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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

Guts / Ghosts / Pashmina | Thoughts

I've recently read a ton of graphic novels and memoirs - some I loved and others not so much but were still a thrill to read.

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

I am always on the lookout for Raina Telgemeier's comics, so when I found Guts available at my library's Overdrive catalog last year, I had to request it right away. Her comics are always delightful, designed for the middle-grade audience, and written very well. Guts is a continuation of her Smile nonfiction graphic memoir series (see Smile and Sisters) and recounts a period in her childhood when she experienced IBS for the first time.

When Raina wakes up one night with an upset tummy, she just assumes it's a stomach bug as her mom is also showing the same symptoms. But when it doesn't go away soon but is instead influenced by the daily highs and lows of being a middle grader - good friends, not so good ones, and then the bullies, she realizes there's something else going on.

If you have not read the previous two books in this series, you are missing out on a lot. Both Smile and Sisters were excellent reads and so, in comparison, I wasn't very impressed with Guts. It did a great job talking about IBS and showing its impact on Raina but there wasn't much else holding the plot together. Still I loved how it showed that there is no shame in having IBS or in going to therapy. All in all, this is good but Smile and Sisters were much more awesome.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Even though Ghosts was published in 2016, I didn't learn about it until last month. Imagine my delight in discovering that I had one more Raina Telgemeier book to read. Oh the delight! Like Drama, this is another fiction written for middle-graders but a pleasure to read at any age. Catrina and Maya are moving to the coast of Northern California hoping that the better weather there will help Maya fight cystic fibrosis. As they adapt to their new neighborhood in Bahía de la Luna, they learn that there are ghosts in their neighborhood and that you can certainly meet them. Maya is excited but Catrina is terrified. No one else in their neighborhood is bothered by it though - they are as used to it as they would be to the flora and fauna around them.

For the most part I enjoyed this book. It was certainly unique and I loved the middle grader curiosity and excitement for anything otherwordly, even if that means ghosts. The sisters loved each other and Maya's illness is something the entire family lives with and works around. Yes, sometimes, Catrina wants to do something just for herself without having her sister around, and while that's understandable, it both distances them and brings them closer than before.

The only thing that bothered me was how some mysteries were told to just let be and not explained. Of course, this is a book with ghosts - that itself is something you had to accept but sometimes convenient things happened and weren't explained much. Other than that little detail, this was a win-win.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Priyanka Das didn't know a lot about where she came from or what happened to her father. Her mother wouldn't broach these topics or take Pri to India so one day, when Priyanka comes across a pashmina in an old suitcase, she wraps herself in it. With that, she is instantly transported to an India of the guidebooks - picture perfect and colorful. As she soaks in the sights and sounds, she comes across a shadow figure that seems to be calling out to her.

I didn't know what to expect when I started reading Pashmina. But I loved the cover and wanted to find more about this book. There is a lot here that I liked - Priyanka's expectations of India and what India ends up meaning to her, her mother's reluctance to talk about her family and Priyanka's determination to learn for herself. And then the whole deal with the pashmina and the imaginary India. The graphics are gorgeous and I enjoyed the many elements explored here.

If you haven't gathered yet, there is some magical fantasy in here, which I find works very well in a graphic format. That said, as the story progressed deeper into the myths and fantasies around the pashmina, I found myself enjoying it a little less. This book tries to do a lot - tell Priyanka's mother's backstory and her relationship with her sister, that sister's relationship with her husband, the story of the pashmina and the shadow figure, a family friend's struggle with getting pregnant and then going through a period when the baby is very sick, her attempts to fit at school, learning to drive - all this in just 176 pages. In the end, I felt it struggled to tell any story well as most ended abruptly and in some cases, didn't make a point anywhere.