Once upon a time, I earned a Master's Degree in Literature and was a Professor of Literature and Composition. I had a wonderful time writing my Master's Thesis about Children's and Young Adult Literature, and I considered earning a Ph.D. so that I could continue to pursue the written word, including British, American, Latin American and other Global Literatures, Children's and Young Adult Literature, all types of genres and occasionally even poetry. But life takes you in unexpected directions, and so now I am working for a non-profit agency (you can read about that on my other blog, A Little Bit of Wonder). Although my job keeps me too busy to post as many book reviews as I would like, Recommended Reading is a place where I can continue to share my literary discoveries and knowledge as time allows.

Please note that I post reviews for books that I recommend reading, just like the blog title says. This means that I typically won't post a review for a book that I completely dislike. This isn't because I shy away from making negative comments, but rather because I don't want to waste your time or mine (I won't even bother to finish a book if it's not any good). For more on this, see the explanation of my Rating System.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In My Mailbox: Mid-January 2011


In My Mailbox is a type of book blog entry that was started by The Story Siren in November 2008, and has spread to over two hundred participating blogs. It developed as a way to showcase books that bloggers have purchased or received to read (not necessarily in the mail literally), before they actually read and review them. I see it as a forum for book bloggers to geek out about getting their hands on beautiful, new books – because we should all admit that we get waaaay too excited about new books.

When I stumbled across the concept of In My Mailbox, I thought the name was especially apt for my own use because I get all my books from one of two sources: Amazon or through a fabulous website called Paperback Swap. So my books actually do literally show up in my mailbox (or on my doorstep, if the package is too big). At any rate, they are delivered into my trembling hands by the USPS and UPS guys.

I will be writing one or two monthly blog entries to showcase the books that I’ve ordered off the internet; you will be able to find past In My Mailbox entries filed in the blog archive on the right of the screen. My goal is that all of these books will eventually end up reviewed here on the site. What I tend to do, however, is order a handful of books, read a couple, then decide that I’m in the mood for something else and order some more books! So some reviews for these books might not pop up for quite some time.

January 2011 Acquisitions

As I’ve already mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I’ve recently returned to my love of reading YA Fiction. I’ve always been a huge fan of Children’s/YA Fantasy Literature (I wrote my Master’s Thesis on it, in fact) but in December (2010), my interest in YA Historical Fiction was sparked by the International Children’s Literature Association Call for Papers for the 2011 Conference. I first picked up The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson, and then I wanted to get my hands on more Revolutionary War fiction. So I set aside all my Christmas money from parents and relatives this year, then scoured both Paperback Swap and Amazon for some of the award-winning YA Lit and Revolutionary War fiction that I’ve been dying to read.

Chains (Carnegie Medal Short List, 2010) and Forge (2010), both by Laurie Halse Anderson, fit into the category of YA Revolutionary War fiction and follow in the vein of M.T. Anderson’s two Octavian Nothing books. All four of these novels mark a significant shift in how YA Fiction portrays the Revolutionary War by offering a different perspective than that of the white colonist. While Octavian Nothing and the newer release Forge all chronicle the life of male slaves, I am perhaps most excited to read Chains because it follows the life of a young female slave-turned-spy. I am always really excited to see things from a new perspective, which is why I loved the first Octavian Nothing—and that’s why I’ve gotten more interested in historical fiction all the sudden, despite that fact that it never interested me as a kid.

From amongst the list of all the 2011 Newbery Honorees and Michael L. Printz Honorees that were announced this month, I only ordered one book for now – Moon Over Manifest. (I didn’t have enough Christmas money/money in the bank to indulge my fantasy of buying them all right away. That’s okay, though – I have an Amazon Rewards Credit Card and I just redeemed my points for a gift certificate, so that should be arriving in the mail any day now. I’m also in the midst of interviewing for a full-time job, so hopefully I’ll have a steady paycheck – and how will I celebrate? Probably by buying the rest of those 2011 honor books!)

Moon Over Manifest, along with The River Between Us and Lily’s Crossing also relate to past American wars. Once I started reading Revolutionary War fiction, I became curious about what novels were out there about the Civil War, WWI and WWII. I managed to find a novel set during each of these conflicts, all of which won an award for YA Lit.

The River Between Us (Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, National Book Award Finalist) is by Richard Peck, and takes place during the Civil War. It tells the story of a young girl from Illinois named Tilly, whose life is disrupted when two spies from New Orleans come to live with her family;. When Tilly’s brother Noah disappears, she must go after him along with one of these spies, and face the many horrors of war when they find him in an army hospital. Moon Over Manifest (2011 Newbery Winner) by Clare Vanderpool is set during WWI and is about a young girl who has grown up with only her father (her mother has left them) and now must be parted from him as well. While he is away, though, she encounters the Ku Klux Klan, befriends a local diviner, and discovers a mystery to unravel about her father. Finally, Lily’s Crossing (1998 Newbery Honor Book) is by Patricia Reilly Giff and is also about a motherless young girl. Lily lives with her father and grandmother; the three of them happily spend every summer at a beach house in New York's Rockaways—until Lily’s father enlists in the army. While he is away, Lily becomes friends with a refugee from the Nazis and learns about the war in which her father is fighting.

While searching for all of this war-related fiction, I came across a couple of other award-winning YA Historical Fiction novels. I remember that when I was a kid, I absolutely loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1959 Newbery Winner) by Elizabeth George Speare. It was one of the few books that I actually bothered to re-read as a child. It is about a young girl from the Caribbean who is forced to move to the much colder and miserable Connecticut Colony; when she befriends an elderly Quaker woman whom the colony residents believe to be a witch, the townspeople become suspicious of her as well. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Newbery Honor, Michael L. Printz Awards, both 2005) is Gary D. Schmidt and is based on historical events. Off the coast of Maine, there was a small community founded by former slaves living on Malaga Island, until they were driven off by the governor of Maine and a “clean-up party.” The novel traces the friendship of Turner, a white boy, with Lizzie Bright, a young resident of Malaga.

Hopefully I’ll be able to review several of these novels in the near future – but if you’re interested in any of them, go check them out for yourself. And let me know what you think!


  1. I ordered my copy of Moon over Manifest as soon as it was announced the Newbery winner (I was watching the webcast at work, just like the rest of my coworkers), and because I've become picky sometimes about covers, I wanted to be sure I got my copy without the medal sticker on it. I just, just finished reading it last night. The whole time I was reading it, I didn't know what to make of it, but in the end, I think I enjoyed it. Was it worthy of the medal? It really is not my place to say but if it wasn't for the Newbery, I don't think I would have ever read it. Heck, I didn't know about this book until the announcement. I loved Witch of Blackbird Pond. I think it's also one of the few books that I've reread as a kid. Ohhh, I know this is off-topic, but I am curious to see what you think of Persepolis! :) I watched the movie first and then read the graphic novel for book club. Both were great.

  2. All of those look like wonderful books! I want to read Chains and have read (and loved) The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Enjoy all your books!

    My IMM post is here

    Happy Reading,
    Zakiya LadyWings

  3. Awesome haul! Thank you for sharing :)

    New Follower!!!

    My IMM

  4. The Witch of Blackbird Pond sounds like something I would read. Happy Reading!

    MY IMM


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