Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel
I’ve enjoyed Anne’s two other books and have faithfully read her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, for years. (It’s where I get tons of my book recommendations. Check it out!) Anne kindly sent me a review copy of Don’t Overthink It last year, and while the book looked interesting, it didn’t sound like it was for me. I assumed an “overthinker” was someone who struggles with making decisions, which isn’t a way I’d describe myself. But Anne has extended the definition to include fretting and worrying, too — “thoughts [that] are repetitive, unhealthy, and unhelpful.” Yep. Count me in on that.
I’d describe Anne as smart, real, and practicable (some of the many reasons I regularly read her blog), so while there were parts of this book I couldn’t relate to, I found it all interesting and applicable in some way: Streamline to winnow away unnecessary choices and to focus on what really matters. Operate out of abundance rather than lack. Be aware of the negative thought weeds sprouting in your mental garden (not Anne’s words exactly but an image I’ve held to). This book left me energized.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
Set on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1800s in a town with a vibrant Deaf community, Show Me a Sign focuses on the life of young Mary, who is captured as a “live specimen” by a man trying to understand her “deficit.” As Mary warns in the prologue, “there are accounts of great wickedness along with hope in these pages.” I found the story haunting and beautiful and was touched by Mary’s courage, resilience, and forgiveness.
Show Me a Sign made a splash when it published last year, with four starred reviews and a number of “best of” lists. Most recently, it won the American Library Association’s Schneider Award, which “honor[s] an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” I am happy to share Ann Clare LeZotte will be on the blog later this year to discuss writing historical fiction! Here’s a post Ann wrote for the Nerdy Book Club about Sign that’s worth reading.
I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
Edie Green is half Native. Her mother was adopted by a white family at birth. Edie knows little of her own history, not until she uncovers a box in the attic with headshots of a woman who shares her smile.
This is a beautiful contemporary middle grade novel. It’s a tender portrait of family told with the gentle unraveling of a mystery. What struck me reading it right after Show Me a Sign was something both books have in common: the generosity of spirit in the midst of atrocity. Both stories hold situations where people in privileged positions do horrible things to other people. Neither book glosses over them, but both leave the characters — and readers — with hope and dignity.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and illustrated by Oge Mora
This picture book is a glorious celebration, the kind that gives you goosebumps and makes you tear up, all in one go. Mary Walker, born into slavery, learned to read when she was 116! The collage illustrations include pages from books, so Mary throughout her life journey is always surrounded by the written word. As a teen, she received a Bible from a traveling evangelist. One hundred and one years later, she was able to read from it. Mary lived to be 121. I love the way the book ends:
Every year, before her birthday celebration came to an end, someone would whisper, “Let’s listen to Miss Mary.” The shuffling and movement would fade away until not a sound was heard. Then Mary would stand on her old, old legs, clear her old, old throat, and read from her Bible or her schoolbook in a voice that was clear and strong. And when she finished, she would gently close her book and say, “you’re never too old to learn.”
Beautiful and inspiring. What a gracious woman.