* Summer Reading 2016 *
FITNESS: The Summer of Our Content
Hands Against Our Hearts
Reading List: Ages 13+ years old
Summer Reading for other ages? Look right!
All selections and annotations by WPL Librarian Anna L. Nielsen
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Caletti, Deb. Essential Maps for the Lost. NY: Simon Pulse, 2016. Madison is a girl trying to escape her smothering, impossibly needy mother. So she goes for a swim and strokes straight into a dead body. Being Madison, she pulls the body in. Billy is a boy whose mother decided to quit one day, over the bridge, and into the water. So he is committed to living. Being Billy, he wants to say to his mom, “Here. See? See this? This is beautiful enough to fight for, see?” Billy meets Madison and Madison meets Billy. “”Love is always a risk. Life is. You could step into the street and get hit by a car, but then again, you could step into the street and get to the other side.” Madison meets Billy and Billy meets Madison. They are ready to go.
Hardinge, Frances. The Lie Tree. NY: Amulet Books, 2016. Winner of the 2015 Costa Book of the Year – the first youth title since The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman in 2001 (NY: Alfred A. Knopf) to be awarded – Hardinge’s latest tells the tale of a girl who wants to (a) find out what happened to her father and (b) be a natural scientist. First she has to overcome social mores and resist the temptation or perhaps utilize, instead, the temptation of using the Lie Tree, a tree that thrives on lies and drops secrets in its fruit. Hardinge calls the novel “a Victorian Gothic mystery with added paleontology, blasting powder, post-mortem photography, and feminism.” Main character Faith says, “Everything could change. Everything could get better. Everything was getting better, inch by inch, so slowly that she could not see it, but knowing it gave her strength.” Fitting for a natural scientist. Fitting for a girl named Faith.
King, A.S. I Crawl Through It. NY & Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2015. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A.S. King just might be the best writer writing in young adult literature. “Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding.” But as they say, “We’re alive. We have words and shapes and ideas. We will throw our love and our hate and our failure and success. We’ll split in two right in front of you and be our best and be our worst. We’ll lie and tell the truth. But we are alive.” Meet Stanzy, Gustav, China, and Lansdale. They’re crawling through it. And nobody can stop them.
Klein, Jen. Shuffle, Repeat. NY: Penguin Random House, 2016. June and Oliver are as different as different can be, not a thing in common, nope nothing, and there is nothing about the other that either can stand, not even their respective tastes in music. And then their moms arrange that they will drive to school together, every day. Alone. For their entire senior year of high school. So they fight about music. Until they stop fighting about music. Ah, Cupid. Life and love can be so marvelous.
Legrand, Claire. Some Kind of Happiness. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016. Sometimes Finley has blue days, blue days that take her down to where the only bit she can handle is an imaginary alternate world called Everwood, where everything is always okay. But fantasy is fantasy and real is real, and sometimes a girl is blue and sometimes with help she can learn that the “future is wide open, and the world is full of people who get scared and lie and are sad and happy,” and that all that can be true and that she, at least, can still be okay. In the real world. With help. Finley is going to be just fine.
Longo, Jennifer. Up To This Pointe. NY: Penguin Random House, 2016. Her entire life, Harper has had a plan. She is going to be a professional ballerina. She is going to work hard and practice and work hard and practice and she is going to be a professional ballerina. Same as her friend Kate. Except Kate has natural born talent and grace. And Harper doesn’t. Why in the name of everything didn’t anyone tell her sooner? And what in the world is going to be her plan B? Antarctica. Take that. Harper is coming, better than ever.
Nicholls, Sally. An Island of Our Own. London: Scholastic Children’s Books, 2015. Sometimes, families are what you make them. Actually, families are always what you make them. Especially for thirteen year old Holly, her seven year old brother Davy, and her big brother and legal guardian, Jonathan. The three of them are a family because they are all they have. Or are they? Friends and communities can be such good and useful and loving things, fit for making a giant family. A mysterious aunt and a treasure hunt can help, too. Onward! Holly and Davy and Jonathan are going to be okay.
Savit, Gavriel. Anna and the Swallow Man. NY: Alfred. A Knopf, Penguin Random House, 2016. World War II is just beginning and Anna is seven years old and her father is taken away. She knows he is gone. She does not know he will not come back. She knows she must run. She knows she does not know how. She finds a man, or comes across a man, rather; a kind of broken but capable but incapable man, with whom to run, or at least wander, sometimes in circles and sometimes not, crisscrossing borders with the same illogic as war. She makes it, sort of. She does unspeakable things to survive. She is capable and becomes broken but not broken. “Disappointment, though heavy, is an easy enough thing to pack up in a suitcase… Hope is much the same. But somehow the hybrid of the two is something much less uniform - awkward, bulkier, and no less heavy. It is far too delicate to pack away. It must be carried along in the hands.” Anna does not know where she is going but she knows she is going. Lyrical prose adds thoughtfulness and a certain magical realism to this wartime story of loss and lasting and life. Recommended.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015 (1623). It’s a tricky, tricky thing this thing called love. Add mistaken identity, gender roles based on the insecurities of the other, and pure pig-headedness. Thank goodness for laughter. “Hands against our hearts,” sayeth Benedick. To love! Start with this play, often considered one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, and then (of course!) read all the rest. Sonnets, too. Then read The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson (NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016) about a girl named Trixie Watson who wants two things in life: to earn enough money to buy a complete set of Dr. Who figurines and to whomp the behind of one Ben West in their senior class academic standings. But here comes that tricky, tricky thing called love again. And friends being mistaken about all sorts of things, and gender roles getting all kinds of confusing, and the inevitable stubbornness of all. To love? Yes, to love! Oh, and graduating. That, too.
Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. NY: Harper Perennial, 2005 (1943). Originally published over fifty years ago, this American literary classic is a requisite read. The gentle but realistic voice of a young girl growing up as part of the working poor of NYC manages to include issues of nation, state, and family; gender, labor, and love; and all things growing up in a changing and hard but beautiful world. An absolutely requisite read.
Stork, Francisco X. Marcelo in the Real World. NY: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009. Marcelo is a boy who’s ‘different,’ as they say, just a little ‘different. People like labels, so they refer to him as the one with Asperger’s, but Marcelo doesn’t have Asperger’s, he’s just a little, well, different. His hardworking, success accomplishing lawyer father says enough is enough with what he sees as hiding under the ‘different’ thing, and gives his son an ultimatum: work in the mail office of his law firm for the summer. Make it in the real world for one summer and his father will let Marcelo stay at his special school and stay in the relative safety zone of being, well, different. But who is to say of what the real world does and does not consist? Different doesn’t mean wrong. Different is just, well, different. Marcelo is a boy, and he is in the real world. The rest is up to him. Try Stork’s latest, too (The Memory of Light, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016) about a girl who doesn’t think life is enough to live for and tried to opt out. When that doesn’t work, she’s got to figure out how to manage living after all, happily – or not so – ever after.
Wung-Sung, Jesper; trans. Danish Lindy Falk van Rooyen. The Last Execution. NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, 2016. Everyone has a stake in the execution. Everyone in town will go. The fifteen-year-old boy who threw the stone that killed the son of the sheriff will hang, and the town will watch him swing. For justice, of course. The hours count down, and each chapter is in the voice of another townsperson interspersed with that of the boy. Who is wrong and who is right, and is it for justice or spectacle? Or are they the same thing? Who is fit to decide? The countdown is over.
Valentine, Jenny. Finding Violet Park. London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2010. Lucas Swain is almost sixteen when he takes a cab with the last of his money that isn’t his, and finds her, Violet Park. An old lady in ashes in an urn on the lost shelf of the cab station. Lucas has a brother Jed and a sister Mercy and a Mum who is present and a dad who’s just gone; where is anybody’s guess. It’s the not knowing that rankles. So how can Lucas leave Violet, in ashes, alone, not knowing to whom or where she belongs? How can he let a life turn to nothing on a shelf? He can’t, so he doesn’t. He sets out to find Violet Park, and maybe his own self and what matters along the way. Winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2007. Try also Valentine’s 2015 Fire Colour One (London: HarperCollins Children’s Books) about a girl who misses her best friend and would like to meet her father, no matter what her money-grubbing Mum and stepfather say. “The truth has more than one way of coming to light…”
Nonfiction and Graphic Novels
Heer, Margreet de; trans Dutch. Discovery in Comics series. Religion: A Discovery in Comics (2015), Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics (2015), Science: A Discovery in Comics (2013), and Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics (2012) NY: Nantier, Beall, & Minoustchine. An introduction to some of The Big Topics in Life, in comic form. What is life? What is religion? What is thinking? Perplexed but trying tiny little cartoon characters depicted literally scratching their heads and running from one question to the next push readers along. Go on, scratch your head and take yourself out for a good think.
Kallen, Stuart A. Running Dry: The Global Water Crisis. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2015. It’s not complicated: as climate change wreaks havoc and industry abuses and wastes and disregards what little water is left, the truth will crash. We’re running out of water. What we do about it – and to whom we allow rights to water, now and forever – is up to us. Photographs and further information included. Reading is good for you.
Marcovitz, Hal. Exposing Torture: Centuries of Cruelty. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., 2015. What is it with humans and torture? Why do we theoretically oppose it yet enthusiastically practice it? Why do we often say it’s worth it? It’s universally condemned and universally practiced. Why? Marcovitz traces the practice of torture through history, examining methods and arguing effectiveness or lack thereof, and international ethics and moral quandaries. What makes us human? Is torturing each other a part of who we are? You decide. Resources for further information provided.
Papadatos, Alecos, with Abraham Kawa and Annie Di Donna. Democracy. NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2015. From part of the team of internationally renowned Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth (NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2009) about philosopher Bertrand Russell’s search for what is true comes this epic graphic rendition of the origin and meaning of democracy. Athens is at war in 490 BC and our hero Leander journeys through colors and human history and habit dark and light, to the hopes of a democratic state. Core reading.
Samani, Ozge. Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015. Using a combination of collage and brightly colored graphics, Samanci shares her memories of growing up in Turkey and finding out who and what she wanted to be and do in her life. Including the political and the personal, her young self takes inspiration from a talking poster of Jacques Cousteau and advice from invisible animal spirits in the garden, giving readers humorous insight into the universal angst of adolescence in a world filled with upheavals. Ah, Sturm. Ah, Drang. It’s all going to be okay.
Wyld, Evie; illus. Joe Sumner. Everything is Teeth. NY: Pantheon, Penguin Random House, 2015. A graphic memoir about a girl growing up spending summers in coastal Australia, a girl whose abiding constancy as she grows into a woman is her studious and emotional fascination with sharks. The mostly black and white illustrations with ghosts of blue and creams of sand and machines and splashes of blood red match the tenor of reality and imagination remembered and lived. Worth reading a few times through to catch each wave and inhalation.
BONUS TEEN PROJECT:
Track the References, Track the Epigraphs
Sometimes the best way to find a book is inside another book, through a mention in the middle or the quote at the beginning that gets it all started. Read the list above, choose your favorites, then track the references and track the epigraphs and start reading again. Here’s a sampling of the possibilities.
Shakespeare, William. Folger Shakespeare Library. Macbeth (NY: Washington Square Press, 2004) and Romeo and Juliet (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1992). Go further with graphic interpretations by Gareth Hinds Macbeth (2015) The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet (2013), Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.