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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Ill give you the sun
by by Jandy Nelson

Book list Gr. 5-8. Igus' prose poems and Wood's evocative paintings combine to give a succinct overview of African American music. A useful time line sets the social context, and brief paragraphs describe the various types of music, from African origins and slave songs through ragtime; the blues; big band, bebop, and cool jazz; gospel; rhythm and blues; and the contemporary sounds of rock, hip-hop, and rap. Igus effectively uses snippets from song lyrics to communicate both a feel for the music itself and a sense of how the various styles played to the emotions of the musicians and their fans ("From the basements to the rooftops, / I see the cool tones of modern jazz / escape the city heat"). Wood's paintings are equally suggestive. Mixing modernist and primitive styles and using color nicely to communicate musical style and tone, her art not only complements the text but vivifies it. Audience may be a problem: the supportive text is too sophisticated for younger readers to grasp themselves, and the format may alienate some older readers. Perhaps best used in a junior-high classroom with audio accompaniment, this striking book, in the hands of a creative teacher or librarian, could give kids a feeling for the majesty, creativity, and continuity of African American music. (Reviewed February 15, 1998)0892391510Bill Ott

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus The collaborators on Going Back Home (1997) return with a stunning history of African-American music. They begin 500 years ago, on the African continent, chronicle the slave trade, and document the work songs and spirituals of American slaves. The blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, rap, and hip hop all come under scrutiny in free-verse poems that incorporate lyrics about and the rhythms of every style. In addition, Igus has added a brief description of each musical movement and a terrific timeline noting highlights of African-American history--both musical and more general information--which roots the whole book in a broader context. Wood's vibrant paintings are based in historical detail, and resonate with emotion. The color choices, postures of the figures, as well as the expressions on their faces, reflect various aspects of African-American music; the pictures broadcast joy, innovation, and exuberance in the face of systematic oppression. A child hidden in each scene adds a nice piece of personality for readers to interpret. Stylish and lively design pulls it all together into an absorbing, attractive package. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog A Map into the World
by Kao Kalia Yang

School Library Journal Gr 2–5—The world can be a lonely and confusing place, but with the right companionship, it can be more easily navigated. Paj Ntaub and her Hmong family move into a new house with a swing and a garden, just in time to welcome her new baby twin brothers into their home. Her family befriends the elderly couple across the street, often waving back and forth, especially when things are overwhelming inside the houses. Over the winter, the man's wife dies, and when the weather again turns warm, Paj Ntaub executes a brave and insightful plan to reach out to her grieving neighbor. Written in a simple style with lyrical phrases peppered throughout, the heartfelt narrative allows readers to appreciate the depth the child's musings. The endpapers showcase a story cloth depicting how the Hmong people came to America. Beautiful, detailed illustrations are rich in color, texture, and emotion, lifting the story off the page; an emotional ending will leave tears in the eyes of some readers. VERDICT This is an excellent addition to elementary school libraries, especially as an enhancement to selections about intergenerational love and acceptance, and immigration stories about bridging cultures.—Mary Lanni, formerly at Denver Public Library

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book A Hmong American family--mother, father, Tais Tais (grandmother), and little girl--moves into a cozy house across the street from a loving elderly couple, Bob and Ruth. The girl's twin baby brothers are born; the seasons pass; the outdoor landscape changes; and in wintertime Ruth dies. When spring comes, Bob takes his seat on the "special bench" that he and Ruth had shared; it's clear that he is grieving, and the little girl uses her skill with sidewalk chalk--and her great compassion--to brighten up his outlook and their neighborhood. Yang's story is an understated (if somewhat sentimental) snapshot of family life over the course of a quietly transformative year. The text is straightforward and spare, with touches of lyricism ("The house across the street looked empty. The gingko trees reached for the sky with their thin fingers"). Culturally specific details are naturally incorporated into the text and into the textured, delicate-lined, digitally created illustrations. A brief glossary on the copyright page explains that the protagonist's name, Paj Ntaub, is both a girl's name and the word for the traditional needlework often used to create story cloths like the one hanging on the family's wall (also shown in close-up detail on the endpapers), "which visually represent and document the experiences of the Hmong people across time, including families' journeys as refugees. