Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Re-Reading Project: Rebecca

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.

No smoke came from the chimney, and the little lattice windows gaped forlorn. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done, but as I advanced I was aware that a change had come upon it; it was narrow and unkept, not the drive that we had known. At first I was puzzled and did not understand, and it was only when I bent my head to avoid the low swinging branch of a tree that I realised what had happened. Nature had come into her own again and, little by little, in her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long, tenacious fingers. The woods, always a menace in the past, had triumphed in the end. They crowded, dark and uncontrolled, to the borders of the drive. The beeches with white, naked limbs leant close to one another, their branches intermingled in a strange embrace, making a vault above my head like the archway of a church. And there were other trees as well, trees that I did not recognise, squat oaks and tortured elms that straggled cheek by jowl with the beeches, and had thrust themselves out of the quiet earth, along with monster shrubs and plants, none of which I remembered.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, was published in 1938. I read it in 1995, when I was thirteen years old. For some reason, I thought I read a copy from the library originally, but I might’ve read the same edition that I’ve just re-read, an International Collectors Library edition with a bookplate in the front where my mother wrote that the book belonged to the two of us. So I know that this book was in our house while I was growing up. I’m not sure when I stole it for my own library, but I’ve never re-read Rebecca, until now.

Rebecca bookplate Rebecca spine


I don’t remember much about reading Rebecca for the first time. Except I know that I was so enamored of the story that I insisted on watching the Hitchcock film during my sleepover party, the first weekend of the summer, after I read the book. This was also the slumber party where I gave everyone their own spiral-bound notebook and suggested that we keep a diary for each other to read when we all got together at the end of the summer. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one who did it, but this was when I first started journaling regularly.

It was an eerie experience, re-reading this book almost two decades after my first time, especially as I became aware of how deeply the story had filtered into my personality. I’d forgotten much of the actual plot – had confused it a bit with Jane Eyre when I was trying to relate it (I remembered there was a new wife, and the old wife was both present but not). So, in many ways I got to read the book anew, all over again. Yet, there were dozens of times when I got goosebumps because the unnamed narrator thought or said something that I’ve thought or said, or would think or say. Which was uncomfortable because the narrator is shy and passive to the point of character flaw. She is childish and naive, with a rich interior life that she rarely makes visible to those around her. How much was I influenced by the narrator’s character at thirteen, or did I recognize my self in her, instead?

Elements that I obsessed about as I re-read: the narrator is unnamed, yet the book is named for a woman we never see, except through the memories of others. I would end up teaching a fiction class in grad school that focused on two more books that do this: My Antonia by Willa Cather and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, only realizing later the common uniting thread that fascinated me about both books. I didn’t think of including Rebecca in that category, but now that I think of it, there are many, many books that could fit this description. Interestingly, all three of these are written about women and by women. I really want to teach that course again now, as a better teacher with more insights.

Until I did some research for this post, I don’t think I realized that Hitchcock’s The Birds (still the scariest movie I’ve ever seen) was based on a short story by du Maurier. In fact, Hitchcock made three movies based on du Maurier’s writing (the third was based on her novel Jamaica Inn). There are some persistent allegations that both Rebecca and “The Birds” (as well as another short story, “Ganymede”) were plagiarized from other works, and some fairly convincing arguments that du Maurier had access to the works before she wrote her own. Between the zeitgeist and writers’ tendencies to be influenced by each other, it’s a hard one to call, especially since many modern writers often face similar claims when their work is successful (i.e. made into a movie).

I re-read the first 100 or so pages of Rebecca on a 25-hour train trip to Washington, D.C., a lot of it in the middle of the night with people sleeping all around me. It was a great atmosphere for Rebecca, between the quaintness of trains and the creepiness of the story late at night. When I tried to describe the book (or the narrator’s situation in the beginning, at least) to another passenger, he said, “Oh, like Downton Abbey!” which I hadn’t really thought of. Rebecca is like the Gothic stories, the penny dreadfuls, that the characters in Downton Abbey might read, perhaps, and it takes place in a similar world, one that Du Maurier knew very well and one that fans of the show might also enjoy.

Daphne du Maurier died in 1989 (just a few years before I would later read her book) and though she was prolific, Rebecca remains the one thing she is most well-known for. The Gothic mood of the book, as well as the character of Mrs. Danvers, have influenced innumerable writers and artists and have spawned at least three sequels and modern versions.

