paper girls

Library Chicken Update :: Top 10 Kids/Young Adult Books Read in 2017

Library Chicken Update :: Top 10 Kids/Young Adult Books Read in 2017

Suzanne picks the best 10 children's and young adult books she crossed off her TBR list in 2017 in this Library Chicken roundup.

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (5.30.17)

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend and are getting ready for some summer reading! We’re done with homeschooling for the school year so now I can get serious about checking things off the TBR list. It’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the year… (Except for the miserable Georgia heat and humidity of course, but I solve that problem by never leaving the air-conditioned house except to go in the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned library.)

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

I was a science fiction junkie growing up. And the first sf I fell in love with was hard sf, from the likes of Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, and Clarke. In hard sf, science is the star—the pleasure is in exploring scientific and technological problems, imagining what it would be like to live on this sort of planet, or how to build that sort of spaceship. Characters often exist primarily as tour guides to show you around, with a plot to move them from one piece of the carefully-constructed, scientifically-accurate set to the next. This novel, first in a trilogy by Chinese science fiction master Liu, is firmly in that tradition, exploring the repercussions of a first contact situation with a fascinatingly original alien race. All the while, the narrative voice remains calm and detached from the action—I’m not sure if that’s Cixin Liu’s individual style, or if it has more to do with Chinese literary tradition (being as I’m pretty much entirely ignorant of Chinese fiction). These days, I generally ask a bit more from the plot and characterization in a novel (and I may have less patience for pages of scientific explanation), but a novel like this hits all my nostalgia buttons and of course I’ll have to find out what happens next. The aliens are coming, after all.
(Bonus modern-day hard sf suggestion: Andy Weir’s The Martian.)
(LC Score: +1)


Paper Girls Vol. 2 written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Cliff Chiang
Lumberjanes Vol. 3 written by Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Waters, art by Carolyn Nowak
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1 written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

This Week In Comics: Last week I was excited about Paper Girls and Lumberjanes, so this week I want to rave about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. <deep breath> OMG SQUIRREL GIRL IS SO AWESOME! Buddies with Iron Man, victor over Marvel’s biggest-baddies including Doctor Doom and M.O.D.O.K, friends with the crush-worthy Chipmunk Hunk, she is the BEST and the MOST PERFECT and y’all should run out and buy her (on-going!!!) series right now. Seriously, this is funniest comic I have read in years (my husband kept coming over to see what I was giggling about) and it’s appropriate for ALL AGES, so send your favorite 5-year-old an issue or three to get their comics habit going. I know I’m using a lot of all-caps here, but check out her adventures with sidekick squirrel Tippy-Toes and tell me I’m wrong. The only problem I’m having with all these wonderful comics collections is that I read them too fast—I go through ‘em like a bag of chips and ending up craving MORE immediately.
(Bonus cheer-you-up-if-you’re-having-a-bad-day suggestion: google ‘Squirrel Girl cosplay’. You’re welcome.)
(LC Score: +2, Lumberjanes borrowed from daughter)


Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Atwood is such a Giant of Modern Literature that it feels slightly blasphemous to critique her work in any way, but I have to admit that I don’t often enjoy her writing. I find her work compelling, important, fascinating - but a fun read? Not so much. This retelling of The Tempest, though, was a very pleasant surprise. Shorter than usual for an Atwood novel, her Tempest involves a prison production of Shakespeare’s Tempest, created by an unfairly ousted theater director as a vehicle to get vengeance on those who wronged him. It’s a satisfying, enjoyable, and occasionally very moving read.
(Bonus homeschool suggestion: This would make a great side-by-side read for anyone studying The Tempest. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.)
(LC Score: +1)


The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

I haven’t yet read Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Underground Railroad—I know it’s going to be difficult so I’m working my way up to it—but I was excited to pick up this novel, his debut. Set in an alternate recent past, where the highly respected calling of Elevator Inspector is divided into opposing camps known as Empiricists and Intuitionists, we follow the career of the first black female inspector as she navigates a professional and personal crisis. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird when I say it, but you should go read it anyway. Whitehead is exploring issues of race and gender (and elevators, I guess?) and I would never have guessed it was a first novel - clearly the man knew what he was doing.
(Bonus zombie-novel-authored-by-Pulitzer-Prize-winner suggestion: Whitehead’s Zone One. And if you know of any other zombie novels authored by Pulitzer Prize winners, please let me know ASAP because I will read the heck out of ‘em.)
(LC Score: +1) 


Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

This book, which came out in 2016, is important and perspective-changing and everyone should read it. In clear and readable prose, Kendi untangles the confusing and contradictory ideas fueling/created by American racism, from the early colonial days through the Obama presidency. It’s not a short book, and the material is emotionally challenging, but it’s an absolutely necessary read for those of us who missed out on ‘the history of racism’ in school (meaning pretty much all of us) and want to understand what’s happening today.
(Bonus suggestion: PLEASE READ IT, I MEAN IT. Which I guess isn’t much of a bonus, but I feel strongly about this.)
(LC Score: +1)


The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Still catching up—y’know, I can’t think of one book, nonfiction or fiction, that was required reading in my high school lit classes that was written by a person of color or had a person of color as the protagonist. I’d say 'oh, look how embarrassingly backward things were 30 years ago,' but my daughter, who just finished her sophomore year at the local high school, not only has never had a person of color for required reading, but she’s yet to read ANY female authors. And the only female protagonist(ish) was Lady Macbeth. (When they can pick a book from a list, the authors are fairly diverse, but in terms of required reading that every single student has to get through before graduating? So far, ALL white guys. BURN IT ALL DOWN, PEOPLE.) ... Anyway, sorry, got distracted. This slim volume is a classic for good reason—I’m glad I had a better idea of the context from Kendi’s work.
(Bonus side-by-side reading suggestion: one of the essays here is a letter from Baldwin to his nephew that would be really interesting to read side-by-side with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son, Between the World and Me. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED, of course.)
(LC Score: +1)


Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Are you looking for something to fill the Harry-Potter-sized hole in your reading heart? Do you want to provide your middle school/YA readers with a more diverse bookshelf so that they don’t end up exclusively reading books by white guys about white guys for their entire educational career? (Not that I’m BITTER over here or anything.) I’ve got the book for you! This fantasy novel is about 12-year-old Sunny, born in America to Nigerian parents who have since moved Sunny and family back to Nigeria, where she discovers that she’s a Leopard Person, heir to certain magical abilities. Like Rowling, but in a completely different setting, Okorafor creates a magical world existing next to and within our own, and we get to see Sunny explore this world, making friends, finding teachers, and shopping for magical items. (Is it weird that I LOVE the magical-shopping parts in fantasy novels?) It’s a great read - highly recommended.
(Bonus long-awaited-sequel suggestion: Akata Warrior comes out this October!)
(LC Score: +1)


The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia by Donald L. Grant

Looks fascinating but it’s due back and I really do need to take a break from Georgia for a minute. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)


  • Library Chicken Score for 5/30/17: 7
  • Running Score: 39


On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (since I enjoyed Hag-Seed so much, thought I’d check out Atwood’s version of The Odyssey)

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (more SPACE OPERA for my summer reading) 

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (and some fantasy so that my sf/fantasy pile doesn’t get too unbalanced)

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward (follow-up from Baldwin)

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (5.23.17)

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

NOT BOOK RELATED: Is anyone else listening to The Black Tapes podcast? I saw it described in a BookRiot post as Serial crossed with The X-Files and that’s pretty much exactly right. I’m only a few episodes in, but it’s my new favorite thing to do while not reading. (Or sleeping. I’m a big fan of sleeping.)

This One is Mine by Maria Semple

So I loved Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but sadly I did not love this novel. Semple is an engaging and entertaining writer, but these characters were so incredibly vicious—shallow, self-absorbed, mean-spirited, and spiteful—that I read most of it wincing and holding the book as far away as possible. The character I ended up liking the most (or disliking the least) is the husband who was hateful to his stay-at-home-mom wife because she didn’t do a good enough job of taking care of him, so that should tell you something. At the end, after they’ve done a whole bunch of utterly unforgivable things, the three main characters come together for a little bit of hope and redemption, but I don’t know. I’m worried they’ll just end up carving a swath of horribleness through the innocent bystanders in their vicinity.
(LC Score: +1)

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

After a disappointment like that, I was delighted to find Elinor Lipman’s latest novel on the new release shelf. Lipman writes warmly affectionate stories about screwed-up but still loving families, both those we are born into and those we create along the way. In this one, our heroine moves into a new home and soon gets caught up with (1) a decades-old possible murder mystery, and (2) a handsome new housemate. Lipman’s characters are funny and actually try to be nice to each other and she’s never let me down—highly recommended for comfort reads (and getting over any mean-spirited and spiteful novels you may have accidentally read).
(LC Score: +1)

