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broodings from the burrow

May 28, 2017

into the stacks 2017: the final books of january
posted by soe 2:31 am

At last! A full month’s worth of books done!

Here are the final three books I read in January:

Juana and Lucas, by Juana Medina
In this illustrated chapter book for early elementary school readers, Juana is a chatty young Colombian girl who enjoys having adventures with her dog, Lucas. They love playing soccer, reading, and the comic book superhero Astroman. But when her new school year begins with the announcement that Juana’s class is going to start learning English, she objects. Her life is already pretty awesome, she posits, and anything that tickles her tongue like English does is bound to take away some of its joy. She complains to Lucas, of course, but also to her neighbors, to the guys who own the local bodega, and to her abuela and abuelo, all of whom she expects to sympathize. But instead each offers their unique perspective on maybe why it’s not such a bad idea. Will any of them prove convincing?

Adorably illustrated, this first in a planned series of books intersperses Spanish into the English text, making this an excellent stepping stone for a kid who’s grown up loving Dora and other English-Spanish tv shows. Charming.

Pages: 96. Library copy.

A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson has earned a rugby scholarship to a fancy boarding school in Connecticut, pulling him half a world away from his mother, sister, and London home. He’s not especially excited about it, but he is curious to meet one of Sherringford’s other foreign students, the brilliant Charlotte Holmes (whose had a notorious drug problem in her earlier years and now runs a popular and illicit poker game to help her finance her science experiments. As you might know, their great-great-great-grandfathers had been partners once, maybe even friends. But things got weird between them — and stayed weird through the generations — so the two have never met.

So when they do — he defends her honor to one of his teammates, she bawls him out for doing so — there might be sparks. But they might be of hatred on her part; Jamie’s just not sure. Then the teammate dies, and Charlotte is the lead suspect. But isn’t it unusual how it resembles one of the cases their relatives once worked on together? Could someone be plotting against them? There’s certainly nothing to do but investigate things themselves! How could that possibly go wrong?

If, like me, you enjoy Sherlock Holmes tellings and retellings, this twist of a YA story is for you. As an added bonus, the second book of this planned trilogy came out earlier this year, so you don’t even have to wait to dive back in if you love Jamie and Charlotte’s adventures.

(On a side and mostly unrelated note: I grew up in a town with a fancy boarding school (where I was fortunate enough to attend summer camp one year) not unlike Sherringford and couldn’t help but overlay its setting onto the story as I was reading it. I don’t think I realized I’d done so until I was thinking back on the book just now.)

Pages: 321. Library copy.

Not Your Sidekick, by C.B. Lee

At first glance, Jess is just your average high schooler fingerling over superhero comics. Her parents are realtors, she’s got a couple best friends, an older sister, a younger brother, and a crush. But this isn’t your average world: This is a futuristic dystopian world where super heroes and super villains exist (and are celebrities), where you wear a biometric bracelet that tracks your whereabouts, monitors your vital signs, and downloads your email and social media. So Jess’ parents are (secretly) minor super heroes and her sister is a more major one. Her precocious brother is in college. Her best friends have unspoken crushes on each other (and one of them has been bailing on them a lot). And her crush, Abby, a red-headed volleyball player, is the daughter of the richest tech developers in town (who, it turns out, also secretly happen to be her parents’ arch-nemeses).

Jess is desperate to discover a latent superpower of her own (they often run in families), but she’s pretty sure she’s an ordinary dud. To comfort herself (and maybe annoy her parents), she finds an internship at Abby’s parents’ business, where she starts to discover that the world around her isn’t maybe as black and white as she’d grown up believing.

With a cast of characters that are both multi-ethnic (Jess and her family are Asian; one of her best friends is Caribbean) and queer-friendly (Jess is bi, but doesn’t want to have anything to do with her school’s LGBTQQA group; the same best friend is transgender; there are inquiries of preferred personal pronouns), this is a definitely a modern novel for today’s teens.

I do have two quibbles with the book: One, the editing is not the strongest, and I felt like certain pieces of information were out of order at times, and this made reading confusing periodically. And second, in my copy, at least, an ad for the second book in the series just inside the back cover, gave away some spoilers I wish I hadn’t seen until after the book was done (I was flipping back to see how many pages were in the book).

In general, though, I liked the book and recommend it, particularly if you’re looking for an #ownvoices work of speculative fiction. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. Recommended especially to those who prefer the more diverse superheroes found in titles today and for those who sometimes thing the villains are more interesting than the heroes in stories. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Pages: 283. Personal copy.

Totals for January:

Book stats:

  • 10 books
  • 2,775 pages
  • 8 print, 2 audiobook
  • 9 library copies, 1 owned
  • All fiction
  • Diverse main character(s): 5
  • Audience: 3 adult (I’m filing the Black Panther graphic novel in this category), 5 YA, 1 MG, 1 early reader

Author stats:

  • 8 women, 2 men
  • Own voices (This category started out as a desire for more diverse characters, but it was soon pointed out that this just resulted in straight, white, cis, not-disabled authors creating characters who sometimes were great, but who oftentimes missed the mark because authors were imposing assumptions on characters and the communities they were representing, rather than drawing on personal experience. This hashtag is often used to clarify that books are written by an author who has a personal experience within a community about whom they’re writing. This category only reflects information commonly available in author bios. I’m not going hunting.): 4
  • Country of residence: all American
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