Monday, December 23, 2019

Two Boys Kissing - by David Levithan

A first-person plural omniscient narrator tells the story not only of Craig and Harry, who set out to break the world record for the longest kiss (32 hours, 12 minutes, 10 seconds) but also those of Tariq (a recent victim of gay bashing), Cooper (whose parents accidentally discovered he was gay) , Avery and Ryan (about to go on their first date), and Peter and Neil (boyfriends together for a year).

Ryan has a favorite aunt (Caitlin) who "after years of trying to rise in the world of corporate insurance...quit and is now going for her library degree". Caitlin's "love for Ryan is the most unconditional love he will ever feel", and so Ryan knows that her home is a safe place for him to bring Avery, a trans boy for whom he is falling.

Peter and Neil spend some time in a bookstore where Neil puts together a pile of books, the titles of which he uses to send a message to Peter

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This
Just Listen
You're the One that I Want
So Much Closer
The Difference Between You and Me
You Are Here
Where I Belong
I'll Be There
Along for the Ride
The Future of Us
Real Live Boyfriends
Keep Holding On

Peter responds with his own short stack of books

Take a Bow
A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You
Keep Holding On

While this scene took place in a bookstore rather than I library it is certainly worthy of inclusion here. I also like to notice when a book I've blogged about shows up in another book. In this case it is Jacqueline Woodson's I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This.

Later in the book there is also a sneaky reference to Stephen Chbosky's The Perk's of Being a Wallflower

Our narrators provide some insight into their identity. In one of the early hints they tell us
If you are a teenager now, it is unlikely that you knew us well. We are your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother's or your grandmother's best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library. We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore. We are the ghosts of the remaining older generation. You know some of our songs.
 If you are a Gen Xer, or young Baby Boomer now (as is this blogger), you did know them well.

Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians - by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

One in a series of "Lunch Lady" books, this graphic novel demonstrates the power of books and reading, but at the expense of librarians (Rhonda Page, Edna Bibliosa, Vivian Bookwormer, and Jane Shelver). The librarians are out to destroy the new shipment of the X-Station 5000 videogame system and steal money from the cheerleaders, the Book Fair, and the public fund so they can buy weapons in order to carry out their dastardly plan. An epic magic battle the Lunch Lady (using her aresenal of food ammunition) and the Librarians using characters from well known books (e.g. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Three Little Pigs; Alice in Wonderland) ends with the librarians' arrest. Didn't like this one much. The librarians were evil.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Two Naomi's - by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick

I found this novel on the free book exchange shelf at my library. The back blurb indicated that "Naomi Marie starts clubs at the library..." so I took it home to read. It turned out that there was actually quite a bit about libraries in this story of two ten-year olds named Naomi whose parents are dating.

The first page of the story opens with Naomi Marie at her local branch of the New York Public Library talking to librarian Ms. Starr about her new club (Bored? Bored Games!) which appears not to be as popular as Naomi Marie had hoped. Naomi Marie uses the verb "sparkle" when describing how Ms. Starr speaks to her "which must be something they teach in library school" Naomi Marie thinks because her mother, a school librarian, "is like that too, especially ...when she talks about Tom."

Naomi Marie thinks about the library a lot. Even while she's at the beach she's thinking about what books she needs to check out next. And she imagines herself there "accidentally in purpose" pulling up the computer game she and Naomi Edith are creating in order to impress the kids in the Teen Gamez Crew. The adventure game requires the player to use different skills to navigate through different worlds, including naming three Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners and a Newberry. The two Naomis' parents had enrolled both of them in the in the the Girls Gaming the System workshop at the Y, without telling them, in the hopes that it would help them become friends. Their plan turned out to have mixed results. Ultimately everyone learns that just because parents may make unpopular decisions, and are a bit dorky, it doesn't make them bad people.

Naomi Marie really makes good use of the library including placing books on hold. She is excited to be able to walk there with Naomi Edith to pick up the book on "making your old clothes into new ones" that is waiting for her. It is a bit ironic that Naomi Marie's best friend Xiomara (aka Xio) is so uninterested in the library that she needs to be bribed by her parents into going there with a sleepover at Naomi Marie's house.

This is a sweet tale with believably-flawed characters. I read it in an day and allowed myself to bask in some nostalgia about how proud I used to feel as a child when I finished a chapter book.

Visit the authors' websites at

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Most Fun We Ever Had - by Claire Lombardo

I borrowed this novel about Chicago from the library to read during my recent Thanksgiving trip to the Windy City. It tells the tale of the Sorenson family: Marilyn and David and their four daughters (Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace). There is quite a bit of drama between the sisters, and a fair bit of secrecy. But love wins out in the end.

