Review of Grace Saves All, by David Artman

January 18th, 2021

Grace Saves All

The Necessity of Christian Universalism

by David Artman

Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2020. 147 pages.
Review written January 5, 2021, from my own copy purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 in Christian Nonfiction

I am amassing quite a collection of books about why Christian Universalism is biblical and why it makes sense and why it paints a picture more worthy of God. This is another wonderful addition to that set.

One thing I liked about this one was that I read it in the year it was published, and the author has read almost all the same books I have read – they are even listed in the back as “Recommended Reading” and are cited in many different places. (And I got a few ideas for additional reading.) He even listed all the ones I’d read in the last year, so he’s as up-to-date as I am.

And each book takes its own approach. This book takes the approach of looking at Grace, and I found that lovely. Here’s how the Introduction begins:

Grace is amazing. About this all Christians agree. Yet nearly all forms of Christianity put significant limits on grace. Those forms of Christianity which proclaim that grace alone actually saves typically don’t believe God gives grace to everyone, while those forms of Christianity which proclaim God gives grace to everyone typically don’t believe grace alone actually saves. Is the Christian understanding of grace necessarily divided between these two grace-limiting options? Must grace either be that which saves alone but doesn’t go to all, or that which goes to all but doesn’t save alone? Or, is there another way? Can one be a Christian and understand grace to save alone and go to all? Can one be a Christian and believe salvation by grace alone is for everyone?

I will argue here that being Christian does not require one to limit either grace’s power or scope. It’s quite possible, I will contend, to be Christian and to believe grace is God’s way of finally saving everyone. Grace can be understood to be God’s remedy for all human sin, not just part of it. Grace can mean God perseveres with us until we’ve all seen the light and freely responded in faith. Grace can mean God is with us not just if we get things right, but until we get things right. How long it takes for us to get things right is not the primary issue for God. Whether it happens in this lifetime, or in the age to come, or in the ages to come after that, is not what really matters. The primary issue for God isn’t how hard it will be for us, or how long it will take us. The primary issue for God is our final return home. And, like the father of the prodigal son, God will be vigilant until we all make our way home from the far country.

Even though I will be arguing here that everyone will finally be saved by grace alone, what we do still matters very much. We each still have our part to play. And neither will I be downplaying the consequences of sin. We are granted terrifying freedom to bring tremendous misery upon ourselves and others. What we do matters greatly. But no matter what we do, God’s grace can be understood to include God’s commitment to be with us, even in the form of judgment and hell, until we eventually see the light. I will argue that God’s perfecting love is continually with all of us, through whatever hell may be necessary, until all of us are finally healed and home. What makes grace truly amazing is God never giving up and never failing – God being able to save even those for whom there is apparently no hope. I maintain that it’s possible to be a Christian and to have this understanding of grace.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know it’s possible to be a Christian and to believe grace is God’s way of ultimately saving everyone. They don’t know where to find biblical evidence for this understanding of grace. They don’t know this way of understanding grace was common in early Christianity. They wrongly assume they can only be Christian if they also believe God will not, or might not, save everyone. Through this book I hope to help correct these false impressions and assumptions.

As with all the other books I’ve reviewed on Universalism (see the list on the side of this review page), this author fills the book with biblical references supporting what he says. Universalism is biblical! He also spends a whole chapter talking about how the early church supported Universalism. Universalism is authentic Christianity!

The author calls this kind of belief about grace the Inclusive approach. At the start of the main text, he lays out a five-point biblical framework for this approach:

1. God is a loving parent to all.

2. God sincerely wants to save all.

3. God, in Christ, covers the sin of all.

4. God is sovereign over all.

5. God will be all in all.

This book sums up Christian Universalism simply and clearly in a way that’s easy to understand. Plenty of biblical support is cited, and the author finishes up with his own story of how he came to this view, so it’s got a personal touch as well.