Among Others by Jo Walton

This Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel has been on my to-read list for years and I’m so glad I finally got to it. (It’s Amy’s fault because she read it so I immediately had to.) It’s a girls’ boarding school story told in diary entries (two of my reading sweet spots, right there) by Mori, who ran away from her abusive mother after the death of her identical twin sister. Plus there are fairies (not quite like fairies I’ve encountered elsewhere) and magic (maybe?) and most of all, BOOKS. 15-year-old Mori is a science fiction fan and watching her discover various authors and series is like jumping back in time and visiting with 15-year-old me. (Mori is writing in 1979; I was about 5 years behind her, but there’s quite a bit of overlap in our reading lists.) This is a quiet book, a love letter to science fiction fandom (which we don’t often get to see from a girl’s perspective), and most of all an appreciation of what we can find in books.
(LC Score: +1)

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

I love the concept here: it turns out that bartenders are secretly alchemists, whipping up magic (alcoholic) potions that give them special powers to defeat demons (called tremens) that would otherwise infest the human world. And the most secret, most magic potion of all? The Long Island Iced Tea. It’s a very fun idea, but lacked something in the execution.
(LC Score: +1)

The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer

This speculative fiction novel is set in a steampunky alternate-present with zeppelins and mechanical men built by a technological genius called Prospero. Our narrator, Harold, gets mixed up with Prospero’s daughter (who’s named Miranda, naturally). There’s a lot here about machinery vs. humanity, knowledge vs. mystery, and science vs. miracles. It’s beautifully written and even though I’m not quite sure I ever really figured out what was going on I certainly enjoyed the ride.
(LC Score: +1)

The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Lots of sf/fantasy this week! Smaill’s novel is set in a dystopian future England where some past catastrophic event has destroyed buildings, killed all the birds, and left people without the ability to read. Music has become the main way to communicate and pass on knowledge. Daily ‘Chimes’ rung throughout the land bring communities together—and may also have the sinister effect of destroying people’s long-term memories. It’s an... interesting choice to write about a world where all the characters have trouble remembering what happens from day to day, but fortunately it turns out that our hero (for reasons never explained) has special memory powers. The writing is smooth and lyrical and Smaill creates a hazy, impressionistic sort of world where the plot is less important than the vision she is trying to convey. I’m glad I read it and I appreciate the originality of Smaill’s creation, but I’m a plot-girl—I always feel like the author is cheating when too many details are glossed over or have clearly not been thought through, and I’m easily distracted by all the questions raised when a fictional world is not fully realized.
(LC Score: +1)

Georgia: A Brief History by Christopher C. Meyers and David Williams

I may be ready to take a break from Georgia history. This is a good one to go out on—a nice complement to Cobb’s Georgia Odyssey—and it does an especially good job of explaining the economic consequences of slavery, King Cotton, etc. Recommended for all you Georgia scholars out there! (It’s only me, right? I’m the only one reading these books, aren’t I? <sigh>)
(LC Score: +1) 

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Okay, everyone settle in because I have some thoughts. (Warning: rant approaching.) After careful consideration, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that it’s time to BURN IT ALL DOWN. I mean, maybe that’s a slight overreaction, but right now it’s hard to believe that women aren’t being forced to take a giant step backward, fighting all over again for the basic rights and protections we thought we’d achieved decades ago. This certainly wasn’t the world I thought I’d be living in. I am extremely grateful to my parents (and a series of really wonderful teachers) who helped me grow up believing that my gender was no obstacle to anything I might want to accomplish, believing that the fight for women’s rights was over and we WON—woo-hoo!—and it’s nothing that sensible people need ever worry about again, but I wish someone had made me read this when I was 16 or so. Certainly, growing up in the 80s I felt no need to revisit the dry and dusty tomes of of the 60s women’s movement, and so I missed out on Friedan’s engaging narrative voice and her straightforward analysis of how the 50s and early 60s were a complete horror show for women—particularly any woman who might not be emotionally and intellectually and sexually fulfilled by scrubbing the kitchen floor. (Of course, we know that the idealized American 1950s beloved of so many politicians and social commentators were a nightmare for anyone who wasn’t white, straight, and male, but still.) Maybe it wouldn’t have done me any good to get angry at 16, but at least I would have had a better understanding of where we were coming from, how hard we had to fight to escape the narrow confines of “femininity," and the cycles of progress and stagnation/backlash that seem to come in regular waves. Now, when I see that picture of old white men deciding what healthcare (for example) should look like with nary a woman or a person of color in the room, when I see them trying desperately to drag us back to the 50s—yep, I’m thinking it’s time to BURN IT ALL DOWN. Friedan’s 1963 book shows its age—in particular, her discussion of “the male homosexual” goes beyond ridiculous all the way to offensive—and, as many others have noted, it’s limited by exclusively addressing the problems of straight white middle-to-upper-class women. Friedan follows the outdated thinking of her time in blaming nearly all psychological problems in children on incompetent mothering, which in her thesis is due to lack of maternal self-fulfillment, plus she, like everyone else in the 60s, seems to be utterly obsessed with the female orgasm. (What did the Kinsey Report do to these people? When did the female orgasm become the sole measure of personal fulfillment? How even--? ...On second thought, never mind. Forget that I asked. Some things should probably be left alone.) We also learn that some things never change: Friedan expresses concern about the early sexualization of young girls through revealing clothing, describes the 1963 version of “helicopter parents," and has a whole chapter on how “kids today” are unmotivated, entitled, and allergic to hard work. Despite the issues, I found The Feminine Mystique a very readable introduction to the “a woman’s place is in the home” thinking of post-WWII America, a philosophy that lives on through many of the politicians and social commentators who grew up in that era. I’ve ordered a copy to give to my 16-year-old. (End of rant.)
(LC Score: +1)

