Ooko by Esme Shapiro

Ooko

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook

Synopsis: Ooko has everything a fox could need.  A stick.  A leaf.  Well, almost everything.  He needs a friend, too.

Review: This book is so cute, and I can’t help but have the feeling that I’ve read it somewhere before…but, deja vu aside, this is a great book about finding people who like you for you, and who have common interests.  It’s drawn in a style that I’m inexplicably drawn to, Shapiro’s storytelling skills are wonderful, and this book overall leaves me with a nice, happy feeling in my heart.

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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Genre: Fiction, multicultural lit, YA lit, poetry

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Will’s brother has just been murdered, gunned down by someone they both knew, once upon a time.  And so he takes his brother’s gun and makes his way to get revenge.  He hops onto an elevator, waits to get to the correct floor.  But on each floor, Will is visited by someone who knew him in the past.  By someone who’s dead.  And he gets a much bigger picture of what’s really going on.

Review: This was a beautiful book, juxtaposing the softness of poetry with the harsh reality of black on black, gang-related violence.  This story is teased apart, as though it were a knot with a few loose threads, and at the climax, the knot comes loose, allowing us to see just all of the background that makes up what happened on the fateful day that Will’s brother was murdered.

Reynolds does a wonder with the emotionality of this book, and of the harsh content that comes with it.  There’s anger, sadness, resentment, desperation, and so much more, and he does an amazing job sifting through it all.

This book was originally recommended to me by a friend practicing her booktalk, and so when I got to read this for a different class, I was so excited.  Her booktalk was spot on, and this book was an incredible recommendation.  I’d definitely read this if any of you had the spare time of a couple days (though likely less).  It’s amazing, awesome, and the ending will absolutely give you chills.

I Don’t Care by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

I Don't Care

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook

Synopsis: A young boy loses his balloon one day and must deal with the consequences.

Review: Normally when I write reviews, I try to think of how children would like it, whether my mom’s classroom would enjoy it, or my nephew or nieces.  But truth be told…this is the best hecking picture book I’ve ever read.  It is such a MOOD.  Just, little boy losing something important to him?  “I don’t care (:” and just continuously trying to convince himself he doesn’t care…until he gets so upset he just screams at the sky Zuko-style.  This is just.  It’s so good.  And the illustrations.  It’s all just great.  I love it so much.  If you’re in college, or high school, or grad school, I definitely recommend this book.

Our Blood by Andrea Dworkin

Our Blood

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Nonfiction, feminist literature

Synopsis: Our Blood is an anthology of speeches that Andrea Dworkin gave to universities across the span of many years, some speeches even predating that of her first-published book, Woman Hating.

Review: I would have loved to hear Dworkin share these speeches.  In fact, I think that there’s a Youtube hunt about to happen once I have the time to do it…Dworkin never fails to be convincing, compelling, and all-around magnificent and magnanimous.  Dworkin is a force to be reckoned with, and her speeches in this anthology reflect not only her empathy, but her radical nature as well.  She will not be defeated, and her ideas, through this book, will continue to survive.

Rainbow Jordan by Alice Childress

Rainbow Jordan

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Genre: Fiction, middle grade lit, ethnic lit

Synopsis: Rainbow has been placed with Miss Josephine while her mother is away.  Again.  As if she doesn’t have enough to deal with, like saving up for a new hairdo, writing about black activists, and boys.  But how can she focus on herself when she’s constantly being brought down?

Review: I recently finished this book for a class I’m in, and wow is it something.  I’ll be up front and honest, I was a little speculative about beginning this, not really sure what it was going to be like, having only read adult black literature, but it’s something to behold.  It’s constantly in conversation with the idea of the black aesthetic, and remains to me as a definition of Afrocentricity.

This book finds ways to discuss aging and getting older, becoming a woman, from topics such as beauty, school, friends, boys, and trust.  As Rainbow grows both further and closer to Miss Josephine, her struggles get harder as well–the more she comes to terms with Miss Josephine, the more she comes to the realization that she has no idea where her mother could possibly be.  Even so, she remains as positive as she can, though that positivity looks like trouble in some adults’ eyes.

Alice Childress has mentioned before that she doesn’t write about the entirety of the ‘black experience,’ but can only write about one experience at a time.  I think she does that especially well here in Rainbow Jordan, as she doesn’t make anything too overbearing or too heartwrenching.  It just is, and I appreciate that.

I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Scott Magoon

I Will Not Eat You

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook

Synopsis: The monster inside the cave is hungry.  But he will not eat anybody that passes by until he finds the perfect specimen…

Review: Dark picture books with monsters and caves?  Sign me up.  I Will Not Eat You is a fun, suspenseful story for younger audiences who are interested in the spooky and scary.  It’s well illustrated, well written, and above all else, well-loved.  It’s definitely worth the read, especially as we move ever closer to Halloween…

Dear Yeti by James Kwan

Dear Yeti

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook

Synopsis: Two boys venture out into the great unknown, hoping to find a yeti.  When they don’t immediately spot him, they decide to write him a few letters.

Review: I’m a sucker for yeti, so when I saw this I knew I needed to read it.  How absolutely adorable is this book??  From the concept to the writing to the pictures, I absolutely loved it.  Besides, who could possibly resist the idea of two boys looking for a yeti who’s keeping an eye out for them and making sure they’re safe?  I’M CRYING.  It’s just so sweet, and a perfect wintertime book.

Woman Hating by Andrea Dworkin

Woman Hating

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Nonfiction, feminist literature

Synopsis: Dworkin analyzes the various plights of women in both reality and in fiction, from fairy tales to foot binding to the witch trials.

Review: This, I believe, is Dworkin’s first published work, and wow, what a piece of work it is.  Dworkin writes in a hugely accessible way, ensuring that readers of all kinds can understand what she means, not only in terms of her writing, but in the diagrams she chooses to show as well.  Her evidence is compelling, and the history she provides is horrifying.  I know that in some feminist circles Dworkin is more detested than revered, but I honestly can’t see how after reading this.  In my humble opinion, she’s absolutely correct, spot on, one-hundred-percent right about everything she discusses.  There’s not one point she made that I disagreed with, and there were various points in her book where I laughed, cried, and held my hand over my mouth in pure shock.  This book, I believe, should be on every feminist’s basic reading syllabus.  It will not disappoint.

The Year of No More Corn by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

The Year of No More Corn

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook

Synopsis: A young boy isn’t old enough to work in the corn fields yet, so his grandfather tells him about the year of no more corn.

Review: I was drawn in by the crows, and I stayed for the corn.  This was a fun little tall tale to read, and a fantastical in a way I didn’t quite expect.  Coming from a small farming town myself, this was an interesting read, and definitely made me think what our fields would look like if they were empty.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: YA Lit, poetry, biography

Synopsis: In this autobiography in verse, Jacqueline Woodson describes her family history which created her family narrative, from the racial injustices they suffered to what it was like always wanting to be a writer.

Review: When I first opened this book, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as I don’t really know much about Woodson besides a few of her stories, but what I got was a wonderful, beautiful whirlwind of first- and second-hand narratives of what it means to grow up in a society that devalues you based on your skin color.

Woodson does a wonder with words, and there’s simply no denying it after she’s spent her whole life playing and toying with them to create stories.  This is a great read for those interested in Woodson as a person (as it’s her autobiography), or for those interested in the Civil Rights Movement and family matters.