Just our regular monthly check in. I didn’t make many book lists this past month, but I did make one good one, and that counts, no? This list of 20 books for writers and editors has gotten such great feedback so far! I’m reading a few of my own recommendations and loving them. March promises many a book list, so hang in there!
Let’s start off with a list of fantastic books I read in February. All five-star reads have an *
Five Feet Apart
I listened to the audio of this one. While I understand many who want to see YA that is not centered around terminal illness, I loved this book for its portrayal of cystic fibrosis and would recommend it.
It’s also soon to be a motion picture–here’s the movie trailer.
Jada Jones: Rock Star
When Jada Jones’s best friend moves away, school feels like the last place she wants to be. She’d much rather wander outside looking for cool rocks to add to her collection, since finding rocks is much easier than finding friends. So when Jada’s teacher announces a class project on rocks and minerals, Jada finally feels like she’s in her element. The only problem: one of her teammates doesn’t seem to like any of Jada’s ideas. She doesn’t seem to like Jada all that much, either. Can Jada figure out a way to make a winning science project and a new friend?
I enjoyed this chapter book whose protagonist’s interest in rocks is infectious. I recommended it in my list of 20 chapter books for beginning readers.
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same
Absolutely delightful early reader following identical twins, Ling and Ting and highlighting the often amusing differences between both girls. This one’s a classic!
Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome
Sarai Gonzalez is AWESOME. Fourth-grader Sarai Gonzalez can do anything. She can bake, dance, and run her own cupcake business. But when Sarai’s grandparents are forced to move, even Sarai’s not sure what to do. So she hatches a super-awesome plan with her younger sisters and cousin to buy back the house. But houses are more expensive than she ever thought, her sisters won’t listen, and she’s running out of time. Will Sarai find a way to save the day?
Lola Levine Is Not Mean
Lola is absolutely delightful! A female soccer star who’s not ashamed of her love for sports or writing or anything. This is one of those chapter books where I felt the MC’s parents were well developed! Loved and would recommend esp. for any soccer-loving kids!
I really enjoyed this fast-paced YA mystery! A riveting story of two high-schoolers thrown into solving the mystery of their best friend’s death. After popular teen DJ, Paris Secord is murdered, two of her friends (who are not on speaking terms) come under public suspicion. Both girls are forced to band together against a group of darkly fanatic supporters, uncooperative police staff, and other hindrances to their efforts.
This novel is captivating, and I finished the 10-hour audiobook in two days. It addresses the use of social media, music fandom, and police response to Black homicide. Especially remarkable in this one is the absence of foul language which is a breath of fresh air for me. Audio narration: A+ Would recommend.
Anna, Banana, and the Monkey in the Middle
I love this series! This one especially, is a chapter book with a ton of depth, yet so relatable! I’m a lot like Anna so this story about managing the transition from one best friend to two is spot on!
Millicent Min, Girl Genius
A funny story about a girl genius and her struggles with finding and keeping friends. Also features themes of family, grief, and navigating the awkward prepubescent ages. A+ narration elevated a “good-enough” story to 4 stars. Would recommend still!
The Girls at 17 Swann Street
The Girls at 17 Swann Street is moving; the author handles her subject sensitively and yet doesn’t shield readers from the hard truths of eating disorders. Readers will feel the pain of all the girls every time they sit for a meal; Anna needs over half an hour to finish a bagel and cream cheese in the morning.
Unfortunately, for me, besides the authentic depiction of an eating disorder, not much else is engaging about this story. Anna is a lackluster character, as are many of the characters. Even with her backstory, I struggled to find her interesting. Full review here.
This is hands down the best book I’ve read about writing and editing children’s books, and I’ll forever be indebted to the author, Cheryl Klein. Her book touches even on the publishing business and the kinds of books and characters that publishing houses are looking for. She even discusses how to craft a query letter to publishing houses and my favorite thing is the generous amount of examples Klein uses in her book. If you’re interested in writing a children’s book, I’d suggest starting here.
Just Under the Clouds
Great portrayal of the realities of homelessness and having a sibling with special needs. Didn’t find the protagonist or story particularly engaging otherwise, but that’s probably just a personal preference. I would still recommend this to anyone looking for books with the themes mentioned. A quiet, sensitive novel.
Zinnia and the Bees
I enjoyed this quirky, unique middle-grade novel. Zinnia’s life does a quick 180 when her big brother leaves home without telling anyone (not even her!). As if that isn’t bad enough, a colony of bees moves into her hair.
I was a bit skeptical of this book at first, because I tend to balk at unrealistic storylines, but somehow this worked. Told from alternating perspectives of Zinnia and the bees, this book offers fresh insight into nature, art, friendship, and of course, growing up.
I wish Dr. Flossdrop’s character was more developed, but this is definitely a book worth reading!
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
I’ve been reading this one for far too long, but that’s my problem with essay collections. Some essays are great, and others are just a drag. Ann Patchett’s collection is no different. I enjoyed GETAWAY CAR and THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE. I also liked THE DOG LIFE and ON RESPONSIBILITY, but I wasn’t sure what she was trying to achieve with THE WALL.
Still, Patchett’s writing is insightful and warm, her observations always astute. I’d suggest just skipping the essays you’re not feeling, otherwise you could be reading this for three months.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for a free review copy in exchange for an honest review. In Goodbye Perfect, a 15-year-old student “elopes” (I.e. runs away)with her music teacher. The story is told through her best friend’s POV. Hard to put down. Themes of adoption, v educative for younger crowd regarding why such relationships are inappropriate. Overall, riveting, high drama, and important message.
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What were your favorite reads this month? You know how I feel about book recommendations; send all of them my way, please!
If you’d like, you can also check out my monthly favorites and follow me on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading.
Emete Smart says
Wow! You just succeeded in igniting my love for reading. I love the synopsis of all the books and wuld love to get either of them. Nice!
Afoma Umesi says
I’m glad to hear that! Let me know what you think if you get to read one of them 🙂
Candice Lally says
A couple of my favorite reads for Feb. were Born A Crime (on audio), Running on the Roof of the World My Sister, The Serial Killer, and A Monster Calls.
Afoma Umesi says
Hey Candace! Oh, I love Born a Crime, and the audio is fantastic! What did you think of My Sister, the Serial Killer? Thanks for reading! 🙂