I liked reading this book to have one more clear argument in favor of Christian Universalism. But above all, I was happy to read it because it glories in the amazing inescapable grace of God that indeed saves all. Praise God!

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Review of The Bridge, by Bill Konigsberg

January 17th, 2021

The Bridge

by Bill Konigsberg

Scholastic Press, 2020. 388 pages.
Review written October 27, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 General Teen Fiction

The Bridge is a book about suicide.

Two teens, Aaron and Tillie, come to George Washington Bridge to end their lives on April 17. This book tells the four possible stories that could happen from there.

First, chapters 1A through 10A, we find out what happens if she jumps but he doesn’t. (Seeing her jump shook him and stopped him.) Multiple perspectives are used, but mostly we find out how Aaron moves on from there. He does get help, gets diagnosed with depression, and is shaken by how close he came to ending it all. We also see how the lives of Tillie’s family and friends are devastated by her loss.

Then, chapters 1B through 4B (They’re longer chapters), we get the story of what happens if Aaron jumps but Tillie doesn’t. Tillie’s got several different pressures to deal with – getting bullied, a tough break-up, and family pressures. In this thread, she works on dealing with that. We also see the devastation among Aaron’s family and friends.

Chapters 1C through 12C show us the long-range effects if both of the teens jump from the bridge that day. And when I say long-range, each chapter presents something years later, all the way up to thirty-five years later at Aaron’s father’s funeral, where no relative attends. We see the many holes in lives where those two were missing.

The longest section is Chapters 1D through 13D, where the two stop each other from jumping. Things play out differently from the first two scenarios, with some similarities, but the author does a good job of not being repetitive. In this iteration, they have a peer who understands what they’re going through.

Even though you know what will happen in the big picture sense (the idea is presented on the flap), this story is gripping. It’s dealing with suicide, and the author does communicate the despair, so I’m glad I was able to read it in one marathon session rather than stop in the middle. But ultimately, it’s a story of hope, and an effective way to show that individual lives matter.

Yes, there are resources at the back and the author’s own story of being suicidal as a young adult. He spells out in the Author’s Note what the story communicated:

Last but most crucially: You matter. You really, really matter. We want you here. The world wants you here, even when it feels like the opposite is true. It took me so many years to understand that I matter, and I’m extremely grateful that I stayed around long enough to learn that lesson.

This book is a wonderful example of showing rather than telling a story involving deep emotions. It’s a message book, yes, but it’s also a compelling story that’s hard to put down.

billkonigsberg.com
ireadya.com
scholastic.com

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Review of Honeybee, by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

January 17th, 2021

Honeybee

The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2020. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 8, 2020, from a library book
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

As soon as I read this book, I knew which book I hope wins the 2021 Caldecott Medal.

When I was a child, I had a book from Disney publications that included a chapter on bees with lots of close-up photos. I hated that part of the book and didn’t even want to turn the pages for fear I’d touch the pictures of the bees.

I must have outgrown my squeamishness, because this book is full of oversize close-up paintings of bees, and I think the book is beautiful. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re paintings instead of photos – Eric Rohmann has made the bee featured here look positively plush and cuddly, while still being completely scientifically accurate.

I learned so much I didn’t know about bees when reading this book. I knew that worker bees have jobs in the hive. But I didn’t know that the same bee gets different jobs as it ages. This book highlights the different jobs a bee goes through. After the bee has emerged from a cell in the honeycomb, here are a couple of early pages:

Crawling to a cell packed with sticky, rich pollen,
Apis eats.
And eats.
And eats some more.
Her wings dry. Her color darkens to a warm yellow orange. Her muscles grow strong.

Strong enough for flying?

Not yet . . . cleaning comes first.
Apis’s first job is to tidy the hive’s nursery.
She hauls away leftover bits,
carts off old wax caps,
leaves each cell ready for a new bee egg.
When she turns three days old, special glands behind her face swell and expand.
Soon she is ready for her next job.

Flying?