I think two decades is too long between re-reads for a book like Rebecca, one that has such a clear role in my formation. I might have to re-read it again in the next decade. Or, who knows, the next five years? This experience has definitely made me glad that I’ve decided to undertake The Re-Reading Project.


Filed under books, literature, musing, The Re-Reading Project, travel, what I'm reading

The Re-Reading Project Guest Post: Sati

I once knew this girl who thought she was God.  She didn’t give sight to the blind or raise the dead.  She didn’t even teach anything, not really, and she never told me anything I probably didn’t already know.  On the other hand, she didn’t expect to be worshiped, nor did she ask for money.  Given her high opinion of herself, some might call that a miracle.  I don’t know, maybe she was God.  Her name was Sati and she had blond hair and blue eyes.

I don’t know what made me pick this book up some 20 years ago.  I never liked Christopher Pike books, as he is chiefly known for writing Young Adult horror books.  Sati is his first adult novel, published in 1990.  I’ve actually read other of his adult novels post Sati and didn’t find them any more interesting than his horror books.  However, Sati really caught me.  I had just read Richard Bach’s Illusions:  Adventures of a reluctant Messiah (1977) and it was, what I call, a “thinking book.”  Gave me lots of things to think about….although a bit too heavy on the God part, as I’m not a religious person by any stretch.  Sati reminded me a lot of Illusions, but not as religiously toned.  It is the only book I try to read at least once a year, and that’s saying a lot, because I’m a librarian and I am exposed to a large number of books on a daily basis….I know these things.  There are lines in this book that I’ve highlighted (yes, I write in books) because they made me stop and think.  One of my favorites is:

“Say you have to study for a test,” Sati said.  “You go out on the lawn at school.  You open your book.  You focus on the material, and after some time you become absorbed in it.  But not far away another student is listening to her radio.  One of your favorite songs is being played.  Immediately your mind goes to it.  But then you realize what you are doing.  You have a test coming up.  You put your mind back on your book.  Now maybe 45 minutes go by.  Suddenly you realize that you are not studying.  You’ve been listening to the radio again.  The mind does not just wander.  It wanders in a direction.  The music is charming.  The book is boring.  When you were not thinking about it, your mind automatically went to the music.  The reason for this is what I have been saying all along.  It is the nature of the mind to seek out greater happiness.”

I tend to battle my pleasure-seeking mind, the battle between having fun and being a responsible adult.  I have bills to pay, presents to wrap, need to go to the drugstore, call my mom….the dull stuff that makes up our days.  However, I also have an art project I’m working on, or a good book to read, I hear my hammock calling me….the great stuff that makes up our days.  From this passage, I try to look at things a bit differently.  I try to do the things I WANT to do first without worrying about the things I HAVE to do because invariably the things that HAVE to be done WILL be done.  It’s the things that I WANT to do that often fall by the wayside because I’m so preoccupied with doing the things I HAVE to do.  Anyway, that’s what I took from it, you may see it in a whole different light.

At the time I picked up Sati, I was in grad school getting my Master’s in Library Science after narrowly escaping a career in addiction counseling.  I say, never ask a 17 year old what they want to major in in college!  I was going to save the world by dishing up words that would so profoundly affect alcoholics, they’d put down their bottles and march into the world as happy, brand new people.  Little did I know that a frozen cat would change all that!

