"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, March 1, 2021

TTT: My Most Popular Blog Posts in 2020

 Top Ten Tuesday: 

(Off the board) My most popular blog posts in 2020 based on comments / traffic.

1. Review: Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham. Feb. 28, 2020. (4/1202)

2. Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Jan.2, 2020 (25/182)

3. Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books published in the last decade. Jan. 13, 2020 (35/199)

4. Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney. Jan. 17, 2020. (23/167)

5. Top Ten Tuesday: Starred Reviews. Feb. 3, 2020. (19/318)

6. Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Like that I Don't Talk About Much. April 13, 2020. (26/182)

7. Review: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. April 24, 2020. (27/303)

8. Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I'd Read as a Child. April 27, 2020 (46/593)

9. Editorial: Black Lives Matter---A Look at the Literature. June 5, 2020 (14/238)

10. Sunday Salon: Independence Day and So Much More. July 5, 2020. (34/230)

11. Top Ten Tuesday: Pets I Have or Would Name After Book Characters. Nov. 16, 2020. (44/150)

12. Sunday Salon: Sept. 13th. Sept. 13, 2020. (27/197)

13. Sunday Salon: On the Count Down. Oct. 24, 2020. (25/188)

Wow. this was harder to do than one would think. I'm actually not exactly sure if I really captured the most popular posts or not. I do think it is interesting that most are from the first half of the year, which makes sense in terms of more time on the Internet.

-Anne

Nonfiction review: WALK TOWARD THE RISING SUN


Ger Duany is one of 20,000 children who left Sudan during its decades long civil war. These children are commonly called the 'Lost Boys of Sudan.' Walk Toward the Rising Sun: From Child Soldier to Ambassador for Peace is his story.

Ger Duany was born in village named Akobo in what is now South Sudan. His goals in life were modest: to be a good son and brother, maybe get an education, and when he was grown to become a soldier like this father. He wanted to make his parents proud of him. But then his village was attacked by the Sudanese Army and as a young teen he found himself a soldier himself, carrying a gun, and fighting with anyone at the drop of a hat. At fourteen he escaped to Ethiopia and lived in a refugee camp for a while. There for the first time in his life he went to school and found that he really enjoyed the intellectual stimulation. He didn't want to return home because of the lack of schools there but he did eventually go back to Sudan. In his young life he had encountered so much death and destruction when he was offered the chance to go to America via Kenya, he jumped at the chance.

Once in America life didn't seem to unfold as he planned either. First off he was embarrassed to be the oldest student in his high school with the lowest level of education. He also found other Sudanese boys to hang out with and would often get into fights. He didn't know how to be a good student with so little practice at it. After moving around a bit he finally ended up living with his relatives in Indiana, finished high school, and got a college scholarship to play basketball. Though he was very tall he wasn't very solid and injuries became a problem for him causing him to lose his scholarships. Around the same time he was approached to audition for a movie that Reese Witherspoon was making that was set in Africa. He got the part. Later while living in New York he found himself working as a male model. 

On the outside life seemed good. But on the inside Ger Duany was plagued by nightmares and desperately wanted to know about his family left behind in Sudan. When he did get back to Sudan and was able to see both of his parents the path forward began to, emerge for him. He realized that his childhood traumas didn't need to dominate his life as an adult. Once freed from these demons he could finally move forward with purpose and hopefully could be an inspiration for others. He is still acting and modeling but now he is also a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a Peace Ambassador. 

At the end of the book he is reminded of the time, as a teen, when he and his family had to flee without a map just heading in the direction of the rising sun. He says:

"I pray these stories about my journey will engage, entertain, and galvanize you. May all your journeys continue toward the rising sun."

What I liked about the book:

  • Like the book The Cat I Never Named about the Bosnian War, I learned so much that I didn't know about the Sudan Civil War. These first hand accounts are important sources of information to open up our minds about the travails of other citizens of the world, helping create empathy and understanding. 
  • I listened to the audiobook read by Ger Duany. His English isn't perfect and his accent helped me to feel the setting and people better.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • Ger Duany's anguish and feelings weren't always apparent through the printed word. I wondered if this was a translated memoir, originally written in Arabic or his native language but it wasn't.

Source: Print book from the library and Audible purchase for the audiobook.

