Tag Archives: Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Reading towards home

19 Aug

When I packed to leave Canada and return home to Portland, books were the heaviest thing in my backpack.



I only managed to read a bit of The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez while we were in Montreal. With a three hour layover in Toronto and a five hour flight to Portland, I managed to finish it and loved it. Having a personal connection to the time and place made it very powerful, but I think even people with no knowledge of what happened in Colombia in the 80s and 90s would enjoy the lyrical writing in this book.



In my pre-vacation post, I mentioned having a list of books I wanted to look for in Canada. We popped into a couple of bookstores while travelling, but both times, I didn’t have the list with me. Great planning! I tried to remember titles, but couldn’t so just browsed, looking for a Canadian title I could bring back to my classroom library. I like to bring back something that local libraries and bookstores won’t carry. I found The Magpie’s Library by Kate Blair, who was born in the UK, but now lives in Canada. The setting of the book is British, but it still fits my criteria.


Publisher’s Summary: Silva and her family visit her grandfather, only to find his health has taken a bad turn. As they struggle with this news, Silva seeks escape in books – at the local library.

But she gets more than she bargained for when a magpie guides her to a secret, magical room containing books that she can not only read, but that she can live. Silva finds herself in the worlds of the characters … who all turn out to be real people. People she knows.

There’s a catch, though: she soon discovers that the magpie has lured her to these books for selfish and dark reasons. Going back to the books could mean losing her soul …



Reading on a jet plane

8 Aug

I’ve been waiting all summer, and tonight, I am finally leaving for  Montreal, by way of Ottawa. I’d originally planned to fly out tomorrow morning and booked a ticket to do so, but Fate and Air Canada decided to cancel my original flight and now I am flying all night.

Because I am impatient, I like to travel in the morning. Since Fate has determined that is not to be this time around, I will need to find ways to pass the time today. I will drop Lucy off a little earlier than I planned and come home to pack. Before that happens, though, I am going to reread my favorite DEAR CANADA book,  Alone in an Untamed Land: The Filles du Roi Diary of Hélène St. Onge by Maxine Trottier.


51dpNw2HvPL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher’s Summary: Young Hélène St. Onge and her older sister Catherine are orphans. When King Louis XVI orders all men in New France to marry, Catherine becomes a “fille du roi,” one of the many young women sent to the new world as brides. Hélène will accompany her on the long sea voyage and live with her sister’s new family. But Catherine dies during the gruelling journey, and Hélène finds herself alone in a strange new country. New France is a far harsher place than she imagined, with bitter winters and threat of attack from the Iroquois. Will the few friendships she has made on her long voyage enable her to survive?

Because I am flying at night and hope to sleep (at least a little) I am only bringing one slim book in my carry on: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson.


Publisher’s Summary: Bobby is your classic urban teenaged boy — impulsive, eager, restless. On his sixteenth birthday he gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever. She’s pregnant. Bobby’s going to be a father. Suddenly things like school and house parties and hanging with friends no longer seem important as they’re replaced by visits to Nia’s obstetrician and a social worker who says that the only way for Nia and Bobby to lead a normal life is to put their baby up for adoption.
With powerful language and keen insight, Johnson looks at the male side of teen pregnancy as she delves into one young man’s struggle to figure out what “the right thing” is and then to do it. No matter what the cost.

This book won the Printz Award in 2004. The title came up at my book club last week – our first meeting after the ALA Conference where the 2019 Printz Awards were handed out and speeches made.

One of my book club friends was on the 2019 Printz committee and several other book club members were in attendance when Elizabeth Acevedo gave her speech. She referenced The First Part Last and her personal connection to the book. If I recall correctly, Angela Johnson visited Elizabeth Acevedo’s sixth grade class. They – and Elizabeth in particular – gave some suggestions to Angela Johnson, which she accepted and acknowledged in the book. It gave me goose bumps to see this.


I am also packing an adult book, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.


Publisher’s Summary:  In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

I am also travelling with a list of Canadian books I’d like to get, but more on that if I actually get them.

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