#IMWAYR October 1, 2018

#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.




Well I might not have gotten as much reading in as I wanted, but the birthday party celebrations are done for the next few months, and my house is clean again. These are the finished matching shirts I made for my son and his daughter. 



I'm trying to read as many graphic novels as I can these days since I am honoured to have been chosen to be a Cybil's judge in this category again this year. 

BLOG POSTS LAST WEEK

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero & illustrator Zeke Peña

PICTURE BOOKS


4 stars
Snow by Sam Usher

Maybe it's because I am a grandparent, but I can see my partner being just like the grandfather in this book, slow to get started but full of fun once he's there. Did I want to shake this grandfather? You better believe it! Still I am enchanted by this humorous and surprising story about a young boy's adventures in the park with his dilatory granddad.


4 stars
Rain by Sam Usher

This is my second Sam Usher book this week and I am becoming infatuated with his work and this granddad and grandson. It’s raining and the younger one wants to go out and do the usual outdoor rain stuff, like catch raindrops and splash in puddles. The elder wants to wait for the rain to stop. They wait and they wait. The grandson comes up with imaginative ideas of what he wants to do. They wait and wait until finally it stops and they head outside into a magical world.

GRAPHIC

3 stars
M.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder

I’m thankful for the goodreads blurb because it helped me understand the story more clearly. Huge chunks of it are almost wordless. In the middle of a sandstorm, A young deaf girl is rescued by a young man and his grandfather. They take her home with them where she is treated by the boy’s aunt. While she is recuperating, the town is visited by godlike creatures who take food and money from the villagers.
The artwork is beautiful and brilliant. My complaint is that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and so I’m going to have to find the next book in the series, and it's not yet out!

NONFICTION GRAPHIC


5+ stars
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero & illustrator Zeke Peña

I honestly can't gush enough about this biography. It's a brilliant collaboration between two gifted artists. 

Make sure you read it!



NOVELS


5 stars
Front Desk by Kelly Yang

This book is brilliant. Mia Tang and her friend, Lupe, are characters you can't help but love and root for. While reading of her struggles at the motel, I thought of the many immigrant students I taught and how they too worked for their families.



3 1/2 stars
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante & Hillary Huber (Narrator)

I'm compelled to continue this saga of friendship although I'm not always sure why. I loved the brutal honesty in the first book. It's here in this one too, but I can't help but wonder when these two best friends will finally realize that their jealousies and rivalries are not helping either of them. Being a strong and or successful woman still isn't easy, but it was even harder 50 and 60 years ago. This book reveals an overriding misogynistic worldview and how integrated it was into each woman's sense of herself. It's not always easy to read.


4 stars
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny & Ralph Cosham (Narrator)

I think this is the best book in the series I've read so far. Not only is there an exciting mystery to solve, we learn a lot more about the Arnot case. This one is loaded with twists and turns and betrayal at many levels.
I appreciate the strange contradiction between the seeming love and friendliness of the village of Three Pines, and the number of murders that take place in it.

ABANDONDED


2 stars
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

I tried to read this book twice. It carries an important message about being accepted just for who we are irrespective of our gender and sexual orientation. My problem is that it’s filled with too much teenage angst and unrequited lust. When characters start lying about who they are, you know it’s going to end badly. I was listening to this as an audiobook. If I find a hard copy, I’ll check out the end to see what happens.

CURRENTLY

I am not listening to anything right now. I'm reading a NetGalley title, Tilly and the Crazy Eights by Monique Gray Smith.

UP NEXT

I plan to get to another NetGalley title, Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. There is also a pile of library books.....

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS

#MustReadIn2018 21/25

#MustReadNFIn2018 6/12

25 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 19/25 1 in progress

Goodreads Reading Challenge 331/333

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero & illustrator Zeke Peña

I had never heard of Graciela Iturbide before this book. I had no idea what had been missing in my life.

I love this book.

Read it. You will too.

The goodreads blurb states:

Graciela Iturbide was born in México City in 1942, the oldest of 13 children. When tragedy struck Iturbide as a young mother, she turned to photography for solace and understanding. From then on Iturbide embarked on a photographic journey that has taken her throughout her native México, from the Sonora Desert to Juchitán to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, to the United States, India, and beyond. Photographic is a symbolic, poetic, and deeply personal graphic biography of this iconic photographer. Iturbide's journey will excite readers of all ages as well as budding photographers, who will be inspired by her resolve, talent, and curiosity.