-Anne

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday Salon, Feb. 28, 2021

This relates to my blog today. I've basically got nothing new to talk about. Sigh*

Weather: overcast. Yesterday was lovely, though, and we worked in a long dog-walk. When I say "worked in" I mean between watching TV and eating something.

Family: Don is watching golf on TV. Carly is doing laundry and playing video games. I am writing a blog about nothing.

Books: I finished one book this week Moloka'i. I finished it in the nick of time for book club on Wednesday. In fact, I recommend it for a book club selection. Here is my review if you want to see why. I am working on two more book club selections for upcoming months: The Last Resort by Stapley (31%) for my SOTH club and Fifty Words for Rain by Lemmie (53%) for our RHS club. I would describe my feelings about both of these books as lukewarm. Wait until I finish them for a full review before you decide to read them or not. A lot can happen still.

Cybils Nonfiction Finalists reviews: I have now posted all but three of the twenty-one reviews for the finalists I read for the nonfiction category. Check out my reviews by following the links in this post.

Cookies: I baked the cookies I found in this article: Douglas Shortbread Cookies with Jam. (Bloomberg News.) I think the family would review them as excellent and they are quite easy, in fact the title of the article calls them 'no-fail.'

Bingeing: We are binge watching "Call the Midwife."  In two weeks we have watched four seasons. I know. Who cares?

What happened the flu this year? Hardly any cases. Could it be masks and social distancing actually works? Hmm?

 

Watch this and laugh: If you are one of the few people in the world who hasn't seen this, watch it now!-- Silent Monks Sing Hallelujah Chorus. It makes me so happy.

 

A few more funnies I found this week:

1. Does no one at Amazon double check to make sure that names and colors are correct? Like Gary and Gray are the same thing?


2.  I'd say this is me exactly these days. If I have to go to the grocery store for food, the trip is so unique and exhausting I have to rest when I get home. Ha!

3.Yeah. Scientist, explain this to me.


4. Isn't this the truth? 



-Anne

Nonfiction review: THROW LIKE A GIRL, CHEER LIKE A BOY


One of the best parts for me of judging nonfiction finalists for the Cybils Award is being 'forced' to read books like this, Throw Like a Girl, Cheer Like a Boy: The Evolution of Gender, Identity, and Race in Sports by Robin Ryle. In the past I may have a read a chapter or two of such a book most often if I was searching for some specific information. But now I reading these nonfiction books looking not only for content but also for good writing and a pleasant presentation of the information.

Robin Ryle is a writer, sociologist, professor of gender studies, and a sports fan. She has been teaching a class on gender, race, and sports for the past fifteen years at Hanover College in Indiana. She brings not only an expertise on the subject but also a passion. 

Because the book covers a plethora of information on related topics I decided to outline the book for you brings out a few examples that really struck me.

"When Cheerleaders Were Boys" is the title of the first chapter. It deals with gender separation and what we think of as girl and boy sports. Surprisingly prior to WWII cheer-leading was done almost exclusively by men and often the men were athletes whose sports weren't in season at the time. At the time before the switch, therefore, cheer-leading was viewed as a very athletic endeavor. When women started cheering, the athletic nature of the sport was diminished and was often sexualized. Now men didn't want to do it any longer for fear of being viewed as homosexuals. With that introduction the rest of the chapter talks about differences in sports from a gender point of view and what Title IX has accomplished for women in sports.

The next chapter has to do with gender testing and the Olympics. It is a very current topic as public schools and universities grapple with how to treat trans athletes fairly. I am sure we will continue to hear more and more about this in the future.

Are men better athletes than women? Ryle uses several examples of how women who are given the opportunity and the training can be just as good or even superior to men in many areas of sports. I found it very interesting to learn that in the 1922 Olympics women performed at 30% slower than men but in the 1984 Olympics the differences were a little above 10%. Given the opportunity for good training and coaching, differences between genders are slight.

I found the chapter of sexuality in women's sports to be especially interesting. Great female athletes are often described in male terms---"tomboy', "mannish", even "muscle moll", which is a gangster term from the 1930s. If a female athlete today doesn't want to be thought of as a lesbian, she may do extra things to play up her femininity both on and off the field. Softball players may wear big bows in their hair as an example of this apologetic behavior. Black female athletes have an especially hard time navigating societal expectations with sports competitiveness. My daughter reminded me of what Serena Williams has had to go through that other tennis stars haven't had to. If she gets angry with a ref or complains about a bad call, she gets fined for being an angry black woman. There are so many double standards in sports and this is one of them.