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A young Hmong American girl shares the small things of wonder that make up her world.When Paj Ntaub moves into a new green house with big windows with her family, the garden grows with "tomatoes, green beans, and a watermelon as round as my mother's belly." Soon, the green house becomes their house. Paj Ntaub helps "Tais Tais hang the special story cloth about how the Hmong got to America." She exchanges waves with her neighbors Bob and Ruth, an elderly white couple even older than Tais Tais. And changing seasons usher in life and death. In gentle prose, Yang's picture-book debut explores nature, community, and connection. Twin brothers are born amid the summer bounty in the garden. On a snowy, cold morning, loss arrives, and bare gingko trees "[reach] for the sky with their thin fingers" against the new emptiness of the house across the street. When the world becomes green again, Paj Ntaub draws together these connections in a neighborly gesture of comfort. Using digital graphite, pastels, watercolor, and scanned handmade textures, Kim brings detailed dimension to the green house and the world around it. Alternating perspectives capture the expansiveness of the outside as well as the intimacy of Paj Ntaub's observations.Contemplative, curious, and kind. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Yang (The Song Poet for adults), a Hmong writer making her picture book debut, offers a story about a girl who notices things. Young Paj Ntaub (both a girl’s name and a term that nods to needlework tellings of Hmong experiences) moves with her family to a green house and helps to hang their story cloth “about how the Hmong got to America” on the wall. When her twin baby brothers cry too loudly, her father takes her outside, where they wave to their elderly neighbors, Bob and Ruth. In lovingly detailed spreads, Kim, making her U.S. debut, draws all the things that Paj Ntaub sees: gingko leaves (“yellow like apricots”), winter snow, a worm. When Ruth dies in the winter, and Paj Ntaub notices Bob grieving come spring, she chalks a wealth of previously regarded details on his driveway—“a map into the world,” she explains. Though age separates them, Paj Ntaub’s accounting of everyday details reaches Bob—and gives voice to the child’s experience, too. A distinctive story that weaves together threads of family life, community and culture, the natural world, and the power of stories. Ages 7–8. (Oct.)

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Book list A year brings many changes to a Hmong girl's world. Paj Ntaub and her family move to their house in the summer, when her mother's belly is round with twins and the garden is flourishing. Across the street live Ruth and Bob, an elderly couple with whom they exchange friendly waves. The seasons change, twins are born, and Ruth dies. To comfort Bob, Paj Ntaub makes a chalk drawing on his driveway that features elements from her year and nods to the story cloth her family keeps that commemorates their journey to America. Although readers see the story cloth on the wall and at the end, what it details is never really explained, though a brief note on the copyright page describes what it is and who the Hmong people are. This is more of a relationship story, showing how Paj Ntaub engages with her brothers and grandmother and how neighboring families come together when sadness strikes. Kim's digital artwork using pastels, graphite, watercolors, and hand-scanned textures captures the warmth of family, the charm of changing seasons, and the depth of friendships.--Ilene Cooper Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog The Undefeated
by Kwame Alexander

Horn Book Alexander and Nelson honor the achievements, courage, and perseverance of ordinary black people as well as prominent black artists, athletes, and activists. Alexander's free-verse poem conveys a sense of pride at what his "unflappable" and "unafraid" predecessors have accomplished and what people continue to do today. Nelson's realistic oil paintings depict racial oppression in the past and present--demonstrating that racism remains deeply entrenched in America today. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Performed first on the ESPN show of the same name, this magnificent anthem to the courage and genius of black Americans has been turned into a picture book with stunning portraits by Nelson (Blue Sky, White Stars). "This is for the unforgettable," Alexander (Out of Wonder) opens, "The swift and sweet ones/ who hurdled history/ and opened a world/ of possible." Jesse Owens flies across the page, every limb outstretched, every muscle taut. Alexander's praise is not just for well-known figures, though; he also writes about nameless heroes ("the ones who survived/ America/ by any means necessary") and unsung martyrs ("the ones who didn't"). And he acknowledges the deepest wounds, repeating the phrase "This is for the unspeakable" over successive portraits of infamous atrocities committed against Americans of African descent. He writes of artistry, "the We Real Cool ones," above the smiling, lit-up faces of vocal and instrumental artists who make up a celestial chorus: Monk and Fitzgerald, Vaughan and Davis. Nelson paints historical figures and contemporary heroes