No, Apis doesn’t fly yet. First, we see her do the jobs of nursing, queen tending, comb building, food handling, and guarding.

When she finally flies, on the twenty-fifth day of her life, Apis gets a beautiful fold-out section in the middle of the book featuring a wide-open sky.

We do of course learn how she gathers nectar and carries pollen and dances to tell other bees about her finds.

The book goes all the way to our heroine’s death and then comes full circle with a new honeybee coming out of its cell in the hive.

This is another book for which I can’t do the striking pictures justice. I didn’t even think I liked to read books about bees, but I was captivated by this beautiful book. The writing, too, is wonderful. With each job, the writer builds suspense, asking if Apis is finally ready to fly.

Go check this out and see for yourself!

HolidayHouse.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 A Christmas Resolution, by Anne Perry

January 16th, 2021

A Christmas Resolution

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, 2020. 175 pages.
Review written January 5, 2021, from a library book

I like reading Anne Perry’s annual Christmas mysteries at Christmastime. Since I’m usually on a Cybils panel at Christmas, though, lately I end up reading them for the New Year.

I keep thinking that I should read her regular mystery series, since then I would probably enjoy these more. As she often does, this one looks at a couple on the periphery of her regular main characters. A lady named Celia is married to a police captain. They met during a criminal case, and it sounds like that is quite a story.

This book involved a case of blackmail and figuring out what happened in the past, which wasn’t as compelling to me as a good old murder mystery. There wasn’t really a puzzle to solve so much as to read about the characters’ way of tracking down the solution.

I did like the framing with a question of forgiveness: Who deserves forgiveness? Does the person have to be contrite? And how generous should one be in giving forgiveness? The main character is thinking about these things throughout the book, prompted by a Christmas sermon.

So even though I wasn’t too captivated by the mystery in this case, I still say that there’s nothing like a nice cozy little mystery for Christmas.

anneperry.co.uk
randomhousebooks.com

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Review of Wink, by Rob Harrell

January 14th, 2021

Wink

by Rob Harrell

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 315 pages.
Review written July 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Children’s Fiction

Wink is about a middle school kid named Ross who’s dealing with cancer in his eye. And believe it or not, the author makes that funny.

Ross has a rare type of cancer that matches the kind the author himself dealt with. He has a series of treatments that means he has to wear hats and gooey ointment and of course start losing his hair. And that starts happening when he’s holding the cafeteria tray of the girl he has a crush on.

There’s definitely a very serious side to this book, but Ross does find ways to cope with the help of friends old and new, with cartoons, and then with music, as he learns to play the guitar and finds an unlikely person to make music with.

I’ve got a little four-year-old niece with leukemia who just lost her hair. She’s going to be okay, but after reading this book, I found myself extremely glad that she’s not in school yet. Let alone in middle school. Ross’s humiliations and difficulties are so relatable in this book, because going through middle school is hard enough, but dealing with cancer treatments, too, gives you all kinds of sympathy – which makes you relate to another problem he has of being completely tired of everyone’s sympathy and attention.

Ross’s mother died of cancer years before this book. (Really? Did the author have to pile on like that? But like I said, Ross has all our sympathy.) He’s got a stepmother who does her best to be loving and supportive. Everyone, in fact, is trying to be helpful and supportive. But sometimes Ross wants to be left alone. And then his best friend has some problems of her own and Ross doesn’t even notice at first.

I didn’t make this book sound as funny as it manages to be. It’s a light-hearted look at a very serious situation. And pulls that off with flair.

robharrell.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

January 13th, 2021

When Stars Are Scattered

by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

color by Iman Geddy

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 264 pages.
Review written August 4, 2020, from a library book
Audiobook from Listening Library, 2020, narrated by a full cast. 3 hours, 42 minutes.
Library eaudiobook reviewed December 30, 2020
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 General Children’s Nonfiction

In When Stars Are Scattered, award-winning graphic novelist Victoria Jamieson took the story of a boy who grew up in a refugee camp and put it in graphic memoir format.

