What I Read: March 2016

Hey! April is almost over. Not sure how that happened, but still plenty of time left to talk about what I read in March!

I read 8 books in March. Three were non-fiction, five were fiction. Two were on Kindle, one was an Overdrive ebook I read on my phone, two were audiobooks and the remaining three were good old print books. Four books were by writers of color, meeting my 50% goal!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015).
I “read” this on audiobook, and I highly recommend that route. Kaling reads it herself and I think that makes the tale extra humorous. An enjoyable memoir of Kaling’s personal and professional life. I really enjoy how she writes about her work. It’s always interesting to me to see folks relationships to their careers.

The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee (2015).
It took me months to read this book, both because it is over 500 pages, and because I read it on my phone, since DCPL didn’t have Kindle version, but it was so worth it. Just an incredibly important piece of American history. I can see this being used in college history courses for years to come because it is academic, meticulously researched, and incredibly readable. I was aware of the Chinese Exclusion Acts because of research I’ve done at my job, but this country has treated its Asian immigrant abysmally way beyond those acts (which are horrifying enough). Well worth reading. I counted this for Task 10 (a book over 500 pages) of Read Harder 2016.

First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School by Alison Stewart (2013).
Dunbar is a once lauded, now struggling public high school in DC. It started out as the city’s first academically oriented high school for black students and before integration, generations of high achieving African Americans graduated from Dunbar. Integration brought challenges to Dunbar (although not because it was ever truly integrated – but because it went from being a selective high school drawing students from the whole city to a neighborhood school). An interesting look at the history of public education in Washington, DC (and of course, at one school in particular).

How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay by Julia Alvarez (2001).
The first book in a lovely children’s chapter book series by Julia Alvarez about a brother and sister who move (with their mom) from New York City to Vermont after their parents separate. As the title suggests, Tia Lola comes from the Dominican Republic to stay with the them and livens things up a bit. I read this for Task 16 (first book in a series by a writer of color) of Read Harder 2016.

Hostage Taker: A Novel by Stefanie Pintoff (2015).
If you like a thriller, pick this up. It was one of those books I didn’t want to put it down. Pintoff is a mystery writer you will be happy to discover (this is her third book. The others are historical – and equally good). This hostage drama would make an excellent beach read.

Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George (2016).
I super duper love this children’s chapter series about Princess Celie and the magical, growing, rearranging Castle Glower. This is the fourth in the series and if magical happiness with strong female characters is your thing, you should start with Tuesday at the Castle!

I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert (2007).
I picked this out for Task 9 (Listen to an Audie Award Winner) of Read Harder 2016. I usually enjoy audiobooks by comedians, and Colbert did not disappoint, but I think I am just over Colbert’s conservative alter-ego. Hoping not to go back to a version of American politics where satire is the only thing getting me through.

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason (2013).
This was my first steampunk book and it was fun. A reimagined, electricity free Victorian-era mystery featuring Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) and Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram). Fun, but I don’t know that I’ll seek out the next in the series.

What I Read: March 2016

Read This! Picture a Tree


With Arbor Day coming up this Friday, now is a great time to pick up Barbara Reid’s Picture a Tree. Throughout the four seasons, trees play many roles (home to birds and animals, shade on a sunny day) and look many different ways (skeletons in winter, riotous color in spring). Reid’s plasticine illustrations feature a diverse array of trees and people alike. I love them.

Read This! Picture a Tree

Books for Queer Families: What Makes a Baby

What Makes a Baby is a birds and the bees book for all kinds of families – queer, straight, adoptive, birth, folks who conceived “naturally” and folks who needed medical assistance, folks who had a vaginal birth and folks who had a c-section. Totally appropriate for little kids.

Pros: Age-appropriate and medically accurate without being clinical or saying anything about “when a mommy and daddy love each other”. Bright, colorful, fun illustrations. Has one of the best descriptions of childbirth I’ve ever read: “sometimes it hurts a little, and sometimes it hurts a lot.”

Cons: I can’t think of one.

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a basic “how babies are made” book, buy this one. It’s great for queer families, but also for folks who used IVF or adopted or just didn’t have the standard conception.

Looking for more books about queer families? You can find the other books I’ve reviewed here.

