The Front Porch prints book reviews by librarians in Northeast Denver, rotating to a different library each month. Amy DelPo from Schlessman Family Branch Library reviewed this month’s books.
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
This memoir by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is no ordinary food story. Samuelsson was born to a poor farming family in Ethiopia and was orphaned at the age of two when he, his mother, and his sister all contracted tuberculosis—and his mother died while getting her children the medical help that saved their lives. Samuelsson and his sister were adopted by a loving Swedish family, and so they moved to Sweden, where Samuelsson’s passion for food was born and nurtured as he cooked alongside his Swedish grandmother. This memoir—which takes us from Ethiopia to Sweden to France and ultimately to the United States—is about food, race, family, and love. It also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the grind of working in the world’s top restaurants. An inspirational and beautiful tale well told. The audio book, which is narrated by Samuelsson, is also quite enjoyable.
Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine
Fin is a sensitive yet precocious 11-year-old boy whose quiet life on a Connecticut dairy farm is destroyed when his loving mother dies unexpectedly. The only person left to take Fin in is his flighty older stepsister, Lady, who is living the fabulous life of a beautiful and curious single woman in New York circa 1964. Lady is not exactly the mothering type, but she takes care of Fin in her own way, and he adores her. They move first to Greenwich Village and later to Italy, and what starts out as a frothy tale about the the adventures of this unlikely pair turns almost unexpectedly into a poignant story about true love—not the romantic kind, but the kind that happens when someone knows you completely and loves you anyway.
Young Adult fiction
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
In this book’s dystopic world, everyone undergoes surgery at the age of 16 to turn from an ordinary looking Ugly to a stunning and perfectly attractive Pretty. The rationalization for the surgery is that if everyone meets the same standard of beauty, then discrimination and prejudice based on looks won’t exist. The real reason for the surgery is darker and more nefarious—and is the mystery driving the action in this tale. The book’s heroine is Tally Youngblood, a 15-year-old Ugly who is tantalizing close to her 16th birthday when she meets Shay, an Ugly girl who wants to keep looking like—and acting like—herself. When Shay runs away to avoid being turned Pretty, Tally must go after her and confront what being Pretty really means. Even for teens (and adults!) tired of dystopic fiction, this book is worth a read because it raises interesting questions about beauty and conformity and identity. It also examines where meaning can be found in life—through fun or through struggle—through fantasy or through reality.
The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
John and Marta are a young couple who live on a farm in the Midwest. They have a simple yet satisfying life that is marred by one sad fact: They don’t have a child. When a boy mysteriously appears on their porch one day—mute but sweet—they take him in, temporarily at first, but then with an eye toward keeping him. Even though he can’t talk, he is intelligent and artistic and has an empathetic soul that they fall in love with. Two questions haunt the couple and the story—where did the boy come from? And will someone ever return to claim him?
Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
“There is magic in this bare brown tree/Tap it once/Turn the page to see.” So begins a truly magical picture book about a tree as it lives through each season—growing green leaves in the spring, losing them in the fall, and so on. Each page asks the reader to do something—tap the tree or rub it or shake it—and then—ta da! —turn the page and see the changes in the tree. This illusion—that the reader is really making things happen to the tree —fires the imagination of young children and makes this a fun book for adults and kids to read together.
Librarians who wish to contribute reviews should contact Madeline Schroeder at email@example.com.