with equal ease and grace; in a final spread, the faces of young black girls and boys look ahead, beaming and determined: "This is for us." Throughout, incantatory usage of "un" words ("unbelievable... unbending... underdogs... uncertain...") rings with force. Alexander remembers peaceful Civil Rights activists, "the righteous marching ones who sang we shall not be moved because black lives matter," communicating clearly that when black lives matter, America is stronger. Historical notes for each figure conclude this powerful work. Ages 4-7. Author's agent: Arielle Eckstut, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Alexander and Nelson combine their considerable talents in this ode to inspiring African American heroes in the fields of sport, the arts, and political activism, as well as everyday champions whose very survival exemplifies success. In elegiac-style verse, Alexander celebrates the swift and sweet ones / who hurdled history . . . / the ones who survived / America / by any means necessary, and those who shine / their light for the world to see / and don't stop / til the break of dawn. Nelson's photo-realistic illustrations, rendered in oil, include action shots (Jesse Owens, mid hurdle), portraits (Martin Luther King Jr. and an African American Union soldier), composites (of jazz and sports greats), and iconographic compositions that depict the unspeakable (bodies lined up representing abducted Africans en route to America, part of the Middle Passage). Designed for reading aloud, the text also makes use of several typographic cues that signal meaning: emphasized words appear in larger font, while references to the words of others ( we shall not be moved ) appear in italics. And, while the content references several tragic events (slavery and police brutality, among others), the poem closes with a hopeful nod to the rising generation. Appended with notes on the historical figures cited, this is a beautiful volume that encourages multiple viewings and further research. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a lengthy roster of accolades and best-seller credits between them, this untouchable duo's book will fly off the shelf.--Kay Weisman Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans' triumphs and challenges in the United States.Alexander's poetry possesses a straightforward, sophisticated, steady rhythm that, paired with Nelson's detail-oriented oil paintings, carries readers through generations chronicling "the unforgettable," "the undeniable," "the unflappable," and "the righteous marching ones," alongside "the unspeakable" events that shape the history of black Americans. The illustrator layers images of black creators, martyrs, athletes, and neighbors onto blank white pages, patterns pages with the bodies of slaves stolen and traded, and extends a memorial to victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown past the very edges of a double-page spread. Each movement of Alexander's poem is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of black people in the U.S., with textual references to the writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X dotting stanzas in explicit recognition and grateful admiration. The book ends with a glossary of the figures acknowledged in the book and an afterword by the author that imprints the refrain "Black. Lives. Matter" into the collective soul of readers, encouraging them, like the cranes present throughout the book, to "keep rising."An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 3 Up-This inaugural title from Newbery Medalist Alexander's new imprint is a poignant and powerful ode to the resilience and strength of black life and history in America. Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated in 2016, the poem adopts a picture book format with a new title, accompanied by stunning oil paintings in Nelson's trademark photorealistic style. The evocative illustrations stand out against stark white backgrounds and vary in their composition. On some spreads, the focus is on a single expressive portrait; others feature collages of African American icons from various disciplines, or refer to significant historical moments. The art functions in perfect harmony with the poet's spare, striking verse to electrify the Black American experience, and to celebrate black athletes, writers, musicians, activists, and heroes. From the unspeakable trauma of American slavery and the transatlantic slave trade to the brave service of black troops during the Civil War, from the fierce and unwavering fight for civil rights to the Black Lives Matter movement, from Selma to Birmingham to Harlem, this book is both a soaring tribute to the enduring perseverance and achievements of the past and a stirring call to action to "the dreamers and the doers" of the present and the future. Back matter includes an afterword from the author as well as additional information about the historical figures and events featured in the book. VERDICT Alexander and Nelson present an exceptionally moving and triumphant work. This book is an essential first purchase for all libraries. -Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog The Invisible Life Of Addie Larue
by V.E. Schwab

