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Book: Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
Genre(s): Fantasy, Alternative Reality
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: 2015
Hardcover: 528 pages

 

I hardly needed inspiration from the title. This book was one that I could not Stop carrying on reading, till I breathlessly reached the end, and looked up, blurry and bemused, wondering what all might have transpired around me for the 3 days it had me in its magical thrall. Did Rainbow Rowell cast a spell on me via the written word, as Baz or Penny might have through speech?

 
Lest I get too cloying with my enthusiasm, let me proceed in a different vein. This book, to me, was everything I wanted the later Harry Potter books (and Lev Grossman’s The Magician) to be but weren’t– a YA book that allowed the reader to fall into a magical yet real world with real complexities and problems, with shades of grey that were real but neither debilitatingly nihilistic (Lev Grossman) nor facilely annoying with its “chosen one” ideology (JK Rowling’s later Harry Potters). I am talking in generalities here because I don’t wish to write down spoilers, although this is a book wherein, if you have already read Fangirl by Rowell, there are inherent spoilers that are already in the back of your head. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of faults with this book too — the main one being the overly hit-you-on-your-head descriptive romantic and physical tension between the main characters. Another one being, why oh why does it seem to be fashionable for well-known white authors to write in an Indian (east) character into their book and call it a day in terms of diversity? Are we the flavor of the year? Did Aziz and Mindy make us cool and likeable? Does inserting Indians (who I would argue have much more inherent privilege than many other ethnic groups) satisfy that itch for color? I would really like to sit down with Rainbow Rowell, Rebecca Stead, and E. Lockhart, all authors whose books I love, and yet make me want to tear out hairs from my head in frustration at times, to figure this out, and to give them some guidance: If they insist on writing Indian characters, please Do. The. Research. Like for example, Rebecca, don’t give an Indian family the uber-Gujarati (એકદમ સખડ Gujarati?) last name Patel, and then insist on having the parents follow the custom of Karva Chauth, which is Not a Gujarati Custom. And also, if you are going to gratuitously give a Hindu-observant family’s children French names, PLEASE explain why so your Gujarati Hindu readers don’t drive themselves cross-eyed wondering what was going through your mind. But I digress. And anyway, Rainbow was too smart for me, heading off my would-be criticism, by having Penelope (the Indian-British character in Carry on) herself dare Simon to challenge her on why she shouldn’t have an Indian name. BUT. I digress!

 
Regardless of my rant above, all in all, this is one book that I simply could not, for the life of me, put down. And lately, that’s saying a lot, as even with my favorite books, I seem to (of late) belie my own self-given nickname by being reluctant to pick them up and only too ready to lay them down for any and every distraction. All this blustering is to say, I think many people will enjoy this book. Who, you ask? Who exactly do I think will enjoy it? Well, I will lay it out for you in the next section of this post which is not so much a review as it is a stream of thoughts about this book, in (perhaps) an effort to exorcise its effects from my clouded brain, so that I can get on with my day and with my week. Here goes.

 

To whom will this appeal?~ 
Carry on will appeal to fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Robin McKinley’s Shadows, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. It will also appeal to those looking for books with boy on boy sexual tension, for books written about magic and good and evil in a nondidactic white and black kind of way, for books about love between friends, between family, for books which have amazing vampire characters that don’t make you want to throw up. It will appeal to readers of the usual famously successful white authors of smart books for teens (John Green, Scott Westerfeld, E. Lockhart, David Levithan, etc). (Yeah, I wish it was not just white authors who got this kind of attention, but I’m just calling a spade a spade at the moment.)

 
Mostly, it is funny and insightful in a way that adults will enjoy, but it is definitely a YA book, with teen characters whom (I believe) teens will be able to identify with, and through whom teens will be able to enjoy vicarious magic and love.

 

Recently at work, our BookMatch committee was asked, “What was your favorite book of 2015?” I loved being asked this question in a work setting, as it motivated me to actually decide on some favorites (I quickly decided there had to be more than one!) Below you will find my list of faves, out of books that were published in 2015. What are yours? Click here to post it to a google form. which I will then report out in a blog post later this week! My only request is that they be books that were published in 2015.