Omar Mohamed’s first memories are in a refugee camp. He doesn’t like to remember the day in Somalia that put him there, when his father was killed and his mother told him to take his little brother and go to the neighbor’s house and she would find him. The neighbors helped, but they ran to a refugee camp in Kenya. Years later the boys are bigger and that’s the only home they’ve known.

Omar’s little brother Hassan doesn’t say anything except one word, “Hooyo,” and he’s had seizures in the past. Omar feels responsible for him. They have a foster mother assigned to them by the UN, but Omar is afraid to leave his brother long enough to go to school.

This book takes us through his choice to go to school, to trust other people to look after Hassan, and try to make a life there and apply for resettlement. The whole resettlement process takes years, and only a few are even chosen to interview, and they have no information about the status of their case.

The graphic memoir format makes this story easy to follow, but it’s not an easy story. It moved me to tears in spots. But even the fact that Omar is telling his story gives you the hint that there will be a happy ending, and indeed there is, at least for Omar. He now lives in the United States and has founded an organization that helps students living in refugee camps.

But this is a story about kids and for kids. The characters are children and talk and act like children. It’s very hard to imagine being in that situation, but the authors get across what it would be like for children who know nothing else.

We actually have a large local population of families from Somalia. When the pandemic is over and I see them in the library again, I hope they will find this book. But I also hope that it will be widely read by many who have never experienced anything remotely like this, because it’s hard to imagine reading this story and not being filled with compassion.

Additional thoughts on the audiobook:

In December, I listened to the audiobook version of this book. Normally, I’d never listen to the audiobook form of a graphic novel, but both versions were nominated to be Capitol Choices selections. As soon as I began listening, I quickly understood why. This is an amazing audiobook production, with different people voicing different characters, and lots of different sound effects to set the mood (crickets at night, children’s voices in school, the sound of a broom when he was cleaning his tent, and more).

Listening to the book, I could hear authentic accents and even the voice of adult Omar at the end. It pulled me into the story, and if I hadn’t already seen the wonderful illustrations, I wouldn’t have even missed them. Who would have thought that such a visual medium as a graphic novel would work so well as an audiobook? Perhaps it helps that they used a full cast, since that’s similar to using speech bubbles in a graphic novel — you don’t have to talk about which character is speaking — you see (or hear) that someone new is talking.

I’ve decided the ultimate experience of this book would be to listen to it while looking at the art of the graphic novel version. Both are wonderful on their own. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on either one.

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Review of Every Color of Light, by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryoji Arai

January 12th, 2021

Every Color of Light

by Hiroshi Osada
illustrated by Ryoji Arai
translated from the Japanese by David Boyd

Enchanted Lion Books, 2020. First published in Japan in 2011.
Review written November 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#6 Picture Books

This simple and beautiful picture book shows a landscape with lots of sky on every spread. From the first line – “Look, it’s raining.” – to the ending page – “We’re all falling falling soundly soundly asleep asleep…” – the book shows us every color of light that shows up in the sky.

First, during the rain storm we get the world darkening, then lit up by thunder and lightning. After the sun comes out, the sky brightens through sunset and twilight and the stars and moon coming out.

It’s all simple and beautiful. It gets children – and adults – thinking about the colors of the light outside. Here’s an example from a couple of spreads:

Slowly, the air clears.
Slowly, all becomes bright.

Raindrops drip from leaves.
Sparkling like crystals, they fall to the ground.

Of course, the striking part is the pictures, which I can’t reproduce for you here. Check out this book and see for yourself. I’m picturing this book not so much for storytime as for reading to a child on your lap and talking about the book and about the world.