Book list *Starred Review* Publishers say that historical fiction is a hard sell, and books with religion at their core are few and far between. Kudos, then, to Berry (All the Truth That's in Me, 2013) for creating a sweeping saga that not only deeply entwines both but also dissects its characters' humanity as it looks at the often troubling beliefs that underlay their actions. The story-within-a-story begins in 1290. A friar is gathering papers and testimonies that will show how the inquisitions here on the border of France and Spain were God's holy work. But one tale troubles him, so much so that he begins to stitch the strands together, and that is where the main story begins. Botille is a sassy teenager who makes money in her seaside village of Bajas by matchmaking. A disruptive childhood and a drunken father has bound Botille and her sisters closely together, but their lives are good: Plazensa runs the tavern, Botille makes her matches, and Sazia tells fortunes with uncanny accuracy. To the north, in Tolosos, there is another girl, Dolssa. Aristocratic by birth and a mystic by the grace of God, she spends her days with her beloved, Jesus, who wraps her in his murmurs and consumes her with his love. That much love cannot be contained, and Dolssa begins telling others how much her beloved cherishes all people. The simplicity of her message is seen by the inquisitors as a threat to the church, a devil's deception, and there is only one place it can end: in a public burning. Miraculously, Dolssa escapes the pyre. She wanders until she meets Botille, who saves and shelters her. This beautifully crafted plot would be enough on its own, but Berry does so much more. First, she establishes a convincing setting, in part by peppering the dialogue with Old Provençal language. Using many voices, some of which, including Botille and Dolssa, relate their own stories, she picks beneath words and actions to expose the motives of the heart, revealing how lofty ideas can turn into terrorizing actions, and how fear and self-preservation can make friends and neighbors turn on one another. Yet despite the book's gravity, Berry also manages to infuse her story with laughter and light welcome surprises. The final surprise awaiting readers at the book's conclusion adds yet another layer to the storytelling. Also at the book's end, Berry has included a wealth of back matter, a glossary, a list of characters (possibly of more help if placed at the book's beginning), and an author's note explaining the roots of the religious discord, inquisitions, and wars, and touching on such female mystics as Hildegard of Bingen, who is referenced in the novel. The beauty of historical fiction is that it brings to life long-ago times and places even as it shows how hopes, fears, and dreams remain constant across the ages. The strength of religious-centric novels is their revelation of the myriad ways people grapple with their faith and spirituality. The Passion of Dolssa's rich brew will leave readers thinking about all of these things, even as it profoundly influences their own struggles and questions.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Horn Book A (fictional) Catholic mystic, Dolssa de Stigata, escapes being burned as a heretic in 1241 France; mostly, this is the story of Botille, an enterprising young matchmaker from a tiny fishing village who rescues Dolssa. Botille's spirited character, the heart-rending suspense of events, and the terrifying context of the Inquisition in medieval Europe all render the novel irresistibly compelling. Historical note appended. Bib., glos. (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-This magnificent tale is set in post-Crusades 13th-century France. A pious young noblewoman blessed with the gift of healing, Dolssa de Stigata is judged a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church and sentenced to burn at the stake. Forced to watch her beloved mother burn first, Dolssa is surprised when someone cuts the ropes binding her hands and feet and implores her to run. Driven into hiding from the churchmen dispatched to track her down, Dolssa is found nearly dead from starvation and exhaustion by a young tavern keeper and matchmaker, Botille, who vows to protect the young heretic despite the danger posed to herself and her family. Unlikely allies, the girls unwittingly put an entire village at risk in their effort to stand up for their beliefs. The account is told in alternating voices by Dolssa, Botille, and Arnaut d'Avinhonet, a Dominican friar. This lush and compelling book is enhanced by brilliant narration by Jayne Entwistle, Allen Corduner, and Fiona Hardingham. Lucky listeners will be haunted by their voices long after the book concludes. VERDICT Highly recommended for all junior high and high school audio collections. ["An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry's latest is a must for middle and high school libraries": SLJ 3/16 starred review of the Viking book.]-Lisa E. Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Botille is a matchmaker in the small seaside town of Bajas in medieval France. She struggles to run the family's tavern and keep her sisters and herself afloat. Dolssa is a young woman with a secret that she can't help but share-her lover is God, and she speaks to him regularly. When the two young women cross paths, both deep friendship and mortal peril await them. A beautifully rendered portrait of a little-known portion of history, this work is a meticulously researched piece of fiction. Yet it is not just in the accurate details that the novel shines. The strength and humanity of the almost entirely female set of characters are inspiring and well drawn. The panic and suspicion of post-Inquisition France is omnipresent, giving the story of a supposed heretic a constant edge of danger. As the novel slips in and out of magical realism, readers will be transported into Dolssa and Botille's world. VERDICT An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry's latest is a must for middle and high school libraries.-Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter's Prep, Jersey City, NJ © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A girl matchmaker in 13th-century southern France meets a mystic on the run from the Inquisition. A generation after the horrors of the Albigensian Crusade, the elders are still broken by memories of entire towns put to the sword, but the younger folk, such as Botille and her sisters, focus on the present. After a childhood on the run, the sisters seek stability in poverty-stricken Bajas: brewing ale, telling fortunes, and helping their neighbors. Bajas is depicted through a scattering of third- and first-person viewpoints (but primarily Botille's) as a town where all look out for one other as a matter of course, where goodness is found in prostitutes, fishermen, hustlers, and drunks. Bajas' generosity is challenged when Botille discovers Dolssa, an injured, spirit-shattered girl on the run. Dolssa's a convicted heretic for speaking publicly of her intimate relationship with "her beloved...Senhor Jhesus." She trails miracles like bread crumbs, from a never-emptying ale jug to repeated uncanny cures. The villagers venerate her, but the arrival of the Inquisitionin a world where branding and burnings are mild punishments compared to recent historyputs their goodness to the test. The slow build reveals Botille as a compelling, admirable young woman in a gorgeously built world that accepts miracles without question. The medieval Languedoc countryside is so believably drawn there's no need for the too-frequent italicized interjections in Old Provenal that pepper the narrative. Immersive and mesmerizing. (character list, historical note, glossary, bibliography) (Historical fantasy. 14-17) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Two young women-Botille, a tavern wench, and Dolssa, a noblewoman possibly in communion with God-form a deep bond in a world that seeks to destroy them. Berry has reimagined 13th-century France with vigor, from the small intricacies of daily village life to the brutal ruthlessness of the Inquisition. Readers looking for a work steeped in female friendship, mysticism, and blood, with extensive back matter to boot, will be well rewarded. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly When Botille Flasucra finds Dolssa de Stigata lying on a riverside close to death, she takes the stranger to her family's tavern. Botille, a young matchmaker, and her sisters nurse Dolssa back to health in secret-a Dominican friar obsessively hunts Dolssa, whom he condemned as a heretic to be burned at the stake. The year is 1241 in Provensa (now Provence), where the aftereffects of the Albigensian Crusade have led to an inquisition meant to rid the Christian world of heretics. Dolssa, however, feels called to heal the sick in the name of her beloved Jhesus, and her miracles eventually bring danger to the small town of Bajas. Berry (All the Truth That's in Me) again delivers an utterly original and instantly engrossing story. Drawing from meticulous historical research (highlighted in extensive back matter), she weaves a tense, moving portrait of these two teenage girls and their struggle to survive against insurmountable odds. Love, faith, violence, and power intertwine in Berry's lyrical writing, but Botille's and Dolssa's indomitable spirits are the heart of her story. Ages 12-up. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Merci Suarez Changes Gears
by Meg Medina

Book list Gr. 5-8. Igus' prose poems and Wood's evocative paintings combine to give a succinct overview of African American music. A useful time line sets the social context, and brief paragraphs describe the various types of music, from African origins and slave songs through ragtime; the blues; big band, bebop, and cool jazz; gospel; rhythm and blues; and the contemporary sounds of rock, hip-hop, and rap. Igus effectively uses snippets from song lyrics to communicate both a feel for the music itself and a sense of how the various styles played to the emotions of the musicians and their fans ("From the basements to the rooftops, / I see the cool tones of modern jazz / escape the city heat"). Wood's paintings are equally suggestive. Mixing modernist and primitive styles and using color nicely to communicate musical style and tone, her art not only complements the text but vivifies it. Audience may be a problem: the supportive text is too sophisticated for younger readers to grasp themselves, and the format may alienate some older readers. Perhaps best used in a junior-high classroom with audio accompaniment, this striking book, in the hands of a creative teacher or librarian, could give kids a feeling for the majesty, creativity, and continuity of African American music. (Reviewed February 15, 1998)0892391510Bill Ott

