Book of the month:
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
MG written in free verse. A boy comes to terms with the loss of his dog through poetry. A homage to children and their pets, to poetry, to Walter Dean Myers, and to good teachers everywhere. I had a very personal response to reading this book; our beloved family dog is now in what appear to be his final days. But even the dogless will be moved by this spare and elegant story.
- Knee-knock Rise, by Natalie Babbit. MG with a fairy-tale feel. What horrible monster makes the eerie wailing sound that drifts down to the village from Knee-knock Rise? Use of setting as a ‘character,’ done with her usual imitable style: Babbit never disappoints; she’s one of my writing heroes.
- Frenchtown Summer, by Robert Cormier. YA. Another free-verse novel, the coming of age of a small-town boy centering around his relationship with his father, set in a French-Canadian town before WWII. The ordinary made extraordinary. The news of Cormier’s passing has me trying to catch up on all his books; his contribution to YA literature cannot be overstated. But more than that, it is his integrity as a writer that I most admire. He is true to himself in every word.
- The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. YA classic, re-read along with my daughter. Gang warfare in Oklahoma. Skillful juggling by the author makes each one of the Greasers memorable–even the minor characters. Years after reading this, my son still remembers Two-Bit fondly.
- Betsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace. Younger MG classic. I never read the Betsy-Tacy books as a child, and other readers speak of the series so fondly that I had to give this one a try. Episodic chapters depict the sweet friendship between two little girls. I’d have loved this book back in those days when I was first learning the power of books–I’m sorry I missed it then, but was glad to have a chance to read it now.
- I Was a Rat! by Philip Pullman. Younger MG humor-fantasy. The most original Cinderella retelling I’ve ever read. Great fun. Epic fantasy, Victorian mysteries, short humor–I’ve enjoyed every one of this author’s titles; is there anything he can’t do?
- Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan. YA set in India, last year’s National Book Award winner. Although I was disappointed that the setting was less than vivid for me, Koly’s story is compelling.
Adult reading: Lots of it recently, but I want to make special mention here of Yellow, by Don Lee. A collection of loosely linked short stories set in a fictional town on the California coast. Think Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio–with a twist: All the protagonists are Asian- Americans. This is relatively new territory, and Lee’s book helps light the path.