24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: March 2019

Abby Reads: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019, 256 pages
Juvenile Graphic Novel

A retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy begin their story with a modern look for a modern audience at Christmastime in New York City. The family is struggling, with an exhausted mom (Madison March) who works as a nurse, and faraway dad, who is serving overseas in the military. While the girls lament their lack of means, each has dreams that extend far into the future. Meg lives for fashion and marrying Image result for meg jo beth amyrich (which will no doubt solve her and her sisters’ problems), Jo focuses on writing and social justice (much to the annoyance of those around her), Beth yearns to play music (if only she could get out of her own way), and Amy obsesses over art and video games (but art supplies aren’t cheap). When the sisters meet Laurie, the new boy across the street, everyone is in for something new. But even the kindness of Laurie and his family can’t help Meg with her love life, Jo with her secret, Beth with her illness, and Amy with being the baby of the bunch. This graphic novel is by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo, along with a team of artists.

The authors make several changes to the plot of Little Women to modernize it — for example, Beth, rather than suffering from scarlet fever, instead becomes ill with one of the biggest disease threats to today’s children. Then there’s Jo, who — I’m not counting this as a spoiler because Rey Terciero shared the panes on his Instagram — must decide whether or not to accept herself as gay and then come out to her family. Overall, the authors provide a sound plot — though adult readers may wonder how the family makes out with Beth’s medical bills. Like Little Women, there isn’t so much a storyline as there is watching a family grow over the course of a year through a series of loosely-connected vignettes to emphasize character development.

Because the book is so heavily focused on character development, the characterization of each character must be developed. Terciero and Indigo achieve this to some extent, and probably mostly to the satisfaction of most younger readers, but older kids and adults may find it somewhat lacking. So, too, is the concept of sisterhood and relationships between women. It’s there, and the authors make an attempt, but it does not quite feel genuine. Instead, there’s a sort of sitcom-like sheen on the relationships that feel a bit one-dimensional and inauthentic. With the sisters and their many interests, most readers will find at least one character with whom to identify. However, the authors missed out on an opportunity represent young women interested in STEM. The four interests are decidedly creative in nature, and perhaps a STEM-oriented sister might have felt like forced representation (and, true, another departure from the source text), but it still feels like a missed opportunity. It seems, too, that much of Jo’s sexuality is represented with stereotypes — while they aren’t stereotypes I’ve found to be horrifically untrue, their presence did call to question why, when LGBTQ representation is so lacking in the first place and, when it does appear, often portrays LGBTQ characters in a limited set of ways.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy maintains the spirit of Little Women which makes it an overall successful adaptation. Despite getting at that spirit, the authors don’t bog down the work in a way that is inaccessible on its own. Fans of Little Women will probably have at least one or two opinions about things that have been changed, but this is a fun graphic novel with enough seriousness to make readers want to savor it. With the characters ranging in age, readers of different ages will easily get different things out of it. And many readers will likely turn to the original story, eager to find out more about the March sisters.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017, 256 pages
Poetry

Following up her major success with Milk and Honey, poet Rupi Kaur brings a new collection of poetry to her audience. In The Sun and Her Flowers, Kaur explores relationships with herself, her mother, men, and society at large. With each section themed by relationship and the conflicts found in those relationships, Kaur also finds focus on concepts such as identity, feminism, immigration, racism, and beyond. Concise language pairs with simple 35606560illustrations to pull this reasonably-sized collection of poetry together and follow up on one of the most well-known collections of poetry of late.

Realistically, The Sun and Her Flowers is going to be compared to Milk and Honey and its enormous success (and, if you pick up The Sun and Her Flowers, you’ll likely find yourself doing the same), so let’s get that out of the way: The Sun and Her Flowers, though very similar to Milk and Honey, is not quite as good. Perhaps it is because so much of what is present in The Sun and Her Flowers has already been done in Milk and Honey so, while the quality is perhaps the same, it doesn’t feel quite as new or as revolutionary (which, caveat: there are lots of folks pointing out what Kaur has done isn’t original and is perhaps even plagiarism) as it did in Kaur’s first collection. (Plus, and this isn’t Kaur’s fault, but, let’s be honest — Milk and Honey’s cover is far more useful for Instagram purposes than is The Sun and Her Flowers. Just saying.)

