An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge

Griffin and Sabine

Griffin and Sabine - Nick Bantock

A coworker lent me these books (the first trilogy) in the middle of February which feels like a lifetime ago.


I really like the format. The book size and shape is satisfying to hold and the letters are fun (I was reminded of the Jolly Postman books that I used to read as a kid).


I would recommend either reading just this one or making sure you have access to the entire trilogy when reading. My coworker initially couldn't find the third book, and it was torture not having it to read as soon as I finished the second book.

Caddie Woodlawn

Caddie Woodlawn - Carol Ryrie Brink

Coworker: I love Caddie Woodlawn. It's great. 

Me: Is it racist like the Little House books?

Coworker: No. 


That's a rough estimation of what my coworker told me and, spoiler alert, she was wrong. Caddie Woodlawn contains bad depictions of Native Americans (I point you to American Indians in Children's Literature for more information). And on top of that, it's just boring. I'm disappointed that it showed up on two of my lists. This is one "classic" that I think we can leave in the past. 


Kindred - Octavia E. Butler

I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but I'm trying to stretch myself this year. Kindred isn't as sci-fi as I expected, which possibly added to my enjoyment. I wasn't planning on starting the book until this month, but since it took me so long to read The Warmth of Other Suns I thought I should start early. I finished in three days. The ending was a little abrupt, and I wanted a little more time with some of the characters, but other than that the book is very good. Butler writes about horrifying material in a way that is both readable and non-desensitizing. 


Wanted! - Caroline B. Cooney

Me: In 2020 I'm going to read more new stuff. 

Also me: Let's reread this Caroline B. Cooney novel late late one night when I should be asleep. 


I don't remember why, but I had a sudden need to reread this book. It was like a craving that wouldn't go away. The book is really silly, but I still enjoyed parts (probably out of nostalgia), especially when Alice is on the college campus. Cooney's novels are very exciting when you're 10 and the internet is not a thing or when you're... older than 10 and just need to take a little brain break and revisit your childhood. 


Echo - Pam Muñoz Ryan

A coworker recommended this book to me at least a year ago and it took me until now to read it. I'm very glad I did though. (I read part on desk and that was a mistake because I kept wanting to cry.)


The stories each on their own are compelling, covering (probably) lesser-known aspects of well-known time periods. And they all come together in interesting ways.  


The book is very long and by the time I got to the end I had kind of forgotten the beginning (much like the first time I watched Moulin Rouge... it took me three days to get through it). So as I was reading the ending I was kind of like, "What is happening? This feels a little like a cop out." But then I went and reread the beginning and remembered a kind of important fact that I had forgotten which really changed the way I was reading the end and made it more enjoyable. 



Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market Street - Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson

I think I've reviewed this book about three times now, but I just can't stop coming back to it. 


I'm currently reading Echo which was a Newbery honor book in 2016, the same year Last Stop on Market Street won the medal. I wanted to see if I thought Last Stop really deserved the medal over Echo (which I'm enjoying much more than I ever liked Last Stop). 


This time I really paid attention to the words, and thinking about it, de la Peña does write effectively and evocatively. There is an expansive story conveyed in very little text.


I think after this reading I better understand why Last Stop won the Newbery, though I still don't agree that it should have won. 

Ocean Meets Sky

Ocean Meets Sky - Terry Fan

I read this as an ebook, and I bet it's even better in print where you can see all the details up close. I liked the story of remembering family, and I loved the illustrations. 


Love - Matt de la Peña, Loren Long

“Love is pretty important. It's like wearing a suit of armor. It makes you strong.” -Rachel, The Visitor


The book contains interesting, often quiet, observations on love and the surprising places it can be found while avoiding triteness or cliche. 


As a kid who comes from a family that is 1. very normal but 2. never represented in any media I really appreciated the diversity in this book. 

Here We Are

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth - Oliver Jeffers, Oliver Jeffers

A good book for when you need a little hope or to feel good about humanity and the world we live in. 

They All Saw a Cat

They All Saw a Cat - Brendan Wenzel

Inventive. Plays with art styles and POV. I can definitely see why the book got so much Caldecott buzz (and ultimately was named an honor book). 

The Funny Little Woman

The Funny Little Woman (Picture Puffins) - 'Arlene Mosel',  'Blair Lent'

The cover simply says retold by Mosel, but it doesn't specify what tale is being retold. According to Wikipedia it's based on The Woman Who Lost Her Dumplings as originally collected by Lafcadio Hearn. I haven't read this tale, but I have read some of Hearn's other collected stories and enjoyed them. 


The story is funny but feels a little abridged. I thought I had missed something towards the end. I'll try to track down a copy of Hearn's tale to compare it. 


ETA: I found and read Hearn's original story and there are additional bits that Mosel edited out of her retelling that help the story make more sense (why those bits were cut out I don't understand... the original tale is not that much longer than The Funny Little Woman).

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers - Mordicai Gerstein

I expected a little more story, but the one I got was fine. There's a couple of fun surprises in the middle of the book. I think my reading was enhanced by the fact that I have watched Man on a Wire, so even though the book was a little sparse, I had background knowledge to fill in for myself. 

Black and White

Black and White - David Macaulay

Reminiscent of Meanwhile by Jason Shiga for younger kids. Choose your reading order, determine the story for yourself. Some may find this frustrating, but those willing to engage with the text and images should find something entertaining and/or thought provoking there. 

Smoky Night

Smoky Night - David Diaz, Eve Bunting

After a few disappointments, this Caldecott winner is so great. I love the illustrations. I love the way the frames work with the text and the main images. I love the story and the depiction of interracial tensions and relationships (I know that probably sounds a little weird, but it was very realistic without being heavy handed, too didactic or over the top). 

Arrow to the Sun

Arrow to the Sun - Gerald McDermott

Having a retold folktale that specifically names the culture/people it is taking the tale from easily allows anyone reading to find the source material, but it's not always easy for an outsider to see the problems in a retelling. Thank goodness for Debbie Reese. Check out her posts on McDermott's Arrow to the Sun and it's problems here.


I really liked the imagery in the book. The illustrations are very striking, but there are many problems with the story (like the fact that McDermott straight made up a ceremonial dance).

A Story, A Story

A Story, a Story - Gail E. Haley

The author repeats "African" four times in the introduction to the book which always tells me to be cautious.


The story if not directly retold from an Akan or Ashanti/Asante folktale is inspired by characters and plots from those traditions, so it's not a mishmash of "African" elements or a fake "African" story made from whole cloth. The decision to call Mmoatia a "fairy" reads as a Western-ification of the story, though from what little information I've been able to find, Mmoatia are not that different from some traditions of fairies.


The illustrations are good from an aesthetic point. I cannot speak to their accuracy. The book could have been a lot worse in its retelling and interpretation of the folktale. But it also could have been better.