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Review of Jesus Undefeated, by Keith Giles

January 10th, 2021

Jesus Undefeated

Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment

by Keith Giles

Quoir, Orange, California, 2019. 193 pages.
Review written September 30, 2020, from my own copy, purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Christian Nonfiction

I’ve been a Universalist since 1998. I believe that God is going to save everyone. I do believe there is a hell, but that it doesn’t last forever, and is for correction. Just as terrible experiences in this life sometimes are what it takes to set us right. At the time, I came to that view from reading George MacDonald and the New Testament, but at first I didn’t know of any living Christian who agreed with me, which was a lonely feeling.

But over the years, I’ve found more and more writers who agree with me, including many alive today! I’ve studied the Scriptures and feel more and more confident that this is the most consistent way to interpret the New Testament, and the most in line with the meaning of the original language. I even learned that this is what the early church of native Greek-speaking people believed, and that it wasn’t until Augustine, who didn’t speak Greek, that the majority view changed and eternal punishment was popularized.

So I am now firm in my beliefs about this, but I still enjoy reading new books about universalism as they are published, because they simply make me happy. This is truly Good News! God the Father truly loves everyone, and reading about that makes me happy.

Each book also brings something new to the discussion. People interested in learning more about universalism can start with any of the books I list on the side of this review. This one would make a great starting place, presenting the alternatives and why universal reconciliation fits with Scripture. I like the way he also quotes many of the church fathers to make his case.

There are basically three views of hell you can get from the New Testament – Eternal Suffering, Annihilation (Conditional Immortality), and Universal Reconciliation (Patristic Universalism).

But what if all three views were “Biblical”? What if all three views based their doctrine on the “clear teachings of Scripture”? What if they were only affirming certain verses in the Bible that conformed to their view and had developed elaborate explanations for why those other verses didn’t teach what they appear to teach?

Well, I’m here to tell you, I think that all of those statements above are essentially true. Because, after looking at all three views, I can tell you that all three are certainly Biblical, (meaning they base their teaching on the Bible), and all three views assume to take a “clear teaching” approach when it comes to the verses that support their view (while arguing that opposing verses require more discernment to understand).

Obviously, either one of them is the correct view, or they are all wrong. But, they cannot all three be right. Hopefully we can all agree on these points.

So, I will fully admit that – whatever view you embrace – you must make a decision to accept a certain set of verses as authoritative and to dismiss another set. Neither of these three Christian views of Hell are iron-clad. Someone can always say, “But what about this verse?” and you will either have to explain why that verse isn’t saying what it appears to say or admit that you don’t know what it means, while you still hold tightly to the view you’ve decided to embrace.

To be fair, the Christian church took over 500 years to even attempt to divide over this teaching.

That’s from Chapter 2 of this book, “Always Three Views.” Keith Giles goes on to show us the main verses supporting each of the three views, but then why he thinks the strongest case is made for universal reconciliation.

I think my favorite chapter is “The Fruit of Universalism,” because it reflects the joy that’s come into my life since I adopted this view. Here’s a bit from that chapter:

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God, and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet – regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition – is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ at the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in this process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

I hope that some find this excerpt intriguing. When I first realize what George MacDonald was saying, I didn’t think I could believe universalism because the Bible didn’t teach it – but MacDonald clearly thought it did, and he had studied the original Greek text. So I do appreciate that Keith Giles shows the reader that there is strong evidence that indeed one day in Christ all will be made alive.

JesusUndefeated.com
KeithGiles.com
quoir.com

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Review of Elatsoe, by Darcie Little Badger

January 6th, 2021

Elatsoe

by Darcie Little Badger
illustrated by Rovina Cai

Levine Querido, 2020. 360 pages.
Review written November 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Cybils Finalist: Young Adult Speculative Fiction
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 Teen Speculative Fiction

This lovely paranormal fantasy is written by a member of the Lipan Apache tribe and features a Lipan Apache teen girl. At first, I thought it was just Native Americans in the world of the story who were aware of paranormal magic, as the title character has her own ghost dog. But it quickly became apparent that this is a world where magic is taken for granted. Ellie’s best friend is a descendant of Oberon who can conjure will-o’-the-wisps, and his sister is in love with a vampire, or as they call it, one of the Cursed. The magic that causes vampirism is European magic, but Ellie’s family is aware of magic rooted in their ancestral lands. They tell stories of Ellie’s Six-Great Grandmother who healed the land from monsters.

