Friday, July 25, 2014

July Reads

Read any good books in July? I sure did! Let me tell you about them:

Books about dogs are hugely popular at our libraries; Duke's great cover attracted many young dog fans, and its superbly created story about a young boy who volunteers his dog for the World War II effort has undoubtedly introduced many readers to Kirby Larson's exceptional talents (Hattie Big Sky is a 2007 Newbery Honor book, and her The Friendship Doll is one of the handful of stories about dolls that I actually really enjoy). Hobie is reluctant to volunteer Duke, but is reassured by the fact that most dogs in the service remain stateside.  When Hobie learns that Duke is actually being trained for combat, he begins a letter writing campaign to Duke's trainer in the hopes of having him returned.  We've seen an increase in books about military dogs; Duke is a great choice for readers not quite ready to (emotionally) handle Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam or Dogs of War. Dash (out in late August) is Larson's follow-up to Duke, and features a Japanese-American girl who is separated from her dog when she is sent to an internment camp.

For the most part, I'm pretty "meh" about new books about the last Romanovs. I've read quite a number of them, ever since I picked up my grandparents' copy of Nicholas and Alexandra when I was in middle or high school (can't remember).  What possible new angle could a historian bring to this family, which has been obsessively studied? And an entire book just on the daughters? They were so secluded during their entire lives, and the oldest (Olga) was only 22 when they were killed, so it's hard to imagine a lengthy nonfiction book just about their lives. However, this has received a ton of attention and great reviews, so I decided to check it out.   From the moment I read that curious tourists touring the Russian palaces shortly after the executions were able to still see indentations in young Alexey's wheelchair, I knew that Helen Rappaport's new biography of the Romanov grand duchesses was going to be an eye-opening read.  Rappaport brilliantly evokes the increasing paranoia of Empress Alexandra and the suffocating reclusive life of the family (especially when the oldest girls reached puberty), which lead to distrust and hatred by the Russian elite (and on the other side of society....when the Tsarina and her daughters become involved in nursing activities during the war, the peasantry was disturbed by their very average appearances).  Even those familiar with the Romanovs will want to read this unique addition to imperial Russian history.  Young history fans might be interested in The Lost Crown, Sarah Miller's excellent YA novel about the Romanov grand duchesses and/or Candace Fleming's (very very) new biography of The Family Romanov.

(Question: Which book cover do you think is the best? The one pictured above is the American edition, and the one that is on the covers of our copies. This cover:

Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses.  UK Hardback Edition.

is the UK edition and features the girls at very young ages.  I think they are both gorgeous, but I'm partial to the American cover, because it shows the girls as they appeared shortly before their deaths.)

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space is an exceptional biography of the first American female astronaut.  Sally Ride was a Stanford graduate student when she came across an ad in the student newspaper recruiting women and minorities for NASA's new shuttle program; intrigued, she applied, became one of six women in the history-making NASA Group 8, and the rest is history.  Although her public life and career were well known, her private life and cancer diagnosis were not fully revealed until her death.  As the first comprehensive biography for adults, Lynn Sherr's account of this complex person is an intriguing and engrossing read (my minor criticism is that scattered references to pop culture--i.e. Angry Birds--may date the biography more quickly than necessary). Space fans of my generation and older will recognize that the graphic design for the main title is in the same style of NASA's logo during Sally Ride's active years in NASA.  I love carefully designed cover art! 

A Time to Dance has earned three starred reviews, which is a remarkable feat!  This YA novel in verse about a young Bharatanatyam (a form of classical dance in India) dancer who struggles with her new life post-amputation is deeply moving and illuminating.  Readers interested in dance stories, stories about young people with disabilities, or multicultural stories should definitely read this. I'm crossing my fingers that the Schneider committee doesn't miss this!

While we have several books about assistance or therapy dogs, Tuesday Tucks Me In is unique in that it addresses (in an age-appropriate way) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (without actually naming it). Some of Luis Carlos Montalvan's combat wounds are internal; he suffers nightmares and is extremely uncomfortable in crowds, but having Tuesday allows him to be a functioning member in society (the picture of Capt. Montalvan hugging Tuesday while on a crowded subway is heartbreaking and heartwarming).  Based on Montalvan's memoir, Until Tuesday, this is a gentle and stirring tribute to a very special friendship.

We're getting ready for the fall publishing season! Make sure you are subscribed to Wowbrary so you won't miss the great new additions to our collection!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

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