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus The collaborators on Going Back Home (1997) return with a stunning history of African-American music. They begin 500 years ago, on the African continent, chronicle the slave trade, and document the work songs and spirituals of American slaves. The blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, rap, and hip hop all come under scrutiny in free-verse poems that incorporate lyrics about and the rhythms of every style. In addition, Igus has added a brief description of each musical movement and a terrific timeline noting highlights of African-American history--both musical and more general information--which roots the whole book in a broader context. Wood's vibrant paintings are based in historical detail, and resonate with emotion. The color choices, postures of the figures, as well as the expressions on their faces, reflect various aspects of African-American music; the pictures broadcast joy, innovation, and exuberance in the face of systematic oppression. A child hidden in each scene adds a nice piece of personality for readers to interpret. Stylish and lively design pulls it all together into an absorbing, attractive package. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog I Know This Much is True
by Wally Lamb

Book list In this long-winded successor to Lamb's She's Come Undone (1992), the novel that created much ballyhoo after being named an Oprah book, 40-year-old housepainter Dominick is facing many obstacles to happiness. He doesn't know who his real father is, his own marriage is defunct, and his current relationship with the woman in his life is tricky. However, these problems pale in comparison to the much bigger situation he has to deal with: his schizophrenic twin brother, Thomas. Having already presented Dominick with a lifetime of problems, Thomas has now mutilated himself; he severed his own hand out of some misplaced notion of religious sacrifice and political protest. Interspersed with the narrative history of the many awful situations Thomas' mental instability has forced the two to face over the years is the story of the twins' grandfather, whom Dominick learns about from the old man's memoir. Through the help of a counselor, Dominick comes to realize that the manuscript can be read as a "parable of failure" that can teach him how to get free of an abiding self-pity. The reader aches for Dominick to find peace, but this empathy is certainly tested over the novel's many, many pages. This overly long story would have been more pungent in a more succinct form. But expect high demand from the many readers of the author's previous novel. --Brad Hooper

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal After reading the book twice and listening to 32 hours of this recording, I still can't express what it is that one is missing if they have not experienced this saga from the author of She's Come Undone. Maybe the plot is so all-encompassing as to be like "real" life; maybe the characters are so engrossing that you can relate to them as "real" people; and maybe the knowledge that you come away with about the human condition and nature vs. nurture makes you more sympathetic, therefore, a better person. George Guidall, an extremely accomplished reader, gives a performance worthy of "Best Audio of the Year." His fully voiced range of characters complements the text perfectly. Very highly recommended.ÄKristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal In his second novel (after She's Come Undone, LJ 5/1/92), Lamb details the pain and perversions of generations of dysfunctional families in the struggle between twin brothers at midlife. The Birdsey brothers are as different in nature as they are identical in appearance: Thomas, the sweet one, favors their meek, harelipped mother, while Dominick is strong and angry like the Sicilian grandfather for whom he was named. When paranoid schizophrenic Thomas, believing himself an agent of God, cuts off his right arm in the public library to try to avert war in the Persian Gulf, DominickÄhis love for Thomas tainted by guilt and resentmentÄonce again becomes his brother's protector. But the psychologist treating Thomas sees Dominick as the twin who might be saved, and together they examine Dominick's childhood with a bullying stepfather, the marriage that failed after the death of an infant daughter, and the newly recovered autobiography of his grandfather. Lamb's craftsmanship and characterizations are exceptional, but this litany of suffering is overwhelming, leavened only slightly by the last few pages, and the ongoing analysis leaves little for thoughtful readers to ponder or discuss. Fine work, relentless in its effect.