The last three chapters have to do with cultural aspects of sports using examples baseball, cricket, and basketball, racism in sports focusing a lot of American football, and acceptance (lack of) of homosexuality in professional sports today. A lot of what I learned was both eye-opening and disconcerting.

One again, I wish I'd had this book back when I was teaching high school sociology. I think it contains the type of information that would have really interested my students.

What I liked about the book:

  • Each chapter builds on the last chapter so by the end of the book the reader will have a very clear idea of the ways that gender, identity, and race are impacted in the the sporting world. Many of the examples are historical which gives the reader to view what is happening today in light of how far we have come.
  • The topics helped bring clarity in my own thinking around trans or gender neutral athletes. It is a topic which I am sure we will hear more about in the future.
  •  The reference section of the book is well-done with chapter notes, a long bibliography, and an index.

What I didn't like about the book:

  •  My library didn't have a copy of this book so I have to read it in a pdf format supplied by the publisher. There were no photos or text-boxes with information. Does the print edition have these? I don't know. But without them the general appeal for high school students is diminished by half at least.

Source: pdf file supplied by the publisher.

-Anne

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Nonfiction review: NO VOICE TOO SMALL


No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History
is a children's nonfiction book designed to inspire our children to make a difference in their community and world.

In the book we meet fourteen young Americans who did something remarkable and helped change the world. Each activist inspired a poet who related to an an aspect of the young person's identity. The poets used different poetic styles to introduce the activist and their action. Then artist Jeanette Bradley's illustrations of the fourteen young people helped bring their stories to life.

Ziad, a Muslim, often was treated unfairly. At fourteen he held face-to-face conversations with almost everyone at his high school. "It's hard to hate someone you know." His TEDxTeen talk has been viewed all over the world.

Cierra Fields starting sharing information about her experiences with skin cancer when she was twelve. She was speaking out to help improve the health care available to the Cherokee Nation.

When Jazz Jennings was three she told her parents she was a girl not a boy. When her local soccer team banned her from the team, she and her parents took the fight to the US Soccer Federation. Now, thanks to Jazz, transgender kids can play soccer on teams aligned with their gender choice.

All fourteen students have incredibly brave and inspiring stories. 

The collection is edited by Lindsay Metcalf, Keila Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley. Poetry contributions were made by Nikki Grimes, Joseph Bruchac, G. Neri, Janet Wong, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, to name a few.

What I liked about the book:

  • The inspiration I received by reading about the fourteen students and their efforts to make the world a better place.
  • The poetry in so many forms and from such a variety of poets.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • I can't figure out what the age range is for the target audience for this book. I tried reading it to my grandson, age three, and he was not interested at all (too young). Many of the stories are about actions taken by teenagers but that age group would not be interested in a picture book. I'm guessing that the perfect ages for the book would be between nine and twelve.
Source: print book supplied by the publisher. 
 

-Anne

Review: MOLOKA'I by Alan Brennert


It is possible that our book club has just finished reading and discussing the perfect book club selection in Moloka'i by Alan Brennert. Feel skeptical? Let me explain why I think so.

First, the summary: Young Rachel Kalama lives with her big family in Honolulu in the 1890s.  At senven Rachel is diagnosed with leprosy and is forcibly removed from her family, first to a hospital compound in Honolulu and then, when she doesn't improve, to a leprosy colony on Moloka'i, a remote island in the Hawaiian chain. It is about 25 miles east of O'ahu. Rachel and her family had hoped that she could live with her uncle, who also had leprosy and was living on Moloka'i, but health regulations required that all unaccompanied minors live in a dormitory setting run by the Catholic church. There Rachel made friends with other little girls also living with leprosy and with Sister Katherine who became a lifelong friend as each of her friends succumbed to the disease. The book not only chronicles Rachel's life from the 1890 to 1970, but also the history of both the Hawaiian Islands and the history of leprosy treatment, later called Hansen's Disease. Rachel's life, though marred by disease, isolation, and unimaginable tragedy is also full of joy, courage, and dignity.

The leprosy colony in Kalawao, Moloka'i in 1922 on the Kalaupapa Peninsula, chosen for its remoteness.

