Rah Rah for RA!: Different Perspectives

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us.

Dear Library Ladies

Given the socially divisive climate of our world today, I’m looking for books that expose me to perspectives (suburban white gal) different from my own. I’d like to start with American since that’s where I live, but would also like a few international perspectives. I have a good amount of fiction on my to-be-read list so I’d like to start with non fiction, but will also take fiction suggestions. In terms of content, I’m in the middle of the spectrum of traumatized-for-a-good-cause to Disney-movie. Thanks for your help!

-Emma Watson Should Be The Patron Saint of Book Club

Hi EWSBTPSOBC!

First of all, brava for you seeking to stretch your reading experiences beyond what you usually may tackle. We’ll try to give you an array of reads that can fit your personal comfort spectrum.

30650040Book: “Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age” by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster, October 2016

This is a memoir by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder of the website and blog Muslim Girl. She was a child living in New Jersey on 9/11, and experienced a backlash against her and her family because they are Muslim. They moved back to Jordan for a time to flee the Islamaphobia, and while there Al-Khatahtbeh had a personal and spiritual awakening she took with her back to the United States. This book talks about those experiences of being a Muslim child in a post-9/11 world in this country, and how she came to found her blog. It emphasizes her experiences, but also highlights her activism on speaking out for Muslim rights in this country. This is a pretty quick read at 134 pages, and it’s very enlightening.

25666051Book: “In The Country We Love: My Family Divided” by Diane Guerrero

Publishing Info: Henry Holt & Co., May 2016

Diane Guerrero is probably best known for her characters on “Jane the Virgin” and “Orange is the New Black”, but she has also written a book about being the child of undocumented immigrants. When Guerrero, who was born in this country, was fourteen, her parents were arrested and deported back to Columbia. Guerrero was left alone in this country to live with family friends, but the trauma of losing her family deeply affected her. While this does talk a bit about her path to her acting career, the bulk of it deals with visiting her parents in detention centers, trying to get through school and life without her family, and the emotional issues she had in the aftermath of her parents deportation.

25489625Book: “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Publishing Info: Spiegal & Grau, June 2015

Written as a letter to his son, this collection of essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a powerful and incendiary examination of race in America. It covers the subjugation of African Americans in American history, form the days of chattel slavery, to systematic discrimination, to the deaths of African American males such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown at the hands of police officers. This work is both beautifully written and personal, as well as eye opening and a difficult read because of the deep injustice spoken of. It is framed as a number of letters to Coates’ son, which makes it all the more emotionally resonant and impactful. It charts dark truths of American history and society, and forces the reader to examine them.

6493208Book: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

Publishing Info: Crown Publishing Group, February 2010

This book made the rounds on a bunch of “most read” lists back nearer its publication, but if you haven’t read it, it’s a definite go-to! This story details the history of race and medical experimentation, specifically the story of an amazing woman whose genes have been used for decades in all kinds of medical research from in vitro fertilization, cancer treatment, and vaccines. This is kind of a double-dose book as it features both race in America, as well as bio ethics and how much control people have on their own bodies. So if that’s a secondary subject that might be of interest, definitely check this one out!

77142

Book: “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson

Publishing Info: Vintage, September 1995

This is a fiction suggestion! But it does cover a very unique time period and perspective in American history, the Japanese internment camps. It’s a beautiful story wrapped up in the memories of a community that is still dealing with its own rocky history with the happenings of WWII. It book also tells the tale of a bi-racial couple, a white boy and Japanese girl, falling in love during this time period. I don’t always love the “high literature” jargon that gets tossed around so much, but this is a book where the term “atmospheric” really does apply!

197753Book: “Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto” by Vine Deloria, Jr.

