An article in my news feed detailed how, because of the One Child Policy, males vastly outnumber females in China. "An Excess Male" is a dystopian novel that isn't that much of a stretch as what could happen. As is a reality in China, males are competing to get a wife. Though in this novel, a woman can have up to three husbands, and the main family has decided to go to the max. This book details how an unconventional family try to get along with each other and somehow still fit into society. Each of them faces personal difficulties that threaten to tear the family apart.
I was impressed that this is Maggie Shen King's debut novel. I grew to love each of the characters, and laughed and grew frustrated with them. The conclusion, while a bit open ended, left me wanting a sequel. I wanted to know what happened next, and I am left letting my imagination run wild with the possibilities!
The playwright and actor Sam Shepard died of complications from ALS last year. He leaves behind a final work, composed and transcribed with the assistance of family and friends. Spy of the First Person is both bleak and poetic. The slim novella is stripped of adornment, the prose is spare and haunting, and its themes are familiar to Shepard’s previous work. Not surprisingly, the story echoes the truth of the author’s predicament, even as the disease is only referenced obliquely. Echoing the somber, minimalist work of Samuel Beckett, Shepard’s swan song is the culmination of a cryptic voice, one that confronts its mortality through the expression of the fragments of life lived, seen and ended.
As soon as I saw You're Safe With Me, by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry, I wanted to tell you all about it. In this brand new Grow neighborhood book, Mama Elephant comforts the young animals of the forest through a scary storm. She soothes their fears about the rain, lightning, thunder, and wind. The unique and beautiful illustrations will awe readers of all ages. The art alone will make you want to take this book home with you and the sweet, simple story makes for a calming read.
This is another of Lonely Planet's publications, and it describes, as indicated in the subtitle, 360 Extraordinary Places You Never Knew Existed and How to Find Them. Most of the places in this book I 'never knew existed,' but I'm not so sure I would want to know 'how to find' some of them. I did enjoy paging through this book, learning about pink lakes in Senegal and Australia; The Karoo in South Africa, where one can see a giant South African flag the size of 66 soccer fields; the Billionth Barrel Monument in Brunei, which celebrates a milestone in oil drilling; and Tashirojima, Japan, which is an island on which cats outnumber humans six to one. There are American sites as well, such as the Lunchbox Museum In Columbus, Georgia; Carhenge near Alliance, Nebraska, which has non-working automobiles set up like Stonehenge; and the world's largest maze on the Dole Pineapple Plantation, about 40 minutes from Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. All in all, this is a fun volume to explore.
Dumplin', by Julie Murphy, is a teen novel set in small town Texas starring Willowdean Dickson. Willowdean is fat. But she's fine with it-or is she? She seems fine with it until she starts dating, then all these new feelings muddle her confidence. Her mother, former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant winner and current pageant coordinator, doesn't make Willowdean feel any better about herself. The struggling adolescent eventually decides to join the pageant to prove to herself and to everyone else that just because she doesn't look like their perception of a beauty queen, it doesn't mean she shouldn't compete alongside everyone else. Moreover, she doesn't have to do anything extra to "earn" life's joys; she doesn't have to compensate for anything; she doesn't owe anything to anybody.
The parts of Dumplin' I liked most had nothing to do with the pageant; I enjoyed following Willowdean's experiences with life challenges: mourning her aunt, navigating romantic relationships and friendships old and new, and reaching an understanding with her mother. Kick back, relax, and ride along with Willowdean before the movie comes out this year.
A recent addition to KPL's Je Nature category is Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel, who previously authored They All Saw a Cat. In this outing, Brendan introduces us to black and white cats, then zebras, panda bears and colorful parrots, fish, tigers, lizards, etc. The list goes on and on.
The idea is that a world to see is a world to know and that knowledge usually begins with a friendly greeting of Hello Hello.
With rhythmic text, exuberant art and an important message relating to conservation and protecting our diverse planet, each of these encounters celebrates nature's differences and yet marvels at its wonderful similarities. It also makes a point to mention that many of the animals depicted in the colorful illustrations happen to be threatened or endangered.
A worthwhile addition to any picture book collection and especially recommended for kids 3 to 6 years of age.
Here's another book that's good either for browsing or for reading all the way through. English author Harford has in this volume written a chapter of five or six pages about 50 inventions that shaped the modern economy. I was not surprised to find that all this takes place in exactly 50 chapters. Included are many obvious inventions, like the elevator, air conditioning, clocks, paper, batteries, etc. But there are also many that I never would have thought to be inventions, although I have to acknowledge that they were, like management consulting, intellectual property, tax havens, and insurance. The fact that this book is written in a breezy, entertaining way makes it appealing to a wide range of audiences.
Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Like everyone else
is doing a great job at life, and you’re just trying to make sure you don’t
look like a fish out of water? Well amplify that feeling by a thousand, and you’ll
understand what it’s like for Loma Shade. Bored with her life on the planet
Meta, Loma steals the “madness coat” that belonged to her hero and poet Rac
Shade and uses it to take over the body of a high school mean girl and
experience life on earth.
But they don’t call it the madness coat for nothing. Loma’s
struggling to get a grip on her new life, all of the feelings that come with the teenage experience, and reality itself.
Each frame bursts off the page in psychedelic whimsy while the story itself
stays grounded with award winning YA author Cecil Castellucci’s sardonic wit.
Shade the Changing Girl is wonderfully weird, and available
to check out today.
When I recommend books to patrons, I don't normally recommend the latest book. I normally recommend the books that I keep going back to. This book isn't a classic, but I've probably read it 3 times. Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret is the true story of Steve Luxenberg's journey to find out about his mother's sister, a sister that his mother only revealed upon her deathbed. The book is Steve's journey to learn more about this aunt, condemned to a mental institution, and the family her never spoke of her. Luxenberg explores life in 1940s and 1950s Detroit and in Eloise, the institution to which is Aunt was committed.
Those who are familiar with writer/comedian/actor John Hodgman's previous books of fake facts may be surprised by Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches. (Those who are not familiar with his books may recognize him as the PC from the Apple television commercials or from his appearances on The Daily Show.) Rather than tongue-in cheek, Vacationland is an honest, humble, and heartfelt--yet still very funny--memoir of loosely connected essays, which do concern various vacation escapades but also wander into many other topics. In addition to recounting the mishaps of home-ownership, country life, and being a weird dad, Hodgman offers his personal insights on adolescence, only children, bullying, becoming an adult (or not), grief, and his own race and class privilege.
I listened to the Vacationland audiobook (available on Overdrive) which is read by Hodgman himself. I usually prefer audiobooks narrated by the author, particularly ones by humorists (another good one is Jessi Klein's You'll Grow Out of It), and as I hoped, Hodgman's dry and self-deprecating humor really shines through in his reading.