the way she acts.  Confused and feeling out of place at her new school, Piddy tries her best to avoid Yaqui, until the inevitable and violent confrontation.

I've read too many children's/YA books in which the bullied kid "reaches out" and "tries to understand" the bully, who is portrayed as feeling jealous of his/her target, with the two characters forming an understanding. That's a nice sentiment, but not often the case in the real world.  Yaqui is a straight-up, hard core bully who decides to target the new girl for no rhyme or reason; Piddy's decision at the end might be seen as an escape, but it's sometimes the only way a bullied teen can be safe. Mature readers who can handle the adult language and situations will find this a thought-provoking and truthful story.

The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War

Richard Rubin's 10 year quest to track down, interview, and write the stories of the last surviving World War I veterans (who have all since passed) has resulted in an astonishing achievement.  Although some were more reluctant to tell their stories than others, each veteran had his own unique contribution to share.  Despite the fact that the veterans were recollecting events 80 years in the past, some memories proved to be quite powerful for these 100+ year old soldiers. In between chapters featuring individual veterans, Rubin includes chapters on World War I literature, popular music (the abrupt switch between anti-war and pro-war songs is fascinating) of the time, and other issues involving World War I era society.  Rubin also explores issues that face the extremely elderly, which is very intriguing.  Even if you're not really into war history (I'm not, but if it has a personal focus, as this does, I'm all for it), you would enjoy this extraordinary glimpse at a faraway and nearly forgotten war.

Cannot believe June is almost over!  We are having an outstanding summer here at the library. Join us!


Sarah Olson said...

Really great list here - I am particularly excited about "97 orchard" and "the last of the doughboys". Sounds like June was a good month as far as literature summer reading list just expanded!

Jennifer Schultz said...

Hope you enjoy, Sarah! 97 Orchard is not a new book--came out in 2010. Doughboys is a 2013 book--both are awesome!