Publishing Info: Oklahoma Press, October 1970

An older book, but a must-read for a take on Native American relations in the United States. For such a touch subject, the book is also surprisingly humorous in its detailing of such things as U.S. race relations, federal bureaucracies, Christian churches, and social scientists. Deloria tackles many deeply ironic subjects, like the romanticizing of Native American culture with regards to nature and social structures. Of course, this book is now nearly 50 years old, so some background/context reading could be helpful with some of the specific policies and cultural happenings, but it still makes most list for readers wanting a deeper look into Native American life in America.

March 2017 Highlights

We could try to type out something in a really terrible Irish accent in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day this month, but let’s just skip it maybe? March is also notable as it marks the Library Ladies one year anniversary! So yay for that!

Serena’s Picks

29522966Book: “The Beast is an Animal” by Peternelle van Arsdale

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: There have already been comparisons to “Uprooted” floating around (one of my favorite reads of the last few years), and this book seems poised to be another break-out original fairytale.Featuring a girl with a strange power who sets out to save her village from the fearful twin soul eaters and their Beast overlord only to find that she shares a unknown connection with them, this book sounds like just the type of dark, twisted folk tale I would love. Plus, just look at that beautiful, creepy cover and tell me you’re not intrigued!

30687916Book: “Silence Fallen” by Patricia Briggs

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This is the 10th book in the Mercy Thompson series. Tenth! That’s a lot of central Washington werewolf/shapshifter/vampire/fae action! While the series has been rather hit or miss for me with the last few books, I did enjoy the last book (which was good, because the one before that was a fairly large miss). But it is starting to feel like the stakes simply can’t be raised any higher and that this tale might be nearing its end. Through kidnapping shenanigans, this book drops Mercy into Europe where she must maker her way home on her own, which does sound interesting. A change of setting could be what the series needs. And as much as I love Mercy and Adam together, the strength of this series is Mercy herself and sometimes she’s best left to clean up messes on her own.

28449207Book: “Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I very much enjoyed Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” trilogy. The fantasy elements were all very unique, her world building was extraordinary, and she wrote her teenage female protagonist in a believable and sympathetic way. So, on those strengths alone I would be interested in a new fantasy series by this author. But, as it happens, this one also features Lazlo Strange a junior librarian! The description of the story seems confusing, something about a world where dreams choose your path and a lost world and dead gods. But I’m pretty sure if I tried to explain the premise of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” that would also sound very odd, so I’m going to have faith that Taylor once again knows what she’s doing.

Kate’s Picks

30687788Book: “Ill Will” by Dan Choan

Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I’m always on the lookout for a good thriller that may take inspiration from true events, and “Ill Will” sure sounds like The Smiley Face Killer Conspiracy! You have a psychologist named Dustin who is haunted by his brother, a convicted murderer who is just now being let out of prison. Who was put into prison in the first place because of Satanic Panic and Dustin’s own testimony. Add that in with a crazy, unrelated theory one of his patient’s is tossing around involving a serial killer who covers his tracks by staging drownings, and  you have a book that has ME written all over it!!! This genuinely sounds like it could be a serious mind warp and I am totally here for that, just as I’m always here for disturbing psychological thrillers.


23447923Book:
“The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I know it isn’t one of the genres that I usually focus on on this blog, but I absolutely cannot WAIT for this book!! First of all, the plot itself sounds like it’s going to be punching me right in the feelings, as a teenage boy is having a hard time coming to terms with his own identity and questioning whether he belongs or not. But most importantly, this is a book that is written by Benjamin Alire Saenz, who wrote the book “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”, which is hands down one of my very favorite YA books of all time!!!! So even though this isn’t the “Aristotle and Dante” sequel that I’m waiting for (not terribly patiently I might add), I love his writing and story telling, so I am VERY stoked to get my mitts on this book.

30753832Book: “The Fall of Lisa Bellow” by Susan Perabo

Publication Date: March 14th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: Though it sounds like it’s less about the crime itself and more about the aftermath and damage done, “The Fall of Lisa Bellow” is on my list. When Meredith Oliver and her nemesis Lisa Bellow are getting lunch from a cafe, a masked man bursts in. He hesitates between the two, and picks Lisa to take with him. Now Meredith is trying to cope with her guilt, her trauma, and her life after the fact. This sounds like it’s probably going to break my heart, but I’m very interested in the concept of survivor guilt and how a town reacts to a crime like this. My guess is that this is going to be a book that needs tissues ready, but I’m up for it!

