We discussed our picture book, Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgal first. We all liked it a lot. We thought it was an 'old-fashioned' type of story of a grandma who just needed some peace and quiet from her many grandchildren, who prevented her from doing her always-important knitting. When she left them, carrying only a large bag full of yarn and traveling through time and space, she finally found a place where she could just sit and knit, and enjoy tea from her samovar. She finally came back with new sweaters for all. We all liked the illustrations a lot; one person liked the pictures of the grandma, with all of her expressions, better than those of the children. We liked the fact that an old lady was the main character, without being a witch, as usually happens in many children's stories. We talked about whether children would relate to an old woman as the main character of a story, but agreed that probably all children had at some time experienced an adult (or older sibling) saying, "Leave me alone!." One of our members had read it to a group of young children, and she reported that they giggled and laughed throughout, and loved it. A couple of us wondered how Grandma was able to bring the large samovar, plus a broom, in her bag on her journey, but -- oh, well -- it's a story! So we suspended disbelief. and gave it a unanimous 'A'!
We had a great discussion of our novel, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. We all agreed that it was a very important book for the times we are living in, and a few readers felt that this story of a 16-year-old black girl, Starr, who witnesses her friend shot to death by the police while she is in the car with him should be required reading for all white people. Along with the aftermath of the shooting, and whether Starr can testify about really happened, we liked the fact that this book provides a detailed window into one black community -- the strength of the family, the interrelationships between people and the support they give each other, the idea of having to live in two worlds (the community and a mostly white private school), the usual teen-aged angst and relationships in high school, and the fact that things are not always how they look on the surface. A couple of readers expressed that they had learned so much from this book, and that they would probably look at some of the similar situations in today's news arena with different eyes. A couple of readers were put off by the first chapter, which was told in black vernacular, and said they just couldn't go on reading -- although the voice ultimately changed as the story went on, and was quite comfortable for us to read. So -- though a very important book, and a great story, an 'A' rather than an A+.