75 Books Update, The Last

Well, that was a stupid pledge to make. Let’s see how I did, behind the cut:

55. Pop! by Aury Wallington – I forgot to post about this lovely YA book! Fans of Pretty in Pink will be especially tickled by it. See Colleen’s take, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

56. A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones – A lovely, slipstreamy, mysterious book about Declan Steeple and the haunted (by memories, anyway) house on the hill. I read this one because Wynne-Jones is on the faculty at Vermont College, but you should read it because it’s beautifully written.

57-60. I read for a review assignment and can’t discuss yet.

(Note: During the next big chunk, I was making my way through (most of) the reading list for my coming VC residency’s short course on children’s literature.)

61. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. Great picture book about only thinking you’re the star of the show and being okay with that … as long as your dog really is the star. Oh, and it helps people.

62. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – Surely I don’t have to tell you about this one. The monsters are still just as cute and scary, though I’d never noticed how much the framing (or lack thereof) of the illustrations impacts the story.

63. Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney – The story is simple, the illustrations gorgeous and distinctive.

64. Black and White by David Macauley – Wow.

65. Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz – This is one of my favorites; a picture book about a night of rioting. I especially like this:

Below us they are smashing everything. Windows, cars, streetlights.

"They look angry. But they look happy, too," I whisper.

"After awhile it’s like a game," Mama says.

66. Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes – Yeah, I’m a total sucker for the simple, pretty illustrations in this one. Not to mention: Kitten! You can’t drink the Moon!

67. So You Want to Be President? By Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small – This book inspired no small amount of debate on New Year’s Eve; some felt a hidden conservative agenda in the reference to Clinton’s impeachment. But, hey, Nixon got three sentences to that one. All-in-all, an admirable, clever effort to teach kids about the presidency and to make them believe anyone can be president. And the illustrations are perfect.

68. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian – A picture book about Wilson A. Bentley‘s snowflake photographs. This one is very good.

69. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor – This is probably my favorite of all the books on the reading list. It reminds me a great deal of To Kill a Mockingbird, and not just because it deals frankly with racial injustice. It’s because I can think of few other books — especially set in the South — that develop such a convincing and engaging child narrator as Cassie. Taylor never flinches, but she also resists oversimplification. Her absolute refusal to present things as anything other than what they were is gripping.

70. Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear by Lensey Namioka – A perfectly charming little book about Yang’s adjustment to America, and his getting his family to deal with the fact that he will never be a musician. There’s some really nice bits of this involving idiom and mistranslation.

71. Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary – Who doesn’t love Ramona? 

Ramona asked in a quiet voice, "Mother, why is Beezus so cross lately?" Letting her sister overhear such a question would lead to real trouble.

"You musn’t mind her," whispered Mrs. Quimby. "She’s reached a difficult age."

Ramona thought such an all-purpose excuse for bad behavior would be a handy thing to have. "So have I," she confided to her mother.

This is the one where her father gets laid off from his job; eventually, at the end, he gets a new one as a check-out cashier. I can’t remember the last time I read about a real blue collar family like this, where it was portrayed as okay and a non-issue to not be the Joneses.

72. Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes – When’s the last time you read an adult novel with constantly shifting point of view accented by poetry? Yeah, me neither. Grimes turns out a cutting edge performance, profiling the cast of open mic Friday in an inner city English class that’s been studying the Harlem Renaissance.

73. Dragonwings by Lawrence Yep – I actually read the theatrical adaptation of this story of a young Chinese boy joining his father at the family-owned laundry in San Fransciso in the early Twentieth Century.

74. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon – This was one of my favorite picture books growing up and it still holds up. The illustrations are exquisite and my favorite part. The use of color and shape is fantastic.

75. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – A relaxed, beautifully made book.

76. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff – Babar is my favorite. This is such an odd, oddly structured narrative. Not to mention gorgeous.

77. Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester – A recasting of Helen Bannerman’s controversial Little Black Sambo. Very good.

78. Holes by Louis Sachar – This was a reread, and what a wonderful novel this is. If you haven’t read it, do so immediately. So good. Marvel at the materful use of POV.

79. The Dark Thirty by Patricia McKissack – Well, you know how I love the scary stories. Good stuff here.
80. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel – I heart that silly Frog and Toad. Makes surprisingly good out-loud reading to adults.

81. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – You know this one. It’s the one about death. (wink)

82. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann – Yay! 

83. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka – This one also makes excellent out-loud reading to your sweetie while he cooks the supper.

84. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman – I love this. Historical fiction with a plucky heroine writing in her diary (initially to avoid stitching), and trying her hardest to avoid marriage. Lots of fun.

(And now for the LBC required reading, the last one of which I’m still finishing up at the voting wire but the bulk of it was last year, so last year it counts as!)

85. Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones – Not really my thing, but more on this when it’s up for discussion. Bonus points for the author photo.

86. Seven Loves by Valerie Trueblood – This one was my cuppa, but, again, more when it’s time.

87. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa’Thiong’O – Otherwise known as "The Long-Ass Book Nominated by CAAF." But this one was really, really my cuppa and I feel safe saying that even with more book to go. More later.

(Back to VC-related reading!)

88. Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard – One of the most optimistic books you’ll ever read that turns on a sentient robot’s fate — which is one reason I like it so much. (Also, there’s a ship called the Le Guin!)

89. Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert – I was pretty much guaranteed to love this, what with it being about the Circus Polka and George Balanchine (and Igor Stravinsky). And I did.

So, yeah, I made it to 75 after all with a mad dash there at the end. And for those of you thinking that picture books don’t count: Shame! Shame! They very much do.

This year I’m not making any promises to read a set number of books, but I’ll attempt to capture the books I do. And the stories and essays and things like that.   

3 thoughts on “75 Books Update, The Last”

  1. This post reminded me of a time in college – I was, at the time, an elementary education major, and this semester’s assignment was to read 60 children’s books and do a one-page write-up on each one. In my youthful foolishness I procrastinated long enough to forget what a massive undertaking this would be, and found myself the night before it was due (at 8am the next day) with nothing written. I had read most (some) of the books, but had to fly through the rest, and was up all night typing my 60 pages. I had an old Smith-Corona typewriter/word processor that was as loud as a machine gun when it printed, and so around 4 or 5 am I took it down to the student lounge, away from my slumbering schoolmates, to print it out. I remember dozing while it was printing and waking up when it went silent. Not my proudest moment. Sent the paper to class with my roommate and went to bed.

  2. Because I have a nearly-four-year-old, I’ve been rereading a lot of the picture-book classics. (In fact, we just checked out Snowflake Bentley because of Meg’s obsession with snow.) One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s such a different experience reading them aloud, and very interesting hearing, say, the differences between my husband reading it and me reading it. (Not, perhaps, as exciting as the differences between “Hal Duncan” and “Karen Joy Fowler” reading the A-Team intro, but interesting anyway.) It’s like getting two books for the price of one.
    I’m going to use your list for ideas, next visit to the library…

  3. My son Noah is all about Frog and Toad. More specifically, he is Frog (especially when he wears his magic green frog sweater, which makes him talk like Frog), and I am Toad, and expected to talk in the appropriate deep, innocent, gravelly, and vaguely pissed-off Toad voice, which he cannot get enough of, viz.:
    Me: Noah, what would you like for lunch?
    Noah: Talk like Toad in this game.
    Me (gravelly): Frog! What do you want to eat?
    Noah: Pancakes.
    Me: OK, I’ll make pancakes.
    Noah: Talk like Toad in this game.
    Me (gravelly): Frog! I will make pancakes!

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