As the book begins, Ellie’s cousin dies in what appears to be a car accident. But that night, he appears to her in a dream and tells her he was murdered. As it happens, the murderer he names is white, rich, and powerful. It won’t be easy to make the charge stick.

One thing I love about this book is that this is not one about children-do-dangerous-things-without-telling-their-parents. Ellie tells her whole family about her dream and they believe her and agree to work together to bring the murderer to justice and make sure that her cousin’s ghost rests. Ellie’s family has a lot to do with this struggle against evil and it’s super refreshing.

This was a wonderful book, engagingly written, and I loved the way it wove in Native American culture. But Ellie’s simply a lovable character, so this isn’t at all a niche book.

Here’s how the book begins:

Ellie bought the life-sized plastic skull at a garage sale (the goth neighbors were moving to Salem, and they could not fit an entire Halloween warehouse into their black van). After bringing the purchase home, she dug through her box of craft supplies and glued a pair of googly eyes in its shallow eye sockets.

“I got you a new friend, Kirby!” Ellie said. “Here, boy! C’mon!” Kirby already fetched tennis balls and puppy toys. Sure, anything looked astonishing when it zipped across the room in the mouth of an invisible dog, but a floating googly skull would be extra special.

Unfortunately, the skull terrified Kirby. He wouldn’t get near it, much less touch it. Maybe it was possessed by a demonic vacuum cleaner. More likely, the skull just smelled weird. Judging by the soy candles and incense sticks at the garage sale, the neighbors enjoyed burning fragrant stuff….

Kirby had progressed a lot since his death. Ellie still wasn’t allowed to bring him on school property, but since the sixth-grade howl incident, Kirby hadn’t caused any trouble, and his cache of tricks had doubled. There were mundane ones: sit, stay, heel, play dead (literally! wink, wink!), and track scents. Moreover, the door had been opened to a bunch of marvelous supernatural powers. He just had to learn them without causing too much incidental chaos.

The illustrations at the front of each chapter add to the beauty of this book.

I’m super impressed that this is a debut novel and looking forward to more by this author.

levinequerido.com

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2020 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

January 2nd, 2021

It’s time to announce my 2020 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

These are simply my favorite books of those I read this year, the books that stand out in my mind after a year of reading, the ones that moved me most.

These are not necessarily the best books of the year. They’re not necessarily the highest quality. And I’m a white straight lady. I can see and recognize outstanding books coming from many different perspectives and even put them forward for awards, but they won’t necessarily win as high a place in my heart. These are books I especially loved reading this year.

It’s late on New Year’s Day, so I’m just writing a blog post to make the announcement, but a webpage for these will come soon. I haven’t posted reviews of all the books yet — especially not the ones I read for the Cybils — so I will work on getting all these reviews posted.

I also have to add a disclaimer. Although I’m ranking the books, I’m trying not to think too hard about it and go with my gut. If I were to rank them tomorrow, they might end up in a little bit different order. These are all good books, and I highly recommend them!

Here are my numbers of books read this year:

Books reread: 7 (Mostly L. M. Montgomery books, since I’m still slowly trying to reread all of her books.)
Fiction for Adults: 14
Nonfiction for Adults: 49
Fiction for Teens: 60
Fiction for Children: 38
Nonfiction for Children and Teens: 152 (many picture books in that set)
Picture Books: 329

For a grand total of 649 books read in 2020!

In my list of stand-outs, I left out the books I reread, and I left out the new translation of the New Testament, by David Bentley Hart. It doesn’t seem fair to compare books I read for the first time with old favorites, and especially not with a new translation of the Bible.

