the goal

page 13

13 books

13 weeks


this is my challenge to myself. you are welcome to follow along. beginning soon-ish (june, exact date tbd) i will review new titles, based primarily on page 13.

why so many 13s? friends know; others may figure it out.


Wild Things ~ Handy

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult
Bruce Handy

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

When I first learned of this book, I thought it would be about the feelings inherent in reading children’s lit as an adult. It’s not; or, at least, the first chapter is not. “New Eyes, New Ears: Margaret Wise Brown and Goodnight Moon,” while informative, at times funny, and well researched, reads as more of a biography of Brown than a sentimental, or even nostalgic, investigation of the story.

On page 13 we get one of few examples of the content I had anticipated. Handy discusses Brown’s assertion that she dreamt the Goodnight Moon story, then relayed it to her editor, who loved it.

The anecdote rings true to me because the book has a strange, dreamlike feel in places: for example, the quiet old lady whispering hush who materializes in the middle of the book after we’ve already been introduced to her empty rocking chair.

Expanding on the presence of the quiet old lady, who has an unknown relation to the bunny, Handy continues, “it’s just the kind of odd, open-ended detail…that gives Goodnight Moon traction with children’s imaginations.” That’s all well and good, but this does not tell us how the quiet old lady plays with adult audiences.

I found even the introduction to be a bit contradictory. Handy states, “One thing I hope to convey is the sheer pleasure of reading children’s books, not just to whatever children you have on hand but also for your own enjoyment and enlightenment (xvi).” A few pages later he adds, “I hope this book will shed light on why we loved the books we loved (xxi).” It seems he hasn’t quite made up his mind whether he is going to focus on reading the books now, or what it was like when we read them in our childhood.

As I mentioned previously, there is some very interesting information sprinkled throughout the chapter. The original title for the story was Goodnight Room (14). I appreciated Handy’s theory that Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar can be viewed as a sequel to Goodnight Moon (15). And my eyes rolled when I read that Brown’s editor, Ursula Nordstrom, requested that the cow’s utter be deemphasized “lest the art offend some readers, especially librarians, as too biologically frank (18).” Oh those sensitive librarians…

Overall, this just isn’t what I was expecting. It’s not bad, I would simply prefer to spend my time rereading my favorites and experiencing the joy they do bring.

Worth checking out: Yes, but to learn about the authors rather than the experience of reading the stories as an adult.

Before We Were Yours ~ Wingate

Before We Were Yours
Lisa Wingate

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

I was purchasing e-books recently, and this title has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a couple of weeks now. I selected it for the e-collection, and then checked out the print copy (I can’t relax when reading on a screen).

On page 13, a woman named May has grabbed Avery’s wrist and asked if she is Fern. The story then leaves present day, and we are taken back to learn who Fern is.

This is the penultimate post in my series, and I’ve learned a few things over the past 12 weeks. First of all, you can’t really review a book based on such an early page. However, you can tell if you are going to want to continue reading. In these 13 pages, the author has set the scene, drawn the reader in with just enough detail, and dropped the mystery around which the story will be centered.

Avery, the novel’s main character/narrator, seems relatable. She is the daughter of a U.S. Senator, and while that bears absolutely no similarity to my own life, we have all been subjected to so much political campaigning over the past few years, the details seem entirely plausible. I feel like she is a character I will be able to understand, and I’m looking forward to reading how the mystery unfolds.

Worth checking out: Yes.

Vanishing New York ~ Moss

Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul
Jeremiah Moss

Available at a library near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

For ten years, blogger Jeremiah Moss wrote about the loss of New York institutions. Have I ever read any of them? I don’t think so. However, gentrification is real, New York is our neighbor, and the book got good reviews from the sources I consult when ordering.

Jeremiah Moss is the pen name of Griffin Hansbury. While blogging, and now in his book, he chronicles people, places, and things that have disappeared from the city just in the past twenty years since he moved there. At first it felt like he was whining. As I’ve read more, though, it has become more obvious just how much of New York has changed in such a relatively short time (20 years isn’t much for a nearly 400 year old city), and that this is necessary documentation. I’ve also found it interesting to think about my own city and how it fits in with the blueprint of gentrification Moss outlines.

On page 13 Moss starts the first chapter, about the East Village, by stating he came to New York to transition. He transitioned to urban life and, as he states on the next page, from female to male. He writes that the book is not about the latter transition, but that the two are intertwined. “Every person views the city through a prism of personal experience and, as different as all those prisms may be, for a long time, New York was able to accommodate every type” (P. 14).

Gentrification does not leave room for a good number of those types, and Moss was not the first to write about this. The 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail came to mind as I read about small businesses being displaced by chain stores. “If you take away just one thing from this book,” Moss writes in the introduction, “let it be this: Hyper-gentrification and its free-market engine is neither natural nor inevitable. It is man-made, intentional, and therefore stoppable” (P.7).