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: February 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks:

mv5bmtg4nda1ota5nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdq2mdm5ode-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Hell or High Water”

I’m on a bit of a “Western” kick right now both with what I’ve been reading (upcoming review of “Silver on the Road!”) and watching. This movie is a modern western about two brothers who are pushed to their limit and begin a bank robbery spree in an attempt to save their family home. Their story is balanced by that of the federal ranger who is tasked to stop them. The cast in this one is really what sells it. It’s no surprise that Jeff Bridges plays the gruff and grumpy federal ranger character as it seems like the part must have been written specifically with him in mind. But the surprising performance is that of Chris Pine who gives himself a break on the action hero type and instead shows that he has real drama chops in this much more subdued and complicated character. Also, Ben Foster is criminally under-recognized as a fantastic actor, and this is no exception!

top-chef-nola-0-0

TV Show: “Top Chef”

There are a few reality tv shows that are my guilty pleasure (I’m sure others will show up on this list eventually). But maybe the most bizarre is my love of realty cooking competitions, as I hate cooking myself and am quite terrible at it. I particularly like “Top Chef” because while it is reality tv, is often lacks the added and unnecessary drama that pops up in other cooking show (I’m looking at you “Master Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen!”). This season has been set in Charleston and has had a mix of new chefs and returning Top Chef competitors. Some of my favorite contestants did very well, which also increased my enjoyment of this particular season!

oregon-trail-old-featureOnline Game: “The Oregon Trail”

I discovered that you can play the old 1990 version of “The Oregon Trail” online! This has not been good for my productivity levels either at work or at home. Kate and I, and our other halves, got together on New Year’s Eve and among other fun board games, we tried playing a card game version of “The Oregon Trail.” Her husband and I didn’t make it to Oregon due to tragic circumstances, sadly. But the game did spark major nostalgia and when I found the online game…an addiction was re-born!

Kate’s Picks:

heathers300Soundtrack: “Heathers: The Musical”

Some friends and I, on a whim, went to see a local production of this Off Broadway musical, based on one of my favorite movies. I had never heard the music from it before, but I was completely entranced by it as we watched it. It captures the movie perfectly with a rock and roll soundtrack, and it has some amazing power ballads between Veronica Sawyer and J.D., the renegade teens who are killing their most awful classmates (much to her horror). This is one of my most screwed up ships (I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT, GUYS!), but the two songs “Seventeen” and “Our Love Is God” have been on a constant loop in my day to day this past month because they’re so passionate and power ballad-y, and capture that doomed relationship so very well. Sweet, sweet anguish.

drew-barrymore-timothy-olyphant-santa-clarita-dietNetflix Show: “Santa Clarita Diet”

Now I love me some zombie shows, but I love them even more when they think outside the box. “Santa Clarita Diet” is a hilarious satire of suburban life mixed with a zombie show, in which Drew Barrymore, or Sheila, finds herself turned into a sentient zombie. Her husband Joel (played by the foxy Timothy Olyphant) is doing his best to be supportive, because he loves his wife. It’s her ‘eating people’ thing that’s hard to stomach. Barrymore and Olyphant are hilarious, as it their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) and her best friend Eric. It’s gross and bloody, but has a whole lot of heart to it. And many, MANY laugh out loud moments.

riverdale-header3TV Show: “Riverdale”

YES, OKAY, I’M INTO THE SEXED UP “ARCHIE” SHOW!!! But I have my reasons. First of all, it’s seeping in “Twin Peaks”-esque nostalgia and aesthetic. Second, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the man behind “Afterlife with Archie” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, is the showrunner, so you know he’s going to have some serious, SERIOUS dark and screwed up stuff up his sleeves. Yes, I’m bitter that they started by killing off Jason Blossom (GODDAMN I LOVE THE BLOSSOM TWINS, HOW DARE THEY!?!?!), but I love what they’re doing with a lot of the characters that I like (Betty, Kevin, Josie, and of course, Veronica). Though I will never understand why we’re supposed to believe that the doof Archie attracts so many capable and intelligent women….. But also, Luke Perry. I mean, really.