In the section about breakups, Kaur mixes language that feels entirely fresh and original while other poems spout out the same kind of melodramatic and eye-roll-inducing phrases you’d expect to find in your middle school journal. Though Kaur is forced to use dramatic language due to her extremely pared down style (most of the poems are still no more than a dozen or two dozen words at most — a couple exceptions extend into a full two pages’ worth of words, albeit with still very short lines), the cliches she employs in this “chapter” in particular feel especially cheap.

Meanwhile, in poems about her mother, Kaur presents a relationship with plenty of gray areas and conflicting feelings that are displayed with powerful language and ideas. From admiration to resentment, though Kaur speaks in specifics with particular attention to her mother’s status as an immigrant and what that means for Kaur, the notions Kaur illustrates are largely universal. Readers will find plenty of familiar material in the collection as a whole, but some of the more striking pieces sit within the context of Kaur and her mother’s relationship.

The Sun and Her Flowers is somewhat lengthy; not all of the pieces included necessarily should have been. While Milk and Honey felt to be a good length, many of the poems in The Sun and Her Flowers felt extraneous and repetitive. Given that a handful of poems felt especially like extracts from a middle school journal, the length of The Sun and Her Flowers doesn’t make sense, except that due to the popularity of Milk and Honey, Kaur and her editors likely felt they could get away with a longer piece and that fans might want it regardless of the actual quality.

The illustrations of the poetry are still a great addition to the work as a whole. Simple, wiry, and beautiful, each drawing works to provide additional dimension and emotion to the page. Despite their simplicity, however, the illustrations are always clear in what they are meant to be, even when their representation does not quite match the content of the poem with which they are paired.

Overall The Sun and Her Flowers is another win for Kaur. Though not a perfect set of poems and lacking in some places in one way or another, fans of Milk and Honey will appreciate a return to many themes (if it’s perhaps a bit limiting) in overlapping concepts while finding new life in poems about mother-daughter relationships. Kaur’s concise and powerful language continues to make her work incredibly accessible and therefore a popular choice for an entry point to poetry. An easy metaphor of plants and growth underscores this accessibility as well as the stark femininity with which Kaur themes her collection. Though you don’t need to rush out and buy this one, it is worth a read.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Ecco Press, 2014, 272 pages
Horror/Thriller

In Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, the people of America have been plagued with unseen creatures that, when viewed, cause the victim to go insane and inflict violence on others before killing themselves. When these creatures first arrive, Malorie soon discovers she is pregnant. It’s not long before she is convinced of the reality of these creatures, their existence and impact brought home by her sister’s grisly death. Malorie becomes a housemate at a small group of survivors and witnesses — and participates in — the various conflicts that come with dealing with this new world. In the present, Malorie endeavors to escape the house and make a perilous twenty-mile journey down the river where she’s been promised safety. But how do you navigate to a Image result for bird box book coverplace you’ve never been without opening your eyes?

If you’d asked me before I read Bird Box if I liked horror novels, the answer would have been no. I tried Stephen King when I was in middle school (Pet Sematary, if you’re curious) and was bored to tears over it, so I figured horror just wasn’t my thing. While I’d read a few other things marketed as horror since (Asylum by Madeleine Roux, for example), nothing in literature really scared me. Plenty of people said they’d read books they couldn’t read at night they were so terrified by them — often listing Pet Sematary as their own example — and so I figured there was something wrong with me.

Bird Box did not keep me up for fear — but it did keep me up for wanting to read more. Though I don’t have a lot to compare it to (see the previous paragraph), Bird Box feels painfully original and Malerman does an astounding job at creating tension and a weird sense of slow urgency in the context of his highly inventive plot. As the reader moves between Malorie’s present and past, the question remains until the end as to whether or not she and the two children she brings with her will survive and thrive.

Though Malorie begins as one of the more blase characters when it comes to the existence of the creatures at the beginning of the novel, she is easily one of the most neurotic about surviving them by the end. It’s this character development that pushes Malerman’s novel to the top. Originally somewhat self-absorbed and, aside from her pregnancy, fairly lighthearted, Malorie ends up a nervous wreck who is specific, demanding, harsh, and tense. She names the children Boy and Girl, fully aware of how futile it seems to give “real” names to children who don’t live in a “real” world and may not survive the day. Meanwhile, deceit and alliances create fascinating relationships throughout the novel with a manageable size of a cast. Seemingly small choices, like the lack of names for the children, indicate in very powerful ways the mental states of the characters and Malerman manages each character fantastically this way.

