I have said all year how much I needed books. But in was November, I really needed books.
To say this month was stressful is an understatement. The election…didn’t go the way I hoped. Put it this way: I was on the side most people were not. And I will leave it at that. Then, other things—mostly internal—started happening. I’ve been living inside my head too much this year, stuck at home all the time. It finally reached a tipping point. I stress-bought things I didn’t need instead of spending it on things I did.
When Goodreads Choice Awards for 2020 began at the end of October, I realized how far behind I was on 2020 releases. Books I had once been excited for, yet did not get around to reading. Books that were deep in my comfort zone.
I decided November I would go out of my comfort zone by picking up picture books and middle grade novels. And I’m so glad I did. I read a total of sixteen books this month. Better yet, none of them were below 4 stars and the majority are my favorites of the year.
The library books that made me want to do nothing but read for the rest of 2020 are:
Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love
I read Jessica Love’s previous picture book, Julian is a Mermaid, for my children’s literature class. I adored it, so naturally I expected to adore Julian at the Wedding. While the story was cute, the artwork still beautiful, and had subtle LGBTQ+ themes, it didn’t pull me in the way Julian is a Mermaid did.
Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
The girl-power of this picture book warmed my heart.
This Book is Gray by Lindsay Ward
This Book is Gray is all about what others perceive as bad might not be so, if put into certain circumstances. I had a hard time picking a nominee, but I settled on this one.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
While I understand and appreciate the motive behind the writing of I Am Every Good Thing, I don’t know why I did not love it more.
Bedtime Bonnet by Nancy Amanda Redd
Cute, with a lesson about the importance hair has to Black culture, but the grandpa was kind of an asshole.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
Again, while I appreciated the message and the issues presented in this book, it just missed the mark for me. It felt more like a textbook written for toddlers.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
You’re never too old to learn. Or to realize to never take reading for granted. How Mary Walker survived so long without reading makes me both sad and amazed.
Bird Hugs by Ged Adamson
So darn adorable!
Dewdrop by Katie O’Neil
There are not enough words to describe how sweet and adorable this book is.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
All about a lion living inside a library. Obviously, I loved it.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
I loved the poetry in this one. We need more powerful children’s books like this.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
The artwork in We Are Water Protectors is absolutely stunning. It also serves as a reminder that nothing is perfect and there are good and bad sides to everything.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
I remembered Katherine Applegate’s books existed after Disney+ released a movie adaption of The One and Only Ivan. The One and Only Bob was a nominee for this year’s middle grade Choice Awards. As you can tell, I enjoyed both of them.
Ivan the gorilla had a surprising amount of amusing ego and Bob was the smartest little wise-ass. Serious issues, like animal abuse, were put into a perspective that children could understand without being graphic. Some of the significant human characters were complex; the ones you would think are bad might not necessarily be as such. The short chapters and easy dialogue made The One and Only Ivan and The One and Only Bob easy to fly through. And I seriously hope baby elephant Ruby gets her own book.
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
I read Before the Ever After in under 24 hours. I looked for any excuse to read it. In case you were unaware, Before the Ever After follows twelve-year-old boy ZJ, whose father is an NFL player that is showing signs of severe mental decline. Written in verse, it describes how he and his parents cope with the situation as his father’s health declines. They also receive tremendous support from those who continue to stand by them. I almost gave it 5 stars, but the unexpected time jumps annoyed me too much.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Set during the partition of India in 1947, twelve-year-old Nisha tells the story of The Night Diary via letters to her dead mother. She describes the political unrest in India following liberation from the British and the family’s migration over the border to the new India after where they lived became Pakistan. In her note at the end, the author described how it was loosely based off her family’s history, though not specifically their experience. Instead, she chose to put her characters through enough pain where the reader got the point. Still, the events are rooted in reality, as during the actual migration people’s experiences differed.
As a protagonist, I liked Nisha and saw a lot of my twelve-year-old self in her. She was quiet and reserved, but she did her best to cope with her situation and help out her father, twin brother Amil, and her grandmother. The characters felt fleshed out and their reactions to situations realistic. Near the end, we see strong representation of trauma I think was handled quite well. The reason I gave The Night Diary 4 stars instead of 5 is because the story dragged at parts and Nisha would babble on about unimportant things that took me out of the story. Other than that, I enjoyed The Night Diary and would highly recommend it to someone looking for a historical middle grade.
What was your favorite book you read in November?