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Read Alikes for a Muddled Mind

I read about 100 books a year. This is not a humble brag. Reading is an important part of my job--I want to be able to plan book clubs and recommend books to people of all ages in my library. But reading so many books sometimes causes plot lines to run together in my head. 

For instance, earlier this year, I kept confusing Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick with The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holzer

The former mostly concerns a young girl named Truly whose family has moved back to her mom’s small home town after her father was injured in the military. Truly makes friends fast and comes to love the small town in New Hampshire where they now live. When a mystery captures her attention, she learns more about the town and her mother’s family’s history there. There’s not a single sad note in this book. There are no dead moms. Truly’s family is busy and close-knit. There’s even some dancing. And the family runs a book store! What’s not to love?

In The Secret Hum of a Daisy, a young girl named Grace must go live with her grandmother in northern California after her mom suddenly dies. Grace has mixed feelings about this because she thought her mom hated her grandmother (the truth is a big more complicated, naturally). Driving the plot is a mysterious treasure hunt Grace undertakes: She thinks her dead mother is leaving her signs to follow. In following these “signs,” Grace, like Truly, learns more about the town and her family. This book has a little more sorrow than Absolutely Truly. But I liked them both and recommend both (albeit often to different kids).

More recently, I read two books that keep reminding me of one another. Ana of California by Andi Teran is a retelling of the Anne of Green Gables story. Ana has problems keeping her mouth shut and has run out of options regarding foster homes in Los Angeles. She’s nearly 16, so she’s close to emancipation, but even that doesn’t leave her many choices. She gets taken in by a brother and sister farmer in Northern California and learns to love the hard work of the farm, her caregivers, her new friends, and everything about her life. Central to the story is Ana’s artistic talents, which is probably why when I was reading The Education of Ivy Blake, by Ellen Airgood, I would think back to Ana.
Like Ana, Ivy keeps a sketch book with her at all times. Ivy is a sequel to Prairie Evers. In that story, Ivy gets taken in by the Evers family when Ivy’s mom leaves her. In this book, Ivy’s mom is back, but she’s an alcoholic and making really bad choices. Ivy tries to live with her, but in the end, her mother proves incapable of, well, being a mom. In this story Ivy somewhat benefits from the foster care system and from her ability to take care of herself (even though she’s merely 11-years-old). Of course, the problems with her mom and foster care slightly reminded me of One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (great book! Read it!). And given the time, I probably could make a list of books featuring kids in foster care. 

Making connections between things (and people) is my magic ability. And it helps in this profession. So, even when books do run together in my head, I’m usually able to get them straight when it comes time to recommend a book. I actually recommend all seven of the books mentioned here. They feature strong female characters that have a great deal of heart.


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