Malerman doesn’t push the gore too much in the novel. This means when he does describe scenes of carnage, it’s especially effective. Malerman is sometimes restricted by perspective of his characters who are often forced to keep their eyes closed, but he uses this again to his advantage, creating suspense much like the lack of visual on the famed Jaws creates dread in Jaws.

Even if you’re not a fan of horrors or thrillers, Bird Box may be well worth a shot. On top of being fantastically exciting in the most dreadful way, the novel poses fascinating questions and is an impressive exercise of the senses. Fun and smart, the novel doesn’t take too long to read — no matter how I tried to pace myself, I just couldn’t. And once you’ve finished Bird Box, you can look forward to Malerman’s spring publication, Unbury Carol.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Pro Talk: How to Read More Books

At the end of 2018, I knew I wasn’t going to make my reading goal. I’d aimed for 110 and “only” managed 100. I didn’t count picture books, which I read at least four of a week during the course of story time at my day job, and I typically don’t listen to audiobooks just because of personal preference. If you’re not ultra-concerned about quality but want 2019 to be the year of quantity when it comes to books, check out the twelve tips below to maximize the number of books you read.

Read what you love, not what’s popular or prescribed.

There’s a lot of pressure to read the latest and hottest, especially if you work in the book world. And there is something to be said for staying aware of trends in publishing and popular works. But just because Oprah says you should read it, doesn’t mean you have to. Read what appeals to you, not just what’s popular or prescribed, and reading will keep from feeling like a chore. The more enjoyable it is, the more you’ll want to do it — the more you do it, the more books you’ll read. Simple!

Three letters: D. N. F.

I really need to take my own advice on this one. If a book just isn’t “doing it” for you, there’s no shame in putting it down and marking it as “did not finish.” A book, if it had expectations at all, cannot expect you to put in more than a good faith effort. That might mean the first chapter, the first thirty pages, or a solid 25% — whatever makes sense to you. Ultimately, there’s little sense in pushing through a book you’re not enjoying. If DNFing makes you anxious, consider instead giving yourself permission to put a book aside for a period of time — whether that’s days, weeks, months, or even years — and come back to it. Sometimes, our situation in life can make all the difference as to whether or not a book can hit its mark in you.

Read multiple books at once.

This strategy may be counterintuitive and, indeed, not work for some — for others, it might be a game-changer. The benefit of having multiple books going at once is that, the second you get bored of one, you can easily switch to another and keep the momentum going before you get too frustrated and give up entirely. When you’re in the right frame of mind, you may find you can easily return to a book with which you were easily frustrated. I find it’s useful to have a bedtime/house book and a going out book (and sometimes a gym book and a work book). The bedtime/house book is primarily read in bed or otherwise at home, going out typically stays in my bag and goes out with me (my Kindle is great for this because it’s small, lightweight, and fits into all my bags), the gym book keeps my brain entertained at the gym (also often via my Kindle as it’s easier to hold one-handed), and the work book is sometimes something I’m reading for work or have checked out from work (a library, if you didn’t know) so it’s naturally easy to have it available for slow periods or lunch breaks. I used to also keep a book going on OverDrive’s desktop reader, which allowed me to read bits and pieces during downtime at an office job.

Always have a book with you.

You’d be surprised at how much reading can accumulate when you sneak in a few minutes here and there. With my ereader on me all the time, it was easy to grab a few minutes of reading while waiting for the train, in line at the grocery store, or waiting on food at a restaurant. With my ereader, I had a small library on me at all times — and sometimes connection to my actual library’s digital database if I also had a wifi connection — and I could take it with me everywhere because of its small size and low weight. Soon enough, reading a few pages here and there added up to a whole book that I might not have otherwise been able to add to my have-read list.

Go for series with cliffhangers.

What’s better than a book you can’t put down? A series you can’t put down! Fly through a handful of books in a short period of time when you just have to know what happens next. You can’t know, of course, whether a book will land on a cliffhanger or not, but you can Google around — there are a few lists out there. Even if a book ends in a cliffhanger and doesn’t have a sequel, you might just plow right into the next book to avoid a book hangover.