In my senior year of college, I was home visiting my family when a friend of my mom’s came over crying and frantically waiving a box around.  She asked my mom if she could put her dead cat in our freezer because she was running late to grad school and didn’t have time to bury him.  I asked mom what kinda nut she had as a friend and she said told me “oh, that’s Sally, she’s just that way….and she’s in grad school to become a librarian.”  “A what? You mean you have to go to school for that?” (a question ALL librarians are asked at one point or another) I asked.  Mom just shrugged.  But, I got to thinking.  I’m a book person, don’t think I’m going to save the world after all and gosh, I could put off working in the REAL world by going to school a bit longer, hummmm, and get paid to read all day?  Count me in!!!  So off I went to get my Master’s in Library Science.  I never did see Sally again (or her frozen cat), but I fully expected to run into (and hoped to never become) some of those weird cat loving, book reading, unmarried quiet types.  Laugh is on me, that’s exactly what I turned out to be!!  Many years, many cats and many books later, I’m the Branch Manager of the Latter Public Library, where I’ve been for 18 years.  Like thinking I’d save the world, I don’t get to read all day after all.  I get to handle a vast array of situations like the kid who tells me “I need a picture of Jesus, no, not a drawing, a PICTURE, like from a camera,” or the teenager who is desperately writing a paper the night before it’s due, “I need to write a 2 page report on WWII, do you have a book on that?” or the older patron looking to reminisce a past reading adventure, “I’m looking for this book that I read years ago but I can’t remember the title.  It was red and about a lady who falls in love with a man who lives in Texas.”   Eye-rolling aside, I look back and realize I’m saving the world after all….just in a different way!

I hope you read and enjoy my favorite book, past and present, Sati.


Missy Abbott is the Branch Manager at the Latter branch of the New Orleans Public Library, one of my favorite places on Earth, and she happens to be one of my favorite people as well.

Missy Abbott plus Sati

Missy Abbott plus her copy of Sati

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Filed under books, funny, literature, musing, review, The Re-Reading Project, what I'm reading

Everybody Brag Now

This bragging on post might be my most overdue yet! Many folks have had multiple successes since I last bragged, so as always, this is always just a tiny sampling. I can’t keep up with these exciting movers and shakers. Still, I try…

As 2014 started and the Oscar nominations were announced, many films shot in New Orleans were included. Robin Mathews (makeup) and Adruitha Lee (hair) won for their work on Dallas Buyers Club. Not only did Twelve Years a Slave win best picture (!), but the amazing production design/set decoration teams and stellar costume department were recognized with nominations. It was so exciting to see the effect Lupita Nyong’o had even before she won the best supporting actress category. It was a great start to the year.

Lavender Ink and Nancy Dixon published N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature, which includes work by folks like Moira Crone, Andrei Codrescu and John Biguenet, alongside Faulkner, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.

After a year of amazing interviews for Hothouse, Karin C. Davidson has compiled an Anniversary Album, putting together more questions and answers from her interview subjects, as well as a playlist of music they’ve each picked. Karin’s “Something for Nothing” was a finalist in Bayou Magazine‘s fiction contest, judged by Lucy Bledsoe.

Studio delle Sorelle’s first art opening at Bev Coates’ Guest House featured a painting by Judy Kahn.

Judy Kahn's painting

Suparno Banerjee has published a paper, “Melodrama, mimicry and menace: Revinenting Hollywood in Indian science fiction films” in Volume 12, issue 1 of South Asian Popular Culture.

Near Valentine’s Day, Danielle Gilyot wrote a love letter to her younger self.

Jeff Roedel has directed the music video for England in 1819’s song “Sirens.”

jewel bush, Justin Torres and Mat Johnson all have stories in Dismantle, the VONA Anthology (with an introduction by Junot Diaz).

Contemplative Man by Brock Guthrie was published in March. Here’s a great review.

Joseph Boyden‘s The Orenda is the 2014 winner of Canada Reads. The Orenda will be published in the U.S. in May.

Jamie Amos has been busy, with new stories at Cold Mountain Review (“Defensive Wounds”) and at storySouth (“Spit”).

M.O. Walsh‘s book My Sunshine Away (due out next January) was announced as one of five Buzz Books and will be showcased at the BEA Conference in May.

Kaledioscope, a magazine for LSU’s Humanities and Social Sciences Departments, features quite a bit of great news in its Fall 2013 issue, including a feature on service learning courses on page 11, a feature on filmmaker Zack Godshall on page 13, a story about Associate Dean Malcolm Richardson on page 16, and a feature on the Creative Writing Department (plus two books I mention later in this brag) on page 18.

Montana Miller reports “After three marathon days of training in Eloy with the USPA Chief Judges, my brain is leaking out my ears and my eyes falling from their sockets, but my heart is leaping with joy and gratitude: I am a newly-rated National Judge for formation skydiving!”

Tad Bartlett‘s story “Hung Over” was published by Rappahannock Review.

Judge Claire Messud selected Summer Wood‘s story “Boomerang” for the 2013 Indiana Review Fiction Prize. Mary McMyne‘s story “Camille” was also a finalist.

