Friday, November 29, 2013

November Reading Roundup

Time for my monthly reading round up! November was a weird reading month. Some of it seemed obligatory reading, such as my Newbery reads and my presidential biographies reading projects.  That was a rare exception, thank goodness! I'm actually writing this on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, to be published on Friday (we are closed the Friday after Thanksgiving). Therefore, this will be a relatively short post.


Bluffton's received tremendous reviews, but I wasn't convinced. A graphic novel about Buster Keaton? Really? What I failed to realize before actually reading it was that this is a story of friendship between young Buster and Harry, who is fascinated with Buster's vaudeville, no school, itinerant childhood.  Buster's dad has been investigated several times for the often violent nature of the Keaton family's act; Buster is thrown about mercilessly on stage.  Matt Phelan's artwork sensitively portrays Buster's checked emotions, from his famously sad-comic air to the way playing baseball and running with the local kids makes him feel like a normal kid.  Harry's calm, loving, and nurturing home life is contrasted with Buster's chaotic childhood.  Harry and Buster eventually lose contact, but Harry is proud when his childhood friend becomes a major movie star in his own right.  Is this a book for a wide audience? Perhaps not, for it's a rather sophisticated graphic novel, but anyone interested in a friendship story or movie history would find it a moving read.

The Boy on the Porch

Friends, this may be a slim novel, but it's rich in depth and heart.  A childless couple discovers a young boy on their porch, with a note that promises the parent's return.  Once it becomes apparent that his parent is not in any hurry to return, the couple bonds with the boy, despite his inability to speak.  The eventual outcome is heartbreaking for the couple, but their experience leads them to fill their home with children who need a temporary, loving and safe home.  This is an outstanding read, a bit magical,  one of my favorites for 2013, and a beautiful story about foster care.  Tremendous.

A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

Although James K. Polk only served one term as president, he oversaw a great deal of expansion to the country, namely Texas and Oregon. A lengthy and unpopular war with Mexico erupted, while border conflicts with the British in Canada caused issues with northwestern expansion.  This is stuffed with details about Polk's unpopular administration.

Fortunately, The Milk

Thank you very much, Neil Gaiman, for writing a funny and science fiction (ish) story that's not 400+ pages long. During an errand to purchase milk for his children's cereal, a father is captured by aliens and goes on many crazy escapades.  The story is told through a conversation between dad and his children.  This would be a great read aloud!

The House of Sixty Fathers

Home Sweet Horror

Spooky, shivery, but not too frightening story about a grieving family and a haunted house. Looking forward to more in this series!

Martin van Buren

This is an excellent entry in the American Presidents series. The series of presidents between Jackson and Lincoln is a parade of one-term presidents who are little-remembered for their inconsequential terms (Polk is an exception due to westward expansion).  Fortunately, Ted Widmer brings van Buren's presidency to life with fascinating details about social and political life during his campaign and term; van Buren directly campaigned, which was virtually unheard of until then and appearances by candidates turned into entertainment for curious crowds.  Van Buren's victory was initially seen as a new era for the country; he was the first president born after the American Revolution, the first president from New York, the youngest president elected thus far, and the first non-Anglo president (he grew up speaking Dutch). There was a sense that a new generation was in charge; unfortunately, an economic crisis hit the country early in his presidency, which caused irreparable harm to his presidency.

I also made progress in my Newbery reads project:

Old Yeller (1957 Honor)

The Perilous Road (1959 Honor)

Rifles for Watie (1958 Medal)

The House of Sixty Fathers (1957 Honor)

Gone-Away Lake (1958 Honor)

Along Came a Dog (1959 Honor)

The Family Under the Bridge (1959 Honor)

I don't feel like reviewing each one, but I noticed these things:

-Children hanging out with strange adults was a theme in Gone-Away Lake and The Family Under the Bridge.

-I was not looking forward to Rifles for Watie.  It was better than I expected.

One more book for the 1950s era, and I'll be able to start on the 60s. (Yay!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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