This month’s Between the Bookends is a little thin thanks to the majority of reviews ending up as part of our Pride Month coverage instead. Even so, we hope you will find something interesting in the three books featured here.
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On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
Sophie first became aware of Juneteenth a few years ago but still didn’t know much about this celebration beyond the typical one-sentence description about the Emancipation Proclamation, so when she was offered the opportunity to listen to On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed narrated by Karen Chilton courtesy of Libro.fm, she jumped on the chance to expand her knowledge.
Gordon-Reed is a professor at Harvard University, a former member of the Harvard Law Review, and a winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for History and the National Book Award, so this book is as meticulously researched as you would expect it to be and is packed full of information despite its surprisingly short length at just 152 pages. Gordon-Reed is also a native Texan and so On Juneteenth challenges many of the traditional images of the state’s history, instead weaving in details about the role of African American people from its earliest days right up to the present. For example, as a Brit, Sophie had heard the phrase “remember the Alamo” before but didn’t know much of the history around it; On Juneteenth allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of the event (and many others) without that understanding being presented through a whitewashed lens. The author also talks candidly about her own experiences as an African American woman growing up in Texas in the mid-late 20th century, making this book part-historical tome, and part-memoir, and giving it a more intimate, personal feel.
With Juneteenth becoming a national holiday in the United States this year, there isn’t a better time to learn more about what makes this date so important, and challenge some of your own misconceptions about what did or did not really happen on June 19th, 1865. On Juneteenth is a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to learn more.
The Amazing Edie Eckhart by Rosie Jones
The Amazing Edie Eckhart is a fantastic middle-grade story about Edie, who is just starting out at secondary school. The book is the debut from Rosie Jones, a popular British comedian.
Edie is an average eleven-year-old girl; she has a loving family and a best friend named Oscar who shares her love of sausage rolls and Marvel films. She also has cerebral palsy which makes her a little wobbly, more likely to fall over, and a little slower at talking. Edie has always relied on Oscar to help her out – he even carries a special box around with him that includes plasters and spare tights – but at their new school they are put into separate classes and Edie realizes she won’t always be able to rely on him anymore.
Initially reluctant to be without her BFF, Edie argues with the school, but as Oscar begins trying out new hobbies, making new friends, and even getting a girlfriend, Edie begins to wonder if she had been allowing her disability and her reliance on Oscar as an excuse not to push her own limits. When an unexpected opportunity presents itself, Edie discovers that she has previously unrecognized talents and interests, and even begins to make some new friends of her own, but can she do it all without losing her best friend in the process?
This was an outstanding book from a new author who also lives with cerebral palsy, giving the story real insight into the experiences of a disabled tween taking those first big steps into real independence. Edie’s disability is obviously a key element of her story, but it never takes over to *become* the story. Instead, we see how Edie faces some big changes in her life, dealing with the occasional unthinking comment or obstacle as a result of her cerebral palsy but being a very average tween girl at the same time. This is very far from the kind of “inspiration porn” stories that are often shared regarding disability and is instead a story that is genuinely heartwarming and also laugh-out-loud funny, Sophie was also surprised and delighted to spot some strong, unexpected LGBTQ representation here too.
Sophie loved this one and is already hoping for more middle-grade books from Rosie Jones in the future and more from Edie Eckhart too.
The Boyband Murder Mystery by Ava Eldred
The Boyband Murder Mystery by Ava Eldred is a YA contemporary about the power of fandom and the ingenuity and passion of teenage girls.
Harri has been a fan of the British boy band Half Light for many years but finds her world turned upside down when the band’s lead singer, “bad boy” Frankie Williams, is arrested on suspicion of murdering his life-long best friend Evan. Unable to accept that Frankie could ever have done such a thing, regardless of his image, Harri teams up with a group of other fangirl friends to prove his innocence. Together they use their near-infinite knowledge of the band to comb through the evidence and find the proof they need to clear Frankie’s name. But will they destroy the thing they love in the process?
Sophie imagines that if you are reading a website named GeekMom, you have probably experienced the passion that comes with being in a fandom at some point in your life. While Sophie has never had the need to use her own fandom knowledge for something as serious as clearing murder charges, she is pretty certain that her twelve-year-old self would have leaped at the chance to team up with other fans and save her beloved band – even if group chats, Tumblr, and many of the other resources relied upon in The Boyband Murder Mystery didn’t exist back then.
Sophie really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this story but with the core plot wrapped up surprisingly quickly, she found that the ending dragged on and petered out in a way that did the rest of the book a disservice, and while the main plot was interesting, she wished the main characters would have been a bit more fleshed out. Overall, this will make for a fun summer read but is unlikely to stick with you for long.
GeekMom received copies of these titles for review purposes.