Speaking of Mary McMyne, her story “Reading His Own Obituary” was published by Narrative Northeast in January. Faerie Magazine will publish Mary’s poem “Rapunzel Tucks the Twins into Bed,” in the next issue. Her poem “Irene Joliot-Curie” published in Painted Bride Quarterly No. 86 was nominated for a Rhysling.

Penelope Dane reviewed This Assignment Is So Gay, an anthology edited by Megan Volpert, in the March issue of Bitch Magazine.

Cara Jones has written an essay called “Taking the Woman Out of Women’s Health,” published at Nursing Clio.

First, the cover and title page of the Long Hidden anthology were revealed. Then, there was a wonderful review that specifically mentions Jamey Hatley‘s story:

“…“Collected Likenesses” is thought-provoking, with fascinating magic and heart-rendingly real characters.”

And most recently, Jamey’s interview with Roxane Gay was published at Press Street’s Room 220. Roxane has just announced she’ll be joining the MFA Program at Purdue University in the fall, as an associate professor.

Here’s a great review of James Claffey‘s Blood a Cold Blue. James is also editing the Ireland and the Irish themed issue of Literary Orphans, due out at Easter.

Literary Orphans

Maurice Ruffin has been very busy, as always. “Catch What You Can” will be published in Redivider Journal‘s issue 11.2 in May. “Heathen” will appear in issue 2 of  The Knicknackery. “Motion Picture Making” will appear in issue 2 of Writing Tomorrow in June.  “Heroes and Villains,” will be published in an upcoming issue of 94 Creations. To top it all off, he’s been accepted to Tin House’s Writers Workshop.

Cara Blue Adams interviewed David James Poissant for Tin House.

Melinda Palacio‘s book of poetry How Fire Is a Story, Waiting was a finalist in the 2013 Paterson Poetry Prize. She just traveled to New York for the awards reading.

June Pulliam‘s Encyclopedia of the Zombie will be available in June.

Andrew Lam‘s Birds of Paradise Lost is a finalist for the California Book Awards. The results will be announced in June.

Rachel Hebert performed “Just What I Need” for the Birmingham Sessions.

Helen Krieger has also had a busy couple of months. She was accepted to study at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Least Favorite Love Songs, the webseries she made with her husband and band of Nola cohorts, is nominated for a Webby. To celebrate the nomination, a special episode from the series will premiere this Sunday at 10 p.m. at the new theater Indywood.

The second book in Ronlyn Domingue‘s Keeper of the Tales trilogy, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, will be published next month. Here’s an interview with her.

Charlotte Hemrick is interviewing local female poets at NolaFemmes for Poetry Month. First up was Kelly Harris and most recently is Cassie Pruyn. There will be a new interview posted on Friday.

Also happening on Friday at 7 p.m. at Cafe Istanbul is the second installment of Yeah, You Write, which will feature Cassie and myself. Kelly read at the first installment of Yeah, You Write. This year’s lineup is simply incredible John BarryJoseph Boyden, jewel bush, Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin, Benjamin Percy, Cassie and myself, with DJ Sep, images by L. Kasimu Harris and the whole shebang will be MC’d by Nick Fox. All for a $5 cover – you can’t beat that. Here’s the poster for the details:

Yeah, You Write 2014

I hope you enjoyed this attempt of mine to keep up with this phenoms. Moreso, I hope that you check out the links and come by Yeah, You Write on Friday. I can’t promise that I’ll be better at keeping up with these folks, but I can guarantee that they’ll be doing amazing things in the coming months.


Filed under book news, bragging on, Friends

2014 Q1 Reading Report

Now that the first quarter of the reading year is firmly over, it’s time for a Quarterly Reading Report. This year, the reports will also serve as an index for the Re-Reading Project posts from the previous quarter. The Re-Reading Project is adding an extra dimension to my reading this year, as I am re-reading selected books from my childhood and early teen years. But it’s also making me want to re-read many more books (I’ve been hankering to re-read the whole Song of Ice and Fire series, which I only read last year). It’s making me think about the books I’m reading for the first time in a new way. And it’s making me want to catch up with series and authors I might have taken a break on lately. I’m not done reading memoirs and nonfiction by any means, but fiction is calling my name in a big way. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the year brings in terms of reading surprises and epiphanies.


