Friday, August 31, 2012

My Friend Dahmer

Written by: Derf Backderf

First line: It's the next path on the left.

Why you should read this book: You've never read anything like this detailed, visual, honest, and often humorous account of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's adolescent years, as recalled by one of the boys he considered his closest friends in school. Dahmer's early obsession with death, his horrible home life, his full-blown alcoholism, and the terrifying pull of his frightening sexuality are all here, but so are the elements that, according to the author, make Dahmer a sympathetic character and his storyto a pointa tragedy. Here is the portrait of young man desperate to belong but destined to remain separate from the world, quashing his own myriad demons just as long as he can before the world caves in around him.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Depressing moments, gruesome moments, and the inevitable awful outcome.

Estrella's Quinceañera

Written by: Malin Alegria

First line: According to my mom, a girl's fifteenth birthday is supposed to be the biggest day of her life.

Why you should read this book: Estrella really loves her family and her culture, but ever since she started attending a fancy private school on scholarship, she finds them both a little embarrassing, compared to those of her rich white friends. The more her mother's plans spiral out of control, the more Estrella pulls away from the people who love her, until she realizes that she's alienated everyone who cares. It takes all her social know-how to appease her parents, make amends with her friends, and host a quinceañera that's traditional enough to make everyone happy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: This story has been done in different cultures or different age groups, to much better effect.

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet

Written by: Dr. Seuss (writing as Theo LeSieg)

First line: I wish that I had duck feet.

Why you should read this book: A classic easy reader, this book follows an imaginative boy's flights of fancy as he considers how various mutations would make him more popular around town, particularly with local girls, while creating problems with his parents and the school bully. Hearkens back to its origins in the 60s, when the debate over conformity really began to heat up, but concludes that being a freak is dangerous and unfulfilling. Seuss used this pseudonym for books he wrote but did not illustrate; both the text and the pictures are darling.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You constantly assure your precious little snowflake that they can be anything they want to be. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Rabbi's Cat

Written by: Joann Sfar

First line: Jewish people aren’t crazy about dogs.

Why you should read this book: As best as I can tell, the thesis of this book is that God exists, but this fact doesn’t really matter. The rabbi’s cat is an irreverent philosopher who briefly gains the power of speech by eating a parrot and immediately uses that power to tell lies and, occasionally, very upsetting and uncomfortable truths. Against a backdrop of Algeria in the 1930s, with a brief stop in Paris, this story examines love, theology, faith, and family in provocative and humorous arcs.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Blasphemy.

Mother, Come Home

Written by: Paul Hornschemeir

First line: Do you remember that summer—I think you were sixteen—when you went horseback riding?

Why you should read this book: A young boy’s inability to come to terms with the death of his mother is exacerbated by his father’s even greater difficulty dealing with the loss. As the boy struggles to take control of his world, the father drifts farther and farther away, until he is lost completely. The child sets off to bring him back, only to learn how deeply the complications and pains of adult knowledge can go.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Haunting examination of death and its effect on the living.

The Tale of One Bad Rat

Written by: Bryan Talbot

First line: Once upon a time, there was a very bad rat…

Why you should read this book: Helen Potter, a homeless runaway whose pet rat is her only companion, is deeply wounded on the inside as a result of long term childhood trauma. She doesn’t know how to trust humans and can’t stand to be touched, until she finally chooses to confront her demons by following the path suggested by her idol, Beatrix Potter, to England’s Lake district. There, she begins to heal herself and chooses to rise above her troubled past.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Trigger warning for incest and sexual assault.

The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, Found Out, and Went There

Written by: Daniel Pinkwater

First line: When I got home from school, my room was full of ghosts…again!

Why you should read this book: Generally, Iggy doesn’t have a problem with ghosts, seeing that her best friend is one, until she notices that some of the city’s most prominent ghosts are missing. Iggy isn’t the only one to notice the absence of ghosts in Hollywood, and she is determined to solve the mystery, even though everyone who knows the truth can’t talk about it. Along with her friend Neddie and Seamus, Iggy must travel to a parallel world to battle witches, hide from werewolves, and resist extremely persuasive television ads.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t approve of children having too much freedom.

Little Boy Blue: A Puppy's Rescue from Death Row and His Owner's Search for the Truth

Written by: Kim Kavin

First line: I’m the oldest child in my family, but I wasn’t the first to be cradled and loved.

Why you should read this book: When she adopted an adorable puppy she found on the Internet, the author thought nothing of how that puppy ended up on that website. As she falls in love with her brindle-coated Blue, she begins to question the circumstances of his earliest days and uses her journalistic skills to uncover the seamy world of animal rescue. What she learns is, in turn, eye-opening, horrifying, and hopeful, and this book turns the spotlight on the efforts—good, bad, and ugly—to deal with the problem of seemingly unwanted cats and dogs.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Dead puppies.