It’s April – spring comes in the form of lighted evening skies and daffodils making their yellow charge onto the landscape.
There is something about spring that is so hopeful, full of light, but not without the occasional rain shower to keep it interesting. Each of these books I chose for this month felt full of April, hopeful and lit from within.
The Jellybeans and The Big Book Bonanza by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Easter means many things but among them – jellybeans! So I thought this would be a fun pick for April. Like so many lovely picture books, this one is about loving what makes each of us unique and understanding that each of us brings something special to a group whether it’s soccer, dance or painting. For Anna (a little bunny), books are her passion. She’s thrilled to take her friends to the library to share books with them and frustrated when they aren’t connecting with her favourite place. So Anna tells them, “Just as jellybeans come in lots of flavors, there’s a book that everyone will like.” All ends well, of course – and the little friends realise, like jellybeans, they go well together, even though they’re different. This would make a fun little addition to an Easter basket.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
This is the book that comes to mind when I think of a young adult novel that is lit from within. The writing is so gorgeous and funny, even as the narrative takes a dark turn. This is a boarding school story – kids without too many grown-ups in their lives navigating their adolescent world (added bonus: the grown-ups are drawn as fully shaped people with jagged edges just like the kids). And the kids are drawn as whole people, not line drawings of teenagers, but the rich, full-bodied teenagers I work with in my classroom. Smart, savvy, scared, slightly near-sighted teenagers. This is the best of teenage fiction. I regret I can’t teach it as a core novel for school (too much swearing, sex, drugs, cigarettes, etc.) but I recommend it often to my students whose parents understand that in letting their teenagers read this kind of material (especially done so brilliantly), it forces their students to ask themselves so many important, essential questions about their own futures and the roles they will play in them.
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
This beautifully written book is full of heart and hope. In crafting Alice and Charlie Blackwell for her readers, Sittenfeld knew she would be battling the knowledge that her reader has already formed an opinion about these characters based on their real life counterparts. But forge ahead she did, crafting whole, beautifully rendered characters. Ultimately, she sheds any need for real life comparison because this is mostly a story about marriage, a long marriage in all its beauty and complications. Perhaps Sittenfeld’s greatest achievement in this novel was the leveling of the playing field, the idea that we all seek something, we all have doubts and quiet despair and joy, we all betray on some level and that there is no use giving one life a hierarchy over another – President or otherwise. This book acted as a mirror for what we do with our own lives, our own relationships, our own choices. And quietly, this book was a tribute to why we read: so that we understand human nature more, so that we are given chances to live more lives than the one we choose, and perhaps because of what we read, choose to live ours a bit better.
Any books you would suggest for April?