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My 2017 Review in Books: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Reading with Nieces Wrap-Up

5 Jan

It is now 2018, and I wanted to use my first post of the year to wrap up some of my 2017 reading.

I followed the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge last year (more about that here), and completed 13 out of the 24 tasks–a lot further than I’ve gotten in past challenges! It motivates me for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge, for which I have already read one book. I will discuss that in another blog post.

Two completed Read Harder Challenge tasks that I didn’t get around to writing up were:

  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
  • Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme of other than love

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

behold-dreamers

Behold the Dreamers, Mbue’s debut novel and the pick of the Mile Square City Readers Book Club that I co-lead in September, is about Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga and his family living in New York City before the Great Recession of 2008. It was well received and generated an excellent discussion among the group, in particular about Jende’s wife Neni who was a pivotal character. This book will pull you in with the characters’ secrets and some surprises.

Pearl translated by Simon Armitage

pearl

Pearl is an allegorical poem about a man grieving the loss of his daughter that dates back to the fourteenth century. The original Middle English text is printed on one side of the page, and the modern English translation is printed on the facing page. I admit to reading the translated side as Middle English was too daunting. The poem was a beautiful depiction of loss and mourning. Click here for examples of Old English, Middle English, and Modern English to see the differences.

Another reading challenge I assigned to myself was to read books with my nieces. My two older nieces had formal summer reading assignments, which I wrote about here and here, that I followed. My youngest niece Samantha, now in fourth grade, at first pushed back when I asked her to pick a book to read together. Then one evening she called and told me she wanted to read The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.

Poppy Pendle was born on the floor of a bakery, which instilled in her a passion for baking. She is also a witch–her parents want to focus on developing her powers but she would much rather bake. This leads to a clash between Poppy and her parents, which causes her powers to go out of control.

The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe

power-poppy-pendle

Truth time: I didn’t get around to reading this book in the summer. After finishing the book in the fall I called Sam to get her thoughts. Turns out she didn’t finish the book! She told me that she “barely has time to do anything.” Oh, kids.

Even though Sam didn’t read much of the book, I see why she picked this title: recipes are included at the end! Sam loves baking. When we are together we bake. She is not as interested in cleaning up after baking, leaving the messes for me, but she is getting better in that area.

Maybe next summer Sam will have more time and we can read a book together. 🙂

IMG_3246

By the way, this is Sam

I read lots of other things in 2017, but wanted to keep this post brief. I am active on Goodreads. Join me at either the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books on January 17 and the Mile Square City Readers Book Club on January 23.

Happy Reading in 2018!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: Numbering All the Bones and Chinese Cinderella (and Read Harder Task 11)

13 Sep

I realize that summer may be over as Labor Day has come and gone and school is back in session, but I am holding on to summer until Autumn Equinox on Friday September 22. That means I have a little more than a week to finish the last book of my three nieces’ summer reading assignments.

Click here to read about the books my eldest niece, a high school freshman, and I read over the summer.

Next up is my middle niece, who I introduced in this post about media inspired by Hurricane Katrina. Alyssa is now a seventh grader who loves Pokemon and designed her own video game that included her pet dachshund in summer camp.

Her summer reading assignment was Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi (fiction) and Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (nonfiction). The titles were assigned by her school for all rising seventh graders.

The books were similar in that the protagonists are young girls who have lost their mothers and are shunned by their fathers and face abuse. I thought these were horrifying themes to assign to twelve year olds to read over summer (says me, who likes to read about disaster and crime), but the books do offer much for children to learn and think about.

Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi

numbering-all-bones

The story follows thirteen-year-old Eulinda who is a house slave in Georgia in 1864. Her mother is deceased. Her father is the master of her plantation who won’t acknowledge her, and she is abused by his wife. Eulinda is separated from her two brothers–one was sold to another plantation and the other is a Union Soldier.

I believe this book was assigned because of the Civil War-era setting, and the discussion of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the dynamics between the Union and the Confederacy then. There is even a sly reference in the text to a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.

When assigning this book Alyssa’s teachers probably didn’t foresee last month’s violence in Charlottesville and the resultant discussion of whether or not statues of Confederate figures are still relevant in the twenty-first century. I feel these difficult current events can be connected to the book in a thoughtful class lesson and discussion.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this book. Historical fiction is not my cup of tea. Alyssa didn’t like it either. But it was a well-written book with an interesting heroine, and a good historical fiction choice for tweens.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

chinese-cinderella

This book starts off tragically: Adeline’s mother dies shortly after she is born in 1937. Her family blames her for her mother’s death, and she faces unspeakable abuse by her cruel stepmother, her siblings, and her father.

Her father remarried after Adeline’s mother passed, and had two children who were treated much better than Adeline and her other siblings. The step-mother, definitely wicked per the Cinderella trope, seemed to enjoy mistreating and tormenting young Adeline. There is one particularly awful scene that involves Adeline’s pet duckling.

Readers will learn about China’s history during and after World War II, which is relevant as the country’s profile has risen in recent years. There is an introduction to the Chinese language, with characters interspersed throughout the text. The Cinderella theme makes the book familiar to readers of all ages.

Despite the grimness, I did enjoy this book. It is written beautifully and the story is compelling. Alyssa said the book is “really sad”. Some lingering questions I have about this book are if Adeline forgave her siblings for the terrible way they treated her. She has a memoir called Falling Leaves that I will add to my to-read list.

Reading this book completed the Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location task for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I’m following. You can read more about my Read Harder journey at this link.

I have one more book to read with my little niece, and will report back once I finish it. Hopefully I can get it done before summer officially ends on September 22!

Has your summer reading extended into September? When does summer end for you?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

 

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