Archive for the ‘True Stories’ Category

Review of Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Shout

The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Viking Children’s Books, March 12, 2019. 290 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 1, 2019, from an advance reader copy picked up at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

[I do need to make a category for teen nonfiction. That’s what this is, but it certainly is appropriate for adults, so I’m going to list it on my nonfiction for grown-ups page.]

I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak during library school, when I was taking a class on young adult literature (but wasn’t posting reviews because I was too busy). The novel, written twenty years ago, is already a classic. It features a girl who doesn’t speak because she’s traumatized by what happened to her at a party just before she began high school.

Now Laurie Halse Anderson is telling the true story of what happened to her.

This memoir is written in verse, and the poems are hard-hitting. She gives an outline of her background and the incident that happened to her that was later reflected in the book Speak. But more than that, she includes in the book many stories that were told to her after she wrote Speak. Stories from teens both female and male, and stories from women and men.

Here’s a bit from the poem “tsunami,” which is about the reaction from teens after Speak was published.

tens of thousands speak
words ruffling the surface of the sea
into whitecaps, they whisper
to the shoulder of my sweater
they mail
tweet, cry
direct-message
hand me notes
folded into shards
when no one is watching

sharing memories and befuddlement
broken dreams and sorrow
they struggle in the middle
of the ocean, storms battering
grabbing for sliced life jackets
driftwood
flotsam and jetsam from downed
unfound planes, sunken ships
and other disasters

She also writes about how much resistance there is to her books from teachers and principals, hoping if they keep her from talking about bad things, bad things won’t happen at their school.

the false innocence
you render for them
by censoring truth
protects only you

It’s not all sadness and tragedy, though. There are many sweet moments. I loved the part when, as a bewildered new author, she was a Finalist for the National Book Award. A student journalist commented on how friendly the five finalists, including Walter Dean Myers, were with each other and asked “Aren’t you supposed to be competitors?”

Walter took the mic and smiled
“No,” he said. “Not competitors.
We’re coconspirators, and we like it that way.”

I also love the part where she describes the year she spent studying in a student exchange program with a family on a pig farm in Denmark. That was a time when it was good to be on a new continent.

And I love the poem “yes, please” about how lovely it is to get a Yes.

the taste of someone who has proven
worthy
of your yes
is worth the questing, slow beckoning
interrogating, interesting, conversating
adventuring yes is ongoing
yes enthusiastic
yes informed
yes free-given
yes the truest test
of sex
the consent of yes is necessary

But the overall story is that the time to simply speak is done. Now it’s time to shout.

As she says in the final poem, “my why”:

stories activate, motivate,
celebrate, cerebrate,
snare our fates
and share our great
incarnations of hope

This is a wonderful book. I’m passing on my advance reader copy, because I know I’ll want to read it again in the finished form. Watch for it in March. The poems stick with you and get into your heart.

madwomanintheforest.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Keep Moving, by Dick Van Dyke

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Keep Moving

and Other Tips and Truths About Aging

by Dick Van Dyke
read by the author

Blackstone Audio, 2015. 5.5 hours on 5 compact discs.

Listening to this audiobook will make you smile. Written shortly before he reached his 90th birthday, the main advice Dick Van Dyke gives his listeners is: Keep moving!

The style is a little bit rambling, but he has a right to ramble! He gives us anecdotes from his long life and observations about the journey. He’ll make you laugh and he’ll help you look at your own elder years with anticipation.

I enjoyed the audiobook in particular, because it was as if Dick Van Dyke was talking to me. You can hear the smile in his voice, and when I listened coming home from work, it never failed to make the evening cheerier. Dick Van Dyke dances when he hears music in the grocery store!

He asks the listener: Are you singing and dancing? If not, why not?

www.downpour.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Gift of Anger, by Arun Gandhi

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

The Gift of Anger

And Other Lessons from My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi

by Arun Gandhi

Gallery Books (Jeter Publishing), 2017. 292 pages.
Starred Review

This book is filled with stories of things that Arun Gandhi learned as a child when he lived for two years on the ashram with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. I read a chapter a day, which gave me some nice, inspirational food for thought. I learned much I didn’t know about Mahatma Gandhi, but what I love most about this book is how it radiates peace and nonviolence. Reading this book makes it much easier to see how counterproductive it is to hold onto anger.

The chapters themselves are listed as “lessons.” So “Lesson One” is “Use Anger for Good.” Lesson Four is “Know Your Own Worth.” Lesson Five is “Lies Are Clutter.” Lesson Six is “Waste Is Violence.” And Lesson Eight is “Humility Is Strength.” The book includes eleven lessons, all illustrated by stories and insiights. Lesson Nine gives us “The Five Pillars of Nonviolence,” and throughout the book, a picture develops of the power of a nonviolent life.

