Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hello booklovers!

I was astounded to see that it was last August since I had posted anything. Wow. Life, you know? Well, I have three books I've read recently that I'm excited to tell you about, so let's get right to it.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston

This book is a gem, and you will want to read it slowly because it is over all too quickly. It's the story of Frankie Pratt, who graduates from high school in 1920, and receives a scrapbook and her father's old Corona typewriter. She has dreams of being a writer, and wins a scholarship to Vassar, but LIFE has other plans and she ends up in Paris (where she has a brief working relationship with James Joyce) before she finds her way back home.

Here's the unique thing about this book: the story is told entirely in scrapbook form, with vintage postcards, mementos from her adventures, and cut out pictures from 1920's catalogs. It becomes a treasure trove of images that I found more fun to read than a graphic novel. This book is pure pleasure.

The Language of Flowers by Laura Diffenbach

If you loved "White Oleander," you will love this book. Eighteen year-old Victoria Jones has just aged out of the foster care system and is sleeping in a park in San Francisco. She trusts no one and is fiercely independent. Having been blessed with an innate ability to grow flowers and design arrangements, she gets noticed by a local florist who gives her a job. But when a flower vendor at the local flower market recognizes her from his childhood, she is forced to confront some painful secrets about her past. This book is mesmerizing and very hard to put down.

I'm Down by Mishna Wolff (CD)

First of all, my heartfelt thanks to Stacey Spencer, who was so passionate about this book that she wagged her finger in my face and insisted I find it, and that it had to be listened to, and not read. I recognize this kind of passion, so I took her advice, and this audiobook rocked my world.

This is the true story, narrated by the author, of a young girl who grows up in a poor area of Seattle. She and her sister live mainly with her father and see her mother on weekends. As she states in the first paragraph, "My parents, both white. My sister had the same mother and father as me - all of us completely white."

She feels it necessary to make this statement up front because then she goes on to explain that her father (white) beloved to his core that he was a black man. He talked like a black man. He walked like a black man. He dressed like a black man.  All his friends were black, and he raised that author and her sister in a poor black neighborhood. When she is sent to a summer program and later to school, she has to figure out how to fit in as the only white kid. (How she does this is hilarious.) And then later when she is moved to a gifted program at a different school, she has to figure out how to fit in with all these rich white kids.

The author's ability to capture the voice and reasoning of a 3rd grader and put it into words is only one of the things that makes this book priceless.  She has huge challenges to face, not the least of which are that her narcissistic father rarely works, money is tight and food sometimes scarce, and at one point an evil stepmother comes into her life. But she is incredibly resilient, and athletically gifted, and if there isn't a sequel to this book I will GO CRAZY. It ends when she is about fourteen, and I SO wanted to know what happened next (did she get into college?) that I went to the publisher's website to see if there was word of a sequel. Have you ever liked a book so much that you went on the Internet to find out all you can about an author? I was bereft when the story ended.

And Stacey was right: you have to listen to it.

p.s. The photo of her on the cover is photo-shopped.

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