It's a succinct overview, but here's the thing, it doesn't acknowledge how potent this book is. Graciela Iturbide's photographs are mystical, mythical, amplifying the place "in-between: those spaces where unknown worlds, real and imagined, intersect." They are images that interpret and synthesize, frame by frame, reality across space and time. Isabel Quitero's and Zeke Peña's stunning work illuminate this reality. You will have to read the actual book to fully grasp what this means.


Isabel Quitero's exquisite first person prose of the graphics sections is juxtaposed by full page text with a narrator who speaks directly to us about Graciela Iturbide's life and work. Zeke Peña's striking images pay homage to her black and white photos and then transform them so that they come to life and speak to us.



You will inevitably want to look at more of her work after reading the book. You might, like me, take a bit of time to immerse yourself in her photography, and then come back for another read. I promise, it will be even more impressive the second time round.


The best books are those that resonate long after the last page is turned. This is one of those. It's a portal, an opening into a different way of knowing the world. I might have finished this book, but that doesn't mean it's finished with me. For starters, I'm haunted by this,




and this.

We are all fragments of one another,
strewn across Mexico and across borders.
Different lines in the same poem.

It's left me pondering what it means to be who I am, and how I can become more. It's brought me to a deeper understanding that I am somehow, all the other women in the world, that I am somehow, everyone and everything. Ultimately, the contradiction is that the more we learn about the world, the more we become, and the more we understand who we are.


The back matter includes a short classic biography of Graciela Iturbide, a list for further reading, information about the creators, and a list of photographs reproduced in the book.


Find and read this. You will leave with a much richer understanding of Graciela Iturbide, the power of photography, and of Mexico itself.



#IMWAYR September 24, 2018


#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.



Last week was a productive one. I got a number of book reviews posted, finished a baby quilt, got some knitting done, and am almost finished my son's birthday shirts. I found time to catch up on my picture book reading and today I made a birthday cake for my son's birthday tomorrow.

Of course, the house is kind of a nightmare...


Here's the baby quilt I finished!

BLOG POSTS LAST WEEK




PICTURE BOOKS

5 stars
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

I sat in the bookstore and laughed out loud numerous times while reading this book. Poor Bruce has ended up playing Santa whether he likes it or not!

5 stars
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson & Rafael López (Illustrator)

OMG!
This book, with its lyrical prose and bright colourful illustrations, is just stunning.
It filled me with all the feelings - shivers, awe, joy and tears. These lines nearly did me in. 
“And all at once, in the room where no one else is quite like you, the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you.”

4 stars
Bear and Bee by Sergio Ruzzier

I’m now officially a hard core Sergio Ruzzier fan. This is just hilarious and darling. What a spectacular introduction to the unlikely friendship of two different characters.

3 stars
Bear and Bee Too Busy by Sergio Ruzzier

Here’s a universal truth about friendship, “Having fun is not as fun without you.” 
Bear and Bee have to figure out how to find time to be together in a way they will both enjoy. Of course they come up with a solution.

4 stars
Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson (Goodreads Author), E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)

As beautifully written as it is illustrated, this captures a fragment of history. A young black girl waits at home with her Grandmother while her mother works in Chicago during the war. There is love and sweetness aplenty here as a kitten arrives to bring her comfort during these difficult times.

4 stars
Sometimes You Fly by Katherine Applegate & Jennifer Black Reinhardt (illustrator)

I’ve read this three times and like it more with each reading. Katherine Applegate’s poem is enhanced by Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s gorgeous art. I can see why it will be recommended as a gift for graduates.


5 stars
All Families Are Special by Norma Simon, Kathy Tucker (Editor) & Teresa Flavin

A group of children share about the details of their diverse families. They discover differences and similarities.

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS

5 stars
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew & Joe Morse (Illustrations)

This beautifully illustrated book honours remarkable indigenous people from Canada and the United States. This sampling includes both historical as well as modern individuals.
The rhyming text didn’t quite work for me, but I love the refrain, “You’re a person who matters. Yes, it’s true. Now go show the world what a person who matters can do.”
The backmatter includes a note by the author as well as short biographies of the highlighted heroes.

