This month I tried to focus on getting into some of the popular series I haven’t read yet but I kept getting sidetracked by other books I had to read for various reasons. Still, I knocked out two classics I’d been meaning to get to: Big Nate and Naruto, and plenty of new ones as well. Without further ado, here’s what I read in February (broken down by age category, and then listed in the order I read them):
Jack’s Beanstalk Stinks by Eric Braun
This is a behind-the-scenes type of book that gives the giant’s perspective from the story Jack and the Beanstalk. It reminds me a lot of the concept of “Wicked” et. al by Gregory Maguire. It’s amusing and humanizes the giant, and I think it would even appeal to those children who aren’t familiar with the original fairy tale. I also appreciate that it had thoughtful questions at the end so that the kids could practice thinking critically about what they’re reading.
Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley
I love this book, mostly because of its push for gender equality and acceptance of the fact that boys can have feelings and that’s ok. Love the rich colors of the illustrations and the simple ending tying it all together – just a boy and his dad.
This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
I’ve been wanting to read Oliver Jeffers since I read “The Day the Crayons Quit” and saw how much I appreciated Jeffers’ illustrative aesthetic. “This Moose Belongs to Me” was the first I saw on the shelves (along with a few books featuring The Hueys) and I liked it a lot. It’s got that dry kind of humor that I think amuses adults more than kids and I appreciate that he doesn’t shy away from challenging words. I’ll definitely be reading more by Jeffers in the future.
Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown
When I saw this book on the shelves I had to read it – I (along with the rest of the country) went through a long period of obsession with the Hamilton Broadway Musical soundtrack. I wanted to see what details about the famous Burr/Hamilton feud I might learn and I wanted to see how this story might differ from the musical. I liked the compare and contrast format that was employed – pairing moments in Hamilton’s life alongside congruous moments in Burr’s – and I thought it was good that the book took some steps to reclaim Burr’s damaged reputation, much in the way the musical does. All in all, an interesting and educating read.
Ella by Mallory Kasdan and Marcus Chin
Immediately after writing my recent post about my childhood favorites I spotted this book on our shelves – a parody of everyone’s favorite young hotel dweller Eloise. Ella is a much-needed update featuring a Manny (male nanny) with tattoo sleeves who likes to discuss Kubrick films and an MIA actress mama who knows Bono and Skypes with her daughter each night before bed. I loved this book. I think it would resonate with some kids who might have otherwise enjoyed Eloise, but I think it’s much more written for the “adult kids” who would appreciate all the sarcastic jokes nestled within.
Big Nate: In a Class By Himself by Lincoln Pierce
As mentioned above, this was one of the ones I knew I needed to read after seeing it fly off our shelves consistently within minutes of it being placed there. Kids love this stuff. After reading it myself, I can see why. Funny graphics, relatable plot, and all-around good storytelling make this book great.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
I picked this book up off our AR copy stack a few months back because I loved the cover but quickly shoved it down in my TBR pile once I read the inside jacket summary – it felt way too cliche YA, complete with a main character who is *so
unique* with her very oddly specific medical problem and a doomed crush on the cute and mysterious boy next door. But after reading a bunch of positive reviews I finally gave it a chance and I’m so glad I did. Yes, the concept was still a little corny (did her crush have to wear all-black and be into Parkour?) but the main character’s refreshing maturity and the twist ending in combination with the diary-style graphics throughout this book made it well worth the read.
Upside Down: A Vampire Story #1 by Jess Smart Smiley
I picked this off our shelves solely because of the Haloween-style art on the front cover and I’ll admit that’s mostly why I liked this book. The plot was ok, definitely on the younger juvenile side, but the images were very appealing (especially the simple two-color style featuring a green the author says at the end he dreamed of for months before finding exactly the right shade.) I’m not sure I would go out of my way to read any subsequent volumes but I did enjoy spending some time perusing this novel.
Naruto #1 by Masashi Kishimoto
I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy this because I have a hard time with graphic novels (I usually skip over the pictures and miss important plot points) especially when the images are as detailed as the ones found in most Manga. But I wanted to give it a go because I am trying to broaden my knowledge base for the Manga club we hold monthly. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. It was funnier than I expected and I was able to easily follow the plot. I am probably not going to read more than the first, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to get sucked in (there are more than 70 books in the series, and I have a lot in my TBR queue!)
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
I actually listened to this in audiobook form, which I would highly recommend. Lawson tells her wacky life story better than I could ever read it in my own head. I was laughing out loud sometimes and retelling the stories to my friends (who didn’t think it was nearly as funny as I did.) Overall I think this was a much better-constructed book than Lawson’s recent work, Furiously Happy (though I enjoyed that one as well). Lawson’s life is fascinating and her candid honesty and ability to laugh at any situation is entertaining, if not inspiring.
When Panic Attacks by David Burns
I’ve been trying to get a better sense of how to handle anxiety and depression so as to be a better friend and I thought this book was very impressive. Some of the tips resonated even with me, and the chapter about the myth of the curing powers of anti-depressants was fascinating. Highly recommend for any who are looking to manage any level of anxiety.