Pick books with simpler prose.

The easier is something to read, the faster you’ll read it. Meant for younger readers, juvenile chapter books are often overlooked by adults but are actually the perfect place to start here. As a children’s librarian, I’m always encouraging adults to read juvenile literature. You might be surprised by how complex and poignant many of the stories are. If you aren’t sure where to start, try some award winners or revisit old favorites from your childhood to see how they hold up for you. These books also tend to be shorter, so many of them are easy to breeze through and push you to add another tally to your count of books read!

Listen to audiobooks.

I should preface this with the fact that I don’t consider myself an audiobook person and I very rarely listen to them — my attention span just can’t handle it. But I know a few folks who really bolster their have-read list with audiobooks, whether they listen at the gym, while cooking, on their commute, or some other time. Like ebooks, eaudiobooks can often be accessed through your library’s digital catalog and via your cell phone, so they’re easy to get when you’re out and about so long as you can get a quick wifi connection. Multitasking while reading (listening to audiobooks) naturally increases the time you spend reading and therefore the number of books you read in a year.

Read more graphic novels.

Like juvenile fiction, graphic novels are another easy way to pump up your have-read numbers. Generally, with fewer words to read and process, graphic novels (or memoirs, etc.) are typically faster reads than novels or nonfiction. It took me a long time to come around to graphic novels, but I finally discovered it was the kind of graphic novels I was reading that was holding me back. Highly stylized art and action stories don’t work for me, but bold, simple styles with more social or emotional plot lines are perfect. I found a lot to read in juvenile graphic novels and of the 25 books I’ve read so far this year, 10 have been graphic novels.

Select shorter books.

When racing against the clock for my annual Goodreads challenge the last couple of years, I’ve definitely resorted to selecting shorter books to read. For obvious reasons, this helped to ensure I’d finish on time. (Poetry is often a great candidate for this strategy!)

Ask friends/the internet/your librarian for fast-paced suggestions.

Shameless plug! Librarians handle books all day long, even if they haven’t read everything in their collection (spoiler: it’s impossible; I’ve tried). Therefore, they often have a good idea of which books are fast-paced and quick reads. Visit your library, fill out a reader’s advisory form on their website, or give them a call to get some suggestions of books that will keep you glued to your seat as you flip through them. Don’t underestimate your friends, either — crowdsource on social media or ask one-on-one, there are bound to be a few fast-paced books you haven’t heard of or read yet that they can suggest. And if all else fails, Google it. As for why this works — well, it’s pretty obvious: if a plot is exciting and compelling, you’ll be more interested in reading it.

Say yes to reading, not no to distractions.

One of the best pieces of advice I got last year during my own reading slump was from a coworker. She had taken the approach the previous year of saying yes to reading, rather than saying no to distractions — and it worked for her! I tried the same thing this year and even this simple reframing made a big difference for me. Don’t say no to your phone, social media, television, music, or whatever else might distract you: say yes to reading. Don’t say, “I’m not going to look at Facebook,” instead, say, “I’m going to read my book.” Simple mental reinforcement here may change things significantly for you, so don’t give up on it if it doesn’t work pronto.

Use a tracker/timer.

There’s nothing like good old shame to get your eyes on the page. Use the stopwatch feature on your phone or computer (or a real stopwatch) to track how much time you actually spend reading. Every time you pick up your phone to check the latest on Twitter, pause the watch, and only restart it when you begin reading again. Snack break? Pause it. Checking the mail? Pause it. You might be surprised by how little you’re actually reading. Take note of it and see if you can compete with yourself to read more going forward. You’ll be proud to see how you progress, and you may even notice a difference in your ability to focus for longer periods of time in your life outside reading.

Schedule reading time.

Ah, guilt, the great motivator. Studies show writing down your goals increases the likelihood of completing those goals. So, whether you track your to-dos with a bullet journal, keep a traditional planner, or you love Google Calendar, start putting reading time into your schedule. You might task yourself with a certain amount of time spent reading or opt to challenge yourself to read twenty pages a day. Whatever you go with, you’ll probably find checking that item off your to-do list super satisfying. And if you read more than what you’ve assigned yourself, there’s no shame in rewarding yourself — add a fun sticker to your to-do list proclaiming your success, get a special treat from your favorite bakery, or invest in a new book to keep the momentum up.

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