5 stars
Africville by Shauntay Grant

A young girl visits the space where Africville, a thriving black communitiy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was destroyed by city officials in 1960. She imagines what it was like before, and then emerges out of this day dream to see her grandmother's name carved into a sundial. Shauntay Grant's paintings are absolutely stunning in this beautiful homage to a lost community. If the cover hasn't already impressed you, check this image out.



4 stars
That's Not Hockey! by Andrée Poulin & Felix Girard (Illustrator) (Netgalley)

Canadians are known for their love of hockey so I'm pretty sure this will be a popular book in libraries and homes in this country. Everyone around our house knew it was Jacques Plante who first wore hockey masks. This in spite of the fact that people in our house seem crazier about football.
The book tells the story of this famous goalie. He was obsessed with hockey from the time he was barely able to talk and was a talented goalie from his early years. When he was a professional player, Jacques Plante came up with a special mask to protect his face from the hockey pucks that were always flying at him. They caused serious damage! At first he faced a lot of resistance, but he was such a valuable player that he ended up getting his way in the end. Nowadays all goalies wear face protection because of him.
Felix Girard's illustrations make this nonfiction picture book an absolute delight to read.

5 stars
The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad & Brock Nicol (Illustrator)

Saturday I went to Kidsbooks in Vancouver to purchase this book and get it signed by the author. I was so moved I sat down and wrote a blog post about it. Next Sunday, September 30, is Orange Shirt Day - the day we honour residential school survivors and their family. You can find out more about it by reading my post or finding a copy of the book.

NOVELS 

4 stars

I am smitten with this lovely family growing up in Harlem. They are up there with other fictional families I adore.

ADULT NONFICTION

4 stars
Word by Word by Kory Stomper

This is an irreverently reverent look inside the world of writing a dictionary. Kory Stamper makes what at first glance seems to be drudgery, into an exciting and tense profession.
Her writing is exquisite.

CURRENTLY

I'm listening to The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante. I'm reading Front Desk by by Kelly Yang.

UP NEXT

I hope to get to The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed and start on She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah by Ann Hood. I plan to listen to The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny.

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS

#MustReadIn2018 21/25

#MustReadNFIn2018 6/12

25 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 19/25

Goodreads Reading Challenge 323/333

The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad & Brock Nicol (Illustrator)


Come September 30, make sure you wear your orange shirt and be ready to explain why. 

On Saturday I went to Kidsbooks in Vancouver to pick up a copy of this book and get it signed by the author. I have family and friends who experienced residential schools and while standing in line reading this book, I couldn't help but make connections to their narratives. I was already feeling weepy by the time I got to the signing table. When I told Phyllis about one friend who had run away from a school at 13, she asked me if my friend was still with us. That's when I realized at an even deeper level, how traumatic these experiences were, and understood the full implications of them. That's when eyes filled with tears. 

When Phyllis Webstad was six years old she left the safety of her Granny's home to travel with other children to a residential school. The beautiful orange shirt purchased for this occasion was taken from her by the nuns and never returned. Life at the residence was harsh, but Phyllis and the other children were sent off to public schools during the day where her teacher was kind and helpful. She endured 300 days of hardship before returning home to her Granny. Phyllis never went back. 

She was one of the lucky ones. 

Phyllis' story in an important contribution to the collection of narratives about residential schools that let children and others understand what happened to indigenous children and their families here in Canada and the United States. Brock Nicol's art work in the illustrations is just stunning. 

The back matter consists of additional information about Phyllis Webstad, the Secwepemc (Shuswap) People, and the history of St. Josheph's Residential School. It also includes a glossary of terms used in the book and information about September 30 - Orange Shirt Day, the day we honour residential school survivors and their family. 

All school libraries should own multiple copies of this book. Every classroom should have at least one. 

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser

Here I am reading the sequel before I've the first in the series. I was going to wait for a library copy to arrive and finish it first, but decided to see if it would stand on it's own. I recieved my digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Here's the synopses from GoodReads:

Return to Harlem's "wildly entertaining" family in this funny, heartwarming sequel. When catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbors, the Vanderbeeker children set out to build the best, most magical healing garden in Harlem—in spite of a locked fence, thistles and trash, and the conflicting plans of a wealthy real estate developer.