I wasn’t surprised by the title story and the lesson “Use Anger for Good,” because I’d read about that incident in Arun Gandhi’s picture book, Grandfather Gandhi. When Arun came to the ashram as a boy, he had a lot of anger. His grandfather talked with him, including this insight:

Bapuji looked over at me from behind his spinning wheel. “I am glad to see you can be moved to anger. Anger is good. I get angry all the time,” he confessed as his fingers turned the wheel.

I could not believe what I was hearing. “I have never seen you angry,” I replied.

“Because I have learned to use my anger for good,” he explained. “Anger to people is like gas to the automobile – it fuels you to move forward and get to a better place. Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust.”

Grandfather explained that when he was a boy in South Africa, he too had suffered from violent prejudice, and it made him angry. But eventually he learned that it didn’t help to seek vengeance, and he began to fight against prejudice and discrimination with compassion, responding to anger and hate with goodness. He believed in the power of truth and love. Seeking revenge made no sense to him. An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.

And that’s only the first lesson! The lessons progress, and are usually accompanied by stories from Arun’s life with his grandfather, though there are usually other illustrations as well. The lessons include Mahatma Gandhi’s time of political activism, using nonviolent protest to free India from British rule, and they continue all the way up to his death, and Arun’s struggles with wanting revenge. Ultimately, honoring his grandfather’s legacy won out.

“Forgiveness is more manly than punishment,” Bapuji had said.

When we are tested, we don’t prove our strength with violence or anger but by directing our actions for good. India had given Bapuji the great gift of a brief peace after his death. I had to give him the similar gift of forgiveness in the face of great evil. Bapuji had once explained that it is easy to love those who love you, but the real power of nonviolence comes when you can love those who hate you.

There’s lots of wisdom in this little book.

SimonandSchuster.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Super Late Bloomer, by Julia Kaye

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Super Late Bloomer

My Early Days in Transition

An Up and Out Collection

by Julia Kaye

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018. 160 pages.
Starred Review

This book is published for adults, though it will definitely have an audience with some teens, but it’s not a children’s book, so I think I’m okay to post the review during my Newbery reading year.

This is a memoir in comic format, taken from the Up and Out webcomic. Julia Kaye is a transgender woman who transitioned as an adult. This book tells the story of her transition.

I loved this book. My own daughter is transgender and transitioned as an adult – so I think it helped me understand what she’s gone through and is going through.

The comic format, even using simple lines, is great for showing emotion and helping the reader feel what the author was going through. You can feel some of the pain of gender dysphoria and feel why misgendering causes ongoing pain and insecurity. The book communicates that even though there are ongoing causes of pain as someone transitions – that doesn’t mean transitioning is all a mistake. It doesn’t magically make all issues go away.

I’m hoping that transgender folks will enjoy this book to read about someone else having experiences similar to their own. And cisgender folks can enjoy it to get an inkling of the kind of bravery it takes for transgender people to present themselves to the world as who they truly are. As well as better understand and empathize with fellow human beings.

We may not all be transgender. But we all know what it’s like to feel different, to feel like people are staring at you, or to be unhappy with the way we look and the way people respond to us. This book helps the reader understand what we have in common.

Instagram.com/upandoutcomic
andrewsmcmeel.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Barking to the Choir, by Gregory Boyle

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

Barking to the Choir

The Power of Radical Kinship

by Gregory Boyle

Simon & Schuster, 2017. 210 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a second book by Fr. Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles and founded Homeboy Industries, which gives jobs to former gang members.

This book continues the inspiring stories from his first book, Tattoos on the Heart. What’s so amazing about these books is that Father Boyle honestly sees the gang members he works with as wonderful people – people he can learn from himself. And with his stories, he enables the reader, also, to see them as valuable people, loved by God – even delighted in by God.

Father Boyle genuinely learns from the homies he lives among. I liked this quote:

We always seem to be faced with this choice: to save the world or savor it. I want to propose that savoring is better, and that when we seek to “save” and “contribute” and “give back” and “rescue” folks and EVEN “make a difference,” then it is all about you . . . and the world stays stuck. The homies are not waiting to be saved. They already are. The same is true for service providers and those in any ministry. The good news, of course, is that when we choose to “savor” the world, it gets saved. Don’t set out to change the world. Set out to wonder how people are doing.

He’s here divulged something of the secret of his ministry. He’s not trying to save gang members – he’s savoring them, genuinely feeling privileged that he gets to know them.

And that kind of love changes lives.

This book is about kinship. About community. About enemies becoming friends. And the astonishing love of Jesus that enables that.

