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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Brown Girl Dreaming and Garvey's Choice | Thoughts

Recently, I read two verse books in quick succession, which is very unusual for me, because I don't read a lot of verse. The first book I read - Garvey's Choice - was so beautiful and worth every word that I quickly moved on to the very next verse book that I could find - Brown Girl Dreaming. The latter is a very popular book and most of you may have already read it, but I haven't seen much of Garvey's Choice around. Or maybe I've missed its hype. If you haven't read either, I hope you'll pick one of them to read, and oh, don't let the verse tag get to you, these books are incredibly readable.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Published in: 2014
Format read in: ebook
Location: Ohio, South Carolina, New York
Rating: 4/5

Why I read it: After reading tons of great reviews of this book, it was simply begging to be read.

One line review: Great memoir in verse and often very moving.

Who should read it: Anyone who loves verse or is interested in an account of growing up right during and after the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

About: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. (From Goodreads)

Quick Thoughts
  • Despite following the widespread positive reviews and discussions around this book, I didn’t realize (or forgot) until I started reading that this book was in verse. 
  • This is a huge book but because it’s in verse, it's also a fast huge book. Kinda.
  • I did find the poems very accessible
  • This book has a family tree! I'm a fan of books with family trees and love looking at names and wondering at their story.
  • I never thought poems could be so moving. But I’ll stand corrected on this.
  • This book starts from Jacqueline’s birth and carries on into her teen years. It documents her growing up in the post-Jim Crow era, her relationship with her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, loss of people close to her, and how she became a writer. I got so invested in her story that I had to find out what happened to several people in her family after the book ends.

Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes

Published in: 2016
Format read in: ebook
Location: Unstated or I missed it
Rating: 4/5

Why I read it: This was a chance discovery in the Libby catalog

One line review: An excellent middle-grade book about bullying, parental expectations, and self-confidence.

Who should read it: Anyone. I’m tempted to leave it at that. 

About: Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports. (From Goodreads)
Excitement beaming from Dad’s face, he bounces in, palms a basketball. “Look what I got for you, son! Want to go work up a sweat?” Who’s he talking to? After all these years, you’d think he’d start to know me. Will he ever stop trying to make me someone I’m not?
Quick Thoughts
  • This is a very short book and is also the book that has convinced me to try more books in verse.
  • The poems are oh so moving and so beautiful.
  • This book covers a lot of ground - being overweight and dealing with the constant teasing, bullying, inability to connect with a dad who wants Garvey to play basketball and not be who he is. 
  • I certainly wasn’t expecting this book to win over me. There are lots of good messages in this book, both for kids and their parents.