Archive for the ‘Reading suggestions’ Category

For some reason this year, I felt like revisiting a book I had read ages ago.  For my 14th or 15th birthday, a friend of mine got me an autographed copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Living in Southern California, we had access to Ray Bradbury for many years at the LA Times Festival of Books, and this felt like a great time to revisit a fall book, now that the temperature has actually started dropping.

Cover - Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes is the story of two boys, caught between being boys and young men – anxious to be older and yet not ready to grow up.  The carnival comes to town and offers an escape from their daily lives, but for a price.  While the ride on the carousel could fulfill a deeply held wish, there is danger lurking in striking bargains with beings you don’t fully understand.  Bradbury’s approach to fantasy is wonderful because of how much he’s willing to leave unexplained and letting the reader gather her own conclusions.


Cover -Carnie PunkCarnie Punk is a collection of short stories by a variety of authors.  With a little bit of everything, these stories are as varied as attractions at a carnival.  Short story collections are always high on my to-read list, particularly when life gets busy.  Each story will whisky you away to the midway for a short while.  If you want to try a story without checking out the whole volume – Jennifer Estep’s Parlor Tricks is available for free on Amazon as of 10/31.


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With the Oz the Great and Powerful movie out in theaters, it’s not surprising that there are a number of tie-ins and a great deal of interest in Oz over the past weeks.  Due to being on top of some of my media and behind in others, I happened to have a week full of stories of both Oz of the books and Oz of the movies.  Below are links to the pieces that helped my past week fill to the brim with Oz.

historychicks The History Chicks covered L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz in their podcast and they also did a minicast on the Women of Oz, providing a brief overview of the women of the movie version of the Wizard of Oz – focusing on Judy Garland, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton.  After listening to their podcasts, see their show notes for excellent supplemental information – beautiful photos, illustrations from the book and recaps of the information provided in in their conversation style podcast.  Beckett and Susan are always entertaining and cover a variety of women in their regular podcasts.  I highly recommend going through their archive after you’ve finished their two Oz related podcasts.

geeksguideThe Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy had a wonderful interview with Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked as well as writing an introduction to a new Oz anthology.   The remainder of the podcast was a discussion about the host’s memories of the Oz books, the writing of the new Oz anthology and memories of the 1939 movie.

reimaginedLast but not least, I just finished Oz Reimagined edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen.  Oz Reimagined is a wonderful collection of short stories by a variety of authors, each taking his or her own take on the original Wizard of Oz book.  Some of the stories took Oz into a science fiction realm, one into a reality TV show, multiple detective stories and one took Dorothy from Shanghai into a parallel Oz.  My favorites were Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust by Seanan McGuire, A Tornado of Dorothys by Kat Howard and The Cobbler of Oz by Jonathan Maberry and Beyond the naked eye by Rachel Swirsky.  All of the stories were wonderful and an imaginative reimagining of Baum’s Oz but these four stood out for me.  The anthology is worth reading in its entirety or each individual story is available for sale individually.

emeraldsEmeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust follows an adult Dorothy as she investigates the mysterious death of a Munchkin in Emerald City.  Ozma and Dorothy do not get along as they did in their youth and there is unrest between the Ozites and immigrants like Dorothy who have decided to make Oz their home.  In addition to her short story, McGuire has written and sung at least two songs that mention Dorothy, Wicked Girls (2012) and Dorothy (2007) the lyrics to both of which are available on her website.  

tornadoA Tornado of Dorothys by Kat Howard shows us what happens when a place needs its story told at all cost.  Oz needs a Dorothy, a Glinda and a witch of the East and someone must always be conscripted to play the roles.



Cover- The Cobbler of Oz

The Cobbler of Oz by Jonathan Maberry gives the back story behind Dorothy’s silver slippers, from their creation, to their fall into disrepair and the adventures of a brave and generous winged monkey, Nyla, to restore them to their former glory.



wishIn Beyond the Naked Eye Swirsky turns the adventures of Dorothy and her friends into a reality show – one where she is one group among several competing to have a wish granted by the great and terrible Oz.  However, political unrest in the Emerald City cannot be completely eclipsed by the drama on screen.

All of the original Oz books are available in the public domain at Project Guttenberg if you want to reacquaint yourself with some of the original stories before diving into the later incarnations of the wonderful world.

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One thing I miss about working in a school library is the opportunity to make displays of books for different themes, weeks and months.  Children’s book week is in May this year!  I remember it being in November but since it’s earlier this year it overlaps with Asian Pacific American History month.  Below I’ve outlined a few picture books that speak to Asian American experiences that younger readers (or adults) will enjoy. I will be following up in the rest of the month with some chapter books for older readers as well as some adult books.

