Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China

Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China is by Rao Pingru. A beautiful graphic autobiography about the love story of a Chinese couple. Rao's story follows his childhood and that of his future wife, Meitang. Born in 1922, the Rao's story parallels Chinese history from WWII to the present. His story is one of happiness and separation (he is sent to a "re-education" camp for more than a decade), struggles with poverty and finally reunification and the struggles with illness, old age, and death. The love of Pingru and his wife is obvious on every page. Rao painted the pictures in the book and they are lovely. A wonderful book. 

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The War to End All Wars: WWI

The War to End All Wars: WWI is by Russell Freedman. A great nonfiction addition which introduces young readers to WWI and the way it led to the Second World War. The book clearly covers the events leading up to the war, the death toll, the technology used, the major battles, the results of the war, and the way the end of  WWI led to WWII twenty years later. 

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Family is by Micol Ostow. This is work of historical fiction in verse. It is a re-telling of the story of the Manson family and the murders they committed in California in 1969. The book follows an abused teenage runaway who flees to San Francisco and is picked up "Henry." Henry introduces her to his "family" living at an old ranch where Westerns used to be filmed. He manipulates everyone in the "family" and eventually sends four of them out to kill, to spread his message. The story loosely follows the real version, with some changes that will be obvious to anyone familiar with the real events. Readers of this book might be tempted to explore the true story, which is vastly more chilling. 

Ratings: 10th grade - 7 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content). 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Blood Water Paint

Blood Water Paint is by Joy McCullough. This is a masterful work of historical fiction in verse. It tells the story of the seventeenth-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. One of the few female master's, Artemisia worked in her father's studio after her mother's death. She was more talented than her father and often re-did his work before sale. After she is raped by a friend of her father's, she refuses to remain silent about the crime. This story is based on historical documents, including a transcript of the trial itself. While the rape is not described, it is an integral part of the story. This book is beautifully written and definitely makes you want to learn more about this amazing woman. 

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content). 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic is by Allan Wolf. A wonderful historical fiction in verse novel based on a variety of characters from the Titanic. Wolf takes real historical figures from the Titanic and adds in other voices as well, such as the Iceberg and the Ship's Rat, to tell the story of the last voyage of the ill-fated ship. The work moves chronologically, except when interrupted by the Undertaker working to pull bodies from the water. Wolf has researched many of his characters and has provided notes on this research at the end of the book. A wonderful introduction to the tragedy of the Titanic that will tempt you to read more on the subject.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Romance of the Forest

The Romance of the Forest is by Ann Radcliffe. A classic work of historical fiction, one of the first Gothic Romances ever written. Radcliffe's beautiful descriptions of nature combine with her use of poetry and prose to tell the story of Adeline. Raised in a convent, she refuses to take the veil and after being removed and taken to a small cottage is given into the care of la Motte and his wife - gentry fleeing Paris after la Motte became embroiled in a scandal. Agreeing to take Adeline under his care, la Motte takes the young girl and his wife to live in an abandoned and desolate abbey. When the owner of the abbey discovers them a series of events are set in motion that will change all their lives forever. If you ever wondered where Gothic Romance began, read Radcliffe. Sometimes difficult to read, the plot is twisted, and the prose is beautifully descriptive. 

Ratings: 10th grade - 8 out of 10. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver is by Mary Oliver. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended read. There is no living poet I love more than Mary Oliver. Her poetry is so beautiful and always makes me feel good. If you can read Mary Oliver and still say you hate poetry - I just can't even. This is a book I will read from every day and so should you. Buy this book, read this book, discover the beauty of nature, and the beauty of poetry written by a master of language. 

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10.