 

 

February 2017 Highlights

Winter is still here, but we’re dreaming of spring! And in the mean time, February is the month when all chocolate eating is justified and weight gain magically doesn’t exist! So yay for that! It also seems that the beginning of the year is ripe with tons of new releases. We both had a very tough time narrowing our list down to only three choices,  but here they are!

Serena’s Picks

16148435Book: “The Burning World” by Isaac Marion

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This is a very strange book in that it is a sequel to “Warm Bodies,” a novel that was published seven years ago now and has had a feature film released a few years ago on top of that. The timing is bizarre, to say the least. So this is listed based on the strength of the original that introduced us to “R” a zombie who wanted more from life and found it in his human love interest, Julie. Kate and I both read this for bookclub (check out the review here) and very much enjoyed it. But the book also felt fairly perfect as a stand-alone novel, so combine the question of “is there really more story to tell here?” with the delayed publication date…we shall see!

24763621Book: “Wintersong” by S. Jae-Jones

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This story features the tried and true story of a girl stolen away to an underground world by a Goblin King. But never let it be said that simply because we’ve read  one (or a million!) iterations of a story that there’s not still more than can be done if you have the right take and author. While the premises definitely sounds similar to “Labyrinth,” there also seems to be notes from “The Phantom of the Opera” with a musically inclined protagonist whose mentor is some type of Other. This is the second month in a row that has a book that references “Phantom of the Opera.” Is this a trend??

25670396Book: “Miranda and Caliban” by Jacqueline Carey

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I read and loved Jacqueline Carey’s three Terre d’Ange trilogies. I read and loathed her urban fantasy series. From everything I’ve heard, this book hearkens back to the former both in style and substance. A re-telling of “The Tempest,” this book focuses the tale on Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, a lonely girl who befriends Caliban, a wild boy that is taken into servitude by her father. This sounds like such an intriguing premises, and if Carey is back to form, than she is more than capable of bringing much beauty and heart to this strange tale.

Kate’s Picks

20600617Book: “Afterlife With Archie (Vol.2): Betty R.I.P.” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Publication Date: February 14th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: As you all know, I absolutely LOVED the first collection of “Afterlife with Archie” comics. And finally, FINALLY, the second volume by Aguirre-Sacasa is coming out. When we left the Riverdale gang they ventured out into the zombie apocalypse, running from Jughead and his undead army. I’m still so tickled about it. I’ve just been dying to find out what happens next because I love what’s been done with these characters and I love how genuinely creepy Aguirre-Sacasa has written this story. I’m a bit worried about the collection title, because Betty is my girl and I don’t want to say goodbye to her yet!

29430798Book: “The Devil Crept In” by Ania Ahlborn

Publication Date: February 7th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: When Stevie Clark’s cousin disappears, memories and whispers in the community remind him of another disappearance he heard of, from years before. Not only did children disappear, but pets did too, and no one knows what happened. Stevie decides to try and find his cousin on his own, but maybe the truth is far worse than anyone ever expected. This sounds like a really creepy and suspenseful book, and while missing person books can be a bit heavy at times, this one has the potential to bring in more scares than melancholy. I really can’t wait to see what this is all about.