Of course loving families use the library, and we know that the Sorenson's do so from the start. Even sleep-deprived, Marilyn knows to take her two-month old to the library. And like many new mothers she is sure that all the others are better at parenting than she is. She recounts this episode to her husband
I saw this woman at the library today with three kids and the youngest was about Wendy's age and she looked so - competent. And there I was wandering around the new fiction, not even awake, really, and I realized when I got home that I had too many buttons open on my shirt and you could see my whole bra, and I feel like I have this smell about me - do you smell it?
It's clear that trips to the library have become de rigueur by the time third child Liza is born. "The librarian asked me if I'd gotten myself pregnant again. She said she's been noticing that I'm gaining weight" Marilyn tells David by way of explaining that she wants to move from Iowa City back to Chicago, to her childhood home because she just doesn't get out much.

It's swell that the librarian knows the family so well, but really, everyone, never assume anyone is pregnant. And never ask. If someone wants you to know they will tell you.

Adult Violet clearly took her children to the library from a young age as well. She uses a story about a bear keeping a surprise party a secret that they'd heard at story hour as a simile for keeping their new-found half brother (whom Violet gave up for adoption fifteen years prior) a secret from the busybody Shady Oaks moms. Violet's reunion with her birth son (Jonah) is super awkward. She realizes how dull her life is when she drives him through her neighborhood and points out things like her children's school and the Little Free Library for which she helped fund raise. Jonah, who grew up mostly in foster care, also spent some time at Lathrop House (a group home). A place that could use some new iPads for the computer lab and "contemporary books for the library." 

When youngest daughter Grace realizes she is broke, crushing hard on Ben the barista, and, therefore, preoccupied with sex she makes use of the library to "surreptitiously" borrow D.H. Lawrence, Catulus, and Lolita.

Irish twins Wendy and Violet have a long-standing rivalry. Wendy is especially adept at pushing Violet's buttons and decides to give her grief about breastfeeding in front of Wendy - in her own home! "Oh my God, Violet, you have a guest." Wendy taunts. Violet "glanced down at the baby as though she were doing something workaday and normal, filling her gas tank or renewing her library books." Yes, that's because nursing your baby is as perfectly normal as putting gas in your car, or using the library. Don't even get me started. 

Little Women (2018) - the movie

 This modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic work features many of the iconic scenes from the beloved novel, including (spoiler altert!) Beth dies. I mention this because my husband, who has seen the Winona Ryder version of this movie at least twice, seemed blindsided by this turn of events. "You didn't tell me it was going to be a tear-jerker" he sobbed at the end of the film.

Anyway, its inclusion on this blog is made possible by Jo (Sarah Davenport) who, while railing against her editor's demands for further revisions of her novel suggests that she has "other talents" and because she loves books perhaps she could just become "a spinster librarian". Oh, Jo, don't you realize that a simple love of books does not a librarian make? And spinster, really?

Despite this flaw I enjoyed the film.      

Monday, December 2, 2019

Mrs. Fletcher - by Tom Perrotta

Divorced Eve Fletcher is getting ready to send her only son, Brendan, to college. In this case the college is the fictitious Berkshire State University in Massachusetts (aka BSU - the shortened version of  the non-fictitious Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, where I work). This novel alternates between a third-person narration of Eve's life and a first-person narration of Brendan's.

Brendan meets Amber while trying to study at the University library. She comes to the library along with a group of students who are protesting the Michael Brown shooting (Ferguson, Missouri). For Amber Brendan is a "bouquet of red flags" but the two do share the fact that they each have an autistic sibling in common. This, however, is not enough to sustain a relationship. And despite the fact that he occasionally goes to the library to study, Brendan doesn't do well in college, and drops out by Thanksgiving.

Eve, meanwhile has been attending classes at the local community college. She enjoys her class in gender studies and interacting with her classmates, but in the spring when Brendan decides to enroll in classes there she gives this up so as to "spare him the embarrassment of attending the same college as his mother, of possibly bumping into her at the library..."

Something else Eve explores when she becomes an empty-nester is her own sexuality. One way she does is through a three way involving one of her much younger classmates (Julian) and one of her employees (Amanda). Not surprisingly Amanda leaves her job at the Senior Center shortly thereafter in order to take a job at the Public Library as Director of Children's Events "in charge of story time, arts and crafts, author visits, holiday celebrations...Kind of like here (the senior center) just with kids instead of old people." It is at the library that Amanda finds her soul mate "an excommunicated Mormon research librarian named Betsy".

This is good satire. Looking forward to watching the HBO series.