Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
I loved this book. I read it partially to see if it would be something to give to John to read and partially because I’d seen so many great reviews of it. Forget that this is a “children’s book”, it’s just a fantastic book with multiple complex storylines woven together beautifully. The main story is of Doug, an 8th grader from New York City who moves to a small town when his father loses his job. Doug’s problems include an abusive father, a new town and school where most of the people think he’s just a “skinny thug” and a brother who is severely wounded in Vietnam. He finds inspiration to fight his problems from several sources, primarily through a series of plates of Audubon bird drawings and an acceptance and development of his own talent for drawing. I loved that Doug finds adults in a variety of places that serve as mentors for him. They aren’t perfect but they are good. It’s a great reminder of what influence an adult can have in the life of a child. I like that the overall tone of the book is hopeful even though it deals with some very serious issues. There were parts that were really tough to read and images that brought tears to my eyes but it’s a book that you put down feeling optimistic. I think John is a bit too young for it. He could read it but I think he’d miss a lot of the beauty if he read it now. In a few years (maybe at 11 or 12) I’ll definitely put it on his reading list.
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Fantastic. Initially independently published as a series of 5 shorter books, this science fiction novel is now available with all 5 books together to be read at once. I don’t read a lot of adult science fiction but this story of a dystopian future world might convince me to try more.
The Narnian by Alan Jacobs
I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of C. S. Lewis. Jacobs does a nice job of bringing the great author to life. He manages to take him off the pedestal that Christians have him on without ignoring some of the anti-Lewis arguments (he’s a misogynist, a sexual pervert, a racist, etc). He keeps him human and keeps the focus nicely on how his life story came to make the man who created Narnia.
Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
I chose this one off the new book shelf because of the cover and the title. I thought it might be a good one for one of my boys but I’m not sure it’s a great fit for either. Still, I spent a lovely hour during the hurricane yesterday reading this in front of the fire. It’s a sweet book about a 4th grade girl trying to fit in. I liked all the references to classic children’s literature.
Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans
I initially got this one out of the library for John thinking he’d love it. He tried it but then said it was too “creepy”. I was still intrigued after reading several positive reviews, including this one by Amy. Last night I was looking for something to read after tucking everyone in and thought of it. I loved it and have given it back to John ordering him to give it another try. I know he’ll really like it if he gives it a chance. It’s partly Mysterious Benedict Society with quirky smart kids and a mystery of sorts to solve. Turns out that John thought it was creepy because of a set of identical triplets that follow the main character, Stuart, around when he moves to town. I’ve assured him that the triplets are not really creepy, or only creepy in the way that girls are sometimes creepy and annoying to boys and that in the end Stuart ends up being friends with the triplets, in particular with one of them.
The boys and I finally finished the four read-alouds we had going: The Hobbit, Mousenet, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict and Farmer Boy. A quick comment on The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict: I highly recommend it. I liked all The Mysterious Benedict Society books well enough, although I liked the first one much better than the others. However, I’d say that I liked this prequel about Mr. Benedict as a boy better than all the others. It has more heart and I especially liked the moral development of Mr. Benedict. The story is more nuanced and less quirky and overall richer. David and I are reading Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan at bedtime. John and I have started The Fellowship of the Ring. We don’t have a new lunchtime book yet but I’m thinking of starting The Moffats by Eleanor Estes.
And up next for me? I’m reading a book that John read and loved, The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. I know a whole bunch of books I had on hold at the library are about to become available so that will probably determine what’s after that.