Here are some of my favorite reads, in four different categories:

Picture books:

The Bus Is For Us by Michael Rosen

Bright Sky, Starry City by Uma Krishnaswami

Children’s Fiction:

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Young Adult:

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson

Adults:

Why not me? by Mindy Kaling

Music for Wartime by Rebecca Makkai

collage

 

 

Recently, I had the honor of being asked for my thoughts on the We Need Diverse Books campaign and on related topics. The askers, Estelle and Magan, from the Rather Be Reading blog, were conducting an ongoing series of posts devoted to diversity, called Dive into Diversity, and as part of this, they decided to interview several librarians for their ideas and opinions about WNDB. I thank them for their astute questions which encouraged me to delve more closely into my thoughts about the need for books about diverse characters, especially for those written by authors who represent that same diversity. Below I have copied my portion of Estelle’s post as featured in their blog:

SAY HI TO A FEW LIBRARIANS | DIVE INTO DIVERSITY

Bookish has been a librarian for 8 years. She has previously worked in college admissions and as a middle school teacher.@bookish & her blog.

On what’s changed since the WNDB campaign became “mainstream”: When I first got into librarianship, if I brought up the need for diversity in YA or kidlit, I’d get uncomfortable silences on listservs and in conversations. Only a few brave souls would answer. There was a deafening silence from the rest. Now that the WNDB campaign is more “mainstream,” many more people are willing to at least listen to the need for diversity.

Diversity in books doesn't just mean slapping a POC into a book. Diversity also means fostering books BY writers of color FOR readers of color. That part of the message is at times missed. It is not enough to give lip service to the idea of diversity. It is important to actually think about why this need is there, and to fulfill the spirit of the need.

(Diverse) books and authors you’ve been recommendingGrace Lin, Zetta Elliott, Jacqueline Woodson, Neesha Meminger, Yuyi Morales, Uma Krishnaswami, Mitali Perkins, Janine Macbeth, Misako Rocks, books published by Lee & Low press, Corduroy, the list goes on and on and on!

Patrons and their quest for change: Young parents of color…are keenly aware that they didn’t get to see themselves accurately and genuinely reflected in books as they were growing up, but that they want their kids to have this important connection to literature, in a visceral way. This generation of parents of color are already clamoring for books that represent their lives, their realities, so that they can share these with their children.

On what needs to happen next: …this push for diversity is mistaken as needing to be fulfilled by getting already well-known mainstream white writers to write diverse characters into their books. Don’t get me wrong; this trend is definitely a step in the right direction, for the most part. But what would be WAY more heartening is to see publishers taking chances on a LARGE number of first-time writers of color, to allow the diverse stories to be told through diverse authorial voices.

Note: The original blog post in which the above appears is called Say Hi To a Few Librarians: Dive into Diversity. I also encourage you to check out the rest of their Dive into Diversity challenge, which went from January through December of 2015, and which provides lots of great food for thought as we close out 2015. I also want to give a shout out to Emma at Miss Print, for introducing me via the interwebs to Estelle! :)

This evening whilst working the late shift at the Children’s Desk, a young father came and asked me for what I first heard as the Aqua Kid (a book for kids, he said it was). After we established that I initially misheard him, and that what he actually said was Awkward Kid, I looked it up, to no avail. “Hmm,” we both thought. Upon seeing the one record that I did find, called simply Awkward, he said no, that was not it, but, you know, he could say for sure that the word “kid” was definitely in the title, and the other word was something like awkward, but maybe a similar word, not necessarily awkward? And that it’s a very popular series?

That was it. I snapped my fingers and asked, “Is it Diary of a Wimpy Kid” that you are looking for? Yes, he cried, and we shared a good laugh. Unfortunately all the Wimpy Kid books were checked out at the moment, but I was able to show him one of the books in the Big Nate series, which he happily took to read out loud to his daughter.

Next time I hope he lets me put Wimpy Kid (aka Awkward Kid) on hold for his daughter!