24382227Book: “Dreamland Burning” by Jennifer Latham

Publication Date: February 21st, 2017

Why I’m Interested: Though this one kind of functions outside of my usual genres, I have to say that I’m very intrigued by this book. It is a two perspective story in which a girl in modern times finds a skeleton on her property, and then nearly 100 years ago a boy finds himself in the middle of a community simmering with racial tension. The context of the story is Jim Crow Laws and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, and I am very interested to see what Latham does to interweave these two stories, and how she connects the past to the present in a number of ways.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: January 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

new-arrival-movie-poster-615813Movie: “Arrival”

This is probably a bit late to the game, but I went to see “Arrival” at a late showing theater and it blew me away. The trailers for this movie were all over the place. The first one I saw, I literally had no idea what this was about. The second one I saw made it seem like an alien invasion action movie? Having seen the movie now, I can understand the challenge of creating a preview of this movie. This cerebral sci-fi movie knocked the breath out of me at every turn with its gorgeous visuals, moving score, discomforting realizations, and deep insights. It also left me thinking for many days after seeing it, which, I think, was its primary goal. I can’t recommend this one enough. While it’s likely out of many theaters, if you can possible catch it at a late-run theater, I definitely recommend it for the big screen.

mv5bmtuxmjizodi0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdk3oti2mdi-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_Netflix Series: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Yes, yes I featured the trailer for this on a list a few months ago, but now it’s here, and I’m loving it! Now, that being said, I’m not sure this one is for everyone. The series fully embraces the wackiness and corniness of the books, so at first even I was a bit put off by the strangeness of this world. The acting of the kids is also a bit stiff in the first episode, but improves as they are given more to work with. But, in no surprise to anyone, what carries the series is Neal Patrick Harris’s performance. The moment he shows up (and it sadly takes a good bit in the first episode), you can almost feel the story take a breath of fresh air and settle into itself more fully. He’s so committed to the camp and wackiness of this character, at times even managing to make a completely evil character rather pathetically sympathetic. If you liked the book series, this is well worth your time. If you didn’t…maybe not so much.

how-did-this-get-made-podcast-cover-thumb-q33uloPodcast: “How Did This Get Made?”

I know this is a favorite podcast of Kate’s as well, but I got to this list first with it, so I get to talk about it! Sometimes it feels good to watch trashy movies. And sometimes it feels even better to listen to other people describe their experiences having to watch trashy movies and telling you all about how truly trashy the movie really is. This podcast is so fun. I haven’t watched half the movies they talk about (cuz…obviously…most of them are awful!), but my enjoyment is not affected in the least by this fact! Listening to them ponder the whys, hows, and wtfs of these films is so much fun. And sometimes, just sometimes, you catch yourself wanting to go out and find yourself a copy of “Sharknado 2” just because how did that get made?!

Kate’s Picks

15099342_1818297575122609_3345333340906455040_nWeb Series: “The Boulet Brothers’ DRAGULA”

Yep, the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” dry spell is still in full effect. But luckily, I was able to find a show that would quench my thirst this past month. “DRAGULA” is a web series produced and starring The Boulet Brothers, a shock and horror drag act that emphasizes the edgy and filthy aspects of drag. They decided to put together a “Drag Race”-esque show that would showcase ‘freaky’ drag, putting a number of drag queens together to compete in looks, performance, and challenges (like being buried alive, eating brains, and other squeamish things). Fashion, horror, and lots of dark humor pepper this show, and it gives me (after?)life!!! But just a warning: it’s not the the squeamish or easily offended. These ladies are hardcore in the ‘filth’ aspect of drag…

mv5bmtc3mjewmtc5n15bml5banbnxkftztcwnzq2njq4na-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Stargate: SG-1”

While I’m definitely a geek, when it comes to Sci-Fi I am far less knowledgeable than my husband is. So when I confided in him that I’d never actually seen any of the “Stargate” TV shows, he demanded that we watch “SG-1” immediately. Though it took me a bit to warm up to the show (I mean, really, parasites have to be the main antagonist?), I’m now all in. Richard Dean Anderson is a joy to watch, playing Jack O’Neill with the proper amount of disdain, snark, and, yes, pathos (the episode “Cold Lazarus” had me sobbing from start to finish), and while Michael Shanks will NEVER be Daniel Jackson to me (James Spader or get out), the two of them play well off each other and bring the characters to the TV format pretty well. And the new characters, specifically Tilk, an alien who has joined the team, are well written and fit in with the mythology!