Books for Queer Families: What Makes a Baby

Read This! Octopus Alone


Octopus lives in a busy corner of the ocean. From her cave, she sees all sorts of maritime hustle and bustle. When three seahorses come to visit, Octopus starts to feel a little overwhelmed. She escapes and ventures forth until she finds a quiet, unoccupied cave to rest in for a while. When she’s ready, she returns to the hustle and bustle, happy to see her friends again. I love Divya Srinivasan’s illustrations of a colorful, underwater world. But more than that, I love this non-moralistic tale of an introvert’s need for some alone time and the joy of visiting with friends. Balance.

Read This! Octopus Alone

Read This! Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible


This was a perfect chapter book for my mostly picture book reader. Pictures on almost every page, but still a long, engaging tale to be read a few chapters at a time. Harriet Hamsterbone is not your average princess. Cursed by the wicked fairy Ratshade to prick her finger and fall asleep on her twelfth birthday, she figures out this makes her invincible before then (curses really like to keep you alive until they can do their thing), and sets off to fight ogres and dive off of cliffs. A fun twist on Sleeping Beauty with an empowered, awesome (hamster) princess.

Read This! Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible

Preschool Reads: Baseball


It’s the most wonderful time of the year: baseball season, of course! Going to Opening Day is a family tradition for us and I can’t wait to go tomorrow! We’ve been reading about baseball a lot lately as we get excited for the start of the season. Our favorite baseball reads are below.

Dad, Jackie, & Me, written by Myron Uhlberg, illustrated by Colin Bootman (2005).

It is the Summer of 1947, Jackie Robinson’s first year playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Based on Uhlberg’s own childhood, the book looks at the struggle and triumph of that first year through the eyes of a boy and his deaf father – who never much cared for baseball before, but who has become a huge fan of Jackie Robinson. I found this when looking for books with deaf characters, and it does a great job with that – the father’s deafness is a fact and depicted realistically, but not the point of the story. You can tell that Uhlberg is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). It also a realistic depiction of the racism and hatred that Jackie Robinson faced and led to some good discussions with Frances about why another player would try to hurt Jackie. A+ all around.

Dirt on their Skirts: The Story of the Young Women Who Won the World Championships, written by Doreen Rappaport and Lyndall Callan, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (2000).

The tale of the 1946 World Championship game of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League between the Racine Belles and the Rockford Peaches. Not only a great piece of baseball history (and girl power), but also some of the most exciting descriptions of baseball play that I’ve read. Who will win?!

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (2015).

I had never heard of Lizzie Murphy until I read this book, and that’s a shame, because what an amazing role model. Lizzie Murphy played professional baseball (on men’s teams) from 1918 to 1935! Queen of the Diamond tells the tale of Lizzie’s childhood and start in professional baseball, including how she forced the manager to pay her the same salary as the men. Equal pay for equal work! I had no idea that women had played on baseball teams with men back in the early-ish days of the game and this book was a (fun) revelation for me.

She Love Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, written by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate (2010).

Another fascinating woman in baseball, who I had never heard of! Effa Manley, was the business manager and co-owner, with her husband, of the Newark Eagles, a Negro League team. She was alive in the civil rights movement,and instrumental in getting the Major League teams to pay Negro League teams for their players. In her later years, she ran a successful letter-writing campaign to convince the National Baseball Hall of Fame to admit Negro League players. In 2006, she was the first woman to be induced in the Hall of Fame herself. Pretty amazing!

Take Me Out to the Yakyu, written and illustrated by Aaron Meshon (2013).

A super cute tale of a little baseball-loving boy and his trips to baseball games with his American Pop Pop and with his Japanese Ji Ji. It’s fun to see the ways the games differ across cultures and the ways they are the same. I love the illustrations. While the other books are fairly wordy and contain more serious themes, this is a pure celebration of baseball perfect for toddlers and preschoolers alike.

Preschool Reads: Baseball

Read This! The Rain Stomper


What better book for April Showers than The Rain Stomper?! Jazmin is so excited for the first day of Spring and the big neighborhood parade that she has organized. Sadly when she wakes up in the morning,instead of the tat-a-tat of drums, she hears the boom walla boom boom of thunder. It is quite literally raining on her parade. She gets out her frustration by heading outside and stomp, stomp, stomping that rain. Soon she is joined by other neighborhood children and leads a new parade of puddle stompers. This is, so far, muralist Addie Boswell’s only children’s book, but I hope there will be more. Eric Velazquez’s vibrant illustrations contrast the colorful life of children with the grey dreariness of a rainy day perfectly.

Read This! The Rain Stomper