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January 2017

Reading 2017: Fiction Recommendations (Most for Grown-Ups, Some for Kids)

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A shout-out to the fiction that kept me sane this year. I am especially happy that four of 2017's best are by writers from Mississippi, my home state. They are

Always Happy Hour: Stories, by Mary Miller (Liveright, 2017)

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen, 2017). Young-adult novel.

Midnight Without a Moon, by Linda W. Jackson. Middle-grade novel. (Houghton Mifflin, 2017)

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner, 2017)

 

These novels round out my list of favorites:

A Country Road, A Tree, by Jo Baker (Knopf, 2016)

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman (Penguin Putnam, 2017)

Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett (Little Brown, 2016)

The Makioka Sisters, written by Junichiro Tanizaki and translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker (First serialized in Japan, 1943-1948. Seidensticker's translation was published by Knopf in 1957. I read the Vintage International/Penguin Random House edition from 1995.)

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, by Patty Yumi Cottrell (McSweeney's, 2017. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Nancy Wu and produced by Blackstone Audiobooks.)

Photo: Street scene, Biloxi, Mississippi.


Reading 2017: Nonfiction Recommendations (For Grown-Ups)

What a year! Thank goodness for books. A shout-out to the following:

The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart, by Emily Nunn (Atria, 2017).

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A, by Danielle Allen (Liveright, 2017)

Hi, Anxiety: Life with a Bad Case of Nerves, by Kat Kinsman (HarperCollins, 2016)

How to Travel Without Seeing: Dispatches from the New Latin America, written by Andrés Neuman and translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Lawrence (Restless Books, 2016)

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, by Pamela Paul (Henry Holt, 2017)

Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, by Jessica Abel (Broadway Books, 2015)

Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship, by Michelle Kuo (Random House, 2017)

Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For, by Rebecca Schuman (Flatiron Books, 2017)

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. Essays, by Samantha Irby (Vintage Books, 2017)

When in French: Love in a Second Language, by Lauren Collins (Penguin, 2016)


Favorite Picture Books, 1st and 2nd Grade Edition, Fall 2017

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I love being a volunteer reader, and have the good fortunate to stop in weekly at a couple of first- and second-grade classes in a nearby city. At its heart, literacy is about connection. "They're reading a book, and so are we!" one first grader observed about an illustration in Windows. Yes!

This fall I bought a bunch of new books, following the suggestions of others. (See a source list, below.) 

Here are some titles, including a few older ones, that the children were especially fond of. I am linking them to Powell's so you can see them; I'm not a sales affiliate. All will work with either grade.

After the Fall, by Dan Santat (Roaring Brook, 2017). Humpty Dumpty brilliantly re-imagined.

The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak (Dial Books, 2014) Hysterically hilarious. Recommendation to the adult reader: give in to the comic anarchy.

Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial Books, 2012). But don't give them spicy salsa–or else...

Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick, 2017). Summoning up bravery.

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, written by Kay Haring and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Dial Books, 2017). A sister's loving account of the boyhood of a famous artist.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael López (Penguin Random House, 2016). Everyone pitches in.

Mr. Huff, by Ana Walker (Penguin Random House Australia, 2015). Dealing with a bad mood. (Book Depository link)

No Kimchi for Me, by Aram Kim (Holiday House, 2017). Trying something new.

The One Day House, written by Julia Durango and illustrated by Bianca Diaz (Charlesbridge, 2017). Helping others.

Pecan Pie Baby, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (G.P. Putnam, 2010). New baby on the way and a sibling's conflicting emotions, perfectly captured.

Thunder Boy, Jr., written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown, 2016). Native American pride, fatherly love.

Windows, written by Julia Denos and illustrated by E.B. Goodale (Candlewick, 2017). Seeing the neighborhood in a new light.

 

Some good book-finding resources, just to name a few:

We're the People lists from 2015, 2016, and 2017. Recommendations from a diverse group of authors and reading professionals. 

American Indians in Children's Literature. Reading the posts on Thunderboy, Jr., was quite helpful before I shared the book.

Crystal Brunelle's Twitter feed. Teacher/librarian and co-blogger at the site Rich in Color.

The Horn Book's Calling Caldecott blog. Considerations of picture book art.

International Latino Book Awards. Via La Bloga.

Jama Rattigan's blog Jama's Alphabet Soup. Kids' books about food.

New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Book Award

Tomás Rivera Book Award. Books celebrating the Mexican American experience.

A big list of resources on the "Where to Find Diverse Books" page at We Need Diverse Books

If you haven't read it already, do see Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's important 1990 essay "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors," available in a PDF file and posted by Reading Is Fundamental here.