vh1_antm_keyartTV Show: “America’s Next Top Model”

So I have pleasant, pleasant memories of watching “America’s Next Top Model” in college. I am not at all fashionable or ‘with it’ when it comes to the ins and outs of the fashion industry, but there is something about “Top Model” that I love. The photo shoots, the beauty, the clothing, the models, I like all of it. But I have to admit, I also like the drama of Tyra and the house infighting. Regardless, there is a brand new iteration of “ANTM” that has rebooted the show and the concept. Long gone are the days of the social media scores and Kelly Cutrone (THANK GOD ON BOTH COUNTS). We’re back to the basics of fashion and the potential of the aspiring models. Yes, I miss Tyra. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of drama.

Lift Every Voice And Sing: Books About The Civil Rights Movement

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone! Given that today is a celebration and remembrance of one of the most important voices in American History, we thought that we would share with you all some books about the Civil Rights Movement. Some may be familiar, others may not be as well known, but all of them give a voice to this movement, the people within it, and the importance of the ideals at it’s heart.

29844341Book: The “March” Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Top Shelf Productions, August 2013 (Book 1), January 2015 (Book 2), and August 2016 (Book 3).

Kate has talked about this book before on this blog, and it has a clear place on this list. John Lewis, one of the key people in the Civil Rights Movement, decided that he wanted to tell his story, and he did it in graphic novel form. These books talk about his early days as an activist, the Sit Ins, The March on Washington, Freedom Summer, and Selma, amongst many other key moments in the movement. Lewis is honest and candid about his time during this movement, and this book shows the horror, the sadness, the determination, and the hope.

5201814Book: “Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice” by Phillip M. Hoose

Publishing Info: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, January 2009

Though many people have heard of Rosa Parks, they may not have heard of Claudette Colvin. Colvin also refused to give up her spot on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, months before Rosa Parks did the same thing and became a Civil Rights Icon. Colvin, unlike Parks, was not only largely forgotten by history, she also was shunned for her actions and mostly ignored by community leaders. But she then became an figure in the Browder v. Gayle case, a court case that challenged Jim Crow laws in Montgomery. This book tells her story within the context of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Montgomery itself.

92057Book: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X, Alex Haley

Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, 1965

Both a celebrated and controversial figure, Malcolm X was an important force and speaker within the Civil Rights Movement. This book is his story, as told to Alex Haley (the author of “Roots”), and it covers his early time as a hustler and goes all the way through his conversion to Islam, his position during the Civil Rights movement, and his stances on how to gain freedom within a racist society. Haley eventually added a section to the book after X’s assassination. Malcolm X is still considered a polarizing figure to this day, but to have his story in his own words is invaluable, and continues to serve as inspiration and education about the fight for Civil Rights.

824499Book: “A Wreath For Emmett Till” by Marilyn Nelson, Phillip Lardy (Ill.)

Publishing Info: HMH Books for Young Readers, January 2005

Though Emmett Till’s murder happened in 1955, it is considered to be one of the moments in history that helped set off the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till was a fourteen year old boy who was murdered for whistling at a white woman, and his death and the aftermath his told in poem form in this award winning picture book. The poetry is beautiful, told in a crown of sonnets, and it both captures the horrific nature of the crime, the injustice of the court ruling, and the despair and sadness of a child who was murdered with no consequence.

How are you guys celebrating and remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday? Let us know in the comments!

That Takes Me Back: Some Favorite Reads from Childhood

So we were feeling a bit nostalgic this week, thinking about how we’ve loved reading our whole lives, and how books can leave lasting impressions. Both of us have our favorite books now, but we also had our favorite books when we were kids. So we thought that we would share with you some of the standouts from our childhoods, and what it was that made them so magical.

