The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

family fletcherI was planning on reading this long before I did, but here I found myself, a  year after it was published, reading all about this wonderful family. This is a book about four brothers and their relationship with their dads. The thing I loved about this, though, is that the fact that they’re the children of a gay couple is not at the forefront of this story.

 

The primary plot point of this book was the children themselves, and their growing pains as they evolve as individuals and as a family. It was refreshing to read a book that wasn’t all about the parents here. Yes, at one point Sam (the eldest at age 12) makes a comment about “theater kids” and then has to backtrack a bit, but that’s it! As someone who reads a lot of LGBTQ lit and seeks out good stories, I was so thoroughly pleased with this one. Good on you, Levy!

 

Speaking of… Guess who got a shout-out from the author after her tweet? tweet

Agree? Disagree? Do you have a book featuring two dads that you loved more? I’d love to hear from you!

The War That Saved My Life

the war that saved my lifeI find myself reading through the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award List for this year, and I’m so pleased I made this decision. Most states have these lists, this is the list of books educators and librarians form Illinois want kids to read this year. It’s geared towards older elementary-middle school-aged children. I never would have chosen this book on my own. Not because the premise isn’t interesting to me (it’s set during WWII in Great Britain, ad the protagonist is a  girl with a club foot), but because I generally don’t like historical fiction. It pains me to say it because, as a librarian, aren’t I supposed to like everything? I don’t. But I really enjoyed this book.

Ada has a club foot. Her Mam doesn’t want the neighbors to know about her daughter’s deficiencies, and so has forbidden her to leave the house. When she “misbehaves,” her Mam shuts her in a cupboard under the sink where cockroaches and rats like to crawl on her because it’s so damp. Ada’s brother Jamie is six, and given their socioeconomic standing in combination with his age, has no concept of why his sister is treated the way she is. When the children are sent out of London because of the threat of air raids, Ada and Jamie run away in the night and join the other children at the train station. Hours later, they’re in a station in Kent where Ada realizes, to her embarrassment, that they’re the dirtiest children there. Nobody volunteers to take them in.

The children are brought to a woman who lives alone in a large house, who’s “friend” Rebecca has recently died. She’s depressed and doesn’t believe she has any right to take care of children. Slowly, they start to heal each other’s emotional wounds. Susan, the children’s caretaker, has a good understanding of psychology as she seems to know how to calm Ada down when she gets truly upset.

While this story is historical fiction, this book’s sucker-punch was how the children overcame their mother’s abuse. After years of telling the neighbors that her daughter was too stupid to leave the house (I’m paraphrasing here. The words used were not the kind I’d like to repeat) they were finally in the custody of a loving adult. There are real life children who went through that kind of abuse then and now, whether because people were too poor to afford treatment for physical handicaps or because they didn’t understand them well enough. This story has a happy ending of acceptance and friendship for the children, as many of the true victims of abuse don’t.

Has anyone else out there read this book? If you haven’t, would you based on his review?

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

lockwood and co.My amazing coworkers. I can’t say enough good things about them. But one of their best qualities, I find, is their ability to find books I’ve passed up and make me want to read them. The Screaming Staircase (book one of the Lockwood & Co. series) is one such book. When L came to work raving about it, I knew I should give it a shot. But I kind of wrote it off because she branded it “horror.” Not only that, she did a creepy impression of a ghost who had “almost had it’s neck snapped” that stayed with me for days. I digress. When another coworker came in and said she’d finished the book in record time, I took notice. She’s a known horror-phobe… especially in children’s books. She worries for the characters. That’s when I knew.

In a parallel universe, where The Problem (ie hauntings) runs rampant, Lucy Carlyle begins working for Anthony Lockwood. He’s the proprietor of the smallest Psychic Detective Agency in London, competing with the likes of the Fitz Agency that have been around since The Problem began.

Oh, and did I mention? The only ones who can see the ghosts, ghouls, spirits, and mayhem-makers are children, adolescents, and teenagers. Lucy was trained in the art of psychic detection from the age of five.

Now Lucy, Lockwood, and their dry companion George are off to Combe Carey Hall, for what promises to be the most terrifying night of their lives.

The one critique we all had was that perhaps it might be a bit scary. Does anyone out there have similar thoughts?

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

stellaI’ve known about this book for a while. Well, since the beginning of 2015 when it was published. So I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t read it when it came out, but in my defense I was going through my “only YA and picture books” phase, and I didn’t get out of that until about four months ago. So here we are today. I’m reformed.

In my reformed state I’m here to tell you that Stella by Starlight was one of those books that I’ll probably never forget. From Stella’s tenacity that I truly believe I see every day in my patrons and remember feeling myself, to her confusion about why things are happening the way they are, I’ll never forget it. Nevermind the fact that a certain political candidate has Klan members at his rallies nowadays, this book was extremely relevant to the social climate today even though it took place during a time when Jim Crow laws were being enforced.

What starts out as a fire witnessed by Stella (11-year-old wannabe reporter from Bumblebee, NC) and her brother Jojo quickly becomes an issue throughout the town. That wasn’t just any fire. It was the Klu Klux Klan, and they’ve made their presence more than known to the people of color in Bumblebee. When Stella’s father, the local minister, and another local father go to register to vote, a family is targeted. Suddenly the idea that she might not be the best writer in her class is overshadowed by the reality that there’s a family of 12 that suddenly finds itself without a home. While Stella grapples with the implications of racism in her town, she also sees kindness from her African American neighbors and even some of the white people in town.

This was difficult to read, simply because it is so relevant today. Your heart breaks for Stella, her family, and the fact that many children had similar or worse experiences than she did at this time.

Have you read Stella by Starlight? If so, let me know what you thought of the book. If you haven’t, does this sound like something you’ve read recently?

The Door By the Staircase by Katherine Marsh

door by the staircaseHere’s an example of an excellent audiobook I never would have found if it weren’t for Hoopla. What’s all this “Hoopla,” you may ask? It’s a new database at my place of work that has the most attractive interface of any library e-content book I’ve ever seen. On to the book review!

I had an inkling I’d like this one based solely on the fact that it’s a retelling of the Baba Yaga stories out of Russia. And it doesn’t try to be anything else. In fact, one of the first interactions our main character, Mary, has with anyone at the house is with Baba Yaga’s assistant, who quickly informs her that Madame Z., as she’s known throughout the book, is trying to fatten her up so she’ll be plump enough to eat. But Mary is too resilient for that. She’s much braver than anyone bargained for, and that comes in handy.

Replete with a flying mortar and pestle, a house that runs around on chicken legs, an enchanting cat, and a town full of otherworldly neighbors, this is a brilliant retelling. Let’s face it, it’s hard to make all that work and still seem menacing, but Marsh pulls it off.

I’d also recommend this audiobook above the text version for anyone trying to sell this book to children. The pronunciations are very difficult here, especially to those of us who aren’t familiar with Russian.