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I’ve mentioned before that one of the perks of being a librarian is getting to read some seriously awesome books before they’re actually published. The latest that I read comes out next week, on March 3, and it’s already in our system if you want to place a hold!
What I Just Read: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
What’s It About (Jacket Description): Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?
The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.
Did I Like It: Oh my gosh YES!!!
Thoughts: I just loved this book so much. Even though I know in my head that it was fantastic but not perfect, it felt perfect while I was reading it. I loved Etta as a main character in a big sort of way, which is appropriate, since she has a big sort of personality. Despite her struggles – being bullied by her ex-clique, missing her best friend, trying to recover from her eating disorder – Etta never wilts or diminishes. She just keeps flying off the page and in your face in the best possible sort of way. And even for people who have never had an eating disorder, or who aren’t bisexual, or who don’t love to dance, or who have never had ugly break-ups with friends, everything Etta deals with still feels so relatable and personal. I think it’s because ultimately, her struggle is not about any of these specific issues, but about getting to know herself, figuring out who she wants to be, learning to love herself, and being confident in who Etta really is. And I think that’s something everyone can relate to.
Aside from Etta herself, this book had a wealth of amazing characters. Bianca and James were fantastic. They were both strong in their own ways, but each struggling with some of the same self-identity issues as Etta. Mason was a lovely addition to the group, charming and likeable and never pushing Etta for anything she wasn’t comfortable with. Etta’s sister Kristina didn’t have a ton of page time, but I would read a whole other book about her if it were written. And even Etta’s bullies had personalities beyond just being mean. But while all these characters were fantastic in their own right, it still all comes back to Etta. Because the best part about each and every side character was reading about their relationships with Etta. The strange love/affection/jealousy/co-dependency she had with Rachel, the sweet devotion and strong friendship between her and Bianca, the way James’ personality complemented Etta’s so well, the difficult but super loving relationship between Etta and her mom – every relationship Etta has kept me riveted to the page, and loving reading about each and every interaction.
This book is written in a pretty stream-of-consciousness first person, so you will definitely enjoy the book a lot more if you like Etta, and like being in her head. But I suspect you’ll like Etta – she is an extremely likable, even loveable, main character, who dominates the page and had me completely absorbed in her story, so you should definitely give Not Otherwise Specified a try. I just really, really loved this book. So about what I said before, about placing that hold…
By: Bari Ericson, Youth Programming Associate
“Once upon a time there was a librarian who didn’t like to read.” That was me. I found sitting with a book confining, uninspiring and overly time-consuming. And then I discovered Playaways!
A Playaway is a pre-loaded digital audiobook, kind of like a dedicated MP3 player. Weighing just two ounces and about half the size of a deck of cards, the device holds the recording for one entire book. All you need is an AAA battery and a pair of earbuds, and you are good to go. A simple set of buttons lets you play, pause, move forward or back at various speeds and adjust the volume. The device lets you stop and later re-start right where you were in the story. No juggling CDs or downloading!
So, thanks to Playaways, I became an avid audiobook reader. I listen to books while doing household chores, before going to sleep and when traveling (using an inexpensive adapter cord in my car.)
Audiobooks – in Playaway, CD or e-book form – are a great way to get your kids reading, too, while improving their listening and comprehension skills. Jim Dale, the renowned voice actor for the Harry Potter audiobook series says, “Listening to stories helps children build vocabulary, improve their reading skills and succeed more readily in school. Being read to is an important step on the road to becoming a good reader and one of the best ways to ensure a lifelong love of literature and reading. But few of us have all the time we would like to read to the children in our lives. That’s where audiobooks can help.”
Often a child’s reading ability is lower than their intellectual capacity. Audiobooks bridge that gap by providing vocabulary, pronunciation, sentence complexity and a wealth of language that they may not be able to read on their own. The child may choose to follow along with a printed copy, promoting comprehension and fluency. Audiobook recordings are often enhanced with music, sound effects or read by a full cast of actors, bringing the characters and story to life.
And besides all that, audiobooks are just fun and a great family activity. I remember listening to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone while building Legos with my son. My daughter and I laughed and laughed at Junie B. Jones’ antics while driving home from piano lessons. Now that my kids are in college, these are precious memories.
I have listened to literally hundreds of books on Playaway over the past few years, but here are a few favorites:
Crunch by Leslie Connor
Five kids work together to run their family’s booming bicycle repair business while their parents are stranded far away during an energy crisis.
Girl Who Owned a City by OT Nelson
When a plague kills everyone over age twelve, Lisa organizes a group of kids to start a new life. This early dystopian novel is set in “Glenbard,” making many references to Glen Ellyn locations!
Candymakers byWendy Mass
Logan, heir to his family’s candy factory, must compete with 3 other kids to make a spectacular candy while thwarting theft of the secret ingredient.
Prisoner 88 byLeah Pileggi
A surprisingly uplifting story, based on the life of ten-year-old Jake, imprisoned for murder in the Idaho Territory in 1885.
When 17-year-old Alton becomes the cardturner for his eccentric, blind uncle, he learns far more about life than about the game of Bridge.
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
The charming biography of a father and daughter who embark on a “streak” of nightly read aloud sessions that continues for eight years.