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July Favorite: The Tightrope Walkers July 25, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
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tightropeOver halfway through the year and I’ve read more than 250 books (including picture books). This month in particular, I’ve had a great run of new YA titles to read, with diverse protagonists, great prose and fascinating insights into friendship, relationships and growing up. Not for the first time, I’ve been a little sad these weren’t around when I was a teen; I wonder how they would have affected my sense of self and the way I interacted with others.

I’ve read three different titles by British heavyweight author David Almond lately and while I’ve really enjoyed all of them, The Tightrope Walkers stood out for its characters, setting and prose. Set in the north of England, it follows Dominic as he grows up in estate housing with a shipyard worker father and a best friend who is an artist. Like Mal Peet’s Life: an Exploded Diagram it explores the tensions between the generations, class divisions in Britain in the 50’s and 60’s; the growth of counterculture and the ways we use art both to escape our lives and to explore them.

Almond has been lauded for awhile now in both Britain and the US, winning a Printz award for his book Kit’s Wilderness and a Hans Christian Andersen award for his body of work. His books range from fantastical middle grade fiction (Skellig) to myth like picture books (Mouse Bird Snake Wolf) to the experimental YA (The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean as telt by hisself) I highly recommend his work to everyone interested in quality YA and children’s literature.

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June Favorite: The Marvels July 4, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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How is it halfway through the year already? I have read 221 books so far this year and 112 of them have been by or about people of color, which means I am on track with my goal. My reading is still skewed heavily towards female writers except in the genre of picture books. I’ve been reading a few more adult books this year, mostly thanks to Twitter and BookRiot, which actually make them sound interesting. I’m still working on including books with LGBTQIA main characters, which brings me to my pick for a favorite in June: The Marvels by Brian Selznick.

marvelsSelznick doesn’t really need any introduction. His book The Invention of Hugo Cabret won a Caldecott, was turned into a highly acclaimed movie and taught many people, including myself, the history of automata. The follow up book, Wonderstruck, expanded on the unique combination of images and words he invented for Hugo. Both works involve mystery, parallel or connected stories of individual children, and the theme of a family chosen. These books also speak to strong inspirations from history and the real world and a sense of curiosity and love of story. The Marvels is no different.

Inspired by theater and a unique museum in London, The Marvels begins with a tale told in images, of a theatrical family living in London in the 17oo’s and of how each successive generation makes it’s mark on the stage. We are left with a tragic event and the narrative shifts into text and the story of Joseph, who has run away from his boarding school in order to find his uncle and hopefully, his best friend. In many ways, this is a classic tale of a virtual orphan convincing family to take them in (I was reminded of the Tillerman cycle by Cynthia Voigt) but the house where Joseph’s uncle lives and the connection to the earlier story about the family makes the book unique.

So much in this book felt like it was speaking directly to me. The idea of holding onto the past, the magic of inventing stories and how theater creates connections between people was all profoundly moving. I can’t wait for everyone to read and laugh and cry and be moved by this book. I’m so glad that Mr. Selznick shared it with us.