I’ve been reading a lot this month, even for me – and many of the books are short. So here’s Part III of my January reading roundup. (Look for a post on my Little House reread, coming soon!)
You Are Here, Jennifer E. Smith
Another lyrical, enjoyable story from Smith – this one about Emma and her shy neighbor Peter, who take off on a road trip from New York to North Carolina for reasons neither of them can fully articulate. Not as smooth as her other two, but a fun ride, with likable characters (including the stray three-legged dog they pick up along the way).
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, Eva Rice
This was my “backup book” on our New York trip (in case I ran out of books) – and I did start it on the ride home, then savored it before bed for nights on end. How I love the story of Charlotte and Penelope and Harry – rock’n'roll, chic clothes, young love and exciting parties in postwar London. A favorite.
Finding Our Way Home, Charlene Ann Baumbich
A lighthearted story of an aging ballet dancer recovering from a serious injury, and her young, klutzy-but-endearing assistant, who form an unlikely friendship. Though quite different, they’re both struggling to regain confidence, find love and figure out the next step in their lives. A bit predictable, but fun, and I liked the characters (and the nods to Boston).
Bunheads, Sophie Flack
Flack is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, and her debut novel explores that world through the eyes of Hannah Ward, who’s been dancing all her life. At 19, Hannah loves her life as a corps dancer in the Manhattan Ballet, but she starts to wonder if there’s more to life than just dance. Flack’s writing perfectly captures the complicated relationships between the dancers (a mix of mean-girl cattiness and deep, solid friendship). And the details of ballet life feel authentic and rich. Well-written and absorbing. (And oh, I liked that handsome NYU student who steals her heart.)
On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I always loved this volume of Laura’s story – so many adventures here. Playing in the creek; going to school; meeting the town girls and that awful Nellie Oleson; exploring the Minnesota prairie; sitting around the fire in the “snug and cosy” clapboard house. Even the blizzards don’t seem so bad when Pa’s playing the fiddle and his blue eyes are twinkling.
Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett
I rarely review picture books – but I couldn’t resist mentioning this one. When Annabelle finds a box of colorful yarn, she begins knitting sweaters for everyone in her black-and-white town – first the people, then the animals, then even the houses and mailboxes. The illustrations are charming, and as a knitter, I understand the impulse to knit for others – and the way there’s always a bit of extra yarn.
By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’d forgotten how much I loved this middle volume in the series – the descriptions of the wild, lonely, empty prairie are so gorgeous they make my throat ache. And I love the scene of Laura and Lena riding the black ponies, and the scene where Laura runs ahead to the surveyors’ house to see where they’re going to spend the winter. And the Christmas scene is gorgeous, and of course I love all the songs on Pa’s fiddle. Most of all I love watching Laura grow up, learning to think for herself and take on more responsibility and believe in her own opinions, no matter what anyone says. (We have similar stubborn streaks, which is one reason I love her so much.)
The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I picked this up last year during my own long winter. This year (thank heaven) it didn’t hit quite so close to home, but I still love the story of the little town in the winter, and the sheer grit and ingenuity of the settlers “weathering the blast” that lasted seven months. I also love watching Laura make friends in town, and getting a glimpse of Almanzo Wilder as an adult. I hadn’t remembered quite so many songs – but of course they survived that winter because of family and music and hard work. The important things.