Overall, I have found this book easy to read. It contains interesting stories, and I like the way it makes me think about my own environment.

Worth checking out: Yes

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States ~ Dunbar-Ortiz

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

Sometimes you walk over to a shelf, look at the options, and immediately head back to your desk and order more recent scholarship. That, in a nutshell, is what prompted the purchase of this book. Our collection of material on Native Americans/Indians (the author states that many people of these nations don’t mind the term Indian) was (well, remains) dated. It was time for a new view, and that’s exactly what we got.

On page 13 (continuing on 14) the author writes, “This book claims to be s history of the United States from an Indigenous peoples’ perspective but there is no such thing as a collective Indigenous peoples’ perspective…This book attempts to tell the story of the United States as a colonialist settler-state.” In other words, this is going to be some serious stuff.

In the few short pages I’ve read, this work seems to be filled with information. The first chapter is all about corn since, as the author states, Indigenous American agriculture was based on it (p. 16). I’m convinced it is going to be good information, but I have to pick it up again when I’m a more well rested.

Worth checking out: Yes.

The Witchfinder’s Sister ~ Underdown

The Witchfinder’s Sister
Beth Underdown

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

I forgot to bring a book home with me over the long 4th of July weekend, so I went to A Different Library and found this book on their new book shelf. What I failed to take into account is that the popular new books don’t stay on the shelf at A Different Library. Some of them have pretty deep wait lists. In retrospect, the fact I was able to check this out wasn’t a good sign. In other words, this isn’t a very exciting book. It’s not horrible (I have been able to make it all the way to the end, over the course of a month), it’s just disjointed and dull.

On page 13, Alice has arrived at her brother’s house in Manningtree. A recent widow, she has traveled there from London. Their relationship has been strained, and Alice is not looking forward to reuniting with Matthew. Perhaps the reader is supposed to feel Alice’s trepidation; I didn’t.

Alice knocks and the door is answered. Following a brief conversation, the servant lets her in.

Grudging, she stood back to let me pass. I did not know what it meant, that Matthew was not there; I had braced myself to face him. The servant was making a business of fastening the latch behind us, mumbling something about expecting me at the front door, which I permitted myself not to hear.

The statement about Matthew (actually on page 14) illustrates the disjointedness of the novel. The paragraph is about the servant closing the door, and while, yes, Alice’s fear is relevant to the story, the mixture of the servant’s actions and Alice’s thoughts takes away from the flow. This sort of thing continues throughout the book.

Worth checking out: If you’re having trouble sleeping.

Homegoing ~ Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library print copies (e-audio and e-book available to HPL cardholders only), Library Connection consortium (multiple formats)

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

Homegoing is another title I purchased for our electronic collection. It was popular with other organizations (it has won several awards), and also adds diversity to our holdings.

One Saturday morning, as I was getting ready to drive to the starting point of my bike ride, I decided to start listening to this novel. I chose to listen to it without first re-reading the publisher’s summary (I have since done so). Therefore, as I made my way through the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure what direction the story was going to take.

One page 13, well, I don’t really know where page 13 was. I probably could have picked the 13th minute, but that might not have been safe, given that I was driving (sure, I could have gone back later). Regardless, it was quite obvious at the beginning that this story was taking place in an African village. What became apparent later on was that the novel was taking place in the 18th century. Certainly I’ve read historical fiction about slavery in North America, but I don’t know that I’ve ever read about it from an African point of view. It will be interesting to see how it progresses, as the book is going to cover three hundred years.

Worth checking out: Yes.

By Any Name ~ Voigt

By Any Name
Cynthia Voigt

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads

In seventh grade I wrote a letter to Cynthia Voigt, inviting her to come visit my English class. We were doing some sort of author project, and she was the subject of mine. As you might expect, she was unable to attend. However, she did send me a handwritten reply! It was handed to me in homeroom, and I remember being so excited, I immediately went to show my English teacher.  I read the Tillerman series multiple times, and loved The Callender Papers, but it has been quite some time since I’ve read anything of Voigt’s. On a recent trip to a bookstore, I saw By Any Name on the new books table. I read on the back cover, “Award-winning author Cynthia Voigt has penned a novel for readers who grew up loving her Newbery Award-winning novels for children and young adults.” That would be me. A check of the library catalog revealed we didn’t have a copy. Since I can’t possibly be the only one who fits the above description, I decided I’d add one to our next book order.

On page 13, it’s World War II and Mumma, an orphan raised in a California convent and now with the USO, and Pops, a Naval Lieutenant from Louisburg Square in Boston have just met. Given their names, and that the story is being narrated by their daughter, it’s pretty much a given that they will be getting married.

I quite enjoyed this book, especially the social commentary. The daughters are trying to understand their mother, and while you never quite know what to expect ahead, it’s an enjoyable ride.

Worth checking out: Yes