So why was this such a good book club selection? Well, first there was a ton of topics to discuss: colonialism; the Hawaiian monarchy; Hawaiian culture--which included religion, food, and words; the evolution of leprosy treatment; cultural and familial reactions to leprosy; Moloka'i; historical events like the invention of airplanes and WWII; childbirth and adoption; missionaries and the Catholic Church; friendship and family. This list is not exhaustive. I'm just giving you a smattering of topics covered in MOLOKA'I. These are the discussion questions we used and which beautifully opened up the text for us.

In the 1940s airfare between the islands was possible. This photo was taken in 1940 and shows Moloka'i in the background. At one point in the book Rachel travels by air in a plane like this.

Our group selected Moloka'i, first published in 2003, because one group member asked a bookstore clerk for his recommendation since she rarely buys books and wanted to make sure she got a good one. Without a beat he recommended this book. I was interested in the book because I know little about this Hawaiian island and because as a child I encountered some people who lived in a leprosy compound in Africa, where my father was a missionary. I remember the disfigurements which have haunted my psyche for a long time. It was time to learn more about this terrible, historical disease.

Apparently Moloka'i has at least one sequel and an almost cult-like following for those who like historical fiction. Only one person in our group said they loved the book, most of us just 'liked' it and thought the writing to be just average. What was excellent was the storytelling about so many topics and the scope of the project. I listened to the audiobook so had the advantage of hearing the Hawaiian words and language pronounced correctly while the readers of the print editions had the benefit of being able to turn back pages to catch threads or characters missed on the first pass. 

I am fairly positive that everyone left our book club meeting with a deeper appreciation of the book after the discussion than they had when they arrived. I know I did. 


RHS Book Club, February 2021.

-Anne

Friday, February 26, 2021

Nonfiction review: THE CAT I NEVER NAMED

 

Of all the YA and MG nonfiction books I have consumed recently this one, The Cat I Never Named: A True Tale of Love, War, and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, took me the longest to get into and to finish. That said, I have a feeling it will also have the biggest impact.

Amra was 16 when the war in Bosnia broke out. One day her Serb neighbors all disappeared from her town and the bombings started. Before that day she was just a normal high school kid worried about grades and thinking about her friends and if she would ever fall in love. The next day she and her family are fighting for their survival. If not for the sweet little stray cat who adopted her family, Amra is not sure that any of them would have survived. Throughout the book the little cat they call Maci, which is 'cat' in the Bosnian language, seems to appear at moments when the family needs her most: Amra's brother moves away from a corner just moments before it is bombed because he hears the cat meowing; Amra is brought back from a debilitating depression because of the cat's sweet disposition; Amra was supposed to be on a plane that crashes but isn't because of the cat's intervention.

So what was so impactful about Amra's story? First I couldn't help feeling guilty that I as an American wasn't paying close enough attention during the duration of the Bosnian War to even be aware that the Serbs intended to kill all Bosnians just because they were Muslim. Prior to now I didn't even realize that a genocide was taking place. Because of this book I've done a bit of research and discovered that the Bosnian War started after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992 and lasted for about three and half years, ending in December 1995. Over 100,000 people died during the war and 2.2 million people were displaced. There was indiscriminate bombing on civilians in cities who were also starving because food was not available or the world relief food was confiscated and never made it to the people like Amra and her family. Maybe as many as 50,000 women were sent to what Amra called Serbian 'rape camps'. Most of these women were Bosnian Muslims

Second, Amra Sabic-El-Rayess likens what happened in her country to what she see happening in the USA today with the hatred and divisions being allowed to grow and spill over into all aspects of society--- where one race of people are not given the same respect in the justice system or in society as everyone else. She uses this book as a warning to us. Her messages was powerful and heartfelt.

Yet, despite the horrors of war Amra finds some joy. She falls in love. Though she can go to school very few days in the school year, she enjoys the times she can be with her classmates and the challenge of learning new subjects like how to speak English. Later, amazingly, she earns a full ride scholarship to attend college in the USA. In her notes at the end of the memoir, Sabic-El-Rayess says, "I hope my story shows you how important educations, teachers, schools are. Maci saved my life. Education gave me a new life."

