Funny thing, this week I didn’t read a single kid’s book, so instead, I will recommend and review a book about people who work with (and live for) kids: teachers, librarians, and principals. I listened to this one as an audiobook and had the best experience with an audiobook to date. Now I know why so many of my blogging friends like and read audiobooks.

I definitely will look for more books by this author.

This 2020 publication was made for me–the protagonist was a librarian in a private school located in, Galveston, Texas, thirty miles south of where I live. It was both “timely” and “uplifting,” two of the words critics and reviewers used to describe this novel. The “author’s essay at the end, “Read for Joy,” is one I intend to use in my writing class next semester as a model to emulate.

There is tragedy in this book, both in the past and the present, but that is also the “message” the author is successfully preaching–One “should choose joy even [and especially] in difficult times.”and in the midst of tragedy.

The quirky school librarian,Samantha, who is dealing with trauma and tragedy, both physical and emotional, is a character you will love and root for. Duncan Carpenter, the stoic, cold new principal, who was once a presence in Samantha’s life, is the love interest you’ll love to hate. The twists and turns will keep you engaged in this “novel full of hope and love” right down to the satisfactory “comforting warmth” you will experience at the end.

This was one of my favorite “reads” so far this year.

Alphabet Challenge Update, READING WITH PATRICK

A friend gave me Reading with Patrick, a memoir by Michelle Kuo, a few months ago. I have been saving it for the “R” in the Alphabet Challenge a fellow blogger and I have taken on. Describing the “remarkable literary and political awakening” of Patrick Browning, Kuo’s student, the book makes the reader think about race and the lack of justice for a large portion of America’s population.

Kuo met Patrick when she was a volunteer with “Teach for America”( in 2004) in his home town, Helena, Arkansas, located in what was then one of the poorest counties in the U.S. She led Patrick through his journey of discovery as his high school English teacher. She “saw” him and saw his potential. The descriptions of their interactions and the building of their relationship were familiar to any teacher who has “been there” and cared.  As Patrick grows in his understanding of poetry, the book becomes “a love letter to literature.” It is also a “riveting,” “inspiring testimony to the transformative power of reading.” What about this premise would not make my teacher’s heart go “pitty-pat”?

After going on to law school, Kuo returned to Helena to find that Patrick was in jail, serving an “undetermined” length of years for murder.  Patrick describes the murder as “an accident,” and Kuo finds his case has been constantly mishandled, delayed, overlooked and tightly bound up in bureaucracy and red tape. While waiting for hearings and various delays, Kuo begins to teach Patrick again, only to find he had reverted to the pathetically poor reader he was when she first met him years ago. Visiting Patrick in jail as often as permitted for over seven months, Kuo helps Patrick make progress, both in his awareness of literature and of himself as well.

The story does not have a “happily-ever-after-ending,” but a satisfactory one, and the “read” was definitely worth investing my valuable reading time in. I highly recommend this book.




Dear Committee Members by Julia Schumacher: A Review

This book was recommended by a colleague who has served on many search committees and has received many letters of recommendation for applicants, none of which could possibly be as clever or creative as the ones that the author strings together to create a novel.

It is a small book, and I checked it out from the Alvin Public Library.  I read it in a few hours during my private 24 hour Reading Marathon. The book is funny, sardonic, and too much like real life in academia.

The author has won awards for another novel, ALA Notable Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She has written a short story collection and “five novels for young readers.” Schumacher explains she teaches at the University of Minnesota and has written many letters of recommendation.