The Soul of an Octopus | by Sy Montgomery

 

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
by Sy Montgomery
(Atria Books, 2015, 261 pages)

I have been simultaneously fascinated and terrified of octopuses (nope, it’s not “octopi” as most of us might have thought) for years. Montgomery’s book, The Soul of an Octopus, was one I had to resist hoarding after we purchased it for our library collection. I finally made the time to read it and, if anything, I’m more intrigued than I was before I started.

Montgomery did an amazing job recounting her experiences with these incredibly intelligent creatures. The more time she spent with them the more she wanted to learn about them. She had amazing access to a few select octopuses thanks to connections she made at the New England Aquarium and it was fascinating to hear about how the animals interacted with her and how clearly their personalities came across.

There was an excellent bibliography at the end that I will certainly be referencing in the near future. If you have an interest in octopuses you’ll enjoy this book. If you simply are an animal-lover or appreciate good non-fiction this would be a good title for you to pick up.

Wonder | by Raquel J. Palacio

Wonder

Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012, 320 pages)

Wonder is the story of a ten-year-old boy named August “Auggie” Pullman. Auggie was born with a facial deformity. He has been home-schooled until now. He is going into the fifth grade and his parents decide that it is time for him to attend school. He feels he is being taken away from his comfort zone and thrown into a world that he has been hiding from. Now he has to convince his new classmates that underneath it all, he is an ordinary kid just like them.

I listened to the audiobook with my child and we were both drawn in immediately. Auggie narrates part of the book and goes into great detail about how he feels about going to a new school and the challenges of making new friends. Later in the book different characters are brought in to show their perspective to the same situations.

I was awestruck at how closely Palacio made this a true to life situation. It was easy for my child and I to have lengthy discussions about the different characters and talk about how we related to how they acted or how they felt. This book really pulled at my heartstrings. There are many values that are displayed throughout the story that we can all learn from. I highly recommend reading, or listening, to this wonderful story especially if you have a child to share it with.

You can also check out Kelly’s review of this book.

Brown Girl Dreaming | by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
(Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014, 336 pages)

I had been wanting to read Brown Girl Dreaming ever since I learned that it won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This memoir written in verse is Woodson’s beautiful description of her family history and her youth. Woodson’s story also serves as a representation of the larger history of how black people existed in the United States in the early 20th century through the Civil Rights era. I thought this was beautifully done and definitely thought it deserved all the praise it received.

Sometimes the idea of a book in verse can turn people off, but I think after the first few pages you’ll be surprised at how easily you adapt to the format. This is marketed as a Young Adult title but I think it has broad appeal. I definitely recommend it.

This could be a perfect book for the month of April: National Poetry Month!

Citizen: An American Lyric | by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
(Graywolf Press, 2014, 169 pages)

I feel like I could keep rereading this small book and take something different away from it each time. It packs that kind of punch. Citizen is broken down into 7 parts and each focuses on a different aspect of how the black experience is lived in this world where the death and/or invisibility of black people continues despite growing voices of outrage. The 7 parts of the book are filled with poems, short essays, and art in various forms.

Some sections hit harder for me than others. The night I finished reading this book I teared up in the process. Rankine does an amazing job making the reader reflect on what she has written on the page. There were some parts of Citizen that I honestly had a hard time deconstructing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth putting in the time to do so. There were actually a number of times I put the book down to look something up and get the history of what Rankine was referring to in the text.

Citizen was nominated for a National Book Award and was the recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry. I’d certainly recommend it, especially if you’ve been wondering what all the buzz was about.

Wit | by Margaret Edson

Wit

Wit by Margaret Edson
(Faber & Faber, 1999, 85 pages)

Andrew read this play last year and wrote a great summary and review which I suggest you check out for an overview.

I picked up Wit after hearing Jess Walter talk about the play on his podcast with Sherman Alexie (A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment). Based on his recommendation and knowing how much Andrew enjoyed it I grabbed it off the shelf. This slim book has a lot of heft and I’m eager to check out the HBO performance with Emma Thompson because I know seeing the play will add a different dimension to my experience with the work.

Definitely a worthwhile read that surprises you with its lingering impact.