I am not sure if teens will flock to read this book but I hope it does end up in some kids hands and can make a positive difference in their lives. I was thinking who I think would like this book. My mom, who is 91 years old, was the first person who popped in my head. Though it is marketed toward teens I really think it has broader appeal and adults will enjoy it, too.

Now a note about my slow start with this book. As I was racing to read the 21 Cybils finalist nonfiction books in five weeks I seemed to stall out on this one. On closer examination the book seemed to tap into some of my fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and issues related to the blind allegiance in Trump followers. When I muscled past those feelings and settled into the memoir and its superb writing, I was completely charmed. I also switched from the print edition to the audiobook. Hearing the correct pronunciation of names and places helped me relate to the story and picture the events better.

What I liked about the book:

  • This first hand account by a then teenager brought the realities of Bosnian War into focus for me. I also found ways to connect Amra's story to today's new here in the US.
  • The writing was spot on. I was weeping by the end.
  • There are a few pages of after notes about the war and the establishment of new political boundaries. Amra's family now lives in what is called Bosnia-Herzegovia today. There is one page of suggested books for further reading and another for suggested movies about the war.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • I had a hard time getting started on this book. After 50 pages I completely stalled out for a few weeks. This probably has more to do with me than the book itself.
Sources: Print checked out from the library. Audiobook purchased from my Audible account.

-Anne

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Nonfiction review and quotes: HONEYBEE: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera


Title:
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann   

Book Beginnings: 

One morning deep in the nest, a brand new honeybee squirms, pushes, chews through the wax cap of her solitary cell into...a teeming, trembling flurry. Hmmmmmm!

Friday56 (Page 40, last in the book): 

Bees are the only insect in the world that make food people can eat...honey!

Summary: Get up close and personal with one honeybee, Apis, as she embarks on her journey through life. This charming children's book conveys a lot of information along with lovely illustrations about this vital insect.

Review: Think you know a lot about bees? Think again. You will realize you know very little about bees when you read and revel in this masterpiece about the life of one bee. I read this to my young grandson a few days ago and he really got into the story of what Apis does on each day of her short life. At the end of each page the reader is asked if Apis is ready to fly yet. The answer at the top of the next page is "Not yet!" Ian got into saying "not yet" with me. Apis has to do a lot of tasks before she is able to fly and collect nectar. This book is not only a personal favorite, it has received starred reviews from SEVEN publications, and rave reviews from many others who don't give stars. The illustrations are simply gorgeous.
 
What I like about the book:
  • It is so engaging. "Not yet" kept my grandson engaged in a book designed for children a bit older than him.
  • Think you can't learn something from a children's book? Read this one and you'll be amazed at what you didn't know before you read it.
  • The last few pages are designed for the use of adults who want to discuss/do more with the subject. Helping out honeybees, a Bit more buzz, and lists of resources are great places to start.
What you didn't like about the book:
  • On the second to last page of the story, Apis dies. On the last page a new bee is beginning her life.  Not that I didn't like this part, indeed it was necessary to tell the whole story, it just requires quite a bit of explanation to young children. Sensitive kids might even feel sad.
Publishing info: Neal Porter Books, c. February 2020, 40 pages. 
Age range: 6-9 years old, but everyone will like it
Source: Print edition checked out from public library 

-Anne

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Nonfiction review: JANE AGAINST THE WORLD

I always tend to read books with either a librarian's or a teacher's eye. That was certainly the case as I read Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal. First as a librarian I had to check the call number to see if the book would be shelved with other court cases or with books about sexual/social issues. 342.7308 falls within the category of books dealing with constitutional or administrative law, so now I can picture where it would sit on the library shelf and who its companion books would be. 😊 Secondly as a teacher  I always try to imagine students actually reading the books I am reviewing. with this book I can only imagine students reading it, or part of it, if they are assigned Roe v. Wade as a topic for their AP Government class. 😕

That said you'd think I didn't really like the book and there you would be wrong. This book is tremendous. It pulls together historical aspects of sexual and reproductive rights, and knowledge and legislation on this topic, focusing not only on abortion but on birth control and education leading up to the landmark case of Roe v. Wade in 1973. 