Kate’s Picks

39988Book: “Matilda” by Roald Dahl

Publishing Info: October, 1988

Why I Loved It: While I really liked a number of Roald Dahl’s books when I was a kid (particularly “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), the one that stood out for me most was “Matilda”. It appealed to me in a number of ways, most particularly that she was a little girl who liked to read, and was pretty lonely (as I had few friends in childhood, though my family wasn’t the absolute worst like Matilda’s is). So “Matilda” served as pure escapist fantasy for me, as the lonely, bookish girl also had magical telekinetic powers. It remains as my favorite book by Dahl, as Matilda is spunky and smart and a true role model for girls everywhere.

176690Series: “Fear Street” by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: First book published 1989

Why I Loved It: My love of horror goes all the way back to my childhood. And since I’ve already gushed about my other favorite, “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark”, I will talk about my other big horror influence: “Fear Street”. I started with “Goosebumps” when I was in third grade, but quickly graduated to the “Fear Street” series because they were more challenging and a lot scarier. I loved the scandal, the murder, the intrigue, and the WONDERFULLY tacky and now dated covers. R.L. Stine published a number of regular “Fear Street” books, and a few off shoot series like “Ghosts of Fear Street”, “Fear Street Super Chillers”, and “Fear Street Nights” (reminds me of “Baywatch Nights”). They were formulaic and repetitive, but man did I love them to pieces.

3729060Series: “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” by Ann M. Martin

Publishing Info: First book published August 1986

Why I Loved It: And on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, my other big series of my childhood was “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” by Ann M. Martin. I think that what I liked about it was that it was about a bunch of tween girls who had responsibilities and deep and lasting friendships. I would go to Barnes and Noble and usually leave with the newest in the series, and boy did I have my strong opinions about all the girls (Mary-Anne was the best, Stacey was the worst). And I also liked the inevitable soapy storylines that came up every few issues, involving boys, drama, and family. I also loved the spin off series “Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries”, which usually had some kind of potential danger or supernatural element. It always goes back to the creepy for me.

Serena’s Picks

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Series: “The Mandie Mysteries” by Lois Gladys Leppard

Publishing Info: First book published May 1983

Why I Loved It: This series was pretty much my entrance drug into the world of long-running mystery series featuring spunky heroines. And man, there are even more of them than I remember (I’m sure I didn’t read them all, but I loved the first 12 or so that I did get through!). There are like 40 of these suckers, it turns out. They’re fairly simplistic mysteries, of course, but I found very fun as a young reader. Especially the inclusion of the troubles her cat Snowball always gets into, and my early shipping heart’s love of Mandi and Joe’s interactions.

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Book: “The Raging Quiet” by Sherryl Jordan

Publishing Info: April 1999

Why I Loved It: And this, my introduction to the joys of historical fiction! This book falls into the young adult category more than children’s fiction as it deals with some challenging themes. But oh I loved it! I still re-read it once every year or so. The story focuses on Marnie, a young girl who comes to live in a new area due to a forced marriage. After she is suddenly widowed, she is viewed with fear and skepticism by the local villagers, but finds friendship with another outcast of society, Raven, who she learns is deaf. It’s a powerful story of the challenges of being different in a time when that was often looked upon with fear and hatred. It’s a lovely story, but also a tough read at times.

444332Series: “Song of the Lioness” quartet by Tamora Pierce

Publishing Info: September 1983

Why I Loved It: And finally, my first fantasy love. It’s pretty impossible to talk about 80s/90s popular young adult fantasy without the Alanna books coming up. And for good reason! I absolutely loved these books as a kid. Alanna is a spunky, heroine who constantly defies the expectations and limitations that are placed on her as a young girl, and eventually woman, who dreams of being a knight and having her own adventures. I’ve re-read this series a few times as an adult, and I’m even more impressed by the topics it covers that are so great especially for young women readers (it covers the importance of birth control even!) all while never losing its sense of fun, fantasy, and adventure.

What about you? What were some of your favorites from your childhood? Let us know in the comments!