While Isa is off at sleepaway orchestra camp, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney are stuck at home in the brownstone with nothing to do but get on one another’s nerves. But when catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbor, their sleepy summer transforms in an instant as the Vanderbeeker children band together to do what they do best: make a plan. They will create the most magical healing garden in all of Harlem.

In this companion to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, experience the warmth of a family and their community as they work together to bring a little more beauty and kindness to the world, one thwarted plan at a time.
 


I am charmed by the Vanderbeekers, a biracial family living in Harlem. The children, Oliver, Jesse, Hyacinth and Laney are stuck at home for the summer while Isa is away at orchestra camp. When Mr Jeet, their elderly upstairs neighbour, has another stroke and ends up in the hospital, they come up with a plan to rejuvenate the church garden as a surprise. Triple J, the pastor, said he thought a garden would be a good idea, so they sort of have permission. Unfortunately, while he is away on a family emergency, nefarious plans are afoot. 


The Vanderbeekers are a delightful collection of quirky characters. There is an abundance of love all around them.  I love the connection between generations. I love that although there is some tension between Oliver and Herman Huxley, a boy in the neighbourhood, this is resolved positively. I adore that both Hyacinth and Herman are knitters. Fans of the The Penderwicks are sure to enjoy this. 

My only quibble with the book is that Black Eyed Susan seeds are sown and bloom in less than 18 days. This scientific impossibly irked me because the story would have been satisfying enough had they only been shown to germinate: a far more plausible reality. Nonetheless, I'm still looking forward to reading the first in the series. 

No Fixed Address by Susan Nielsen



Susan Nielsen creates beautiful characters: individuals you believe in and care about. Felix and his mother, Astrid, are homeless. We learn this from the get go. The rest is the revealing of what happened to get them to this place and what might happen next.

I got my digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Here's the synopses from GoodReads:

Felix Knuttson, twelve, is an endearing kid with an incredible brain for trivia. His mom Astrid is loving but unreliable; she can't hold onto a job, or a home. When they lose their apartment in Vancouver, they move into a camper van, just for August, till Astrid finds a job. September comes, they're still in the van; Felix must keep "home" a secret and give a fake address in order to enroll in school. Luckily, he finds true friends. As the weeks pass and life becomes grim, he struggles not to let anyone know how precarious his situation is. When he gets to compete on a national quiz show, Felix is determined to win -- the cash prize will bring them a home. Their luck is about to change! But what happens is not at all what Felix expected.

I've never been homeless, but I have met people who, through no fault of their own, have ended up there. Here in Vancouver, B.C., where the story is situated, there is a dearth of low income housing. It's becoming a profound problem.

Who's fault is it here that Felix and his mom are homeless? His biological father has no money and was never expected to contribute financially anyway. Some might blame Astrid who seems to have serious interpersonal problems that get in the way of her holding down a job. We readers soon learn that she has slumps and anger issues, and as funds get tighter, stops taking her medication because she can't afford it. She sounds a lot like my bipolar sister without the manic bits. What's for certain is that she loves Felix and he loves her. 

There is a lot going on in this book.
Poverty, homelessness, single parent family, absent father, and mental health are explored. There is a bit of bullying going on as well. 

On the other hand, we see so much of the best in people. Felix's two best friends, Winnie and Dylan, oddballs themselves, are as stalwart as they come. At one point Felix tries to shoplift and gets caught. The immigrant owners of the shop discover that he is hungry and end up feeding him. His teachers are kind and authentic. Even the police officer who Felix is telling his story to does her best to reassure him and ensure that everything works out for the best for him and his mom. 

I have so many favourite parts in this book, but one of them is near the end of the book when the three friends are arguing over who's belief is most credible. Felix concludes to himself, “I get why Winnie believes in God. I get why Dylan believes in Bernard. I get why I wanted to believe in Mel. It can give a person comfort, feeling that something mysterious and otherworldly is looking out for you. 
But now I’m learning to have faith in something new. Something my mom stopped having faith in a long time ago.
Other people.”

Part of what makes this book so pleasurable to read is that it's set in my home town. When Felix talks about the places where he and his mother park their van, Spanish Banks in particular, I know them well and even imagine exactly where they might be. 

I enjoyed every bit of this satisfying story. I'm not particularly fond of reading on my device, yet had a hard time putting the book down and was compelled to keep coming back to finish it. I was so deeply engaged that my eyes leaked copiously for the last twenty five pages or so. Go buy this book, yours might too.