Before I was a librarian, I was a high school health teacher. Just about every other page of Jane Against the World gave me some new information that I should have known as I was teaching about reproduction to my students or elaborated on known details. The author, Karen Blumenthal, said in her notes that she started the project as a look at abortion through the history of the famous lawsuit Roe v. Wade. But she found as she was trying to understand Roe she realized she needed to understand how the lawsuit came about and about the laws that preceded Roe. Before she knew it she was enmeshed is a larger story about women's rights, reproductive rights, racial discrimination, medicine, and religion. It is amazing that the book wasn't twice as it is.

My daughter and I had a heart-felt conversation about abortion and reproductive rights after I finished Jane Against the World. She is a genetic counselor who sometimes delivers information to her patients about the genetic condition of their fetus that cause couples to consider aborting. These patients have that option because they live in a state where abortions are available and considered a viable health treatment. But she reminded me that all of her patients have health insurance and have gone through the testing to determine genetic conditions. Many women in the USA and the world do not have the money or the option to do this. Even today if abortions were made illegal, women with money would obtain them while women with fewer financial resources would be left to suffer back-room abortions or carry a pregnancy to term against their will. The hypocrisy of the situation is deplorable. While many right-to-lifers rail against abortion they also do not want people to receive free birth control. It is quite maddening.


Every high school and public library must purchase a copy of this book. It is excellent.

What I liked about the book:

  • It is very readable and thorough.
  • It is an excellent research tool with over 60 pages of chapter notes, a long bibliography,  a timeline of reproductive rights, and an index.
  • The story doesn't stop when Roe passed. A whole section covers what has happened around abortion rights since its passage.
What I didn't like about the book:
  • At times I did feel like the book got down pretty deep into the weeds of all the details. Occasionally I found myself speed-reading through those sections. I was interested but not that interested. But by in large, the book is an excellent research tool and a fascinating read in its own right.

Source: print edition checked out from my public library.

-Anne

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Nonfiction review: THE TALK: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RACE, LOVE, AND TRUTH


In the forward of The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love, and Truth the editors Wade and Cheryl Hudson talk about their own experience giving "the talk" to their two children because they wanted to make sure that they knew the ways to stay as safe as possible in a society that is too often hostile to African Americans. Other contributors talked about how they broached the subject with their daughters about staying safe around their gender and about sex. Others talked about their Native American heritage or recalled the time they received "the talk" from one of their own parents. The universal theme in all of the conversations: parents love their children, want them to be proud of their heritage, and pray that they will be safe as they go out into the world. Parents want to empower their children. All of the conversations are are real and honest. If an event caused the child to feel small, these parents wanted to turn the conversation around so the child could embrace the truth: they were born to be big.

The essays and illustrations are created by a diverse cast of authors and artists using a variety of mediums, styles, and forms. There are letters, lists, poems,  short stories, and essays. Illustrations (all in black and white) rendered in watercolor, collage, pen and ink, acrylic, comics, and digital styles. The messages shared are diverse and heart-warming in their sincerity.

I devoured the book, smiling, laughing, crying, and sighing as I read these tender remembrances of tough but necessary conversations.  I recalled "the talk" I had with my mom after I started menstruation. Oh, was that mortifying. I cringed at the thought of the parent having to teach their child what to do if a police officer pulled them over---hands on the dashboard, move slowly, speak calmly. Oh, to live in a society where that conversation was not necessary. A Latinx parent reminded her child to not be ashamed of her first language. "Our words are beautiful. Our words belong here. They give you more ways to understand people around you...Remember that no language is better than another." An Asian-American parent tells her daughter to not accept the cliche "China Doll" from people or men, because it diminishes her. They think she is as cute as a toy, but she is really strong and fierce! So many wonderful empowering messages in this book to contemplate and to savor.

What I liked about the book:

  • At the end of the book all the authors and artists were named and their accomplishments highlighted. Some I had heard of before, most I hadn't. I was glad to learn more about each of them.
  • The variety of contributors was refreshing: Blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQIA+, Native American, Asian-American, Latinx, and immigrants.
  • All the conversations, whether personal or historical in nature, and in whatever writing style moved me and helped advance my own empathic knowledge.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • Once again I am wondering if this book is being marketed to the right audience.  As a Cybils Award nonfiction judge I am told this is a Middle-grade book, for students from 5th to 8th grade. I do think all people would benefit from reading this book children to adults, but I just have a hard time imagining young pre-teens picking this book up on their own. Note to parents: If you want your kids to read it, check it out (or purchase it) yourself and read it together!

-Anne