Among the rest, I chose these favorites:

Fiction for Adults:

1. A Dance with Fate, by Juliet Marillier
2. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
3. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
4. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nahesi Coates
5. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
6. The Queen of Sorrow, by Sarah Beth Durst
7. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood

General Nonfiction for Adults:

1. Know My Name, by Chanel Miller
2. My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, by Jason B. Rosenthal
3. Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad
4. Keep Moving, by Maggie Smith
5. The Earth in Her Hands, by Jennifer Jewell
6. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
7. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
8. The Orphaned Adult, by Alexander Levy
9. Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds, by Ian Wright
10. Beneath the Tamarind Tree, by Isha Sesay

Christian Nonfiction for Adults:

1. Jesus Undefeated, by Keith Giles
2. Shameless, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
3. Grace Saves All, by David Artman
4. A More Christlike Way, by Bradley Jersak
5. Try Softer, by Aundi Kolber

General Fiction for Teens:

1. The Bridge, by Bill Konigsberg
2. We Used to Be Friends, by Amy Spalding
3. Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo
4. The Hand on the Wall, by Maureen Johnson
5. Even If We Break, by Marieke Nijkamp
6. The Vanishing Stair, by Maureen Johnson
7. The Edge of Anything, by Nora Shalaway Carpenter
8. Dangerous Alliance, by Jennieke Cohen
9. This Is My Brain in Love, by I. W. Gregorio
10. The Light in Hidden Places, by Sharon Cameron

Speculative Fiction for Teens:
1. Return of the Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner
2. Igniting Darkness, by Robin LaFevers
3. The Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black
4. Red Hood, by Elana K. Arnold
5. Elatsoe, by Darcie Little Badger
6. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix
7. The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten White
8. Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas
9. A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell
10. Burn, by Patrick Ness

Fiction for Children:

1. Fighting Words, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
2. Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park
3. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, by Dan Gemeinhart
4. Wink, by Rob Harrell
5. Monster and Boy, by Hannah Barnaby
6. A Long Road on a Short Day, by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney
7. Catherine’s War, by Julia Billet
8. Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson
9. A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, by Leslie Connor
10. Stepping Stones, by Lucy Knisley
11. Mañanaland, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Longer Nonfiction for Children and Teens:

1. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
2. An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese
3. Infinite Hope, by Ashley Bryan
4. Almost American Girl, by Robin Ha
5. Playlist, by James Rhodes
6. The Magnificent Migration, by Sy Montgomery

Nonfiction for Children:

1. When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
2. Create Your Own Language, by David J. Peterson and Ryan Goldsberry
3. Sounds All Around, by James Chapman
4. The Superpower Field Guide: Moles, by Rachel Poliquin and Nicholas John Frith
5. Overview, by Benjamin Grant with Sandra Markle
6. Can You Crack the Code?, by Ella Schwartz and Lily Williams

Nonfiction Picture Books

1. Honeybee, by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
2. The Fabled Life of Aesop, by Ian Lendler and Pamela Zagarenski
3. The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, by Amy Alznauer and Daniel Miyares
4. The Imaginaries, by Emily Winfield Martin
5. Girl on a Motorcycle, by Amy Novesky and Julie Morstad
6. Child of St. Kilda, by Beth Waters

Fiction Picture Books:

1. Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, by Meg Medina and Sonia Sánchez
2. Lift, by Minh Le and Dan Santat
3. Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day, by Carmen Agra Deedy and Pete Oswald
4. In My Garden, by Charlotte Zolotow and Philip Stead
5. Madame Badobedah, by Sophie Dahl and Lauren O’Hara
6. Every Color of Light, by Hiroshi Osada and Ryoji Arai
7. I Can Be Anything, by Shinsuke Yoshitake
8. The Blue House, by Phoebe Wahl
9. Swashby and the Sea, by Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez

I know — I’m not good at narrowing down my lists! But all the more reading joy!

Happy Reading!