Showing posts from February, 2017

California Dreamin: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas - Pénélope Bagieu

Before she became the legendary Mama Cass—one quarter of the mega-huge folk group The Mamas and the Papas—Cass Eliot was a girl from Baltimore trying to make it in the big city. After losing parts to stars like Barbra Streisand on the Broadway circuit, Cass found her place in the music world with an unlikely group of cohorts.

The Mamas and the Papas released five studio albums in their three years of existence. It was at once one of the most productive (and profitable) three years any band has ever had, and also one of the most bizarre and dysfunctional groups of people to ever come together to make music. Through it all, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams—and her very identity.

This graphic novel is so refreshing. It discusses a real-life, incredible talent, and is also entirely body positive! How amazing is that?! It shouldn't be such an amazing thing in this day and age, but I think California Dreamin' is a book with a lot of potential to discuss body image, weight, a…

Tetris: The Games People Play - Box Brown

It is, perhaps, the perfect video game. Simple yet addictive, Tetris delivers an irresistible, unending puzzle that has players hooked. Play it long enough and you’ll see those brightly colored geometric shapes everywhere. You’ll see them in your dreams.

Alexey Pajitnov had big ideas about games. In 1984, he created Tetris in his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Once Tetris emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it was an instant hit. Nintendo, Atari, Sega―game developers big and small all wanted Tetris. A bidding war was sparked, followed by clandestine trips to Moscow, backroom deals, innumerable miscommunications, and outright theft.

In this graphic novel, Box Brown untangles the complex history and delves deep into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce. 

This is a very thorough and intriguing history of the game of Tetris, told in graphic novel format, and made accessible to audiences of varying ages and levels of interest. Though some may co…

The Education of Margot Sanchez - Lilliam Rivera

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES: Mami, for destroying my social life; Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal; Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal; This supermarket; Everyone else.

After “borrowing” her father's credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…. Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.


Margot lives a relatively privileged life. She goes to a prestigious private sc…

A Boy Called Bat - Elana K. Arnold

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Elana K. Arnold is amazing. I have known her mostly from her much more, shall we say, edgy young adult novels, but what is even more incredible is that she so seamlessly switches from a YA voice to the voice of a small child! I can barely believe it's the same person who has written A Boy Called Bat and What Girls are Made Of! Wow! Okay, now that that's out of the way...

I really hope to see this book rising up next year during Schneider Family award discussions, considering how subtly and expertly Arnold explores a brief time in t…

The Beast is an Animal - Peternelle van Arsdale

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village. These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from t…

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.

"I've seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I've Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I'm too afraid to speak."
This book is not on hard to read in some ways, but it's a necessary book to read! Tho…

What Girls are Made Of - Elana K. Arnold

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now Nina is sixteen. And she'll do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of?

Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are. She's been volunteering at a high-kill animal shelter where she realizes that for dogs waiting to be adopted, love comes only to those with youth, symmetry, and quietness. She also ruminates on the strange, dark time her mother took her to Italy to see statues of saints who endured unspeakable torture because of their unquestioning devotion to the divine. Is this what love is?

Until now, I didn't realize how destructive the old poem was: "Sugar and spice and everything nice; that's what little girls are made of." But then I read this novel, and I saw Elana Arnold's auth…

Book and TV/Film Pairings

I've recently started to see some interesting connections between stuff I've been watching, and stuff I've been reading, so I figured I'd point out a few and see what other links you can all come up with!

1) Exo (Fonda Lee) / Colony (TV Series)

2) The Boundless (Kenneth Oppel) / Snowpiercer (Film)

3) Diary of a Haunting (M. Verano) / The Enfield Haunting (Miniseries)

4) Illuminae and Gemina (Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman) / Battlestar Galactica (TV Series)

5) On Bullshit (Harry G. Frankfurt) / Fox News (Sorry, couldn't resist!!)

Short - Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn't ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive - one of the adults with dwarfism who've joined the production's motley crew of Munchkins - and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn't want to fade into the background and it's a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

This is a big-hearted story about a young girl who is coming into her own, discovering her potential, while learning about how little it matters to be tall or short. Julia and her friend Olive work together on the production of The Wizard of Oz, and Julia begins to understand that it's important not…