Human beings are settlers, but not in the pioneer sense. It is our human occupational hazard to settle for little. We settle for purity and piety when we are being invited to an exquisite holiness. We settle for the fear-driven when love longs to be our engine. We settle for a puny, vindictive God when we are being nudged always closer to this wildly inclusive, larger-than-any-life God. We allow our sense of God to atrophy. We settle for the illusion of separation when we are endlessly asked to enter into kinship with all.

There are a whole lot more inspiring quotes in this book, and they’ll gradually show up on Sonderquotes.

Read this book! You will be challenged. And you will be blessed.

HomeboyIndustries.org
SimonandSchuster.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Footnotes from the World’s Great Bookstores, by Bob Eckstein

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Footnotes* from the World’s Greatest Bookstores

*True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers

by Bob Eckstein
Foreword by Garrison Keillor

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2016. 176 pages.

Any book lover will enjoy this book. It’s quirky – even has the cover opening in a different direction from the way the pages turn.

The author is also an artist and has a painting of each featured bookstore – and they truly are from all over the world. If I had lots of money and time, it would be so much fun to buy a copy of this book and travel the world and try to visit all the bookstores.

Each bookstore has a brief description, usually including something notable about it. Then on top of the painting of the bookstore, there is a quotation from someone who works there, telling a story about something that happened at that store.

As an example, here’s what they’ve got for Books of Wonder (minus the painting), a store I ordered Wizard of Oz books from for my kids. I’ve never visited it, but I’ve got a warm spot in my heart for it.

Books of Wonder’s claim to fame is that it was the model for the bookstore in the 1997 film You’ve Got Mail. Nora and Delia Ephron, who wrote the film, were both longtime customers and friends of the store – and Meg Ryan spent a day working at the shop to prepare for her role in the film. In 1985, Books of Wonder established a joint imprint with William Morrow and Company, publishing its own children’s books. Its standing-room-only events have included celebrated authors like J. K. Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak, and Eric Carle.

Here’s the quotation written over the “sidewalk” in the painting of the bookstore:

“My very first book signing was like a dream. Held at the famous Books of Wonder in Manhattan, I shared a table with the great Lane Smith. The first customer was an adorable little girl who, clutching her book very tightly, approached me with an angelic smile. As she gazed up at me with a look of adoration and pure love, her father bent down and said, ‘No, dear. Lane Smith is the other guy.’ The smile immediately devolved into a quick, hideous grimace as she zipped over to the other end of the table. I can still recall her face as if she was the only person to approach me that day, because she was.” – Mo Willems

There’s lots more where that came from! This book will make you smile and also make you want to go shopping for books.

bobeckstein.com
clarksonpotter.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Everything Happens for a Reason

And Other Lies I’ve Loved

by Kate Bowler

Random House, 2018. 178 pages.

I approached this book with some trepidation. Although I do not, in fact, believe that “everything happens for a reason” – I do believe that “All things work for the good of those who love God.” I believe tthat God can and will bring good out of even terrible things. So would my faith be shaken by reading this book?

No, my faith was not shaken. But I got a lesson in what not to say to someone going through a terrible trial.

Kate Bowler wrote this book while undergoing treatments for stage IV colon cancer at thirty-five years old. She was supposed to die very soon after diagnosis – but ended up in the 3% who have a type that was being studied for a new treatment. (I checked – She is still alive in August 2018. Though she does say that the doctors were not expecting to cure her.)

Kate is a historian who studies the prosperity gospel in America. So she has a lot to say about getting cancer in that setting.

She takes the reader with her on her journey of trying to live with this. I liked the part where she explained that she took up swearing for Lent. She tells what various people say to her – most of it unhelpful but also about friends who come alongside.

I also liked the part where she explained that at the worst time, she felt God’s presence.

It seemed too odd and too simplistic to say what I knew to be true – that when I was sure I was going to die, I didn’t feel angry. I felt loved.

Reading this, I was struck that we each have our own story. Yes, we can find meaning in our story – but we’re being presumptuous to try to explain to someone else the meaning in their story.

Her two appendices in the back are especially helpful. The first is things not to say to people experiencing terrible times. The second is things you might try saying (such as, May I bring you a meal?). Here’s how she feels about being told, “Everything happens for a reason”:

The only thing worse than saying this is pretending that you know the reason. I’ve had hundreds of people tell me the reason for my cancer. Because of my sin. Because of my unfaithfulness. Because God is fair. Because God is unfair. Because of my aversion to Brussel sprouts. I mean, no one is short of reasons. So if people tell you this, make sure you are there when they go through the cruelest moments of their lives, and start offering your own. When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason.

katebowler.com
randomhousebooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Going Into Town, by Roz Chast

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Going into Town

A Love Letter to New York

by Roz Chast

Bloomsbury, 2017. 169 pages.