ÄMichele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Arlington, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly This much is true for sure: Lamb's second novel (after the bestselling, Oprah-selected She's Come Undone) is a hefty read. Some may be daunted by its length, its seemingly obsessive inclusion of background details and its many digressions. The topics it unflinchingly exploresÄmental illness, dysfunctional families, domestic abuseÄare rendered with unsparing candor. But thanks to well-sustained dramatic tension, funky gallows humor and some shocking surprises, this sinuous story of one family's dark secrets and recurring patterns of behavior largely succeeds in its ambitious reach. The narrative explores the theme of sibling responsibility, depicting the moral and emotional conundrum of an identical twin whose love for his afflicted brother is mixed with resentment, bitterness and guilt. Narrator Dominick Birdsey, once a high-school history teacher and now, at 40, a housepainter in upstate Connecticut, relates the process that led to his twin Thomas's schizophrenic paranoia and the resulting chaos in both their lives. The book opens with a horrific scene in which Thomas slices off his right hand, declaring it a sacrifice demanded by God. Flashbacks illuminate the boys' difficult childhoods: illegitimate, they never knew their father; diffident, gentle Thomas was verbally and physically abused by their bullying stepfather, who also terrorized their ineffectual mother. Scenes from the pivotal summer of 1969, when Dominick betrayed Thomas and others in crucial ways, are juxtaposed with his current life: his frustrating relationship with his scatterbrained live-in, Joy; his enduring love for his ex-wife, Dessa; his memories of their baby's death and of his mother's sad and terrified existence. All of this unfolds against his urgent need to release Thomas from a mental institution and the psychiatric sessions that finally force Dominick to acknowledge his own self-destructive impulses. Lamb takes major risks in spreading his narrative over more than 900 pages. Long stretches are filled with the raunchy, foul-mouthed humor of teenaged Dominick and his friends. Yet the details of working-class life, particularly the prevalence of self-righteous male machismo and domestic brutality, ring absolutely true. Though the inclusion of a diary written by the twins' Sicilian immigrant grandfather may seem an unnecessary digression at first, its revelations add depth and texture to the narrative. Lastly, what seems a minor subplot turns out to hold the key to many secrets. In tracing Dominick's helplessness against the abuse of power on many levels, Lamb creates a nuanced picture of a flawed but decent man. And the questions that suspensefully permeate the novelÄthe identity of the twins' father; the mystery of the inscription on their grandfather's tomb; the likelihood of Dominick's reconciliation with his ex-wifeÄcontribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption. BOMC main selection; author tour; simultaneous audio. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Actor Ken Howard gives an excellent reading of Lamb's (She's Come Undone, Audio Reviews, LJ 5/15/97) gripping drama. Dominick and Thomas Birdsey are identical twin brothers born on New Year's Eve 1949-50. By the late 1960s, Thomas is a paranoid schizophrenic both loved and hated by Dominick. Lamb's novel presents the twins' story set against the twists and turns of late-20th-century America. Thomas's illness coupled with the Birdseys' upbringing with an abusive father and passive mother profoundly shape Dominick's life. However, Thomas's self-mutilation on the eve of the Persian Gulf War sets his brother on the path of coming to terms with his family, the loss of his daughter, and a reconciliation with his former wife. This is not an easy novel to hear, but it is engrossing from the start. Recommended for all collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Both a moving character study and a gripping story of family conflict are hidden somewhere inside the daunting bulk of this annoyingly slick second novel by Lamb (the popular Oprah selection She's Come Undone, 1992). The character (and narrator) is Dominick Birdsey, a 40-year-old housepainter whose subdued life in his hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, is disturbed in 1990 when his identical twin brother Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic whose condition is complicated by religious mania, commits a shocking act of self-mutilation. The story is that of the embattled Birdseys, as recalled in Dominick's elaborated memory-flashbacks and in the ``autobiography'' (juxtaposed against the primary narrative) of the twins' maternal grandfather, Italian immigrant (and tyrannical patriarch) Domenico Tempesta. But Lamb combines these promising materials with overattenuated accounts of Dominick's crippled past (the torments inflicted on him and Thomas by an abusive stepfather, a luckless marriage, the crib death of his infant daughter), and with a heavy emphasis on the long-concealed identity of the twins' real father--a mystery eventually solved, not, as Dominick and we expect, in Domenico' self-aggrandizing story, but by a most surprising confession. This novel is derivative (of both Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides and the film Dominick and Eugene), it pushes all the appropriate topical buttons (child abuse, AIDS, New Age psychobabble, Native American dignity, and others), and it works a little too hard at wringing tears. But it's by no means negligible. Lamb writes crisp, tender-tough dialogue, and his portrayal of the decent, conflicted Dominick (who is forced, and blessed, to acknowledge that ``We were all, in a way, each other'') is convincing. The pathetic, destroyed figure of Thomas is, by virtue of its very opacity, both haunting and troubling. A probable commercial bonanza, but both twice as long and not as much as it should have been. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection; author tour)

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