Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeon
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 321 pages)
As a teenager, author Kathy McKeon left Ireland for the U.S., and in 1964, landed a job as the personal assistant to Jacqueline Kennedy. Referred to as “Jackie’s Girl” by JFK’s mother Rose Kennedy—who couldn’t keep all of her children’s employee’s names straight—McKeon also often served as the caretaker of Mrs. Kennedy’s children, Caroline and John. This is an insightful and touching story of what it was like to be close to the most famous family in the world at the time. Mrs. Kennedy (called “Madam” by McKeon) expected loyalty of her employees—sometimes demanding overtime even if they had other plans, or requiring them to drop everything at the last minute to leave the country for 2 or 3 weeks—but she returned the loyalty “tenfold” with her generosity and otherwise caring nature. The stories of Caroline and John as children are also very endearing. McKeon takes the reader through all of the Kennedy main events—the untimely assassination of Robert Kennedy, the tragic death of a young woman in a car driven by Ted Kennedy, Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and, ultimately, the deaths of Jackie and John, Jr., to whom she had remained close over the years. The audio version of the book is read by Irish American actress Aedin Moloney, whose accent gives authenticity to McKeon’s words. She also does a great job with the sweet, high, sometimes breathy voice of Jacqueline Kennedy. The book made me chuckle and cry, and I would listen to it again. Highly recommended.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
(Amistad, 2016, 175 pages)
Woodson is a poet and that comes across in this book. Her way with language is amazing. This is a slim book and Woodson has a way of conveying so much so concisely that you just sit back and appreciate her way with words. This book transports you to Brooklyn in the 70s. We’re introduced to a friendship made up of four girls: August, Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. We see the power of friendship but we also see that childhood is fleeting and the real world has a way of coming in and changing your life whether you’re ready for it or not.
This is a poignant and powerful novel.
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult
by Bruce Handy
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 307 pages)
Wild Things is a book that’s right up my alley. You want to talk about children’s literature I’m all ears! Handy looks back at some classic children’s books and puts them in context. The breadth of children’s literature makes it impossible for Handy to touch on everything and he acknowledges that early on but he highlights the classics that will hit home for most people.
In addition to deconstructing each story Handy also offers up biographical information about the authors. You come away not only wanting to revisit classics and explore more children’s books, but also wanting to learn more about these authors who have had such an impact on our lives and the lives of our children. I’ve been looking forward to reading some of my favorites out loud to my daughter when she gets a little older but this book only got me more excited.
Wild Things encourages you to appreciate and really explore the children’s books that are in our lives. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.
Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel
by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton
(Bantam Dell, 2016, 322 pages)
Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel, by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton is the first book in a new series featuring Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. Emerson Knight is rich, eccentric, and well educated. Riley Moon is a new junior analyst for the Washington DC mega-bank, Blane-Grunwald. Riley is assigned to help Emerson keep track of his money. When Emerson insists that he wants to see his gold, Riley accompanies him to the gold vault under Wall Street. There Emerson and Riley discover that the gold is being stolen and being replaced with look-alikes. The adventure begins!
Emerson Knight and Riley Moon are very likable characters. Emerson lives in a mansion, but sleeps in a tent in his library. Riley was raised in rural Texas and was a bit of a tomboy. While the story is far-fetched, it was enjoyable. The second Knight and Moon Novel is Dangerous Minds. It has been added to my reading list.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(Harcourt, 1994, 311 pages)
This classic text stands up each time I read it and I feel like I get something new out of it every time. I had to re-read Flowers for Algernon for a class that is discussing the text and while I wasn’t necessarily eager to read it again I quickly found myself sucked back in to the story.
Originally published as a short story this book follows Charlie, a man in his early 30s who is mentally disabled. He has always been motivated to try and learn so he can “be like other people” and it was because of this motivation that his teacher suggested him as a good candidate for an experiment at a local college aimed at increasing intelligence. After the surgery we see the changes in Charlie through the text of progress reports he submits to the professors in charge of the experiment.
There are more changes in Charlie than just what we see on the intellectual front. He is also tapping into his past and how his family affected him and led him to where he came to be in the present day. The book tackles a lot issues with an emphasis on humanity and respect. It’s a heart-breaking book and while there are dated aspects to it (and a few things that led me to raise my eyebrows) I think it’s a valuable text that prompts good reflection and discussion.
The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story
by Marie Kondo; illustrated by Yuko Uramoto
(Ten Speed Press, 2017, 192 pages)
Marie Kondo, best-selling author of Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, presents her KonMari method of decluttering in graphic novel form. Her subject is Chiaki, a 29-year old Japanese woman with a house so cluttered she can’t invite people inside. Embarrassed when a handsome neighbor knocks on her door and sees the mess, she contacts Kondo to give her “tidying lessons.” Kondo helps her through the process of discarding clothing, books, papers, and sentimental items—in that recommended order. This is a quick and fun way to learn the KonMari method of decluttering outlined in her previous two books.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
(Balzer + Bray, 2017, 444 pages)
The Hate U Give was this semester’s first selection for our Between the Covers Book Club and the timing of it was… well, we’ll just say that it was a timely read. You might be familiar with the title because it has gotten a lot of praise and publicity. It’s a young adult novel that follows a young woman named Starr whose best friend was the victim of a police shooting. And she was the only witness.
The reader experiences what Starr is going through as she copes with the loss of her friend and tries to deal with the fact that it’s her word against forces so much larger than herself: the officer involved and the media seeking to spin the narrative. This was a book that forces you to reflect back on the many police shootings we’ve seen covered over the years. I found myself writing in the margins when a detail reminded me of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown… it was unsettling but powerful.
This book lends itself to good discussions about hard topics a lot of people tend to shy away from. I’m still reflecting on the book and what an amazing job Thomas did with it. A great read, and don’t let the YA label keep you from picking it up.