Dear Readers, welcome to Title Talk, 02.2020. Haven’t posted a book review since 10.2019 when I shared my review of The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib. That book was my online book club’s choice to read for October. I devoured it. With my ears on Audible.
When I started writing this blog, I thought it would be mostly book reviews. Probably because I was doing it to fill the idle hours of retirement after working 25 years as a librarian. Books had been so much of my life for so long. Funny how the blog morphed into something else – less about books which were so much a part of my former life. And more about the whole range of things that fills my life these days in retirement.
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Title Talk 02.2020
My Goodreads goal is to read 33 books. Same as last year. In preparation for the March Texas Library Association annual conference, that I hope to attend with my sissy Valerie, I’ve begun reading some of the nominees for this and next year’s Bluebonnet Award. Learn more about the children’s book award, here. While you are there, be sure to check out the master lists for each year since the award’s conception in 1981. I’m counting even the children’s books that I am reading toward my Goodreads goal because reading is reading, right? So, here a couple I’ve especially liked.
Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented
Written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Steve Salerno, Pass Go and Collect $200 recounts the history of perhaps the world’s most popular board game, Monopoly.
In the late 1800s lived Lizzie Magie, a clever and charismatic woman with a strong sense of justice. Waves of urban migration drew Lizzie’s attention to rising financial inequality. One day she had an idea: create a game that shows the unfairness of the landlord-tenant relationship. But game players seemed to have the most fun pretending to be wealthy landowners. Enter Charles Darrow, a marketer and salesman with a vision for transforming Lizzie’s game into an exciting staple of American family entertainment. Features back matter that includes “Monopoly Math” word problems and equations. Excellent STEM connections and resources. [source]
Girl power! Pass Go and Collect $200 is a great read for Women’s History Month in March. So many good lessons shared by this picture book. It’s a great way to introduce patents, copyright, plagiarism, sticking up for one’s self. Lizzie Magie is credited with creating the first Monopoly game. That recognition almost eludes her, though, as does the financial gain that inventing a world-renowned game could bring. I would have liked a little more information about Lizzie’s life, but this book isn’t a biography exactly. It is more a lesson in marketing and business and self-advocacy.
They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems
This is another Bluebonnet nominee. When I checked out these books at the library, I didn’t really look at them, or even read their synopses. Just made a list of a half dozen titles, found them on the shelf and borrowed them. So I wasn’t sure what to expect with each one.
Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He’s starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool.
In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro Mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd—reader, gamer, musician—who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She’s tough as nails.
But trusting in his family’s traditions, his trusty accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope.
He writes poetry. [source]
When I opened They Call Me Güero, I was surprised to find it isn’t a book of sing-songy, rhyming stanzas of poetry. It is a story told in verse. A narrative poem or collection of narrative poems that reads more like a novel. When I opened the book and began to read the first – poem – “Border Kid,” I was enchanted.
While I am not a border kid, I am border adult. In my career as an elementary school librarian, I have known oodles of border kids (and adults). This book perfectly depicts the life of a Mexican-American child whose roots stretch from the homeland of his ancestors across the border and into his own homeland, the U.S.
Funny poems about his 3 amigos, the Bobbys. Poignant poems about leaving Mexico to return home after a visit to maternal grandparents and a ‘recharging’ of his Mexican culture, identity. Poems about celebrations that are a mix of the old country and the new. I was swept away into the collective lives of my former students. Some of the poems and anecdotes so very familiar and others new to me.
I will be buying this book to add to my own personal library. Even though I rarely read books twice. Even though I am trying to cut back on the books that I buy these days. I will buy this book to hold onto a little bit of all of the children, my students, my babies that I loved so much in my 25 years in El Paso schools.
Long Bright River
This is an adult book I read with my online book club. It was our January read but took me into February to finish listening to it. Even with all the drives over the mountain to help with Cia and Cami!
In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.
Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.
Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate. [source]
The Long Bright River still haunts me. This book and the discussion it inspired in my online book club have made me more empathetic to the desperate life of the addict. It prompted club members to contemplate the impact of nature versus nurture in a child’s upbringing. I thought of my own 2 daughters who I raised virtually the same way but who are so different in many ways.
As the story unfolds, readers come to understand better what has made the sisters in the book the way they are. The main character, Mickey, seemed to me to be a bit of a cold fish. Fairly early on in the book, you come to realize how difficult it is for her to say ‘I love you’ to her son. But you don’t fully understand why that is until later. So I found myself mentally admonishing her for that. Until I came to understand her better.
I was also quick to judge Kacey as a good-for-nothing ‘druggie.’ But as the story unfolded, I came to realize that much of what led to her drug abuse was not her fault.
Upon making these discoveries, I had to chastise myself for being so judgmental of both characters, and folks in real life that are a lot like them. I have never had much patience or tolerance for addicts of any sort. So grateful that Long Bright River and the loved ones friends have lost to drugs recently have softened.
Final Thoughts for Title Talk 02.2020
I had to do some soul searching to come to understand the characters in Long Bright River. Particularly, Kacey’s self-abusive nature. Have always prided myself in having a good deal of self-control. But this book caused me to reflect on how the mental health meds I take help me through my own issues. While I don’t use drug to escape my problems, I do use drugs – prescription drugs – to help me better handle my problems. And many folks aren’t as fortunate as I to have health care. Not to excuse, in anyway, Kacey’s drug abuse. Just trying to move away from my natural instinct to find fault. To be sadly judgmental.
Funny how things happen, how life happens. We were at the Alan Jackson concert Friday night. His second opening act was Tenille Townes, a young Canadian singer I had never heard before. Her last song was a recent hit entitled “Somebody’s Daughter.” If you have seen my posts on Facebook about the song, forgive me for sharing again here. This song really spoke to me. And could be the perfect song track for this book. If you don’t know this song, please take 3 minutes to listen.
What are your currently reading? What titles would you share for Title Talk 02.2020? I have way too many books going right now. Let me count them in my head…3 novels, a devotional, a children’s chapter book, a children’s biography and today, in the hot tub, PC and I started listening to a book together. Check that off the old winter bucket list.
What’s going on in your world this week? I am subbing tomorrow for 4th grade. Say a prayer! My friend’s class so I am sure things will be great but still…they are almost 5th graders. And 5th graders always scared me. Pickleball on Wednesday, helping with Cia on Thursday. And some fun blog posts coming your way. Hope you will visit again soon. Thank you for your friendship!
Hugs and kisses,