After all the excitement and intense work of the last few weeks, I’ve had a chance to make a tiny dent in my ‘To Be Read’ heaps. My heaps contain books in four categories:
- To be read for college
- To be read for work
- Books I’ve borrowed from the library for fun
- Books I asked people to buy me for birthday and Christmas that are still waiting their turn.
This week, for the first time in a long time, I ditched the first category. The majority of this week’s reading comes from section two, but I did manage to sneak in some stories from section three. Those books in the fourth category are, as usual, the Cinderellas. It’s worse than that, they weren’t even invited to the party.
To make up for it, I read a picture book about Cinderella – Give Us a Smile, Cinderella by Steve Smallman & Marcin Piwowarski. In this version of the well-known tale the step-sisters are ugly because they are too lazy to brush their teeth. The Prince is not attracted to their smelly, gappy smiles but Cinderella, who brushes her teeth night and morning, wins his heart.
The other picture books this week are 15 things NOT to do with a baby by Margaret McAllister & Holly Sterling – a comical set of rules for things you really shouldn’t do when your new baby arrives – and Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne & Max Lang. This simple book is full of families of every shape and size. It has one simple message: If you love each other, then you’re a family. Both these books are great for families to share together and will be going on the When a Book Might Help book lists.
The other WABMH books this week were Blabber Mouth by Morris Gleitzman and Not As We Know It by Tom Avery & Kate Grove. In Blabber Mouth we meet Rowena Batts. She can’t speak due to having ‘some bits missing from my throat’. This, her tendency to stuff frogs in people’s mouths and her outlandish father, can make it difficult to make friends. This is a fun, funny, positive story and makes me want to read more about Rowena. Not As We Know It is much darker. It is the story of Ned and Jamie, Star Trek obsessed twins. They do everything together, but Ned has Cystic Fibrosis and the prognosis is not good. One day they find something strange on the beach after a storm. They take the creature, who Ned names Leonard, home with them and hide him in the garage. Jamie hopes that Leonard will somehow cure Ned’s illness, but Ned has listened to the stories about merfolk and has a different interpretation of how things will end. A moving and beautifully illustrated story which some adults may find disturbing.
From my ‘fun’ heap I read the eighth book in Alex Scarrow’s Time Riders series, The Mayan Prophecy. I have enjoyed following the adventures of Liam, Maddy, Sal, Bob & Becks as they try to unravel the mystery of who they are and what they are doing. Book nine has already been requested from the library and I think that will be the end of their journey. At the same time I’ve been listening to The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke. Written in 1956 this story felt quite old-fashioned in the way it was written – lots of exposition, both in the text and dialogue. The ideas, however, were interesting and the ideas about man destroying their environment and isolating themselves from the natural world seemed very relevant.
I’ve kept the best to last. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a beautifully written, lyrical coming of age story. Dante and Ari have different skills and abilities, different temperaments and different family backgrounds so it seems unlikely that they will become best friends – but they do. I loved this story. Despite the occasional violence, it is a very gentle story about a friendship that gradually develops into love. We so often read about gay people knowing about their sexual preferences from an early age but this was much closer to my own experience. Looking back, the clues were there and some of my friends were quicker on the uptake than others. I wished they’d told me! When I finished this book it took me a while to come back to the real world. I felt sad that I could never again share Ari and Dante’s story for the first time, but really happy that I had got to know them. I would recommend this book to anyone who is questioning their sexuality, who has friends who may be going through the experience, or who revels in a good love story.