The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – This is another example of me seeing a movie and being intrigued by the source material. This time, I was intrigued because the movie was so spectacularly bad. It shouldn’t have been that bad, since it had good actors and decent visual effects. Without reading the books, I could feel that the story was off. It didn’t make any sense, the characters were inconsistent and the story logic betrayed itself several times. Once I read City of Bones, I was blown away by how much better the book was than its film adaptation (to be fair, this is particularly difficult book to adapt to film, partly because of subject material and partly because of length). I quickly got over my initial reason for reading (the intrigue about what went wrong with the film) and was completely hooked on the Mortal Instruments series. These books feel Biblical, like Shakespeare and all of the towering giants of canonical literature, but totally modern and relevant, juicy and funny.

Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

Sixth Grade Secrets, Louis Sachar – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare – About two chapters into City of Ashes, I requested the next two books in the series from the library. I could just tell that it was going to be one of those experiences where I wouldn’t be content with having just plowed through a massive 500+ page book. I was going to still want more. I was going to want to know what happened next, need to know, as quickly as possible.

Snot Stew, Bill Wallace – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

Matilda, Roald Dahl – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

City of Glass, Cassandra Clare – Just to torture me, the fourth book arrived at the library before the third one did, but the third one arrived right on time anyway, right as I was returning the second book. And here’s where I have to make a confession. I could’ve read a few more children’s books for the first month of The Re-Reading Project (I considered Harriet the Spy and The Secret Garden, among others), but between packing for my move and wanting to dive into this book, it just wasn’t going to happen. Plus, I felt like I’d covered enough ground with the eight books I read to justify getting absorbed in this book.

The 2013 Best American Essays, edited by Cheryl Strayed – As I did with the 2012 Best American Essays, I read one essay per day, every day (except for one day I missed), usually first thing in the morning. Even if I wanted to read more, I forced myself to read just one, so that I could think about it throughout the day. After I finished 2012, I couldn’t wait for 2013 and now that I’ve finished 2013, I feel the same way. I’ve collected 2011 and 2003 and I’ll probably do the same with them while I await 2014 later this year.

Sammy the Seal and Danny and the Dinosaur, Syd Hoff – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

Some Nerve, Patty Chang Anker – This book came up in about a dozen conversations and magazines around the same time and it seemed like precisely the kind of book I needed to be reading as research for my memoir. I’ve gotten pretty good at listening to that “this is a book for you, now” voice. It’s a conversational book, based on experiences Anker wrote about on her blog, but for all the ease with which I sunk into the book, it was also one that challenged me, taught me a lot about voice and being honest.

Alice in Charge, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – I mentioned Alice in one of my re-reading posts and it made me go check to see how long it had been since I’d caught up with Alice, especially since I’d read recently that Phyllis Reynolds Naylor had published the last Alice book.  It was 2009, but I only had four books to catch up on, including the last one. So I checked them out from the library and dug in. Alice is such a strange mix between naïve and mature, a tiny bit sanctimonious but always well-intentioned. I think this is why readers have responded to her for so long, why I feel compelled to finish the series.


Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher, Wendelin van Draanen – Ditto with Sammy Keyes. I’d last read one of these titles in 2009 as well, around the same time as my last Alice book, and I also recently mentioned her in a re-reading post. One thing I really enjoyed about this book was seeing Sammy’s relationships change as she’s gotten older. Watching plucky, tomboyish Sammy with a boyfriend is really cool, because while she is growing up, the relationship isn’t changing her essential nature. She’s a younger, way less proper Nancy Drew, mixed with a bit of Harriet the Spy.

Incredibly Alice, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – It was really interesting to read this book now, since the series is set in a suburb of DC and I knew I was visiting DC soon. In fact, I’m returning from my trip as I write this. The whole time I was visiting, I would occasionally think, “This is Alice’s stomping grounds. That could be her and her girlfriends over there walking down the street.” This was the first time I connected with Alice in quite that way, as a girl I might meet walking down the street, since I was already mostly grown by the time I started reading the books and didn’t grow up anywhere near DC.

