It was a bit of a slow reading month, disappointingly enough. We got sick so many times that I found myself running after all the essentials that I had to do. If you are reading this in December 2022, I hope that the tripledemic hasn’t affected you and that if it has affected you or your kids, that you have a good supply of painkillers, because the shortage is crazy.
Review of ‘The Girl Who Built a Spider’, by George Brewington
The Girl Who Built a Spider is an absolute delight to read. Three smart kids, a slightly mad scientist, robots on the fritz, an evil megalomaniac, what is there not to love? A great adventure centered around the scientific endeavours of three kids and a mad scientist that doesn’t have the science heft of books like Zoey and Sassafras, The Questionners or Frank Einstein. But this book is a great complement to these series, in that it explores important ethical concept related to science. And it’s great that there are two girls into science and just one boy, with the main character being a Black girl. It seems like this book is meant to be a series; I certainly hope so and eagerly await the next one!
Review of ‘All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep’, by Andre Henry
Henry’s All The White Friends I Couldn’t Keep is a really important book to read for anyone who is trying to understand how racism affects their Black friends, and things to say (or not to say). It’ll make you extremely uncomfortable but that only means that you are learning. I think it’s vital to read this book with the attitude of “I am learning so I’m going to sit and listen. I will only allow myself to ask questions to further my understanding, but I will not contradict this person’s experience or their point of view.” Not only it’ll make non-Black readers more receptive to the message in this book, but it’s also a great practice in holding space for very difficult conversations that are needed to heal the world from the scourge of racism.
This put me personally in a position of deeper appreciation for what my Black friends go through. For example, I do believe in the importance of having conversations with non-Black people in generating learning and accompanying people to become antiracist. However, I completely understand why someone who is Black might not want to engage in this path, especially when I read about everything Henry went through in terms of microaggressions and outright aggressions. I can see how his current antiracist path is parallel to mine, with both of ours doing what we are good at side by side, with the same end goal: to end racism.
I think there is too much debate about what avenue is best to take in terms of antiracism work (and in terms of social justice work in general). We can each do something different and learn from each other. Racism is SUCH a big problem that there is more than enough space for all kinds of approaches. Activism not only doesn’t have to be identical, but it needs to cover a very broad terrain, and there is a lot of space for different approaches, something I appreciate it even more now after reading this book.
This is also where allies can step in. We can do the work that our Black friends are too exhausted to do. We will never be the target of the racism that they suffer from, so we can use this privilege in a way that they can’t. Andry Henry’s book is, in a way, a handbook to the spaces that perhaps we can step into and do some of the work.
Review of ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Inspiring Young Changemakers’
In Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Inspiring Young Changemakers, Rebel Girls delivers what it as been delivering for years: one-page stories about girls and women who decided not to adhere to outmoded social norms, tapping into their best selves to contribute to the world in one form or another. As always, there are well known names (Zendaya, Billie Eilish, Greta Thunberg, and Taylor Swift, to name a few) and less well-known names. And as always, each story is accompanied by a portrait done by a young female or nonbinary artist from all over the world.
As this is the fifth installment of the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, parents are in the position to pick which book would suit their child most. I do think, however, that getting the first book, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, to read to your younger child is a good place to start. I would then get 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic because representation matters for all children, and in the context of anti-Black racism, I think it’s important for all races to celebrate Black Excellence. I would follow it up with the second book, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Volume 2.
Once more complex conversations start, around when they go to kindergarten, about racism and prejudice, the third book should be introduced (100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World). And this newest edition, 100 Inspiring Young Changemakers, would be perfect for a child who is a little older and is starting to follow artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eillish, and Jojo Siwa, to help them understand that there are not just entertainers, but that they are also contributing to discourses on sexism.
Review of ‘No Way Home’, by Jody Feldman
I read this book back in May 2022, but I can’t find a written or posted review anywhere. So here it goes, keeping in mind that I don’t quite remember all the details of the story.
Seventeen-year-old Tess is caught in a crazy situation. She’s supposed to be a foreign exchange student in Rome focusing on learning Italian, only to discover that her host family has taken away her phone, money, credit cards, and passport with an ominous threat: do what they say, or their daughter, who is staying with Tess’ parents, will kill them.
I think the premise is excellent and I think that the beginning of the book is quite strong. It’s a book that is meant to be a Da Vinci Code meets Fun Summer, but I do wish that the plot had been honed a little more before publication. The end became a little confusing at times, as too many characters were added to the plot too close together with no discernment in the text to help us keep track.
The reason for everything was a lot more complex than I expected, but that the explanation was a little garbled and complex; I would have liked for it to be explored more in depth. But I liked that the reason wasn’t simple. But despite this, I do think that No Way home is a good read and I will pick up future Jody Feldman books.
Thank you to Raincoast Books and Simon & Schuester Canada for ARCs, to Orca Book Publishers for review copies, and thank you to all the publisher who sent me electronic ARCs through Netgalley!