Library Reading Round-Up: A classic re-told, spooky scarecrows, and the invention of a monster

It’s been a busy week, but not so busy that I couldn’t pick up the books waiting for me on the library hold shelf! Here are the three library books I’ve read in the past few days:

 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi: A contemporary YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Pride is the story of Zuri Benitez, who lives in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. When the wealthy Darcy family moves into the mini-mansion across the street, it seems that gentrification has really and truly arrived, and Zuri is not at all happy. What will become of the neighborhood’s way of life? Zuri’s sister Janae falls for Ainsley Darcy, but his brother Darius is rude and stuck-up and immediately sets Zuri’s teeth on edge. Well, if you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you know where this story is going, but it’s nice to read this take on the classic. Jane Austen’s stories don’t necessarily translate well to the 21st century, but Pride does a pretty good job of sticking to the bones of the original while infusing a new and different vibe. Will the target YA audience love it? No idea. I think Pride works well as a contemporary story about family, culture, loyalty, and teen romance, even without the context of the Austen original. As an adult who’s an Austen fan, I wasn’t 100% sold, but then again, I’m more than a little bit outside the demographic for this book!

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden: Moving on to middle grade fiction… Small Spaces is a spooky treat, perfect for the month of October, with some great scares and a memorable main character. Ollie is a sixth-grade girl in a small rural town. In the year since her mother’s death, she’s withdrawn from friends, activities, and everything that once gave her joy. When she’s forced to go on the class field trip to visit a local farm, she sneaks along a copy of an old book to keep her company. The book tells a ghostly story, and as the class explores the farm, Ollie starts to realize that the story may be true. There are sinister scarecrows, spooky fog, a creepy corn maze… and daring escapes, lots of bravery, and the forging of strong bonds of friendship. Katherine Arden is the author of the beautiful adult novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. It’s fun to see her turn her writing skill to a middle grade ghost story!

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Julia Sarda: A gorgeous picture book about the life of Mary Shelley, showing her early years and the events that shaped her development into a writer. The story is told simply, and the beautiful illustrations give life to Mary’s imaginations and dreams. A lovely book.

 

Three books, three target age ranges, all quite fun — overall, a nice way to amuse myself during an otherwise crazy week. And now I can return them, and come home with even more new books to stack on my nightstand.

Middle Grade Fiction: Woundabout

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Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Welcome to Woundabout, where routine rules and change is feared. But transformation is in the wind….

In the wake of tragedy, siblings Connor and Cordelia and their pet capybara are sent to the precariously perched town of Woundabout to live with their eccentric aunt. Woundabout is a place where the mayor has declared that routine rules above all, and no one is allowed to ask questions–because they should already know the answers.

But Connor and Cordelia can’t help their curiosity when they discover a mysterious crank that fits into certain parts of the town, and by winding the crank, places are transformed into something beautiful. When the townspeople see this transformation, they don’t see beauty–they only see change. And change, the mayor says, is something to fear. With the mayor hot on their trail, can Connor and Cordelia find a way to wind Woundabout back to life?

 

My Thoughts:

I can’t say enough about this wonderful middle grade novel! Woundabout is the touching — yet not heavy — story of orphaned siblings Connor and Cordelia, who go to live with their aunt Marigold in the very weird town of Woundabout after the death of their parents. Woundabout is a strange, strange place, under the firm control of a dictatorial mayor who hates questions and any deviation from routine. The park is brown and dried up, the river barely flows, and wind constantly buffets the cliffs of the town. Connor and Cordelia, still reeling from their loss, have to adjust to their new lives, and decide to figure out the mysteries of Woundabout, both as diversion and to see if they can somehow find a place for themselves.

The writing is wonderful. There’s humor and a light touch, even on the darkest of subjects. I love the portrayal of Connor and Cordelia (ages 11 and 9), who are tightly bonded, yet each have their own personality and interests. There’s a recurring theme in the writing that takes shared moments and shows how each child sees it:

When the meal was finished, as she had promised, Aunt Marigold took the children into the living room, where they sat on either side of her on a big green sofa and looked at the photos in the album on her lap. It was weird seeing their dad at their age. Connor would have said it was like X-ray vision you couldn’t turn off — seeing through buildings to the beams and metal holding them up; Cordelia would have said it was like uploading your photos to your computer and finding a whole group of pictures you didn’t take. But they both knew it was the same thing.

The author and illustrator, who are brothers, are clearly in sync. The marvelous black and white illustrations throughout the book are wonderfully detailed and expressive, and perfectly capture the personalities of the characters and the town.

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Cordelia and Connor — and Kip, the capybara.

I picked up Woundabout because the author, Lev AC Rosen, has written two excellent books for adults, All Men of Genius and Depth (review), both of which I love and always end up recommending to people. How could I not read his fiction for kids as well?

Woundabout is a terrific read — whether you’re an adult who enjoys reading good children’s books for your own enjoyment, or you’re looking for a book to share with the younger folks in your life, or you want a book to give to a young reader. Woundabout strikes me as a good choice for an adult/child read-aloud, or a great book for an independent reader in the 8 – 12 age range (or so — I hate pinning a label on a book that older and younger kids would enjoy too.)

