Monday, April 14, 2008

Beauty - that is the topic for April at the Book A Month Challenge Blog. I said I was going to read Beauty shop for rent...full equipped, inquire within, forgetting that I had planned to do a poetry book, no matter what the subject suggested by Katie. April in my mind is for two things - National Library Week and National Poetry month.

So let's start with the poetry book. I read Thirst by Mary Oliver. Oliver is always going to be a favorite of mine, since she writes about nature in ways that are both familiar and startlingly new. For example, "The place I Want to Get Back To" contains all the usual references to Oliver's natural world, but the ending just blew me away - it was not what I expected.

This group of poems was written in response to Oliver's companion's death and so some of them were hard for me to read - so raw - in my opinion. "Letter to ____________" is a good example of that. Painful, wonderful, but painful.

I have Donald Hall's book, Without on my shelf. Now I want to go back and reread his responses to his partner's death. I think the two books together will really resonate with me. Both poets really do know how to "open a vein" as Red Smith once said.

Even if you don't normally read poetry - please find at least one poem to read this month. It is amazing how poets can create images that never leave your mind. If you can't find a poem you like, I would be happy to share.

Now on to something lighter. Poetry takes one kind of reading mood. Laura Bower's book was for a whole different mood. I hadn't read any young adult books for awhile, which was one of the reasons; I picked Beauty Shop for Rent... The next reason I picked the book, was the cover - such an infectious smile on Abbey's face. Although at the time, I did not know that her name is Abbey.

This impish looking teenager, Abbey, is being reared by her great-grandmother. Yes, you read that right, not her grandmother or mother, but her great-grandmother, who happens to run a beauty shop. Not only is Granny Po responsible for Abbey, but she has help from the spirited Gray Widows, who seemingly have not a lot to do besides getting their hair done.

Abbey (like most young women in YA novels) has a lot of problems in her life. However, Bowers creates a character and family that I found believable. Life is tough for Abbey, but in the course of the book she grows and learns about life. And by the end the reader is involved enough to be pulling for her. This is funny, sad and ultimately wonderful book.

I plan to share this book with some of the YAs in my life and I am looking forward to Laura Bowers' next novel.