Another summer has come and gone, and with it goes the pure joy of reading paperbacks on the beach or listening to audiobooks by a glistening swimming pool. Did you get to read everything on your summer reading list? I know that I did NOT! This summer may have passed quicker than any other in my life. It was a whirl of busyness and chores and responsibilities that hardly left me with enough time or mental focus to delve into those juicy, sprawling novels that are especially scrumptious to read during the summer.
Before I share my recent reads, I should also let you know that I have a new home in the LPL: the Children’s Room! This has been an exciting change. However, coupled with the start of a new semester (I am a librarian-in-the-making), this move means that I have less time to read “adult” books. So, if you’re not in the market for children’s and tween book recommendations, I apologize. I will keep reading adult fare, so even if the recommendations for these books may seem fewer and farther between, don’t give up on me, yet! Maybe, just maybe, you will even be inspired to make your way back to where it all began: children’s literature.
In June, I was disappointed that my parting sentiment was a negative review of Sweetbitter. I stand by my opinion of the book (I really, really didn’t like it), but I wish we could have ended on a brighter note. Thankfully, we can start that way, because Emmy & Oliver was a great YA read. There is a lot of friendship and a bit of romance, with one majorly unexpected and out of the ordinary plot device: kidnapping. Emmy and Oliver were inseparable until the day Oliver was kidnapped by his father. Emmy never forgot about him and spent much of her young life wondering where her best friend had gone. When Oliver returns years later, he and the small group of friends he left behind must grapple with the darkness in their shared past. This was a great story, with real moments of humor and heart.
My second Anton DiSclafani experience did not disappoint. I still think about her first book, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. DiSclafani is a writer who knows how to draw the setting perfectly (in this case, 1950’s Houston high society), from every silk nightgown to every orange couch. She’s best at developing a sensual atmosphere, built on mild obsession and secrets. The story centers on Cece, whose perfect life as a young wife and mother is threatened by her lifelong friendship with Joan, a debutante with a dark side. I loved the story and the languid pacing.
Moriarty’s novels tend to feature a kaleidoscope of Australian characters, each a spoke that brings the plot together. She is a master at showing all sides of each character, which makes for a rich reading experience; there are very little moments of black and white thinking, as so much of her stories exist in a wonderfully gray area of morality and decision making. Although she reveals the big secret early on, there’s still enough tension to keep the story moving.
This is a great book with a powerful message, ideal for grades 4-7. Jackson’s family is on the verge of living in their van–again. Jackson feels the burden of these adult problems. As a coping mechanism (we know this, but Jackson does not fully understand it), he starts to receive visits from his old imaginary friend, a giant cat named Crenshaw. Crenshaw encourages Jackson to be honest with himself and his parents about the anger and disappointment that he is carrying around. Crenshaw could open the door for some important and honest conversations about the many different ways in which children and families live.
Roller Girl is a fantastic Newbery Honor graphic novel that perfectly depicts the feverish bonds of adolescent female friendship. Astrid and Nicole are best friends, despite their differences (Astrid wears all black and Nicole is a pastels and ballet kind of girl). When Astrid becomes obsessed with the roller derby, she and Nicole drift apart, much to Astrid’s chagrin. As they struggle to find their way back to each other, they must learn that true friendship leaves room for individuality. I could talk about Roller Girl all day long, that’s how much I love it! Graphic novels and comics are sometimes treated more like “trash” rather than thought-provoking literature. Don’t let Roller Girl’s bright and effervescent cover fool you: There are substantial lessons about friendship, loyalty, peer pressure, and learning to be yourself not far beneath the surface.
Time to bring it back to the adult world…the very adult world. Amy Schumer is raunchy, real, and hilarious. I saw her live last summer and I laughed–hard–for the duration of her act. I was so looking forward to her first book, a compilation of personal essays. I am sorry to say that I was underwhelmed. Although I enjoyed her relatable “real talk” and many Long Island references, I don’t think that Amy Schumer’s brand of humor translates well to the page. If you’re looking for a book with wit and smarts, reread Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
My last book of the summer, finished just in the nick of time for Labor Day, is a fantastic read for tweens and teens! I liked Stead’s Newbery winner, When You Reach Me, but I loved Goodbye Stranger. Using alternating perspectives, Stead examines friendship, love, and yes, life (what it is and why we’re all here) in a manner approachable for all ages. Her characters include a group of seventh grade girls, each with distinct personalities and struggles, an unnamed girl (until the final chapters) grappling with regret, and a teen whose letters to his grandfather reveal hope and heartbreak. Stead’s characters are complex, real, and modern yet timeless. I read it in 2 days and can’t stop thinking about it!
Although we’ve said goodbye to the sand and surf, we can look forward to cozy sweaters, breezy parks, and paperbacks with a side of warm cider. Get your fall reading off to a good start, with these suggestions, courtesy of The Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly: