Tag Archives: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

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

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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

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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

 

Two More Read Harder Tasks Down, with a Shared Theme of Adulthood: Tasks 8 and 9

2 Jun

In my last post I wrote about how vacation and illness gave me time to read four books for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. These are the two latest books, All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg and An Age of License by Lucy Knisley, which are about two characters wondering if they’re acting their ages.

These two books are different but share the theme of adulthood, and the theoretical questions that come with it. Am I an adult yet? Am I doing things “right”? Am I where I want to be in this point in my life? I realized the books had similar themes as I was writing this post, a pleasant coincidence.

To read past posts about my experience with the Read Harder challenge, click here.

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All Grown Up, by Jami Attenberg

Task 8 was Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location, for which I chose All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg.

My hold request in Cloud Library for this title came through while I was on vacation, and I downloaded the book to the Cloud Library app on my iPhone. (Click here to learn more about what devices support Cloud Library.) The app has a nice, user-friendly interface. In particular, I like the subtle page-turning animation when reading the eBook. I also used the Cloud Library app to listen to How to Murder Your Life, which I wrote about last month. That foresight proved helpful as I finished another book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which doesn’t fulfill any of the Read Harder Challenge Tasks, but is still a terrific nonfiction read) on the flight home and was able to read All Grown Up on my phone.

All Grown Up follows Andrea, a woman in her early 40s living in Brooklyn (geographically 3 miles from Hoboken) who fumbles her way through men, a job she’s terribly bored at but won’t leave because it pays well, and her evolving friendships–feelings many adults around the world have. Her Brooklyn neighborhood is undergoing gentrification, and she is sad to lose the Empire State Building view she once had from her apartment that is now obscured by a new building. I can relate to that, as two giant cranes now blight the view from my window.

Andrea is a complicated character, and sometimes her behavior can be appalling. For example, she is upset when her mother moves from Manhattan to Vermont to help her brother and sister-in-law care for their severely handicapped child.

Through flashbacks we learn more about Andrea’s experiences, which have shaped who she is in the present and allows the reader to sympathize with her. She aspired to be an artist but abandoned that dream and regrets. This a spare, beautiful novel that features a character with whom you may identify but dislike.

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An Age of License, by Lucy Knisley

For Task 9, Read a Travel Memoir, I chose to read An Age of License by Lucy Knisley. After being invited to participate in a comic con in Norway, Lucy decided to travel through Europe to meet up with friends and pursue a love interest based in Sweden, and her experiences are documented in this graphic memoir.

Lucy features many drawings of food she ate on her travels, which appealed to me as I love trying new food when I travel. (Remember how I wrote about in my last post that reading Crazy Rich Asians has inspired me to travel to Singapore and eat at the food stalls in street markets?) Her drawings of cheese and wine and baguettes she ate while in France made me recall my trip to Paris, which was the best food destination I’ve visited so far. (Maybe until I get to Singapore…)

The title An Age of License comes from what Lucy believed was a French saying about youth being a time when you’re free to do whatever you want. Although the phrase turned out to be folly, it’s an interesting idea to ponder.

I liked this book and following Lucy’s travels through Europe, and plan to read more of her work soon. The author was in her late twenties when she wrote it, and she had a lot of Deep Thoughts about her age and life etc. I will celebrate my 35th birthday later this year and have little patience for the navel-gazing that afflicts many twenty-somethings, so my eyes involuntarily rolled while reading some of these sections. Was I as insufferable at that age? When I’m in my forties will I roll my eyes at thirty-somethings? Time will tell.

Stay tuned for my next post on another completed task.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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