This book is an introduction to New York, which New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast created for her children, who did not grow up in New York City, like she did.

Here are some selected things she says about the book. You’ll have to imagine the entertaining cartoons that go with these words.

This is not a “definitive guide book” to Manhattan. In fact, it’s not really a guide book. There’s nothing in here about the Statue of Liberty, for example. Why? Because I’ve never been. I’d like to go. Someday. Just not today. Please don’t make me go today.

This is also definitely not one of those “insider’s guides” where I tell you about the hippest clubs, the swankiest restaurants, the edgiest neighborhoods, the coolest gyms, or the store where the best people buy the most exclusive shoes.

It’s not a history book. Do not imagine, even for a second, that I’m going to tell you a bunch of cool facts, like how Betsy Ross invented concrete, or that a thousand feet under Grand Central, somebody discovered an old Pilgrim restaurant, and look, here’s the menu: . . .

I feel about Manhattan the way I feel about a book, a TV series, a movie, a play, an artist, a song, a food, a whatever that I love. I want to tell you about it so that maybe you will love it too. I’m not worried about it being “ruined” by too many people “discovering” it. Manhattan’s been ruined since 1626, when Peter Minuit bought it from Native Americans for $24.00.

Now my kids are grown-ups. The city has changed since I was 23. Things have happened. Some good, some bad, some very bad. But I still love it more than anyplace else, and hope you will too.

She does communicate this affection in the pages that follow. And despite saying it’s not a guide book, the next time I go to New York City, I’m going to check out this book and carefully review her chapter on the basic layout of Manhattan – it makes it all very clear and logical and would be tremendously helpful.

And along the way, I’d get many ideas of things to do and places to visit. And on top of all that, the book has plenty of things that make you laugh. It’s fun to read even if you never have gone to New York City, but will certainly make you want to remedy that situation.

bloomsbury.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Stairways to Heaven, by Lorna Byrne

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

Stairways to Heaven

by Lorna Byrne

Coronet, 2011. First published in the United Kingdom in 2010. 293 pages.
Starred Review

Stairways to Heaven continues the life story of Lorna Byrne begun in Angels in My Hair, including telling about the process of becoming an author and people finally knowing that she can see angels.

Lorna Byrne has been able to see angels all her life. This book begins after her husband’s death and tells how the angels helped her move with her youngest daughter to a new home. Along the way, she reveals many things that angels have told her about life and about spiritual things.

Some of the things in this book seem a little out there. I’m thinking that it’s possible that even with all the study of the Bible I’ve done, I don’t know everything there is to know about spiritual things! Lorna Byrne doesn’t claim to know it all either, and she has a simple, humble style. She just tells what the angels have told her.

Since this book covers publishing her book, she’s also starting to answer many of the questions that people ask her now that the world knows she can see angels.

For the most part, these things are extremely inspirational and uplifting. Some points I especially like are that each one of us has a guardian angel who loves us and is with us always. And that there are many other angels all around us that we can call on to help.

This paragraph sums up nicely an important thrust of her teaching:

Many of us don’t understand how important the relationship between mankind and angels is. We have free will, but we have angels to prompt us to do the right things, to prompt us to do what God would want us to do in each and every circumstance. This is the task God has given angels and, because it is God’s task, angels will never ever give up. Every time you pray you are talking directly to God. Regardless of your belief in angels, angels are praying with you at the same time, adding power and strength to your prayer. This is one of the tasks God has given the angels. We never pray alone.

This is an inspiring and eye-opening book, though, like me, you may have to set aside some of your previous assumptions to fully appreciate it.

lornabyrne.com
hodder.co.uk

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Calypso, by David Sedaris

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Calypso

by David Sedaris
read by the author

Hachette Audio, 2018. 6.5 hours on 6 CDs.

Hearing David Sedaris read his books always makes me laugh. I will admit that his humor is often crude or rude – but, yes, it is very funny.

In this book he mostly talks about his family. This includes the death by suicide of one of his sisters, so you wouldn’t think there’s a lot of room for humor – but if you think that you probably haven’t ever listened to David Sedaris.

He also talks about buying a beach house on the Carolina coast to share with his family. And his father, who is politically conservative, getting older. And David himself getting older and dealing with physical challenges – and getting addicted to his Fit Bit.

A lot of what’s funny about this audiobook is also very strange – like feeding his own tumor to a snapping turtle. But what can I say? It’s also incredibly funny the way David Sedaris tells it. I guess it helps to know you’re doing something strange.

I always say that nothing is better for keeping me awake on a long drive than a good laugh. You can find that here. (Though let me give fair warning: I wouldn’t want to explain these jokes to kids. In fact, it might be embarrassing if anyone else were in earshot. Funny, though!)

davidsedarisbooks.com
hachetteaudio.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?