Days of Blood and Starlight

The most brutal book you’ll read this year.

Previously I have stated that Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone was my favorite book of 2012. It wasn’t published this year, but I read it this year, so I say that counts. I continue to stand by this statement, but I have to confide that its recently published sequel (actually of the 2012 books), Days of Blood and Starlight, is nearly as good—and is definitely one of the most stirring, brutal books I’ve ever read.

It’s been a while since I was moved this much by a book. Not since The Hunger Games and its sequels, which I experienced in 2010 (OK, and several times again since), have I been as obsessed with something so violent yet moving, so horrific yet beautiful at the same time. I won’t give spoilers here because it’s just that damn good, and you need to go out and read both books immediately.

The haunting nature of this book has left me reeling from it days after experiencing it, and I have to warn you that it’s incredibly violent—though the violence is often left undescribed, with simply its aftermath there for us to blatantly see. The themes of young people experiencing war (and being used as games within it) are present, and I am sure things will become even more harrowing in the third book (yes, expect another, as this one, too, is to be continued).

Ms. Taylor, I await your next installment with eager eyes!

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Why get a “normal” counting book when you can use an anti-bullying one?

I am always on the lookout for new books that share not just gorgeous art and storytelling, but also positive messages with my kiddo. When I came across Kathryn Otoshi’s colors and counting picture book called One, I knew I had found a winner.

The story personifies colors. Blue is a quiet little color, for example, who likes to do blue things, like jumping in water or sky gazing, while orange is outgoing, green is bright and purple is regal. The illustrations are very simple—just blobs of watercolor for each personified color—but they’re also very bright and help illustrate the personality. Regal purple is very composed, for example, while sunny yellow has fuzzy protrusions that make it look like the sun.

Then hot head red, a huge, towering color, hits the scene and bullies blue by saying, “Red is hot. Blue is not.” Then it showed the blue color flattened and watered down, feeling bad about itself. And while the other colors attempt to comfort blue, they never stand up for blue—until one day, after Red gets bigger and bigger and bullies all of the colors, a gray number one comes along and tells Red, “No!” It’s really that simple, and with that one instance of standing up for itself and its friends, number one inspired the rest of the colors to stand up to red. Then the colors turn into numbers as they count off saying, “No!” to the big red color.

First Red gets angrier and tries to hurt Blue, but the rest of the colors help him and they stand together. Red feels tiny until one tells him that he can count, too, and red becomes the number seven on the last page, where the numbers shout together, “Everyone counts!”

Isn’t that a marvelous story? I particularly like how the colors are used to personify how bullying works and makes you feel—and then the ending, how even the bully can count as an important member of the group. Most anti-bullying books seem to focus more on one-upping the bully rather than integrating him or her into the group, which is really what often needs to occur anyway in order for peace to really be achieved.

This is such a wonderful book. My seven year old loved it, but I know kids much younger will, too. I would heartily recommend it for any library or classroom to help make everyone feel counted.


Miss Rumphius

A Tale About Making the World More Beautiful

Last week, our librarian recommended several books to us for Women’s History Month, which is in March. I checked out a big bag of them and we have been enjoying each one so far. One of them in particular is my favorite. Written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, the book is called Miss Rumphius, and it is the tale of a single woman who lives and adventurous, amazing life—and helps both people and the world throughout her lifetime.

Miss Rumphius—also known as Alice, the Lupine Lady, and the Crazy Old Lady, depending upon which year of her life it is—grew up in a city by the sea. She helped her grandfather make his paintings that he would sell, and when he told her of his great adventures she was simply amazed and announced that she, too, would have great travels around the world and then return to a home by the sea.

Her grandfather told her that it was a nice aspiration, but that she should do one more thing as well—and that was to make the world more beautiful somehow. Alice agreed, though she wasn’t sure how.

The rest of the story details her great adventures around the world, her job as a librarian, and finally her homecoming in her older years, in which she decides to help make the world a more beautiful place in a very special way.

The narrator of the story, Alice’s great-niece, wishes to do the same things that her aunt did throughout her life—and you can guess what her aunt told her when she revealed this dream: that she, too, should make the world more beautiful somehow during (or after) her adventures. The book ends with the little girl vowing to do so, though she doesn’t know how just yet—just as her aunt did not know until the inspiration came to her, too.

It is SUCH a beautiful story, with gorgeous art and a wonderful story about a brave woman with gumption who leads her own life, doesn’t get married, and still finds such fulfillment and joy in life. It should be required reading for anyone, but especially for girls who are so often pressured to settle down and marry. My daughter is already much like Miss Lupine, with her disinterest with boys and dresses and marriage and her desire to travel. Perhaps she, too, will make the world more beautiful.