Check it out… for yourself, or for a kid you’d like to treat to a great read.

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The details:

Title: Woundabout
Author: Lev Rosen
Illustrator: Ellis Rosen
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: June 23, 2015
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Source: Library

Shelf Control #17: Anne of Green Gables

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Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Anne of Green GablesTitle: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Published: 1908
Length: 390 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug,  white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she  wanted to stay forever… but would the Cuthberts  send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not  what they expected — a skinny girl with decidedly  red hair and a temper to match. If only she could  convince them to let her stay, she’d try very hard  not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt  out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was  not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables  agreed; she was special — a girl with an enormous  imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day  when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.

 

How I got it:

I bought it as an adult…

When I got it:

… several years ago…

Why I want to read it:

… because I could no longer bear the stigma of being the only person on the planet who hasn’t read the book! I know this is a childhood favorite for so many people. I’m not quite sure how I missed these books as a kid, but I think it’s about time that I find out for myself what makes these books so special!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link below!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and have fun!

For more on why I’ve started Shelf Control, check out my introductory post here, or read all about my out-of-control book inventory, here.

And if you’d like to post a Shelf Control button on your own blog, here’s an image to download (with my gratitude, of course!):

Shelf Control

BabyLit: Classics for Kids!

All together now: Awwwwwwww. Are these the cutest things or what?

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Author Jennifer Adams and artist Alison Oliver have created the most adorable board books, sure to please every bookworm of a parent who’s just dying to share their love of literature with their little ones.

These two are the newest in their BabyLit series, and they’re totally precious. We have “Little Miss Austen” with Emma, teaching toddlers all about emotions with pages such as these:

Also featured are Emma being excited, Miss Taylor happy, and a very angry and red-faced Mr. Elton.

In the pirate world, we learn about shapes with “Little Master Louis Stevenson” and Treasure Island, with pictures of the Admiral Benbow inn, a treasure chest, Long John Silver, and a parrot, along with:

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Have I used the words “adorable”, “cute”, and “precious” already? I’m running out of ways to say it. These board books are bright and colorful and are sure to catch the eyes of babies and toddlers… and meanwhile, bookloving adults can chuckle and appreciate that even if they’re too busy with diapers and bottles to sit and read, at least they can get a little flavor of the classics with the BabyLit books.

These are only two of the ADORABLE (yup, still using that word) books in the collection. Check out the BabyLit website for much, much more. Because all toddlers with taste need Moby Dick and Romeo and Juliet in board book form.

One more time: Awwwwwwww.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 kid/tween/teen books that I’d love to revisit

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top 10 Books From My Childhood (or Teen Years) That I Would Love To Revisit. Putting together this list is a little bit harder than I’d first thought. Since it’s all about books that I want to re-read, I’m going to rule out books that I’ve already revisited with my own kids… making my brain work a bit harder to remember my childhood favorites!

Books I loved as a kid/tween/teen — and which I should surely revisit one of these days:

1) Tall and Proud by Vian Smith: A girl, a horse, polio, bad guys, a dramatic rescue… is this book really as amazing as I remember it? Or did it just perfectly suit 11-year-old me at the time?

tallandproud

2) Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler: Anyone else remember this book about a 14-year-old girl losing her eyesight, learning Braille, and getting a seeing eye dog? In my tween mind, this was the best thing ever.

Light a Single Candle

3) Merry Rose and Christmas-Tree June by Doris Orgel: It took me years as an adult to track down a copy of this childhood favorite about a girl separated from her beloved dolls. I remember this book as being awesome. I did not remember that the illustrations are by Edward Gorey!

Merry Rose collage

4) Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry: Despite never taking a single riding lesson, I went through the standard-issue young girl horse phase, as evidenced by my obsessive reading of the works of Marguerite Henry. I loved them all, but Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West was my absolute favorite:

mustang

5) The works of Judy Blume, especially Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Deenie. Judy Blume was THE way to learn about bras, boys, periods, and scoliosis.


Blume collage

6) The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor: I absolutely wanted to be one of the girls in this large, rambunctious family. Somehow, in the books, living in a cramped apartment on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 1900s sounded so glamorous!

All of A Kind Family

7) Lisa, Bright and Dark by John Neufeld: Another tween/early teen obsession: Reading about teens with all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. I remember thinking this one was SO GOOD, but maybe it was just because of the main character’s name…

Lisa Bright and Dark

8) Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager: I had no idea what this book was called for many, many years. I just remember loving a story about a group of kids who kept ending up inside the imaginary worlds that they set up in their playroom each night. Finally finding this book as an adult was a major achievement!

Knight's Castle

9) The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I’d love to read this one again! I remember utterly loving it.

Witch of Blackbird Pond

10) And finally, two childhood classics that sparked fantasies and countless short stories focused on running away from home to exciting destinations: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

Kidbook collage

 

Which childhood (or tween/teen) favorites would you most like to revisit?

Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!