Review: Singin’ and Swingin’ and…

“Paris was not the place for me or my son. The French could entertain the idea of me because they were not immersed in guilt about a mutual history…” p. 165

Advertisements

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.
Bantam, New York, 1977 (originally published 1976).
Adult autobiography, 242 pages.
Not leveled.

Angelou Singin and Swingin resized
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.

In a funny coincidence, I gave away Angelou books (not even read yet… but better loved by someone else) and then a month later came across this in the free books.  Of course I started reading this one immediately and it was fascinating.  I’ve read quite a bit of her poetry before, but never one of her autobiographies.  Upon reading this one I realized that they are probably best read chronologically.

This title is the third, and covers the time when she lived in San Francisco after her son was born, worked a wide variety of jobs, spent a few years married to a white man, and eventually found herself with an entertainment career that took her all over the world, but sadly separated her from her son.

Continue reading “Review: Singin’ and Swingin’ and…”

Review: The 57 Bus

“For now, both teenagers are just taking the bus home from school. Surely it’s not too late to stop things from going wrong. There must be some way to wake Sasha. Divert Richard. Get the driver to stop the bus. There must be something you can do.” p. 5

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater.
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, New York, 2017.
YA nonfiction/true crime, 305 pages.
Lexile:  930L  .
AR Level:  6.5 (worth 8.0 points)  .

In November 2013, two teens were on the same bus for just eight minutes.  Agender senior Sasha fell asleep on the long ride home from fir small private school.  Sixteen-year-old Richard was joking with friends as he left his large public school.  Then Richard held a lighter to Sasha’s skirt, forever changing the course of both their lives.

The 57 Bus

This unique, well-written exploration of one particular incident evokes much more.  Richard’s struggling (but loving) young mother took in two nieces after her sister was murdered.  He grew up in a rough neighborhood, where 4 of his close friends and family members had been murdered before he was 16, and he was mugged at gunpoint only a week before the fire.  And Richard was African-American, possibly ADHD, and definitely traumatized.  He spent time in a group home because of fights before, but didn’t start them – he was a follower.

Sasha is white, middle class, an only child who had struggled with fitting in before – autistic and agender, with a major passion for public transport.  Fi is shy, so fir parents were surprised when fi started wearing skirts.  However, they took great joy in seeing the child a psychiatrist told them to lower their hopes for blossoming into a confident, thoughtful teen.

Continue reading “Review: The 57 Bus”

Board Book Review: Pretty Brown Face

Our 44th board book has a wonderful message for brown-skinned toddlers.

Pretty Brown Face by Andrea and Brian Pinkney.
Red Wagon Books, Harcourt, 1997.
Board book, 16 pages.

A young child discovers the wonders of fir own face.

Pretty Brown Face cover resized

This simple but well made book is sure to appeal to a wide variety of families and childcare professionals.  There are only two characters – a small child encountering a mirror and a male caregiver (presumably father, but never named as such).  At first I assumed the child was male, but no pronouns or male references are used, so this book could work nicely for a child of either gender.

Continue reading “Board Book Review: Pretty Brown Face”

Review: Everything She Lost

“She didn’t think she’d ever be capable of hurting her children,and she couldn’t get over the fact that she’d gotten to a point where people felt they needed protection from her.” p. 72

Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris.
Red Adept Publishing, Garner, North Carolina, 2017.
Adult thriller, 309 pages.
NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Nina Taylor is in recovery from a mental breakdown, and honestly, still suffering from an unexpected loss almost a decade ago.  Her best friend is single mom Deja Johnson, a woman with a tragic past of her own.  While Nina is wondering if a full recovery is even possible, Deja is wondering where her own life will go next.

Everything She Lost

I don’t review many thrillers, mainly because I haven’t found many good diverse ones yet.  The description of this one immediately sucked me in, especially since I’m always looking for new books about people of color with disabilities.

This book has alternating viewpoints, with one chapter from Nina’s point of view, and the next telling Deja’s part of the story.  Normally I’m not a fan of alternating viewpoints, but it worked well here.  The narration is from a third person limited point of view rather than first person, and the action moves so quickly that the back-and-forth worked.  This book takes place over only a few weeks.

Continue reading “Review: Everything She Lost”

Review: Martha’s Vineyard Deafness

“The community’s attitude can be judged also from the fact that until I asked a direct question on the subject, most of my informants had never even considered anything unusual about the manner in which their deaf townsmen were integrated into the society.” p 51

Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard by Nora Ellen Groce, foreward by John W. M. Whiting.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985.
Academic nonfiction, 169 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
Not leveled.

This classic work of American Deaf history shines a light on the isolated early community of Martha’s Vineyard, where a high rate of deafness resulted in normalization of sign language and an integration that the world could stand to learn from.

Everyone Here Spoke Sign Lang Martha's Vineyard

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, so was thrilled to be gifted a copy.

Continue reading “Review: Martha’s Vineyard Deafness”

Review: Tears of the Desert

“The onrush of bodies approached in a heaving, panicked mass. Sayed and I went forward to meet them.” p. 209

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir, with Damien Lewis.
One World Trade Paperbacks, Ballantine Books, Random House, New York, 2009.
Adult memoir, 335 pages including extras.
Not leveled.

Halima Bashir was an unusually lucky girl from birth, when her white eyelash was a good omen.  Combined with hard work, her luck held as she was able to gain an education (unusual for a village girl) and even became a top national scholar, gaining a rare admittance into medical school.  Unfortunately, she lived in Darfur and was a witness to the genocide there.  This is her story of survival among unspeakable horrors.

Tears of the Desert cover resized

This memoir was quite difficult to summarize.  Bashir’s life is a true story that reads like a novel.  Any small portion of this book could be seen as remarkable, but the fact that it all happened and she stood to tell the tale is a miracle.

Continue reading “Review: Tears of the Desert”

Review: Fried Green Tomatoes

“By now the name of the cafe was written on the walls of hundreds of boxcars, from Seattle to Florida.” page 30

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.
Random House, 1987.  My edition McGraw-Hill, New York, 1988.
Adult fiction, 403 pages including recipes.
Lexile:  940L  .
AR Level: 5.6 (worth 15.0 points)  .
NOTE: Although the reading level is low, this is an adult novel.

This is going to be a complicated review.  There are two main threads to the storyline, which covers events in the fictional town of Whistle Stop, Alabama (just outside of Birmingham) between the early 1920s and the late 1980s.

Fried Green Tomatoes

The story is told through four different elements.  Evelyn Couch is struggling with her weight, her marriage, menopause, and an inevitable feeling of doom.  She accompanies her husband on visits to his mother’s nursing home every Sunday, but can’t stand to sit and watch TV, so she finds herself in the visitor’s room with Ninny Threadgoode.  At first she just wishes the old lady would shut up so she can eat her candy bars in peace, but then she gets interested in the stories and they forge an unlikely friendship.  When the novel was first published, these scenes would have been roughly contemporary – it’s now historical fiction.

Continue reading “Review: Fried Green Tomatoes”