Filipino Friends by Liana Romulo and Filipino Celebrations by Liana Romulo & Corazon Dandan-Albano

I found these two books at the LA Times Festival of Books.  I loved the pictures, Sam and his friends seem to be having such a great time.  I was surprised at how many words Romulo was able to fit on a page.  My husband is first generation Filipino-American and can read Tagalog (ie. make the correct sounds) but he does not speak it very well.  He helped me pronounce most of the words and learned that some of the words he thought he knew were wrong.  For example, our niece (who is also his goddaughter) refers to him as “ninong” which, as we found out from Filipino Celebrations means “godfather” rather than “uncle” as he thought.  He also finally learned that a “kalabaw” is a water buffalo, not a cow.  We’ve loaned these books to my sister-in-law for my niece and nephew and I’ll take them back when they’re a little older.  These seem like a great introduction to Filipino words for readers of all ages who want to learn a more about Filipino customs.

Henry’s first moon birthday by Lenore Look

Cover art

In Look’s book Jenny helps her grandmother prepare for her brother Henry’s first moon birthday, complete with ginger and red eggs.

I have only been to one first moon birthday, for my friends’ son.  When you are celebrating a girl you take an even number of eggs for luck and an odd number for a boy.  I did not realize that I would be bringing eggs home and had hard-boiled a number of eggs a day before for use at home.  It was a very strange way to have an abundance of hard-boiled eggs!

The name jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei just moved to the US from Korea and is having trouble adjusting to a school where no one can pronounce her name.  So she enlists her classmates to help her choose an American name by choosing a name from a jar.  Imagine her surprise when she chooses a slip of paper with her own name on it!

I could relate to Unhei’s trial of a difficult name.  Although Mary-Michelle isn’t hard to pronounce people keep trying to shorten it to Mary without checking with me first.  I love my name and would not change it but unusual names can be difficult!

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Between the time I spent working at the UCLA Lab School, volunteering with Reading to Kids and taking my Materials for Children course, I have developed a love of and respect for biographies for younger readers.  I’ve learned about Jackie Mitchell, the girl who struck out Babe Ruth, the Mercury 13, Elizabeth Keckley, and about a group of women in rural India in the 1970s who saved trees from over development.  These books are a few of my suggestions for readers of any age.  I’ve tried to match my favorite children’s biography with the adult version.  If you see an unmatched book or can suggested another one please let me know in the comments.

Almost Astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream by Tanya Lee Stone

I picked this one up from the LAPL a few years ago as an audiobook and enjoyed it very much.  When I was younger I was fascinated by space, NASA, astronomy and anything vaguely related to the topic.  I’d never heard of the Mercury 13 before reading this book and I had a hard time putting it down.  I had the opportunity to read this book again (this time in hard copy) for my materials for children class last year.  The pictures are amazing, not to be missed.

The Mercury 13: the untold story of thirteen American women and the dream of space flight by Martha Ackmann

This is an adult version of Almost Astronauts.  I have not had the chance to read it yet but it is on my to read list as soon as I have time to walk over to the science library and pick it up. 🙂

Mighty Jackie: the strike out queen by Marissa Moss

Prior to working at the UCLA Lab School I had never heard of Jackie Mitchell, a 17 year old girl who struck out Babe Ruth in a minor league exhibition game.  My dad is a big baseball fan and I while I have missed my shot at baseball I’m great at wiffle ball!  This would be a great read for anyone who’s playing T-ball or has a favorite team

I haven’t been able to find an adult audience biography for Jackie Mitchell, please let me know if you can recommend one.

Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker by Becky Rutberg

I was first introduced to this book when I was pulling books for a black history month display.  I think it’s fascinating to read about historical figures, particularly when there is enough information about them to make an entire book from their story.  We learn about Mary Lincoln but I can’t believe I did not learn about Elizabeth Keckley until I was an adult.

Behind the scenes, or 30 years a slave by Elizabeth Keckley

A chance to learn more about an amazing woman from her own pen.

Aani and the tree huggers by Jeannine Atkins

Okay, I picked this up for the pictures but the story about a small community of women banding together to save their homes is a wonderful one.  The pictures are vibrant and it is a great story to read if your child is interested in learning more about what a small group of caring individuals can do to save something they believe in.  This book is based on true events of a 1970s Indian village.  Sadly I couldn’t find the adult counterpart book for this group of women.

The librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter

The true story of librarian Alia Muhammad Baker in Basra, Iraq who saved much of her library by smuggling home a handful of books at a time.  There is another version of her story by Mark Alan Stamaty which is in graphic novel format.  Another woman I could not find an adult biography of, does anyone know if there is one in the works?

I will leave you with my top 5 (and available counterparts) I have enough recommendations for another list at a different date.  I hope you will share your favorite biographies in either juvenile or adult literature in the comments section.

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