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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

 

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club Summer Reads: Leviathan Wakes, The Gunslinger, and The Hobbit

6 Sep

The Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club read some great books over the summer that I wanted to share with our blog readers. (Click here to find out what else they’ve read.)  The group meets one Monday each month to discuss a Science Fiction or Fantasy book picked by group members.  New members are always welcome.  Before the book discussion we also watch either a film adaptation or a movie in a similar genre to the work being read which allows those who are SciFi or Fantasy fans but might be busy to read this month’s selection to still participate in the group.  I hope you will check out some of these books and films and consider joining us in September when we will discuss The Stepford Wives by Ira Levine on September 25 at 6 PM with a movie screening at 4 PM.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

leviathan-wakes
Several members of the group were fans of TV series The Expanse and wanted to read Leviathan Wakes, which the series the show is based on for our June Pick.  Corey is actually the pseudonym of two authors and the book series started out as first a story line for a video game and then a table top game created by Ty Franck before the collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Franck led to the books.  Interestingly Ty Franck worked for a while as an assistant to George R.R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones, a previous book club pickLeviathan Wakes is set in a future where space travel is common, but faster than light travel has not yet been reached leading people to inhabit Earth, Mars, and an Asteroid Belt, but not yet to have moved beyond our Solar System.  The book has elements of science fiction, horror, and mystery.  It received a very positive response from the group members, several of who braved a severe thunderstorm to get to the discussion.  It was so popular that we may read another of the books in the series in the future.  We complimented the book with a screening of Wall-E, an animated favorite of one of our group members, which has an important environmental message.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

gunslinger
In July, the group wanted to read The Gunslinger the first in the Dark Tower series before the movie adaptation came out in theaters at the beginning of August.  I’m not always a huge fan of King’s, but I was intrigued by some of the other group members’ enthusiasm and the fact that the idea of the Dark Tower was partially inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” I appreciate taking part in the group since it pushes me to read outside of my comfort zone sometimes.  The book is a mix of fantasy, horror, western, and mystery and is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Roland, the last gunslinger, is attempting to stop the mysterious and powerful sorcerer, the Man in Black.  The group watched a preview the movie studio had put online and discussed the casting (general consensus was we like the choice of casting Idris Elba for the role of Roland, but were less sure about Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black).  I will be interested to hear what the group members think of it once they see the whole film.

Before the book discussion we watched the 1973 movie Westworld, Michael Crichton’s directorial debut.  Before this I had only seen one episode of the recent TV series which was based on the movie.  The movie immediately felt a lot lighter than the TV series and everyone praised the excellent performance by Yul Brynner.  You can also borrow the sequel to the film Futureworld and the TV Series Beyond Future World from the Hoboken Public Library.

The Hobbit by ‎J. R. R. Tolkien

hobbit
You may remember back in January I wrote a blog celebrating that this year was 125th Anniversary of Tolkien’s birth.  We decided to read The Hobbit for our August book.  It was probably about 30 years since I had last read the book as a child and I feel like the book not only held up for me, but I also enjoyed the story even more than when I had first read it.  The other group members seemed to have similar positive experiences upon their rereads.  One of the group was even inspired to reread the books in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy.  The group watched the first in the Peter Jackson trilogy based on the book which many members felt was the best of the three recent adaptations; many of the group members would have preferred that less had been added to the original text to pad out the movies.

If you are interested in other genres, the library has two additional book discussion groups you can join.  Our Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books will meet Wednesday September 20 at 7 PM to discuss Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.  The Mile Square City Readers Book Club takes a page from Oprah’s Book Club this month, and will discuss Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers on Tuesday September 19 at 6:30 PM.  In the fall we are also planning to start a Creative Writer’s group.  The Hoboken Public Library is your source for great books and conversation!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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