Paper Girls Vol. 1 written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Cliff Chiang

I am still a newbie to the world of graphic novels and comics, but I LOVE Brian Vaughn’s Saga and so I was very excited to read this series about a pack of pre-teen newspaper delivery girls in 1988 who get caught up fighting a scary and mysterious invasion from the future. In fact, I bought a copy for my 14-year-old graphic-novel-loving daughter (who hasn’t read Saga yet because it’s extra-hard-R-rated, seriously not for kids I mean it). I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to Vol. 2, but the 14-year-old preferred the next entry...
(LC Score: 0, borrowed from my daughter)

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

Lumberjanes Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max

written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis and illustrated by Brooke Allan

More pre-teen girls kicking butt! Stevenson (of Nimona fame) co-writes this comic about a group of best friends who fight monsters (and the occasional Greek god) while earning merit badges at Lumberjane Camp. Sillier and more cartoony than Paper Girls (which gets violent and may be too much for younger readers), it’s diverse and funny and a complete delight and my daughter is zooming through the collections as fast as she can get them. Me too.
(LC Score: 0, borrowed from my daughter) 

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

A modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I know better, I really do—these things never go well. I nope’d out early on, once it was revealed that Liz (a New York City magazine editor/writer in this version) was having an affair with her married ‘best friend’ (the Wickham character), who she’d mooned over for years, never quite able to give up on him even as he dates girl after girl, keeping her on the side. THIS IS NOT THE ELIZABETH BENNET I KNOW AND LOVE. It goes rapidly downhill from there. For those of you in the market for an actually quite good update of P&P, I recommend The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the funny and clever YouTube series. Also, the 14-year-old is having a great time with Pride and Prejudice: Manga Classics (adapted by Stacy King). She’s reading it on the side during our current mother-daughter read-aloud of P&P and aside from being entertainingly ridiculous in all the ways you’d expect a manga version of P&P to be ridiculous, she says it’s helping her keep track of all the characters and understand what’s happening a bit better.
(LC Score: +1)

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

Gregory is one of those why-haven’t-more-people-heard-of-this-guy? novelists. He writes sf/fantasy (with the occasional dash of horror) and I’ve read and enjoyed two of his novels: Afterparty and We’re All Completely Fine. I’m looking forward to reading the rest, including Spoonbenders (due to come out later this year), but I couldn’t get to this one in time. EXPIRED HOLD.
(LC Score: -1)


The Age Altertron by Mark Dunn

Hey, the guy who wrote Ella Minnow Pea also wrote a middle-grades kids’ novel! I should put that on hold and read it! But maybe not this week when I’m busy with the 60’s women’s movement and bad Austen fanfic and entirely too much sf/fantasy! EXPIRED HOLD.
(LC Score: -1)


Library Chicken Score for 5/23/17: 7 (it helps that I was finished with Eligible in about 20 min) 
Running Score: 32


On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (Atwood does The Tempest)

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead (the debut novel from the recent Pulitzer Prize-winner) 

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (just started this one but so far it’s excellent)

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (yep, still catching up on books I should have read in school)