The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin

Subtitle: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.

I thought this was terrific. My only complaint is that it was too short and I wanted more! I haven’t read Yelchin’s other books, but I know he is an esteemed author who has won a Newbery Honor award. And I know the criteria for being a Newbery winner is being an American author, so I automatically knew that his story would end eventually with him moving here and becoming a citizen at some point.
Everything about this was SO fascinating. It’s just hard to believe that people lived like that and that they thought it was ok. Or, if they didn’t think it was ok, they couldn’t do anything about it.  Before the Berlin Wall came down I was pretty fascinated to imagine life in Communist countries and would have absolutely loved to read this book about someone around my age at the same time.

Best Friends by Shannon Hale

This was one of the most hotly anticipated publications this fall for my students (and me), along with Telgemeier’s Guts. I thought Real Friends was so terrific that we own a copy, I promote it a lot at school, and I gave it to the guidance counselor to read. I wouldn’t call it warm and fuzzy, but very realistic (as it should be–it’s her life) about the ups and downs of childhood friendships. With an added layer of Shannon having very real anxiety (and ocd.)

Just like my own kid, Shannon is now in 6th grade. Things have changed a bit since her tumultous 5th grade year, but she still struggles to figure out who is a best friend, can you be a best friend and not leave someone out, and more.

As solid as the first one.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Carey Gilbreth

I LOVED this book when I was a kid. And it’s one of those books where certain things in it stuck with me. Whenever I see someone with elbows on the table I want to “Thump” them, whenever I hear boring prattle I want to say “not of general interest”, whenever Paul drives around a corner too fast I whisper in my head “not so fast, not so fast.” (It turns out that last one I never could remember where it especially came from, and it was in this book, which delightful to see. ) Sadly, neither of the kids or Paul has ever read it.
We recently took a trip to Virginia and this was the perfect opportunity to get everyone else in the family to have the same frame of reference as me. To my delight, they all enjoyed this very much (audiobook, of course.) and I was THRILLED to hear it all over again as it’s been quite a while. It really is a fascinating look at not just a large family, but the really the motion study business and Frank and Lillian’s careers.  And of course all kinds of interesting details about the time period.

Anyway, we all liked it a lot and hopefully we’ll listen to Bells on Their Toes next.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

I didn’t even know a second volume of this was out until I saw it on display at the library! I’m not doing a great job of keeping up with sequels lately. I  really enjoyed the first one so dove right into this as soon as I got it. The same humor and same Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl. As before my favorite parts, like the candy of the book, were the pages of group text between her and the Avengers (no group texts please, asks Black Widow immediately.)  These cameos by Iron Man, Captain America, etc are hilarious. Oh! and Thor. Everything with Thor.

Once again Squirrel Girl and her hearing impaired bestie Ana Sofia are figuring out a Hydra plot when everyone else is oblivious. The mood here is high campiness and amusing commentary about social media manipulation and commercialism and a whole bunch of other stuff made hilarious.

I liked this one just as much as the first and one thing I noticed in here that makes me think of  Hale’s wonderful graphic novel Real Friends, were the bits about Ana Sofia and Doreen trying to figure out how to be good friends (new territory for both of them.)

A real treat.

Dinotopia by James Guerney

dinotopiaA few weeks ago Clark entered that most magical stage of boyhood–the dinosaur loving phase. The amusing phase where little kids can accurately identify numerous species of dinosaurs and accurately pronounce their polysyllabic names. At the very start of the phase, before he got really into it and we didn’t have any dino books in the house I found Dinotopia on our shelf.  All I really knew of this was the paperback series in the juvenile fiction at the library and what the big hardcover books looked like, but I didn’t really know what they were about.  In a nutshell: a boy and his father are shipwrecked and dolphins bring them to an island where dinosaurs are not extinct and they live cooperatively with humans (all of whom have been shipwrecked, or are descended from shipwrecked people.)  The dinos and humans can communicate and have their own languages and culture and it’s all very Swiss Family Robinson with wonderfully detailed sketches and maps and such.  Wonderfully imaginative and someday I’ll read the rest of the books.

dinovalleyAs an aside, our two favorite informational dinosaur books which we bought are Dinosaur Valley and  Dinosaurs Everywhere!Dinosaur Valley is, I believe, by a Japanese author and the soft illustrations definitely have a Japanese feel to them.  When I bought the book I imagined that Clark might like it when he was 8, but he loves it now and we’ve read it many many times (in fact, when he plays with his dinosaurs he often says he is playing “dinosaur valley.”)  It is a fictional story of an Oridromeus dinosaur,but shows what life was like then through the story.  

dinoeveryDinosaurs Everywhere! is a good introduction to dinosaurs, what they ate, how big and small they were, how their bones are found and so on. If you have a little kid in your life who likes dinosaurs I highly recommend both these books.