Friday, September 30, 2016

683 (2016 #38). This One Summer

by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

I wanted to read this book both because it was an award-winner (see below), and because it appeared on the 2016 ACLU of Texas Banned Books Report.  It was challenged in an elementary school for being "inappropriate for grade levels."  Its use was restricted by transferring it to the high schools in the district (I'm assuming there was more than one copy of the book, because I know the district in question has two high schools).

In this case, I think that was a good decision.  This is an excellent book, but it is not really appropriate for most younger children (at least not in a school situation where a parent can't be involved in the decision).  Even author Mariko Tamaki told School Library Journal (after a similar challenge in Florida) that the book was “listed as being for readers ranging 12–18.  It contains depictions of young people talking about, and dealing with, adult things.”  It was also challenged in a K-12 school library in Minnesota.

This book won both a 2015 Printz Honor award (as it "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature") and Caldecott Honor award (a runner-up to the "illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children").  It also won the 2015 Eisner Award ("for creative achievement in American comic books") and the 2014 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel.

It's understandable that the book wound up in elementary school libraries.  Many such libraries routinely purchase Caldecott Medal and Honor books, which are typically picture books aimed at elementary school ages.  However, the definition in the Caldecott Medal manual of the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association is:

A “picture book for children” is one for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are to be considered.

This graphic novel does address some more mature themes, such as teen pregnancy, drinking, sex, and miscarriage, and has some "cuss" words.  It's hard to tell how old Rose, the main character is - maybe about 12?  Definitely no older than 14.  She and her parents have been visiting their beach cabin community every summer since she was little, and Rose always gets together there with Windy, a girl who is a year-and-a-half younger.  Windy looks (and acts) age 12 at most.  This particular summer, though, Rose's parents are fighting, and there is drama among the youth in the nearby year-round community.

All of the illustrations (by the author's cousin Jilliam Tamaki) are rendered in black-and-white.  The reading level (according to the Accelerated Reader program) is 2.4, making the book appropriate for struggling middle and high school readers.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Sunday, September 18, 2016

682 (2016 #37). The River of Doubt

by  Candice Millard

Wow!  What a story!

I'm not as familiar with former U. S. president Theodore Roosevelt as I probably should be.  From what I do know of the Rough Rider Bull Moose naturalist, the fact that he journeyed down an unexplored Amazon River tributary is not surprising.  What is surprising - after reading this book - is that he survived.

A last-minute decision to explore the unknown Rio da Dúvida (the River of Doubt, today's Rio Roosevelt) combined with poor planning by expedition members unfamiliar with the area, nearly spelled disaster.  Roosevelt's team included his son Kermit, the Brazilian explorer Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, American naturalist George Cherrie, and numerous Brazilian "camaradas" who did all the heavy work.  They battled insects, excessive rain, rapids, unmanageable dugouts, disease, insufficient supplies (and the inexplicable carrying of unnecessary gear), near starvation, the threat of attack by animals and natives, and even death among their ranks.

This was a perfect topic for the first book by Candice Millard (who has a fabulous three-screen setup for her work computer), a former writer and editor for National Geographic.  She weaves in information about the flora and fauna of the Amazon basin and the natural and political history of the area.  Even better, she writes well, and the story flows and compels the reader.

The book is well-researched:  its 353 pages of text are followed by 38-plus pages of endnotes, eight pages each of bibliography and index, and photo credits for 16 pages of photo inserts.  There are maps on the end pages - it would be helpful though if they were larger.

Since the publication of this book, Millard has written one about the assassination of U. S. President James Garfield, and her third book, about Winston Churchill, will be published on Tuesday, September 20.  I plan to read them all, and anything else she writes.  She ranks up there with Erik Larson for narrative nonfiction.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Monday, September 05, 2016

681 (2016 #36). The Gap of Time

by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time is The Winter's Tale retold - the first in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of books where bestselling authors are commissioned to retell stories from Shakespeare. Jeanette Winterson did this one - unfortunately, I'm not familiar with her other work.

I have seen and read The Winter's Tale (both twice), but it was last over a dozen years ago, so I appreciated Winterson's brief synopsis at the beginning, as well as her use of similar character names ( (Shep is the Shepherd, Clo is the Clown, MiMi is Hermione, Zel  is Florizel, Leo is Leontes, Xeno is Polixenes, etc.).  The title comes from nearly the last line of the play, and also refers to the sixteen-year gap between events in the play.

I've now read the first four books in the series, and am interested in reading all the future titles. I'd rank this one below Hag-Seed and Vinegar Girl, but above Shylock is My Name.  It was easier to "see" the original Shakespeare play in this book than it was in Shylock.  I also think my "rankings" have something to do with how I'd rank their original Shakespeare sources as well.

I do think this is a series where it is helpful to have read the Shakespeare play the book is based on, as I doubt all the retellers will provide the convenient summary.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It was donated to my local public library to add to their Hogarth Shakespeare collection.]