 

Awkwardness abounds in the Wimpy Kid series

This boy, let’s call him A, came in a few weeks ago, totally new to the country~ he had just emigrated from Yemen. I talked to him for a bit, found out that he had only arrived the day before, (!), and was utterly discombulated, but seemed to be doing okay, all things considered. I spoke to him the (very) few phrases I know in Arabic, and he seemed more surprised than anything that this American accented Indian looking person would know any Arabic. I hoped that I didn’t scare him!

Well, that fear was assuaged today when he came to my desk looking for a book which, unfortunately was currently checked out. I used Google Translate to assure him that we could get the book for him pretty quickly. Felt good.englisharabic

Exchange at the Children’s desk today:

Kid: Excuse me, can you find me the book The Children The Series?

Me: the what?

Kid: The Children The Series

Me: (scratching head, and starting to type into search box to play for time) Um, hmm… okay so the title starts with the words The Children?

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Kid: Yes.

Me: … and then what’s the next word?

Kid: The Series.

Me: Are you looking for a series of books called The Children?

Kid: No, I just want one book called The Children The Series.

Me: (typing the whole improbable sounding title into Google) Well, maybe there is a series that is called The Children The… (I stop, seeing what I have typed, and suddenly it all snaps together in my head.)

Me: (happier, elated, that I know [i hope] what he really wants) Oh you want the children’s Thesaurus!

Kid: (relieved yet still serious face) Yeah, that’s what I want. The Children The Series.

end scene.

Today, a young girl came to the library, seeking two specific books. One was a Grimm’s fairy tales book which she knew was checked out and which she wished to place on hold. The other was a fairy tale book which she wanted to find on the shelf. As we were seeking the second book, I took the opportunity to explain to her the magic of the 398.2 shelves and all the treasures contained therein. She beamed at this bit of library lore, and so we got into a bit of a longer conversation. Wanting to encourage her to join our Summer Reading program, I asked her name and what grade she was in. “I’m in fifth grade,” she said, “and my name’s Arieanne**, that’s Ari with an ‘e,’ and Anne with an ‘e’)”

At this, I stared at this clear-eyed ten year old, and remarked, wow, that reminds me so much of a character in a book called Anne of Green Gables! “Oh yes, I know,” she said, “Lucy M. Montgomery is my second cousin twice removed.”

Stunned and thrilled, I told her how many times (embarrassing to admit here) I’d read and reread Anne of Green Gables in middle school. Turns out her mother is reading the eighth “Anne book” to her now.

I feel like I’ve met royalty. Pinch me, someone, please and bring me down to earth.

Here are a couple of Anne of Green Gables quotes, for those who are just as delighted as I am with this very Anne-ish encounter:

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘e’.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

**The name and some other details have been changed, for privacy reasons, but the spirit of the exchange has been saved.

As April is National Poetry Month, we are doing some cool poetical activities for teens at my library.

For example, we have an ongoing Book Spine Poetry Contest, (hosted by yours truly!), wherein teens make Book Spine poems, take pics of them, and email them in to enter the contest!

Here’s my display advertising that:

contest_display

In addition, today, we just did a DIY Magnetic Poetry Kit program today, wherein teens got to make their own magnetic poetry as well as decorate uber-cool tins to keep their marvelous words. Behold some of their creations below!

photo (3)

Calling all bookish folks:

Do you have favorite, go-to books that you immediately turn to when recommending books for third and fourth graders? I’m compiling a recommended books list for my library, and thought it would be fun to learn the favorites of other library people (and bookish folk) to better inform my selections.

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • the Fudge series by Judy Blume
  • The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
  • The Year of the Book by  Andrea Cheng
  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Half Magic by Edward Eager
  • Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

A few that I often rely on are listed above, (in no particular order), but I look forward to refreshing my repertoire with your tried-and-true suggestions!

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The Village Voice voted BPL’s Central Library the best in New York! Woo hoo! It’s a great feeling to have had the opportunity to be part of this great place!

See link for more!
http://www.villagevoice.com/bestof/2014/award/best-public-library-5026574/

Brooklyn Public Library, Central branch

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