Sammy Keyes and the Night of the Skulls, Wendelin van Draanen –This book dealt with the Day of the Dead and Sammy spends a significant amount of time in the cemetery, where both hijinks and healing occur. It makes me wonder if Sammy’s grandmother is going to survive many more books. Not that she’s sick or anything, but if she did die, it would completely destabilize Sammy’s existence. In this book, Sammy’s friendship with Marissa was further tested, as well as her relationship with Casey. It’s cool to see Sammy staying true to herself no matter what else changes.

City of Fallen Angels, Cassandra Clare – So… how to say this without spoiling anything? Something big went down in the last book that made me wonder how there was going to be another book in the series, let alone two more (I only knew there were five, the sixth book is published at the end of May). So I was intrigued to read this book, see how the story would continue after evil was pretty well vanquished in the last book (there’s a slight spoiler for you). I’m always impressed with series authors who can build a full and satisfying narrative arc in each book and find creative paths for the ongoing story.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh – While this book seems (on the surface) nothing like graphic novels like Maus and Allison Bechdel’s memoirs, I’d say that it’s not that far apart. The art is pretty basic and deceptively shallow, would be easy to dismiss except Brosh is a genius at pairing this simple art with universal themes and the perfect words and expression. In what seems like silly, funny comics (and are, on one level), Brosh tackles the curse of creativity, as well as mental health and depression. I enjoyed the webcomics and while I found the book very funny, I also found it a pretty painful read as well.

Dragon Sword & Wind Child, Noriko Ogiwara and translated by Cathy Hirano – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

The Chronicle of Secret Riven, Ronlyn DomingueReview in 225 Magazine.


The Priority List, David Menasche – I saw David Menasche speak at Words & Music last year and while the subject matter of his book (going on a road trip to visit his former students while dealing with the side effects and symptoms of a terminal brain tumor) is pretty grim, he was full of life and good humor. I doubt many people left the room without a desire to read this book. It’s a quick read, sometimes almost too light, considering the subject matter. I admire the instinct to be positive and inspire rather than dwell in negativity, and the book is very powerful.

The Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean M. Auel – The Re-Reading Project post available here.

The Bookstore, Deborah Meyler – I saw this book while working at the bookstore, ironically enough, and liked the idea of a Cheers-like indie bookstore being the center of this book. At first, I thought it might be too silly to hold my interest, but that was mostly me judging a book by its cover. I was quickly absorbed and read this book so quickly, invested so much in the characters, that I was disappointed when it was over. I could have read another 100 pages, easily.

The Show Must Go On! and The Greatest Show on Earth, Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise – I got an ARC of the second book in this series from the bookstore, so I checked out the first one from the library and read them both in an afternoon. I’m always interested to see how the circus is depicted in popular culture, especially for kids. It was Hilary Knight’s The Circus is Coming!, a picture book, that probably first sparked my own lifelong fascination with the circus. These are charming books, preposterous and goofy, and perfect for kids. They’re  written and illustrated by a pair of sister, which I love too, because Aimee and I always said we’d write and illustrate books together.

Alice on Board, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – During the summer after they graduate high school, Alice and her gang of girlfriends all work on a cruise ship together. She’s still apart from Patrick, stressed out by the distance in their relationship and worried about their future, but having fun and adventures on the cruise ship. Sometimes, I really want Alice to be more assertive that that she’s older, but then I have to remind myself that just like any friend I have high expectations for, I have to let Alice just be herself. It’s not fair to expect her to be anything else.

Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack, Wendelin van Draanen – This book reminded me a little of the Kick Ass movies (I’d just watched the second one), because Sammy is confronted by an adult man trying to be a superhero, who is both inspired by her sleuthing and hoping to make her his sidekick. Sammy’s struggles, with other people and with her own conscience, feel very real to me and I think that’s something I really like about the books. Best of all, it’s amazing to see how far she’s come since the first book, when no one knew her secret living situation and she didn’t trust anybody. She’s brought together a community, a network of support for herself. Which really builds on my suspicion that her grandmother might die soon, or go into the hospital for a while. Something is going to happen that will force Sammy to count on the community around her. She’s resourceful, but the most amazing part of the books is when she lets others help her.

So that was my first quarter in reading for 2014. The second quarter is already pretty strong and I can’t wait to share the report with you. But first, I have to read all the books I’ll be reporting on, which is the best part of all.

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